This afternoon Brown Bear Daughter inhaled this story of a little Jewish girl who survived life during World War II in the Lodz ghetto, and I read it myself in one sitting a few days ago. It’s not a long read, 227 pages, and the prose text is arranged in an almost poetic form such that each page only has about a hundred words. So it doesn’t take long to read, but it does pack an emotional punch.
Ms. Roy wrote the book based on the true story of her Aunt Sylvia Perlmutter, who was one of only twelve children who survived the Lodz ghetto in Poland. If you read the introduction or know anything about the Holocaust, you know from the beginning that there are difficult things coming in this book. I hesitated to give it to my eleven year old daughter because I didn’t know how it would affect her emotionally. However, she read it, said it was a good book, and didn’t seem too disturbed. I was the one who mourned as I read for all those children who didn’t survive —and even for those who did.
The Jewish refrain in relation to the Holocaust is, “Never forget!” However, we’re always only one generation away from forgetting what horrors man can perpetrate upon other men. I don’t know what at what age a child is old enough to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust, but I agree that we must not forget that “civilized” man is only one step away from barbarous acts of cruelty. And at some point even our children need to know that sin and evil are real.
They also need hope, and Jennifer Roy manages to tell a story that is filled with tragedy and yet leaves the reader with hope. As the story begins in the fall of 1939, little Sylvia is four and a half years old. On January 20, 1945, the day after she and her family are liberated from the ghetto, Sylvia celebrates her tenth birthday. By the time she is ten, Sylvia has seen and experienced things that most of us have, thankfully, only read about. She goes on to live a full life, marriage, a son, grandchildren. For over fifty years she doesn’t talk about her experiences during World War II. Finally, she tells her niece in a series of telephone interviews what she remembers of what happened to her and her family during the Holocaust.
It’s a story worth reading and remembering.