Only this afternoon Papa had warned us of the German threat to Poland. Now the Luftwaffe’s bombs had succeeded in convincing us that everything was about to change…
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Goldie Alexander again proves herself an insightful writer; skilful and imaginative. The Holocaust and all its heartbreak, death and desolation, is always confronting and painful to read about. Goldie’s familiarity with this subject is visible. But she has presented that traumatic time in history in such a way, that the horrors are not what are showcased alone. This is a story of courage, faith, family, hope and survival.
Hannah’s narrative begins in 1941 in the Warsaw Ghetto where she, her brother Adam, baby sister Ryzia, and her parents are taken by the SS after their two years’ safe hiding place is revealed by a traitor. Instead of being put to death, Papa is told to report to the Jewish Council to work as translator processing new arrivals. This employment allows him a small income to purchase food and bare necessities.
Over time, the Ghetto becomes overcrowded. People are shipped away to an unknown place. Thousands are being starved to death or randomly shot on the streets in order to diminish the population of Jews through inhumane acts.
But this is mostly eleven year-old Hannah’s story. We read about her thoughts and longings; about her love of reading and her talent in gymnastics. She is a strong and reflective child, open to adventure and change while accepting of her current position. The loss of the things and people she loves never diminishes her faith in life and the future.
We glimpse how some German soldiers felt about killing and war; how they were forced into conscription, and into unspeakable acts in contrast to their beliefs and humanity.
The backstories are vivid and realistic. Each family member’s story is reflected, even if in a minor way. A lot of historical information is incorporated and is a flowing river through the text. Rich Historical Notes are added at the end along with a detailed glossary of words used.
This book is part of the Courage to Care education program which ‘helps us to understand how lives are affected if we let discrimination occur….’ There will be more books of this ilk coming, so look out for them.