Sunday, September 26, 2010

Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen

Luba Tryszynska was a prisoner herself in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It was near the end of the war, but the conditions could not have been any worse. This was the camp where Anne Frank died shortly before the camp was liberated. Luba suspected that her own family, her husband and young son, were dead. In fact Luba wondered why she had been spared. The book, Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen tells Luba's story and explains why she felt she was still alive in the midst of such misery.

Luba woke one night hearing a child crying. She thought she was dreaming because there had not been children in some time. But she listened and heard the cries again. In what seemed impossible, Luba found firty-four children hiding in the dark behind the barracks. Luba led the children back to her barracks and persuaded the women to hide these children, at the risk of their own deaths. Somehow, Luba was able to obtain enough food to feed the hungry children, even as others in the camp were starving. When the camp was liberated some months later, all but two of the children had survived.

Author Michelle McCann tells Luba's story beautifully and provides an epilogue following Luba close to her seventy-fifth birthday ~ when she met with many of the "Diamond children" as these children had been known. A map, photographs, and a list of additional resources are also included to assist older readers with more research or deeper understanding.

I did read a rather critical review of this book in which the author was criticized for trivializing the conditions of the camp, for having illustrations that did not truthfully reflect the reality of the situation for the children and other prisoners. While the author did seem to focus on the positive aspects of Luba's experience with the children, I thought that was purposeful and geared toward a younger audience. Upon careful scrutiny, the illustrations do include some prisoners who have the stark thinness associated with Holocaust victims and it is apparent that many of the adults are terrified. I think that perhaps the book can stand as it is for young readers, while a teacher or librarian can expound on what was the experience of many camp prisoners, and perhaps how many people did not survive. As I considered the review, I did a little research and was surprised to see the photograph of a Luba and some of the children near liberation ~ you can view it HERE.

Here is a book trailer created by a librarian to encourage students to read the book. I hope it, and my review, will encourage you to pick it up as well.

TITLE: Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen
AUTHOR: Michelle McCann told by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick
TYPE: Holocaust narrative
RECOMMEND: This book shows courage in the face of almost certain failure and how love can save lives.
AWARDS: 2004 Jane Adams Award Honor Book

1 comment:

Lynn said...

My Uncle was a British soldier and helped liberate Bergen Belsen. He never spoke of his experience so I sought out historical info on my own. Years later I discovered my childhood friend's Mother lived not far from the camp and in all likelihood was forced by the British to participate the clean up efforts and to provide aid and comfort to those interned at Bergen Belsen. We lost our beloved Uncle in April. Thank you for taking the time and effort to providing us information.