No One Awaiting Me: Two Brothers Defy Death During the Holocaust in Romania


246 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55238-071-8
DDC 940.53'18'092





Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus and co-author of Becoming a Teacher.


Although a plethora of testimonies exists from survivors of the
Holocaust (many prompted by the urgency of time), few are by Romanian
Jews. Even though over a quarter million Jews from Romania perished, a
larger percentage survived. One of these survivors is Joil Alpern, now a
successful Western-Canadian cattle dealer.

Alpern had not yet become a teenager in 1941 when an anti-Semitic
Romanian government befriended a Germany at war with the Soviet Union.
Romanian Jews were forced into ghettos before being moved by death
marches to labor camps in the western Ukraine. Cold, starvation, and
disease rather than gas chambers quickly took the lives of both his
parents, an older brother and sister, and most extended family members,
leaving Joil and his younger brother Avrum as orphans to fend for
themselves. How they survived against all odds is the story of this

A will to live based on hope for a better tomorrow prompted Alpern’s
day-to-day survival. Any sense of dignity was lost as begging and
handouts became commonplace; amidst the preponderance of hardship were a
few small gestures of kindness. Enlistment in the Red Army as a very
young explosives engineer during the war provided Joil with useful
training for his entry into the militant Zionist Irgun movement in a
postwar camp for displaced persons. His repeated attempts to be reunited
with his younger brother proved futile; Avrum did survive but was killed
fighting for the state of Israel in 1948.

Alpern’s attention to detail and authenticity, including explanatory
maps and period photos, and his willingness to confront and describe his
emotions, make this a special memoir. His loneliness and feelings of
guilt as the last surviving member of his family are magnified because
family ties meant so much to him. No One Awaiting Me provides an apt
title for the plight of this Holocaust survivor.


Alpern, Joil., “No One Awaiting Me: Two Brothers Defy Death During the Holocaust in Romania,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 18, 2024,