Thursday, July 31, 2008

Surviving Hitler: a Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren

Warren, A. (2001). Surviving Hitler: a Boy in the Nazi Death Camp. HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York: 127 pp.

Genre: Biography

Awards: Robert F. Sibert Honor Book,
ALA Notable Book

Summary: Twelve year old Jack Mandelbaum is living a normal life in Gdynia, Poland in the year 1939 when he begins to hear rumors of impending war with Germany. His parents and other adults are discussing Germany’s possible invasion into Poland as well as other countries. Following these rumors, Jack, his mother, and two younger siblings are sent by Jack’s father to live with relatives in the countryside away from the city. Just weeks after they’ve left, Hitler invades Gdynia and Jack’s father is sent to a concentration camp. Jack and his family are safe while staying with relatives but only for a few weeks more. Soon Hitler and his troops arrive here too. Fate and the Nazis separate Jack from his family and he is sent to the concentration camps. During his three year imprisonment, Jack lives in a state of constant fear knowing death could be at any time and could come without for any reason. Though he’s terrified, Jack knows in his heart he’s meant to survive and he refuses to fall to the Nazis. Jack decides that in order to survive he must work hard, be respectful, be cooperative, be likable, and to stay positive in his mind. Jack’s plan worked because he does survive. Most of his family was not so lucky and Jack is left with only a few uncles and cousins. But Jack’s amazing story doesn’t end with his freedom, though; he goes to rebuild his life while dedicating himself to issues related to Holocaust Survivors. This is a real life hero.

Characters: You can’t read this book or look at the photographs inside and not be amazed at the characters. These characters are not just characters; they’re real live human beings who experienced something so horrific it’s hard to believe it really happened. Jack is amazing throughout his story. He’s strong, resilient, clever, courageous, and inspirational. Though others around him succumbed to the circumstances, Jack never did. He persevered and his dream to survive became a reality. Once out of the camps, he soon found himself in another kind of battle to survive. This battle would take place inside him as he struggles to come to terms with what happened to his life. Jack goes into the camps a teenager but he soon becomes a man.

Plot: The plot of this story follows a timeline of Germany’s invasion into Poland, its years in German occupation, and the end of the war.
Jack’s story is a memoir that chronicles his life in the Nazi Concentration Camps during the war. We learn about his daily duties, events, and how he managed to survive until the arrival of the Russian liberators.

I’ve always been interested in the Holocaust. I know it’s a horrible event and many people would rather not remember too much about because it makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s hard to even imagine the number of people, just like us, that were gathered up from their daily lives and simply disposed of as if they never really existed at all. These kinds of things should not happen.

I definitely would use this book in my class. It could be used with middle school students and up. I think it would be a great small group or whole group read depending upon your group. I would like to use it in conjunction with studying WWII, but I would also like to compare and contrast the Holocaust to more current genocides. Why are these kinds of things still happening? I would like to see young people become educated as to not only what’s happened in the past but what’s currently happening. I also could pair with this with other books such as The Diary of Anne Frank or others.

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