Like Find­ing My Twin: How an Eighth-Grade Class Reunit­ed Two Holo­caust Refugees

  • Review
By – July 14, 2016

Why can’t we find Ger­da? It seemed a rea­son­able ques­tion and one with an easy answer to a class of Amer­i­can eight graders. It was 2011 and they were all Inter­net savvy. What could be so dif­fi­cult? Yet this group of Illi­nois mid­dle-school stu­dents dis­cov­ered that the task of unit­ing the two young girls who had been forced to flee their home coun­try of Ger­many and had been sent to live with unknown rel­a­tives in dif­fer­ent cities of the Unit­ed States in 1938 would take a class­room of inves­ti­ga­tors and would present a fas­ci­nat­ing chal­lenge and an emo­tion­al journey.

Ger­da Katz and Edith West­er­feld became fast friends on their solo jour­ney from Ger­many to the Unit­ed States. As twelve-year-olds, their fam­i­lies chose to save them from the grow­ing war in Ger­many, even if it meant each of the girls mak­ing the jour­ney to a new coun­try alone. The par­ents had no idea what fate await­ed them in the USA but they knew that remain­ing in Ger­many was not an option for their chil­dren. Edith and Ger­da made that jour­ney and became true sis­ters’ only to lose touch with each oth­er for over 50 years. 

The efforts of the eighth grade class who heard their sto­ry doing a school pro­gram and made it a class project to reunite them, made their joy­ous reunion apos­si­ble. The inves­tiga­tive expe­ri­ence taught the class immea­sur­able lessons about friend­ship, grief, sur­vival and the love of par­ents. It also ingrained in them how his­to­ry repeats itself and pro­vid­ed a deep mes­sage that they must act in order to pre­vent sim­i­lar fates for chil­dren around the world today.

This is a valu­able non­fic­tion sto­ry that will bring WWII, the Holo­caust and the per­ils of immi­gra­tion to life. 

High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 1017.

Chris­tine Maas­dam holds a Mas­ters in Human­i­ties, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in Muse­um Stud­ies and Cul­tur­al Prop­er­ty Pro­tec­tion. She is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing her M.L.I.S. Her inter­ests are phi­los­o­phy and the impact of art and tech­nol­o­gy on culture.

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