introducing i was a good girl

Although she had written of her experiences previously, this is Dita's first full-length memoir, beginning with the story of how, separated from her parents, she survived the Holocaust during the Second World War, in a world of hunger and isolation, by hiding with her sister in a most unlikely place—SS headquarters in Budapest. 

Dita was less then eleven years old when she was forced into hiding with her sister who was six and a half years old. She was brave, resilient and courageous. These qualities have continued throughout her life.

We follow Dita's story as she recalls her family’s migration to Australia after the war, and we hear her passion in her roles as wife, mother, business owner, grandmother, and more. 

In Australia Dita met her first husband and married. They had three children together, all boys. They lived in Melbourne and liked to travel.

One unique feature of this story is her development of the well-known art gallery Gould Galleries, located in Melbourne, where she sold the works of famous Australian artists. 

The memoir records, and pays homage to, the inspiring journeys that Dita made on her many travels abroad with her second husband and other friends and relatives. 

She truly has a wonderful storytelling ability when it comes to sharing memories of her life experiences, and how her optimism pulls her through life’s challenges.

Hers is a lone voice. Her story is testimony to a life that survived the difficulties of ghettos and war, then embraced a new homeland, with a subsequent shift in perspective to that of courageous and empowered grandmother.

This book is about the many ups and downs that a migrant goes through when living in a new country. Its about war and its atrocities. But it is also about family life and living as a married person, sharing day to day challenges. 

Dita has been involved in many fundraising projects in the Jewish Community in Melbourne and has been committed to volunteer and charity work. The book talks about these times and her passion for Israel.

The book is separated into four parts. Part One is about Europe from 1933 – 1948.

We waited there, destitute, so cold and so hungry, outside the crowded soup kitchen. From inside, the aroma of the warm food that we had been denied wafted tantalisingly toward us.

‘I am not hungry. I am not hungry,’ I repeated to myself.
Then I recognised a man walking past us and I caught his sleeve in sudden desperation.

‘Mister, I know you.’ He looked down at me and asked, ‘Who are you?’
‘I am Nandor Deutsch’s daughter and this is my sister

Part Two is about migration and Settling into Australian Life. 

On reflection, I now feel that the main reason this house was so important to me is because it was there that, for the longest time in my life, I had such a steady attachment to a place. I lived in the house summer and winter and felt it was the most relaxing place there could be on earth. On arrival, after kicking off my shoes and walking barefoot on the wooden floors, I acquired a different persona.

Part Three is about Dita’s Life and Travel with her family. 

Dita’s passion for travel is evident throughout the book. She takes us on a journey throughout her returns to Europe, her trips to Israel and her love of India.  She is passionate about place and history, art and culture. The travel stories throughout the book are not mere travel writing, but actual detailed accounts taken from diaries, memories and photographs of happy and fun times. 

We went to the Jewish cemetery … The caretaker tried to find the records but was unsuccessful. No inscriptions were legible but a small label was attached on the side of the grave stones. We searched in vain for my grandmother’s stone before leaving.

‘They are all my grandmothers,’ I said, turning to Anna. 

Our guide then drove us to Bratislava where we re-joined our bus tour group.

Part Four is called “Looking Back, Looking Forward” and is a summation of her approach to life and love of living.

To describe a life is not easy. When I think of all the people who have been part of my life, it is like a movie. All have enriched my life. Some stayed for a lifetime while others contributed for a while then fell by the wayside. I carry them in my subconscious always.

In each section we are introduced to many stories about Dita and her life. These stories form a larger picture of the kind of person she was growing up, as a young person, a mother, and grandmother. She is candid and open about her life and its many challenges. 

This book is an introduction to the way of life for a Holocaust survivor. It is as much about a normal life as it is about a person whose family was persecuted and in hiding. Dita is an expert at making her life as wonderful as possible. This comes across in the many stories she shares about her family and friends. 

There is the sense that Holocaust survivors would be angry and or bitter about their experiences. This is not the case with Dita. Her life is a testimony to the strength and passion which grows when you are faced with challenges early on in life. 

In I Was A Good Girl we are taken through her story, her history, and her life in detail. A compelling voice shines through, this is a story anyone interested in the Holocaust should read.