My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In the ranks of Holocaust memoirs, this book might be my favorite one.
Young Michael wasn’t even born when WWII started. For the first 5 years of his life, he only knew fear, anger, and distrust. After being able to avoid camp life for his first few years, even his family, led by his father who had a position of “power” amongst his peers, couldn’t keep his family safe for long. When Michael was 4, he was taken to one of the most notorious concentration camps, Auschwitz. Separated from his brother and father, Micheal managed to avoid any major punishments. His mother, hating to see her son struggle (he was the youngest at the camp and was picked on mercilessly by the older kids often going without food), she hid him away in the women’s barracks. This worked out fine until she herself was sent to a new camp but luckily he still had his grandmother by his side. When the camp was freed by the Soviets 6 months after their arrival, Michael and his grandmother went back to their hometown thinking that they were the only ones in their family left alive.
What I love most about this book is that it’s based on true events but some of the details are made up. Obviously the author doesn’t know specific things about what people said or what they wore or what went on when he wasn’t around, but his voice and his storytelling sound so authentic. I can most certainly believe he remembers when he found out his mother had been moved and my heart broke, too, when he and his mother left his grandmother behind as they started their journey to the United States.
It’s also very interesting to hear the story from his perspective because in his life he had known nothing but the war. He had hatred for Germans and knew the strict rules they had to follow to stay safe. To imagine a child going through that is horrendous, but if you think about it, it’s happening today too.
The pictures provided at the end of the books are always one of my favorite things. Not only do you get to read about people, but you can also get a glimpse into their lives. See the real them.
What an amazing book. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Holocaust or even middle school students trying to wrap their heads around such an event.