Friday, June 25, 2010

The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust

The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust is an amazing story of the resilience and strength of one child and her survival during and after the Holocaust. Lola Rein lives with her Jewish parents and grandparents in the Polish town of Czortkow. She is five years old when she has her first real memories of her childhood. In September 1939 Russian soldiers take over the small town and for a brief moment the Jewish population hopes their lives will be better, but the Poles are angered by their own treatment and lash out at the Jews. Over the next few years, conditions worsen and in 1941 the German army takes over the town. At this point, the Ukrainians lash out at the Jewish population. In April 1942, Lola and her family are moved to a ghetto. In 1943, Lola is eight years old when her mother is shot in cold blood by the Gestapo. A few months later, Lola's grandmother makes the decision to send Lola into hiding. She arranges to pay a Ukrainian woman to take Lola into her home.

So began Lola's lonely journey of suvival. She only lives with the Ukrainian woman for a few months and then is moved to the woman's sister's house where she hids in a six foot by six foot hole in the barn with three other Jews. She is wearing the dress embroidered by her mother and does not take it off for the nine months she is hidden in the hole. When she and the other Jews are liberated, Lola has no where to go. She returns to her home town and finds that her grandmother has been murdered. She begins walking with other displaced persons toward the Russian border. She passes out on the road and is rescued by a Russian soldier. She continues her journey until she is reunited with two of her uncles and their families. Ultimately at the age of twelve, Lola immigrates to the United States.

As in other memoirs, silence is a common thread. Lola writes,
RAfter the war, many hidden children - those in Europe, those in America, those in Israel - have something in common: silence. The years pass; hidden children grow up. They don't discuss what happened to them with thier friends. They fall in love, and get married. They don't talk about the war years with their husbands and wives. They have children of their own. They don't tell their children. (p. 85)

What a blessing that so many of these hidden children have now chosen to tell their stories. Our lives are enriched by their truths and our memories are secured. We will be alert to such hatred and honor their memories with diligence in fighting discrimination.

To listen to the author tell parts of her story recounted in the book, click here. Lola's story is beautifully told, with pictures of the author and dress, at the virtual museum of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The dress remains at the museum for all to remember.

TITLE: The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust
AUTHOR: Lola Rein Kaufman with Lois Metzger
TYPE: Biography, Holocaust literature
RECOMMEND: This book is almost unfathomable. I have seen eight year old children who are unable to spend the night at a friend's house, much less hide alone for such a period of time. Lola believed in her family and did as she was told by her grandmother. What courage and strength.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass

In Benno and the Night of Broken Glass, a children's book perfect for introducing the Holocaust, author Meg Wiviott introduces the reader to Number 5 Rosenstrasse in Berlin. The year is 1938 and Benno, an orange and white cat, lives on this street with families and businesses owned by both Germans and Jews. Benno visits each of the families and watches as the children play together. But suddenly Benno notices changes. The little Jewish girl walks to school alone. Some of the businesses are no longer open. And men with big boots walk through the street. But worst of all is the Night of Broken Glass with the men with brown shirts and boots broke the glass in many of the stores and set fire to the synagogue down the street. Benno notices that some stores and homes are not harmed. The next morning he waits for the little Jewish girl to go to school. Benno never see her again. Benno still sleeps at Number 5 Rosenstrasse, but
But life on Rosenstrasse would never be the same. (n.p.)

The author provides historical context in an afterword which is helpful for teachers who would like to use the book in the classroom. Or useful even for older students who are researching the subject.

TITLE: Benno and the Night of Broken Glass
AUTHOR: Meg Wiviott
ILLUSTRATOR: Josee Bisaillon
TYPE: Holocaust fiction
RECOMMEND: This is a very thoughtful and personalized (through Benno) account of Kristallnacht.