In this graphic novel, six Holocaust survivors living in Leeds, UK tell their personal stories of upheaval, suffering, and survival. German teenager, Heinz, joins his brother in England after Kristallnacht and the two of them and their father are arrested as enemy aliens. Nine-year-old Trude escapes to England from Czechoslovakia and never sees her parents again. In Eastern Germany, Ruth’s mother seeks help from foreign embassies until the British consulate arranges for their escape to England. Eight-year-old Martin and his family were part of the “Polenaktion,” the move to deport Polish-born Jews back to Poland. He and his sister travel on the Kindertransport to safety in England. Suzanne, a Parisian native, lives as a hidden child in the French countryside. Arek from Poland becomes a prisoner at Auschwitz.
These accounts represent a good cross-section of experience, since plurality of experience is vital in presenting the Holocaust to young readers. The illustrations make the identities of the victims and perpetrators clear and the maps used as backgrounds provide geographic grounding for border crossings. Renderings of photographs and primary documents add another layer of understanding. Particularly poignant is the ghosting of Trude’s parents. However, expert vetting of subject matter could have caught illustration errors such as Heinz wearing a Jewish star badge before it was mandated and an inaccurate introductory statement that Nazi Germany took over the rest of Europe. The accounts are somewhat inconsistent in details. For instance, Trude’s narrative does not make the connection to the Kindertransport while Martin’s does, and some, but not all, include the ages of the children and the fate of their parents.
The back matter includes photos and an afterword which updates the reader on the fates of these six survivors. It also includes a glossary, a timeline, and a page of suggested websites which help to further educate young readers about children who survived the Holocaust.
Barbara Krasner is an award-winning poet and historian who focuses her writing on the Jewish experience in America and during the Holocaust. She teaches in the history department of The College of New Jersey and serves as Director, Mercer Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Education Center.