Fifteen-year-old Lilo is a Gypsy girl living in World War II Vienna, with a talented watchmaker and musician father and a sought- after lacemaker mother living a happy life. But everything changes when the family is picked up by Hitler’s police as part of a policy to clean up the Gypsy “plague.” The family is shipped to a camp, and things look very grim. Then Hitler’s favorite (and very real) filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl picks Lilo and her mother to be extras on the new movie she’s making. The movie takes place in Spain, so Riefenstahl needs the darker complexioned Gypsies. This is a Holocaust narrative that is rarely told and Lasky delivers with a deft hand, powerfully and poignantly. The mix of actual history and fictional protagonist works seamlessly. Given the subject matter, the genocide of the Sinta and Roma people, it’s obviously a harrow- ing read. But the narrator also makes room for hope and pays homage to the humanity always displayed by at least some individuals. The horrific portrait of Riefenstahl is especially chilling, given that she lived a long life, dying only recently in 2003. This is absolutely a book worth reading and discussing.
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