Sur­vivors of the Holo­caust: True Sto­ries of Six Extra­or­di­nary Children

Kath Shack­le­ton (ed.), Zane Whit­ting­ham (illus.)

By – November 5, 2019

In this graph­ic nov­el, six Holo­caust sur­vivors liv­ing in Leeds, UK tell their per­son­al sto­ries of upheaval, suf­fer­ing, and sur­vival. Ger­man teenag­er, Heinz, joins his broth­er in Eng­land after Kristall­nacht and the two of them and their father are arrest­ed as ene­my aliens. Nine-year-old Trude escapes to Eng­land from Czecho­slo­va­kia and nev­er sees her par­ents again. In East­ern Ger­many, Ruth’s moth­er seeks help from for­eign embassies until the British con­sulate arranges for their escape to Eng­land. Eight-year-old Mar­tin and his fam­i­ly were part of the Pole­nak­tion,” the move to deport Pol­ish-born Jews back to Poland. He and his sis­ter trav­el on the Kinder­trans­port to safe­ty in Eng­land. Suzanne, a Parisian native, lives as a hid­den child in the French coun­try­side. Arek from Poland becomes a pris­on­er at Auschwitz.

These accounts rep­re­sent a good cross-sec­tion of expe­ri­ence, since plu­ral­i­ty of expe­ri­ence is vital in pre­sent­ing the Holo­caust to young read­ers. The illus­tra­tions make the iden­ti­ties of the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors clear and the maps used as back­grounds pro­vide geo­graph­ic ground­ing for bor­der cross­ings. Ren­der­ings of pho­tographs and pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments add anoth­er lay­er of under­stand­ing. Par­tic­u­lar­ly poignant is the ghost­ing of Trude’s par­ents. How­ev­er, expert vet­ting of sub­ject mat­ter could have caught illus­tra­tion errors such as Heinz wear­ing a Jew­ish star badge before it was man­dat­ed and an inac­cu­rate intro­duc­to­ry state­ment that Nazi Ger­many took over the rest of Europe. The accounts are some­what incon­sis­tent in details. For instance, Trude’s nar­ra­tive does not make the con­nec­tion to the Kinder­trans­port while Martin’s does, and some, but not all, include the ages of the chil­dren and the fate of their parents.

The back mat­ter includes pho­tos and an after­word which updates the read­er on the fates of these six sur­vivors. It also includes a glos­sary, a time­line, and a page of sug­gest­ed web­sites which help to fur­ther edu­cate young read­ers about chil­dren who sur­vived the Holocaust.

Bar­bara Kras­ner is the author of many books across gen­res, includ­ing fic­tion, poet­ry, cre­ative non­fic­tion, and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civil­ian Casu­al­ties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Gol­da Meir’s First Cru­sade was a recip­i­ent of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies from Gratz Col­lege, teach­es in the Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies pro­gram at the Col­lege of New Jer­sey, and serves as direc­tor of the Mer­cer Coun­ty Holo­caust, Geno­cide, and Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She also holds an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts.

Discussion Questions

This graph­ic non­fic­tion book, based on an award-win­ning British ani­mat­ed doc­u­men­tary film series, takes an inno­v­a­tive, sen­si­tive approach to telling the sto­ry of the Holo­caust. The six chap­ters are nar­rat­ed by six sur­vivors who endured the trau­ma of the Holo­caust as chil­dren and now reside in Leeds, Eng­land. Heinz, orig­i­nal­ly from Ger­many, tells of roam­ing the streets on Kristall­nacht to avoid being arrest­ed. When he fled to Eng­land, he was interned as an ene­my alien. Trude left Czecho­slo­va­kia on a kinder­trans­port train for Eng­land, where she was home­sick for her par­ents and strug­gled to adjust to the unfa­mil­iar food and lan­guage. Suzanne, from Paris, nar­row­ly escaped the Gestapo’s arrest of her fam­i­ly thanks to a kind, quick-think­ing neigh­bor who claimed Suzanne was her child. Dur­ing the war, Suzanne remained hid­den on a French coun­try­side farm that was so remote that no one there real­ized the war was over until two years after it end­ed. These and the oth­er first-hand tes­ti­monies are accom­pa­nied by vivid, graph­ic illus­tra­tions. The com­pelling accounts of soci­etal upheaval, fam­i­ly sep­a­ra­tion, fear, and loss are like­ly to pro­voke dis­cus­sions on the plight of today’s child refugees.