Run and Hide: How Jew­ish Youth Escaped the Holocaust

  • Review
By – April 22, 2024

Two-thirds of Europe’s Jews were mur­dered in the Holo­caust, and Jew­ish chil­dren had an even more dis­mal sur­vival rate. Don Brown’s graph­ic nov­el chron­i­cles some of the unlike­ly cir­cum­stances under which a few chil­dren sur­vived. With clear­ly pre­sent­ed infor­ma­tion, dra­mat­ic images of ter­ror, and pro­found com­pas­sion, he con­tex­tu­al­izes the peo­ple and events that sur­round­ed these excep­tion­al escapes. Two nar­ra­tives unfold simul­ta­ne­ous­ly: one of ter­ri­fy­ing cru­el­ty, and the oth­er of courage and kind­ness. Brown describes his sub­jects’ ordeals with unstint­ing real­ism and a sense of urgency for the future.

Pre­sent­ing the total­i­ty of the Holo­caust with­in the pages of one book is impos­si­ble. Brown knows this, and he approach­es his sub­ject through a care­ful selec­tion of mate­r­i­al. Begin­ning with Depres­sion-era Ger­many, he demon­strates how fas­cism was not inevitable, but the result of a coun­try divid­ed. While some sec­tors of the pop­u­la­tion sup­port­ed democ­ra­cy, social­ism, or com­mu­nism, ulti­mate­ly, one auto­crat who promised to make Ger­many great again” gained the obses­sive loy­al­ty of the Ger­man peo­ple. Brown depicts the ear­ly appear­ance of this man for two pages before iden­ti­fy­ing him as Hitler. He also includes a con­cise sum­ma­ry of the Nazi leader’s dis­tort­ed world­view. Although eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal con­di­tions set the stage for mass mur­der, Brown makes it clear that there was one indi­vid­ual at the cen­ter. Stark black-and-red graph­ics, as well as the word NAZI,” accom­pa­ny his caricature.

The sur­vival of any Jew­ish chil­dren was improb­a­ble, and always cloud­ed by tragedy. Brown pro­vides a detailed descrip­tion of both the Kinder­trans­port and the ter­rors of Kristall­nacht. Yet he doesn’t roman­ti­cize the mis­sion to send Jew­ish chil­dren to safe­ty in Britain; he notes that many chil­dren faced dif­fi­cult con­di­tions in a coun­try ambiva­lent about wel­com­ing any Jew­ish refugees, and most nev­er saw their par­ents again. Sub­se­quent sec­tions tell of the fate of chil­dren in hid­ing, who encoun­tered indif­fer­ence and hatred — but also empathy.

Brown dif­fer­en­ti­ates between the fate of Jews in France, the Nether­lands, and East­ern Europe, skill­ful­ly using imagery to expand on a rel­a­tive­ly terse text. When Dutch res­cuers set off a chain of events to save lives, Brown writes, They grabbed them out of line … snipped off the star of David they wore on their clothes … and passed them on to anoth­er per­son … ” The first pan­el shows an unsus­pect­ing boy being seized by a res­cuer, and the third part of the sequence fea­tures the same adult walk­ing away with an expres­sion of fear, as the Jew­ish boy and anoth­er res­cuer dis­ap­pear into the back­ground. Between the two pan­els is a close-up of a hand hold­ing scis­sors and remov­ing the star from the boy’s shirt. The sequence illus­trates both the risks of the coor­di­nat­ed res­cue and the child’s con­fu­sion about whether these adults want to harm him or help him.

Scenes in death camps are more lim­it­ed, since the major­i­ty of chil­dren there did not sur­vive. There are black, white, and gray pic­tures of rail­road tracks, ema­ci­at­ed pris­on­ers, and life­less bod­ies. The absence of text is a tes­ta­ment to those who were lost. When the lib­er­a­tors arrive, Brown acknowl­edges that sur­viv­ing chil­dren were a miracle.”

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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