Sarah’s Key – by Tatiana de Rosnay (2007)

Sarah's Key

There have been hundreds of books written about World War II, some being true stories, and others being fictional but based around actual events during the war. “Sarah’s Key” is fiction, although the setting is a Paris police round-up in July of 1942.

The Starzynski family is living in Paris when the local French police, under orders from the Germans, round up all the Jews they can find – men, women and children. When the police bang on their door, 10-year-old Sarah locks her little brother Michael in a cupboard, thinking they will merely be questioned at the police station and they will be able to come back for him later. Instead, Sarah and her parents are herded into the Vélodrome d’Hiver stadium, along with 28,000 other Jews. They are held there for five days, then stuffed onto a train, and sent to the Beaune-la-Rolande internment camp. Sarah is able to escape from the camp before everyone there is transferred to Auschwitz, but is too late to save her brother’s life.

The story switches back and forth from Sarah’s story to the present-day story of Julia, an American journalist in Paris. Julia is given the assignment of researching the Vel’ d’Hiv detainment of Jews by French police, as the 60th anniversary of the event approaches. Strangely, many Parisians claim to have no memory of this event in their city’s history. It has been purposely forgotten, buried under the rug as several generations have passed by. The more Sarah investigates, the more obsessed she becomes. Eventually it affects her life and her marriage.

This was a difficult book to read. The character of Sarah was fictional, but the arrests, the separating of the parents from the children, and the premeditated murder of 28,000 innocent people was real. I asked myself, how could human beings who are capable of great love participate in such hate and evil? I can fathom the occasional psychopathic killer doing something so sick, but how did so many people participate in these atrocities? And not just one time, but over and over for years. It sickened me to think of people choosing to torture, starve and kill their fellow man. It is also sickening to think about how the Holocaust is slowly being covered over. Despite the evidence of interviews with people that lived through it, video footage, photography, and written testimony, there are still people who believe it never happened, or that reports were exaggerated. Denying the truth can only lead people to do the same evil things over and over.

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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – by Judith Kerr (1971)

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

Nine-year-old Anna lives in Berlin, Germany with her parents and brother Max. Her father is part Jewish, and has written a number of newspaper articles that are critical of the Nazi party. Just before the election which catapults Adolf Hitler to power, the family flees to Switzerland. In the hasty exit, Anna leaves behind her stuffed animal Pink Rabbit. When a bounty is placed on her father’s head, they flee to Paris. Several years later, they leave France for England.

This story is semi-autobiographical, and portrays the early years of World War II through the eyes of a child. The author’s parents, like Anna’s parents, were fortunate enough to escape from Germany and save their lives. But they gave up a great deal – friends, a well-to-do lifestyle, a spacious house and almost all their possessions. Despite becoming refugees, downsizing to tiny living quarters, becoming impoverished, and learning new languages, they survived and thrived because the four of them stayed together as a family.

There have been so many books written about World War II that spell out the grizzly facts of what the victims suffered. This book tells the story on the level of a child’s understanding of the war. Anna knows a little bit about the war, but is mercifully ignorant of many details. Instead, the story focuses on the everyday life of a family that gives up their homeland to becomes refugees in a new country. Although the setting of the book is serious, there are many humorous parts, especially as Anna tries to learn French. It is well-written, and appropriate for anyone ages eight and older to read.

Darkness Over Denmark – by Ellen Levine (2000)

Darkness Over Denmark

 

If there was a bright spot in World War II, it was Denmark’s battle to save their 7,800 Jewish neighbors from extermination. Germany invaded the small country in 1940 because they needed the meat and other food Denmark produced. King Christian X and the Danish leaders made it very clear to their captors that there was no “Jewish problem” in their country, and they expected their people to be left alone. For several years, the Danes pretended to cooperate, while building up a good resistance movement. In 1943 a German diplomat leaked the news that the Nazis would be rounding up all the Jews and moving them to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp, in just a couple days. The entire country went into rescue mode, and managed to shuttle almost all their Jewish citizens to Sweden, which agreed to take them in.

The story is told using the testimony of Danes who witnessed those years. The book is relatively short – 152 pages – which is enough to give you a good account of what happened without making you read forever and a day. The author did not include graphic or gory details, therefore it is suitable for reading by almost all ages. It’s an excellent book with which to introduce people to not only the ugliness of war, but the heroic efforts of many.

 
Excerpt from page 11:

Within days of the occupation, King Christian resumed his morning horseback ride through the streets of Copenhagen. He ignored German soldiers when they saluted him, but responded to the greetings of Danes. The king rode alone, to the surprise of the Germans, who always saw their Fuhrer protected by security guards.

“Who guards the king?” they asked the Danes.

“We all do,” was the answer.

Holy Bible

Holy Bible

The Bible is a book like no other. It took more than 1,500 years to write. It was recorded by more than 40 writers under the inspiration of God. The people who wrote the different parts or books of the Bible ranged from highly intelligent and educated, like King Solomon, to poor, simple peasants like Peter and John. As for content, the Bible covers the creation of the world, the history of the Jews, Mosaic laws, poetry, prophecy about the Messiah, accounts of Jesus’ life here on earth, the history of the beginning of the Christian church, letters of encouragement to struggling Christians, and apocalyptic revelations.

The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us. It’s not a book you just zip through in a week or two, then put on the shelf. It’s meant to be read and digested in small portions, and pondered over a lifetime. It is both simple and complex. The main message of the Bible is simple: God created you, then sent his Son Jesus to earth to pay for your sins, and if you accept his forgiveness and give your life to Him, you will spend eternity in heaven with Him. There are also parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand. Some you will come to understand as you study them. Other parts may continue to mystify until you get to heaven.

(The Bible pictured is available as a free Kindle download at amazon.)

The Hiding Place – by Corrie Ten Boom (1971)

The Hiding Place

corrie-tenboom

The Ten Boom family lived in the heart of Haarlem in the Netherlands during the second world war. Corrie assisted her father in the family watch-making business. She was the first licensed female watchmaker in the country. As living conditions became dangerous for the Jewish residents of Haarlem, the Ten Booms built a secret room in their home, and hid Jews there until they could be smuggled out of the country. Eventually they were caught by the Gestapo, and Corrie, her sister Betsie, her father and other relatives were arrested.

Much of the book deals with Corrie and Betsie’s time in the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. Life was all but unbearable, but God was with them through it all. It is a hard biography to read, but in the end it re-affirms that there is no trial that we go through alone.

Excerpt:

Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam – when do I give you your ticket?”

I sniffed a few times, considering this.

“Why, just before we get on the train.”

“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”