The International School for Holocaust Studies
Survivors – True Stories of Children in the Holocaust
Reviewed by Kathryn Berman
Allan Zullo and Mara Bovsun
Scholastic Inc., 2004
Mathei, aged ten, escapes from a crowded cattle car going to Auschwitz and becomes a partisan. Seventeen-year-old Jack Gruener survives a grueling death march, and despite terrible conditions, tries to help a fellow Jew along the way. Five-year-old Sarah is hidden by a Polish family in a small attic with her family for two years. Herbert Karliner leaves Hamburg with his family on the ship St. Louis. Refused entry to Cuba, they and the other passengers are sent back to Europe. Twelve-year-old Walter Ziffer always remembered his father's words to him: "Always do your best, and never forget that you are somebody."
Suitable for students aged nine to twelve, this book chronicles true stories of eight Jewish children whose lives changed forever at the outbreak of World War II. The authors have interviewed all eight survivors and state that the details, though difficult to read, have not been softened because of the desire to depict the reality of the events.
Many Holocaust survivors take courses at Yad Vashem in order to learn how to give their testimonies to groups of adults and high school students. Yad Vashem encourages these survivors to end their testimony on a note of hope, continuity, and a look toward the future. Each of the stories in this book ends on such a note, thereby following Yad Vashem's educational guidelines. The survivors in the book marry, have families, and live fulfilling lives, which is a testament to their determination to survive and overcome the tragic years of the Holocaust.
Teachers can formulate several lesson plans from the testimonies, and there is a useful, short explanation about the Holocaust at the beginning of the book, a map of Europe during the years 1939-45, and a short glossary of terms at the end of the book.