Transcending Darkness: A Girl's Journey Out of the Holocaust

Texas Tech University Press  2012


This brutally frank and heart-wrenching memoir of a child survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto tells the story of a girl who never gave up her belief in humanity despite an intensely difficult struggle for survival.

Born in Warsaw in 1929, Estelle Glaser Laughlin lived with her parents and older sister in relative peace and calm until Hitler invaded Poland when she was ten years old. Soon after, the family home on Nowolipki Street became part of the Warsaw Ghetto, where 400,000 Jews were squeezed into a 1.3-square-mile area – 30 percent of the city’s population forced to live in less than three percent of the city’s space.

Rumors of deportation to Treblinka terrified the children and adults alike, and the announcement of a new ordinance that all children under the age of 14 were to be deported and gassed threw the young Laughlin into a panic. But with typical ingenuity and courage in the face of unimaginable evil – ingenuity and courage that would be tested again and again – her family found a way to protect her, as she would protect them later on.

Told in colorful prose and with powerful detail, this intensely personal Holocaust story brings history to life in the way only a first-person account can. Family photos grace the book, showing the reader the faces of Laughlin’s closest relatives, her parents, sister, cousins, and close friends, both before and after the war, along with copies of documents classifying her as a former political prisoner and pictures of the Warsaw Ghetto, both inside and outside the thick brick barrier walls.

Laughlin allows the reader into her secret thoughts while incarcerated and opens her heart after she is liberated. Through her emigration to America, two marriages, three children and several grandchildren, she shows us how an indomitable spirit such as hers can overcome even the worst that humankind can conjure up in order to destroy us.

Mindful of the fact that genocides are still taking place throughout our modern world, Laughlin dedicates her book “to all the wonderful children whose voices were silenced in the Holocaust” and also “to all the children who are in harms’ way in our time.”

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