Jewish Boy Became Nazi Mascot to Survive
By MARIA DANILOVA, MERAIAH FOLEY and RANDY HERSCHAFT – 4 days ago

DZERZHINSK, Belarus (AP) — Among the splinters of a memory shattered by the Holocaust is Alex Kurzem’s image of himself as a jolly little boy who liked to climb an apple tree in the family garden, pretending to be a sailor scanning the horizon from the crow’s nest.

Then, at about age 6 or 8, a carefree childhood ends and life becomes a story of horror and deliverance. Germans massacre his Jewish family and he flees into the woods where he endures a bitter winter. He is captured by Latvian soldiers sent by the Germans to kill Jews. They dress him in uniform, make him their mascot and protect him for the rest of World War II. Apparently only one of them knows he’s Jewish.

After the war he immigrates to Australia. He forgets his mother tongue, hometown and real name and becomes a Melbourne suburbanite. Finally he sets out to rediscover his identity, but finds more pain than answers. Now gray-haired and in his 70s (he is still unsure of his age), he tells his story in a book, “The Mascot,” written by his son and published this month in the United States. But still the search is incomplete.