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Holocaust survivors recount fond and tragic memories of their faithful friends

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The power of reading includes much more than the expansion of factual knowledge. Reading a diversity of material develops essential objective and subjective critical thinking skills.

Our ability to think for ourselves, evolve, and establish our system of thought and action depends on our ability to master the art of open-mindedness. Applying our ideas and insight into our daily living experience is the catalyst of personal and collective transformation.

Reading inspires some of the most life-altering experiences. For a decade now, a continuing self-study of World War II and the Holocaust expanded through reading (both non-fiction and fiction) and film (both fictionalized and documentaries) to include Jewish history, Judaism, and Israeli studies.

Interestingly, as this course of self-learning developed, an exploration of non-human-animal related issues took place.These self-motivated animal studies incorporated reading and film, but also inspired direct contact with animals and participation in action for the benefit of animals.

Among all of the important Holocaust narratives is a compact and straightforward book, Faithful Friends: Holocaust Survivors' Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them and Waited for Their Return by Susan Bulanda. Although the book is short in length, the content and substance of Faithful Friends makes it unique and significant.

Faithful Friends, is the first book to include Holocaust survivor narratives in relation to the human-companion animal bond. In these heartfelt and both triumphant and tragic accounts, Bulanda weaves together basic Holocaust history and the Nazi stronghold that enveloped Europe, (specifically in Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Holland, Romania, France, and Yugoslavia).

Bulanda’s book is extremely compelling and valuable in terms of history, human behavior, and animal behavior. Both, the highly charged emotional lives of humans and the emotional lives of animals, are examined on a personal level that imparts a backbone understanding of Holocaust history as well as offers an uncommon counter-approach to both anthropocentrism and speciesism.

In these Holocaust accounts of of separation, sacrifice, survival, and death, survivors inadvertently relate quite a number of parallel human and animal behaviors. Love, fear, depression, grief, and yearning is equally attributed to humans and animals resulting in what we know as the reciprocal relationship of the human-companion animal bond.

In addition to capturing the essence of the senseless brutality of humans toward their fellow humans, Faithful Friends also touches on the senseless brutality of humans in their treatment of animals. Ultimately, Faithful Friends stresses the sanctity of human life and animal life.

With this is mind, it is imperative to acknowledge the book’s exclusive acumen and it’s place in education. Faithful Friends reads effortlessly, mellifluously, and is appropriate for ages twelve to adult.

Relevant in terms of Holocaust history, animal behavior, and human-animal relationships, Faithful Friends: Holocaust Survivors' Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them and Waited for Their Return, should become required reading for junior high school students and is highly recommended as supplemental reading material in humane education courses for young adults.