Tag: Holocaust

The Librarian of Auschwitz

Author: Antonio Iturbe
424 Pages
Published: October 10, 2017

Reviewed By: Kim
XXX’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust. Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz. Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

Kim’s Review:

First book of 2018!!! And why I decided to pick a book that would pull my heart out of my chest and stomp on it, I’ll never know! I got this book for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to pick it up. The cover is gorgeous, its based on a true story, and its all about books. As much as I’ve studied the Holocaust and Auschwitz, I don’t think I’ve ever read about the family camp or the children’s school. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve read an account of day to day life in Auschwitz, other than the constant stream into the gas chambers. This book does a great job of capturing the feelings of the prisoners. In other accounts, it seems that all you can feel is the fear and despair. But in The Librarian, there’s a sense of hope that never seems to be extinguished.

Dr. Mengele could easily fit in as the villain in any horror story and be completely believable and terror-inducing. Yet Dita refuses to be cowed. Fredy, instead of looking out for his own interests and well-being like most leaders of that time did, successfully ran a school for hundreds of kids, in the middle of the most deadly extermination camp the Nazis ever set up! How our youth of today manage to “survive” in this world of mean, offensive people, I’ll never know! *cough*sarcasm*cough*

There were so many feelings in this book! I was inspired, heartbroken, excited, scared, frustrated, angry . . . I thought I was going to burst. This is another fiction book that reads like non-fiction. Iturbe researched extensively and spent a lot of time with Dita before writing. The Postscript was actually my favorite part of the whole book because it was wonderful to hear about what kind of person Dita grew up to be. Pretty sure she is my new hero and will remain in that position forever!

I would save this for slightly older teens, keep it in high school classrooms and libraries. But every single high school history teacher should have this book on their shelves. I absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, history, or just an inspiring story. I would also suggest that every single high schooler read this book. An easy 5 stars! “Books are extremely dangerous; they make people think.”

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Annexed

Author: Sharon Dogar
352 pages
Published: January 10, 2012

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her?

In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view. What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her? Especially with your parents and her parents all watching almost everything you do together. To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day? What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting. As Peter and Anne become closer and closer in their confined quarters, how can they make sense of what they see happening around them? Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz – and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants.

Kim’s Review:

I originally bought this book way back when I was teaching in Hawaii. I went to a teachers’ conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and they gave us a list of book recommendations for our classrooms. Annexed was one of the books and you know I never pass up a good excuse to buy a book!

Holocaust stories are always hard to read so I kept putting it off, but then I finally decided to pick it up and read it. I’m very glad I did. As I suspected, it was a tough read; there were several times that I had to stop to keep myself from breaking down in tears. I hate to admit it, but I have never actually read the Diary of Anne Frank. I’ve seen dramatic productions, but I’ve never read it. However, I do know the story and its details.

This book was a different perspective on the Frank’s story. It is told in the voice of Peter van Pels, in an honest, teenage mindset. We all take many things for granted; things like the freedom to open a window or to have a room to ourselves. Peter’s hopelessness in a situation that, in fact, offered a sliver of hope was so real and palpable. Seeing each member of the Annex as a real person with a personality that often scraped against one another, the constant lack of privacy, depending on a few on the outside to provide necessities . . . I never imagined having to live like that, having my very survival depend on it. This is another book that upper high school teachers should have on their shelves.

There are some adult themes, mainly a teenage boy being a teenage boy, that would keep me from allowing younger kids to read this. I would absolutely require my own teenagers, along with any under my educational care to read this book. I read it in a day and learned much from it. I recommend this to anyone interested in Holocaust history or wants a good emotional read.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II

Author: Alan Gratz
320 Pages
Published: October 11, 2016

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

Infiltrate. Befriend. Sabotage.

World War II is raging. Michael O’Shaunessey, originally from Ireland, now lives in Nazi Germany with his parents. Like the other boys in his school, Michael is a member of the Hitler Youth. But Michael has a secret. He and his parents are spies. Michael despises everything the Nazis stand for. But he joins in the Hitler Youth’s horrific games and book burnings, playing the part so he can gain insider knowledge. When Michael learns about Projekt 1065, a secret Nazi war mission, things get even more complicated. He must prove his loyalty to the Hitler Youth at all costs — even if it means risking everything he cares about. Including… his own life.

Kim’s Review:

Loved this book so much! This is the kind of book that I would put on every teachers’ book shelf! History is never black and white. It’s usually very messy, especially during times of war and this book captures that perfectly! Michael has to come to terms with the fact that although he is helping the Allied war effort with all the information he is able to collect, he can’t help the Jew who is being beaten to a pulp right in front of him. It’s the perfect case of “the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one.” And as Michael grows and matures all within the confines of Nazi Germany and the Hitler Youth, he also has to watch the boy that he protected and helped, turn into a monster. Gratz has figured out how to show the humanity of both sides of WW2. The men and women who history remembers as Nazi drones, following Hitler like he was the new Messiah, were all actually just people. People who were caught up in a fervor not their own, yet embraced with passion. As I said with Gratz’s other book, Prisoner B-3087, although Projekt 1065 is fiction, I would put it into the hands of any teenager to help them learn from and understand history. It is not a complicated read, I read it in one day, yet I enjoyed it so much! I would absolutely recommend this to anyone looking for a book about WW2, for any history teacher, and for any teen.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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