Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hana's suitcase

Pic courtesy infibeam
Written by Karen Levine
Published by Jyotsna Prakashan, by permission of Second Story Press
Ages 10 +

An estimated 11 million people were killed in the Holocaust, of which about 6 million were Jews. Bare statistics. Since then, many stories of those killed and of the survivors have come to light, bringing home the horror of it all, how many ordinary and extraordinary lives have been lost.

Hana Brady would have been just such one faceless statistic.

Our book begins in Tokyo, Japan, in the winter of 2000, when an ordinary looking tattered suitcase from Auschwitz arrives there. On it are these words painted in white- HANA BRADY, 16 May 1931, WAISENKIND (orphan in German). It was sent here from Auschwitz on request by the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre.

Pic courtesy:
Tokyo Holocaust Education
Resource Centre
Who was Hana Brady? What was her story? Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the museum, sets out to find out. This is the story of her journey to find out all about the girl, which takes her all the way from Auschwitz to Nove Mesto, in the former Czechoslovakia, where Hana's story begins.

A happy family of four- the parents and brother-sister, George and Hana. Their life changes in 1939 when the Nazis take over Czechoslovakia. Increasing sanctions make ordinary life difficult and then impossible by degrees, then first her mother and then father is deported.

Then one day, the two children are also deported to Theresienstadt, now Terezin, and they are permitted to take just one suitcase each with their personal belongings. There, they are separated, and later, Hana is transported to Auschwitz on 23rd October, 1944, where she is sent along with the rest of the girls straight from the train to the gas chamber. They had been commanded to leave their suitcases on the railway platform.

Pic courtesy
Fumiko and George with the suitcase
Fumiko Ishioka doggedly and painstakingly followed the leads from the entry of George and Hana Brady's name in the Nazi's registers to trace her journey, and found out about her death, but also the fact that George was known to have survived. By tracing other survivors who were with him in the concentation camp, she finally traced a 75 year old George Brady now residing in Canada, and got in touch with him.

Between them, they brought Hana's story to us, all his memories and the family photographs that he had saved, and which he now so generously shared. There were also many things that the siblings had put in a box and buried in their backyard all those years ago, in a game of 'burying treasure', that were found by another family now living there. Ensuring that she does not remain a faceless statistic. A lovely, lively human being, who was lost to the senseless genocide.

Pic courtesy
Hana and George with their
mother Marketa 
The book by Karen Levine is simply written, shuttling between Hana's story in the 1930s, and the story of Fumiko's effort to bring it to us. There are plenty of real photographs of the Brady family, beginning with the toddler Hana to the 12 yr old Hana on the cover page, copies of the drawings Hana made in the Theresienstadt deportation centre, as also photostat copies of the Nazi records which Fumiko followed on her search.

The telling is gentle, though, so that even a child as young as 10 can read it. As A told me when we discussed the book after reading it, "I felt very sad, but it was not frightening."



ranjani.sathish said...

Very touching to hear about this book.You bring some very unique books to ST, Sandhya !

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for the information.

sandhya said...

@Thanks Ranjani.

@sewa mobil: Thanks.

@IndianTopBlogs: Thanks, that is great!

sandhya said...

@IndianTopBlogs: There is an email ID in the left column that we can be contacted at-

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