Mem­o­ries of Survival

Esther Nisen­thal Krinitz and Ber­nice Steinhardt
  • Review
By – October 17, 2011
In this out­stand­ing book are dis­played 36 embroi­dered pic­tures that the author began at the age of 50, to illus­trate the sto­ries of her child­hood in Poland and her sur­vival dur­ing the Holo­caust. When she died at the age of 74, she wasn’t fin­ished, but she left this remark­able book. Her daugh­ter Ber­nice used her mother’s com­ments to write the text. It is amaz­ing how much Esther remem­bered, which is evi­denced in the intri­cate details and vibrant col­ors of the needle­work. Each full-page pic­ture is framed in a dif­fer­ent col­or, with Esther’s com­ments under it and the text on the oppo­site page. The decep­tive­ly sim­ple pic­tures have the look of folk art in con­trast to a grim­ly real­is­tic sto­ry. At the end, there is a poignant page titled To Ger­many,” where Esther has joined the Pol­ish Army in March 1945 and she shows us in it what she remem­bers so many years lat­er: see­ing Nazi offi­cers hang­ing from every tree as they passed along the road of an ear­li­er bat­tle with the Rus­sians on their way to Berlin. The last frame shows Esther land­ing at Ellis Island, view­ing the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty. She was very excit­ed, because she felt that this meant she would nev­er again be per­se­cut­ed for being Jew­ish. Her daugh­ter Ber­nice calls this a memo­r­i­al to her mother’s fam­i­ly, because of them all, only Esther and a sis­ter sur­vived the war. Esther’s daugh­ters Ber­nice and her sis­ter have found­ed a non­prof­it edu­ca­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion called Art and Remem­brance, which is ded­i­cat­ed to using the pow­er of sto­ry and art to illu­mi­nate the effects of war, intol­er­ance, and social injus­tice. This book is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for all col­lec­tions, as Esther’s sto­ry brings these ter­ri­ble times alive in a way that adds a dif­fer­ent dimen­sion to children’s under­stand­ing of the Holo­caust. For ages 12 – adult.
Andrea David­son is the librar­i­an of The Tem­ple-Tifer­eth Israel in Beach­wood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and is a for­mer mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards Com­mit­tee. She enjoys try­ing out the books she reviews on the kids at the Tem­ple and on her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions