Sarah's Key, a book review
Sarah's Key, written by Tatiana de Rosnay, is a moving novel that opens in war-torn France in 1942. Ten-year old Sarah Strazynki and her parents were forced to leave their home in the middle of the night by the French police in a nightmare known as VeldHiv. This occurred while they were living in Nazi-occupied Paris.
While the book falls into the historical fiction genre, VeldHiv and the effect on the lives of its victims are very true. On July 16, 1942, approximately 13,000 Jewish men, women and children were forced out of their homes. Those who were not married were immediately sent to Drancy, an internment camp. Families were ordered into a stadium in France, known as the Velodrome d'Hiver. The facility was not designed for people to stay for long periods of time, and the facilities were hot, cramped, and without sufficient water or available toilets. The adult men and women were soon separated from their families and they, too, were eventually sent via the railroad to Auschwitz.
When Sarah and her family were taken from their home, she locked her four-year old brother, Michel, in a cupboard for his safety, believing they would soon return home. She was desperate to leave Vel'd'Hiv to rescue her brother. Sarah and the other children who managed to escape from Vel'd'Hiv were taken in by kind French citizens living in the countryside. Their actions to save the innocent children put themselves in grave danger with the Nazis. When Sarah was finally able to return home, she finds another family is living in their apartment.
The author has skillfully mastered moving the story back and forth between the past and the present, transporting the reader as the heartbreaking story comes to life. An expatriate American journalist in Paris is assigned an article about the 60th anniversary of events that took place at Vel'd'Hiv. In a strange twist of events, she discovers the apartment she is living in was once occupied by a Jewish family whose lives were forever changed based on the events of that horrific day. She becomes obsessed with discovering what fate befell this family.
This book will immerse its readers into a painful time period in the history of civilization, evoking powerful emotions. Sarah's Key is a book you will long remember once the final pages are read.
A Prague Winter, a book review
A Prague Winter, A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, was written by Madeline Albright with Bill Woodard. Born Marie Jana Kobelova, Albright served as the first female secretary of state for the United States under then President Bill Clinton.
Albright was born in Czechoslovakia, the daughter of Josef and Mandula Kobel. Josef was a foreign affairs officer who was very much against Hitler and Communism. Raised a Catholic who later converted to Episcopalian, Albright was surprised to learn she was of Jewish heritage. She was approximately 60 years old when she discovered this startling information about her parents and her family. A visit to their native country led to the realization that more than 20 of Albright's relatives were killed during the Holocaust, including her grandparents.
Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in March of 1938. Ten days later a young Madeline and her parents had managed to leave the country, making their way into Hungary, Yugoslavia, then onto Greece and England. She was less than two years old at this time. Albright describes with accuracy the events of May the 10, 1941 when the Luftwaffe dropped more than 700 tons of bombs on London, damaging The Tower of London, The House of Commons and Westminster Abbey. More than 1,400 people perished that night. She turned four just a few days later. She weaves her life story with the crisis that had consumed much of the world. Albright does a phenomenal job of relaying her own personal history mingled with world history. Her thoughts take the readers from the Jewish ghettos to the bomb shelters of London.
With haunting accuracy, Albright relays the story of her grandparents moving to a place they believed was a community for older people in the 1940-1941-time period. It turned out to be tenement housing, a ghetto, if you will. Instead of a life of leisure as promised, they found shouting guards, poor food and varmints and rodents for neighbors. Bunk beds were triple stacked and two people were assigned to one small mattress. Rooms that the Germans claimed would house four contained 20 and then eventually 60 people.
A Prague Winter is more than the memories of growing up in a world torn with strife. Albright pulled upon not only what she remembered, but written thoughts from her parents' letters and interviews with people all over the world that give the reader an insight into life in Europe during the days before and during World War II.
Wonderfully written, A Prague Winter is not a quick read as it packed with detailed accounts of the events surrounding World War II and beyond. It is packed with Albrights own personal knowledge and understanding that she is able to relay to her readers that is far more than any information anyone could glean from an ordinary history lesson. A Prague Winter is so much more than Albright's story. It is the story of a world in crises.
The Diary of Anne Frank, a book review
The Diary of Anne Frank is the autobiography of a young Jewish girl who went into hiding from the Nazis during World War II. Frank, born in 1929 and died in early March of 1945, kept a diary of her life as her family was forced into seclusion in June of 1942.
Frank, born in Germany, spent most of her in the Netherlands. Although she was born in Germany, she lost her citizenship in 1941 when Germany passed anti-Jewish laws. By 1942, the persecution of Jews dramatically increased, and the Frank family took refuge in a hidden area of her fathers office building. The Franks were confined to a very small area attic room that housed the family. Four more people eventually joined them. There were only a handful of people who knew of the families plight, and they did their best to keep them updated on news of the war and their friends and struggled to keep them fed. As the war continued, the availability of food decreased. In August of 1944, the Nazis discovered Anne Frank and her family and other occupants of the attic. They were taken for interrogation and eventually ended up in Auschwitz, one of many concentration camps.
Franks father, Otto, was separated from his wife and two daughters. Anne, her sister, and mother were used for slave labor. Her mother, Edith, who stopped eating so her girls might have a chance at survival, eventually died of starvation. In March of 1945, a typhus epidemic swept thru Auschwitz, killing approximately 17,000 prisoners. Margot died from this deadly diseased, and Anne passed away soon just a few days later. Both Anne and Margot were buried in a mass grave. Within a couple of weeks after their death, Auschwitz was liberated by British troops.
Otto somehow survived and returned to Amsterdam. For several weeks, he searched for his family before he discovered his wife and children had perished. Otto found Annes diary tucked away in the small rooms where they once lived in hiding.
Annes treasured diary gives insight into their lives as they hid from the Nazis. Through her words, the readers become well acquainted with everyday life and the distinct personalities of each person in that small attic space that struggled to survived Hitlers persecution of the Jewish people. Anne remained faithful that God would ease their suffering and that one day everyone would learn from what the Jewish people endured. Her diary abruptly ends on August 4, 1944, the day the Franks and their friends were forcibly removed and were taken away from their home.
This haunting book will remain with its readers for many years, if not the rest of their lives. The book is appropriate for grades six up to adults.