The Promise

Pni­na Bat Zvi & Margie Wolfe; Isabelle Car­di­nal, illus.

  • Review
By – August 27, 2018

This book about two sis­ters liv­ing at Auschwitz is based on a true fam­i­ly sto­ry — authors Pni­na Bat Zvi and Margie Wolfe are the sis­ters’ children.

Toby, the old­er of the two sis­ters, car­ries gold coins in a shoe paste tin. Two years ear­li­er, on the night their par­ents were arrest­ed, their father gave the girls the coins and told them to stay togeth­er, no mat­ter what — that it would be their only chance for survival.

When Rachel, the younger sis­ter, falls ill, the girls are sep­a­rat­ed for the first time. Using the coins, Toby bribes a guard to let her into the bar­rack where Rachel is being held and res­cues her. As pun­ish­ment, Toby receives a lash­ing. The sis­ters ulti­mate­ly sur­vive, and when the coins are long gone, they have kept their promise to their par­ents that they would stay together.

Illus­tra­tor Isabelle Car­di­nal does a fine job of show­ing the dis­so­nance of the camp through her mut­ed-tone col­lages. The shift­ing point of view is cum­ber­some, but the sto­ry, which empha­sizes sur­vival through sis­ter­hood, is heartwarming.

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.

Discussion Questions