The Contract: A Life for a Life by Joseph S. Kutrzeba

The Contract: A Life for a Life
Joseph S. Kutrzeba
iUniverse (2008)
ISBN 9780595457892
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (6/09)


In “The Contract,” the author, Joseph S. Kutrzeba, tells the harrowing tale of his experiences, as a youth, in Europe during the Nazi occupation.  He came from a Jewish family who lived in Poland.  Losing his family and barely escaping from being sent to Treblinka, Joseph goes on the run.  Using his wits and a strong determination to live, Joseph does what he has to do to survive.

Being fair-haired made it harder to determine if he was Jewish or not. This helped save him many times.  There were many incidences where Joseph was either almost captured or shot.  He would temporarily be able to find work, and then be let go when he was suspected of being Jewish.  When a Catholic priest takes him under his wing, and aids him with forming a new identity, Joseph gains an appreciation of the Catholic faith.  This priest had no reason to put his life on the line for him, but he did.  This gave Joseph a true understanding of what Christ was about.  In time he converts to Catholicism.

After being liberated by US Troops in Germany, Joseph find his way to America.  Feeling indebted to the United States, he enlists in the military and goes off to fight the Korean War.  After he returns, he finds himself falling for a Jewish woman.  She does not respect his conversion to Catholicism.  Convincing him to meet an uncle whom he had never met, who lives in New York, Joseph arranges to see him and his wife.  Being of staunch Jewish faith, they also are not happy about his conversion.  Joseph has to look within himself to decide what his faith really is. This dilemma has a huge impact on his identity.

Joseph spent his teenage and young adult years having to deny who he really is.  Being raised by staunch Jewish parents made this decision painful, however, it was necessary for his survival. Switching to Catholicism was a huge decision; however, Joseph felt comfort with rituals and the faith of the priest.  As Joseph goes through his life, he has disillusioning experiences with religious institutions be they Catholic or Jewish.  This is especially apparent with the whole idea behind the Holocaust. Joseph has to make painstaking decisions to support what ideals are best for him.

“The Contract” by Joseph S. Kutrzeba is an incredibly well-written autobiography.  I found it painfully sad to read of the experiences that this man had to face in the Holocaust.  Kutrzeba brings these times to life.  It is incredible that mankind was capable of such inhumane acts to innocent people.  This story needed to be told.  However, the depth of what Kutzreba experiences goes beyond just the historical events. The reader will gain an understanding of how these events shaped this man into who he is today.  This is truly an amazing life story.

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