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In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer
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Product Description

When World War II began, Irene Gutowna was a 17-year-old Polish nursing student. Six years later, she writes in this inspiring memoir, "I felt a million years old." In the intervening time she was separated from her family, raped by Russian soldiers, and forced to work in a hotel serving German officers. Sickened by the suffering inflicted on the local Jews, Irene began leaving food under the walls of the ghetto. Soon she was scheming to protect the Jewish workers she supervised at the hotel, and then hiding them in the lavish villa where she served as housekeeper to a German major. When he discovered them in the house, Gutowna became his mistress to protect her friends--later escaping him to join the Polish partisans during the Germans' retreat. The author presents her extraordinary heroism as the inevitable result of small steps taken over time, but her readers will not agree as they consume this thrilling adventure story, which also happens to be a drama of moral choice and courage. Although adults will find Irene's tale moving, it is appropriately published as a young adult book. Her experiences while still in her teens remind adolescents everywhere that their actions count, that the power to make a difference is in their hands. --Wendy Smith

IRENE GUT WAS just 17 in 1939, when the Germans and Russians devoured her native Poland. Just a girl, really. But a girl who saw evil and chose to defy it.

“No matter how many Holocaust stories one has read, this one is a must, for its impact is so powerful.”—School Library Journal, Starred

A Book Sense Top Ten Pick

A Publisher’s Weekly Choice of the Year’s Best Books

A Booklist Editors Choice

From the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews:

  • Not just for kids: In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke
    You can read any of the reviews already posted to for a good idea of the storyline of this amazing book. I have only this to say: adult readers, please do not be put off because In My Hands is categorized as Young Adult Fiction. It is outstanding reading for adults as well, and will give you a new perspective on courage.

    As echoed by others who have read In My Hands, I simply could not put it down, and yes, it would make a marvelous movie.

    I do have one suggestion: the authors have included two helpful guides--one about the Polish and German languages, and the other showing maps. Both are oddly located at the very end of the book. You might want to read this informative material before you start the book.

    I'm torn between sharing this book by donating it to my local library, and keeping it to cherish!...more info

  • Into My Hands went into my heart!
    I am an avid reader of all books about the Holocaust. I try to get my hands on every single good book out there about this topic. When this book came into my library, I was stoked! Irene is an incredible lady who survived rape, sexual advances from her female boss, becoming a mistress, and through all that and more managed to be a fabulous provider for the more than 12 Jews in her hands. To think of the life she lived, what she gave up, how precious life must have been, knowing that she could be caught at any moment. And Irene Gut Opdyke did all of this before she was 23. I rest my case. Read this and her other book "Into the Fire". You'll LOVE them and her by the first chapters!...more info
  • from a summer nightmare to a dream
    The reason I ever picked this book up was because I had to read it for my school summer reading. I had read other Holocaust books before and liked them, but didn't really want to read this one. After my friend who'd read it urged me to, I finally picked it up. I ended up loving it.

    The book tells the story of Irene Gut, who was a nursing student, turned Polish military nurse, turned worker in a German officers' dining room/saving grace for so many people. Throughout the course of the Holocaust, Irene saved so many lives, by doing things as simple as warning of a raid, and as challenging as hiding 12 people in a Nazi major's home.

    The real reason I loved this book was not exactly because of everything Irene did. Irene was a only a girl, practically my own age, and yet she was extremely brave and helped so many. She shows that even small things can help in a big way and that one person really can make a difference....more info

  • Thrilling autobiography!
    In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke is a remarkable autobiography about the life of a Polish woman who risked her life in order to save her Jewish friends. When World War II began, Irene was only seventeen years old; she was a devoted nursing student and an innocent Catholic girl. As Germany took over her country Poland, Irene volunteered to accompany the Polish army as part of the Red Cross. Separated from her family, she was forced to endure harsh living conditions while aiding hundreds of wounded soldiers. A few weeks later, she was seized and raped by Russian soldiers who then left her for dead in the snow. Irene would have frozen to death if a kind woman named Dr. Miriam had not found her and nursed her back to health. When Irene had finally regained her strength, she was allowed to return to Poland, now a part of Germany, to be reunited with her family. It was a joyful reunion, but Irene was stunned by the changes in her hometown, Radom. The Jews had been forced to move into ghettos while the Poles had to live by strict rules. Only one week had passed since Irene had come to Poland when she and her sister were captured and transported to Germany to work for the Reich. She became a domestic worker in a Nazi hotel; there, she witnessed the cruel, monstrous acts that were being committed against the Jews in the nearby ghetto. Overwhelmed with horror, Irene began sneaking food and blankets to the ghetto, as well as transporting runaway Jews in a wagon to a nearby forest. She had also befriended the ten Jewish workers she supervised at the hotel. When she was released from her hotel duties to work in a German major's villa as a live-in housekeeper, she found a way to smuggle and hide her Jewish friends in the basement of the villa. When he discovered them, Irene became his mistress in cooperation for his silence; later, she and her friends managed to escape from him during the Germans' retreat. In 1949, through the acquaintance of an old rabbi, Irene was interviewed by a delegate from the United Nations, and she was accepted to be a citizen of the United States, which is where she lives to this day. Irene Gut Opdyke is the courageous hero of this amazing autobiography. She had started out as a seemingly ordinary nursing student, but she had been separated from her family at 17 and forced to work for her enemies. She was determined to do all that she could to help the Jews after she had witnessed the abominable suffering inflicted on the local Jews. Being sensitive to her Jewish friends' needs, she always put their safety ahead of her well being. She demonstrated extraordinary bravery and heroism throughout her life....more info
  • In My Hands by Irene Gut
    I had just seen the play "Irena's Vow" and purchased this book as a follow up to seeing it. The book, while very moving, is simplisticly written and I was further disappointed in that I discovered that the play (while based on a true story) only very loosely followed the narrative of the book. In summary, I would recommend seeing the play over reading the book but only if Tova Feldshuh is still playing Irena....more info
  • Well written!
    I could see the people and places, smell the stench of the ghettos, and feel the fear of Irene Gut as she struggled to save both herself, her family and her Jewish friends and neighbors in WWII Poland. Under extreme conditions, the human spirit prevails....more info
  • Opdyke: In My Hands
    An excellent book that gives you some idea of the horrible living conditions of the victims of WW II. I hope that they will make a movie from this wonderful book. If you haven't read it, please do! It is a MUST....more info
  • An inspiring story of one woman's human decency
    In a time of horror and ultimate cruelty, a few courageous souls stood up and said, "NO." There are no words to do this book justice. Read it and be inspired - and angered...more info
  • Awesome
    I just finished listening to this book on tape. It was extremely well done from Irene's recollection of events. The Holocaust was an atrocity to society, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't study the topic. Hitler and his regime need to be understood to prevent similar occurences in the future. I can't image what she was going through during those times and I wonder how many of us could even begin to imagine her anguish....more info
  • A must read
    Of all of the Holocaust books out there, this is one that should not be missed. Reading it gives new perspectives to everything, from saving lives to working for NAZI's. It also shows how in the midst of inhumane situations, compassion can shine through. It is truly inspiring, and everyone should read it....more info
  • A True "Profile of Courage"
    I am so grateful for having read this book. It was deeply moving. I am a seventeen year old girl, as Irene was when the war began, and I cannot even imagine having to experience all of things she did....being raped, a mistress, etc. I admire this woman so much, her courage and determination are one in a billion. It's incomprehensible to know what she went through during those dreadful years, yet through it all her faith is what helped her to survive. I will never forget this book for as long as live...I've read so many books, and I have to admit that I think this one has truly moved me the most. I've read many Holocaust stories as well, but this had a profound effect on me. Please read this book--you'll gain not only a better insight of World War II and the Holocaust, but also how to appreciate life more and realize how much you take for granted....more info
  • Compelling narrative, less-than-stellar delivery
    Not to undermine the accomplishments and bravery of Ms. Gut, but I found the tone of her memoir a little self-congratulatory in places, yet delivered in a "What, little old me, a hero?" voice that didn't feel authentic.

    I am certainly a cynic, but the story didn't read as though Ms. Gut felt simply compelled to share it, rather, I felt as though she is searching for recognition for all that she has done. She certainly deserves it, but that kind of gratitude shouldn't have to be asked for.

    I haven't read many holocaust narratives, and it may be that I am more familiar with stories by the "rescued" than the "rescuer" perspective, but I feel sure that there must be other stories that are equally important, yet more elegantly written....more info

  • Brave Young Rescuer
    In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke is the true story of herself as a young Catholic girl who lived in Poland at the time of the Nazi invasion. She learned of the Nazi atrocities to the Polish Jews while working as a waitress in a city controlled by the Germans; from then on, she desperately wanted to help them somehow. At the Jewish ghetto nearby, she began to leave food for the starved Jews. A bigger opportunity to help came when she was hired as a housekeeper for a Nazi major. One day, she sneaked several Jews into the house and hid them in the bathroom until the major left. She then moved them to the basement; there she shielded them from any Nazi hostility. She did eventually have to move them to a rural area out of the city because it became too dangerous. As a young lady, she showed tremendous courage, bravery, and fortitude.
    Irene was born into one of the worst times of the century, yet she was able to succeed and help so many people. She exemplifies true bravery and determination....more info
  • In My Hands
    5 stars is an understatement for this true-life page-turner. How "just a girl" mustered up the courage to fly in the face of monstrous evil, when mere survival was a full-time job, is an amazing story unusual in these character-free times. The words the author uses are simple, but the pictures she paints with them are vivid and unforgettable. You can't put this book down. It will fascinate all who read it....more info
  • The Best Holocaust Book
    I love to read all sorts of memoirs written by people who survived the holocaust. Those people were all Jewish and were victims of the holocaust. In this book, Irene has survived the holocaust too, but in a different way. She survived the risk of helping Jewish people.

    This book gave me a new perspective on the holocaust. In every other holocaust memoir, we often wonder where are the Christian people? Why aren't they helping? Well, this book showed that many people DID try to help. They were taking a huge risk by helping thee Jewish, but did it anyway. This book showed that even such horrors were seen during WW2, there were still many people who cared....more info

  • A Heroic Tale
    After hearing Irene Gut Opdyke interviewed on National Public Radio in 1999, I resolved to read her book. I was surprised to find it in the "juvenile" section of the library, because it deserves to take a space on the shelf next to any wartime memoir. Her story left me with my mouth hanging open, as first one and then another close call resulted in her finding ever more courage and resourcefulness. Her story also illustrates the absurdities and complexities of war, making this a book I could scarcely put down until the last page....more info
  • holocaust
    i love this book a lot, but it borers me a little bit. she should of said a little bit of her life before she got into a camp and then get straight to the point. but i love it. it's a book where you need to sit down and read it in one big gulp. great book i recommend the book "The story of Blima, a holocaust survivor" great book!!!!! if anything email me at [...]...more info
  • Very Good
    Irene was actually my best friend's grandmother (she was adopted into his family). He has pictures of her and has a signed copy of this book. His mom suggested I read this book and I'm in the midst of reading it and am amazed at the detail in her writing. A definite reccomendation!...more info
  • An Extraordinary Story
    This is one of extraordinary accounts ever been told!The story will stay forever in your mind! ...more info
  • Just One Can Make A Difference
    I have read the book "In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer." When I found that an audio book had been produced, I had to have a copy for my library too. This biographical account, of a young girl and her courage to right a wrong in any way she saw possible, is compelling and humbling. It is stated in a very matter-of-fact manner and yet the anguish she suffered along with the victims she helped to preserve during the Nazi reign of terror and genocide is clearly felt. The audio book adds the element of living history. I urge anyone interested in this subject to search out a copy of the audio book in addition to the printed copy. ...more info
  • Almost Unbelievable
    There have been so many accounts of life during the Holocaust that it may be hard to distinguish one person's experience from that of another's. However, "In My Hands" is a noticeable exception. It is a harrowing memoir of one young woman, who finds herself drawn to helping the less fortunate Jews, even if it means death.

    "In My Hands" tells the story of Irene Gut Opdyke, a displaced Polish Catholic, who experiences life and death during World War II. When Poland is split between both Germany and Russia, she finds herself without a home, and far away from her family at the age of seventeen. She hides in the forest with the remnants of the Polish army, is suspected of being a spy, and endures numerous tortures, but always miraculously survives. God has a purpose for her, even if that keeps her from finding the family that she desperately misses. She finds herself working for the Germans, and because of her Aryan looks, holds substantial sway with her employers. When she witnesses the German's "solution" to the "Jewish problem" she is outraged and takes extreme measures to protect them, even hiding them in the basement of the house of her German employer, an officer of the Wehrmacht.

    "In My Hands" is an incredible story. It was written with Jennifer Armstrong, who has placed herself into Irene's story in order to breathe new life into a remarkable account of courage that never quit. It's amazing how many more stories like this must exist that no one ever has heard.
    ...more info
    This book was awesome! I've read it numerous times and each time it gets me hooked. The plot is heartwrenching and the bravery Irene shows is inspiring. Anyone interested in reading about WWII/Holocaust should read this book! You won't be disappointed!!...more info