Today, 19th April 2012 is International Holocaust Remembrance day. Here is a review of a book on the Holocaust that is gentler and not so sad- one that A and I have enjoyed reading. A great book to introduce the time period to children.
|Pic courtesy flipkart.com|
Written and illustrated by Judith Kerr
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books
Ages 8-12 years
The year is 1933. Elections are being held in Germany, and one of the contenders is the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler, well known for his anti-semitic views.
Anna's father is a political journalist. He is also Jewish. He has liberal views that do not sit too well with the Nazis. The Nazi party is expected to come to power in the forthcoming elections. If they do not, all will be well. If they do, it will prove to be dangerous for him and his family.
Fortunately for him, he has admirers of his work in the top police ranks. Someone calls him and tips him off about a possible arrest just the evening before. The family decides to move out of Germany immediately.
However, taking the entire family out would just attract attention to the flight. So Anna's father decides to go alone to Switzerland, as if on an assignment. The rest of the family is to follow in a week's time, as soon as school closes for the vacation, as if joining him there on a holiday. There is always the possibility, that in a few days' time, when the election results are out, the people of Germany would have voted out the Nazis, and it would be safe to come back home.
They have to necessarily travel light, as it would not do to be carrying too many of their possessions. It would certainly look like flight then. Anna and her brother Max have to choose among their belongings, books and toys. Anna decides to take a new toy with her, instead of Pink Rabbit, who has been with her from the beginning. After all, she has hardly played with the new toy. Pink Rabbit would not be going anywhere, and would be right there when they came back.
After a harrowing journey by train, when they almost thought that they would be caught by the authorities at the border, they get to Switzerland. They have escaped.
The Nazi party does win the elections, and Hitler does come to power. Anna and her family can never come back to Germany, as subsequent events that unfold decide. Pink Rabbit remains in their Berlin house, and is effectively 'stolen' by Hitler.
This tale of escape and survival, of a refugee life, first in Switzerland, then in Paris, with the family migrating to Britain in the end and settling down there, is autobiographical. For Anna is Judith Kerr's alter ego- it is their story. There is a very vivid potrayal of the privations of a refugee life, the experiences with different kind of people, the struggle to make ends meet, the positivity of outlook and the togetherness that keeps them afloat through many a sad day - all told in a fictionalised way that children can understand, even look at it as an adventure.
The book has a foreword by on of my favourite children's writers, Micheal Morpurgo. He refers to Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl. "The power of Anne Frank's story is that we know it is true, that these are her words, her thoughts, her feelings...Imagine for one moment that the Frank family had managed to escape, to find their way to England and safety. Imagine Anne Frank had lived. What would her diary have told us then? The truth is that many thousands like Anna (from this book) did find their way to safety and a new life. Happily for us, Judith Kerr was one of these."