I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I have started to type things about this book and then immediately deleted them. I’m hitting that point where I just don’t know if my words will do this book justice. And while that fear is very real, I realize that I can’t keep going on just not talking about this book. Why? Because this book moved me. It made me smile, it shocked me, it made me cry. It was an incredibly important book and it really bothers me that more people aren’t talking about it.
So, I am about to do my best to tell you reasons that you should read The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe.
Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.
Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.
This book was picked up kind of on a whim. When I was on vacation my friend kept talking about it, and then my sister in law had also started gushing about it (and she hadn’t even had the chance to finish it yet). So I filed it away to remember to grab it if I saw it at some point. Well let me tell you, I was so excited when it was sitting on the shelves at the library. I snatched it up immediately, determined that this was my next read (even if it meant my current read took a pause).
There was not a single second that I was disappointed in prioritizing this book. This book took me through a wide range of emotions as I read Dita’s story. I cheered in her happy moments, I cried in her gut-wrenching moments, and I continued to question just how humans could treat someone so poorly just because of their race, because of their culture, because of who they are.
I find that I read a lot of books about WWII, especially those surrounding people that suffered through the Holocaust. Sometimes I sit back and ask myself why…why would I willingly let myself read these tragedies, crying over the treatment of these people and the deaths? I asked myself these questions after I finished The Librarian of Auschwitz, and I think this book gave me all my reasons.
- To see the story of bravery in a dark time. I honestly don’t know how those imprisoned in concentration camps found the courage to keep going every single day. They were treated like they were worse than dirt. They were beaten, starved, experimented on. They were torn down and apart nearly every waking minute of the day. Their living situations were so awful that many died just from being sick from sleeping where they did. How…how does one gather the courage to face each day? Dita showed me that courage. She showed the struggle of wanting to give up. She showed me that it was worth it. That fighting through each and every moment, that fighting to survive, was worth it. She touched lives just by doing her job as the librarian, something that should be so simple. I read these stories to see bravery in the darkest of times.
- To see that people survived and have lived a good life. I think in just about every Holocaust story that I have read they have talked about the survivors, whether that be the main character or not. To see that someone can go through hell and come out to live a life is inspiring. I have only read about what they went through, and I know that’s just a small look into the terrible days and nights, but to know that some little bit of humanity survived the terror…it’s amazing. I know that the lives of survivors hasn’t been easy. I can’t imagine what they have had to overcome, but to know that so many have overcome that and have gone on to do good things…that helps me to see the good coming out of the bad.
- To be reminded of the past. I think it’s so important that we learn from the past, personally and as a society. I mean, if we don’t look to the mistakes and choices of the past are we really able to grow? When I read stories coming out of the Holocaust I think about what we as a society can do to ensure that something like this never happens. It’s a big thing to think of, especially today when we see so much that we question and don’t agree with. Reading books such as this one help us to see the terror that a nation caused because they don’t like someone’s race, culture, lifestyles, etc. It reminds us that it’s not ok (not that we should need the reminder, but I think it kind of amps the knowledge of what’s right and wrong up).
- To see good overcome evil in a real way. There’s so much evil in the world. So much. And sometimes reading the news, seeing everything play out…it just becomes overwhelming. I find it hard to maintain that hope that good will overcome some days. Books like these, stories like Dita’s, are reminders of how good overcame one of the worst evils. It’s a reminder that good WILL overcome, but we just need to do something before it goes as far as it did during WWII.
Dita’s story reminded me of the reasons I read stories of the Holocaust, both of survival and of those that went down with a fight. Dita’s story reminded me that one single person can make a difference to the lives of those around you. She reminded me that to be strong doesn’t mean you don’t break a little. She reminded me that courage can be a small act (even though her small act was a pretty big deal while in Auschwitz).
If you need a story of hope in the darkest places, read this book. If you want to see a girl risk her life to preserve books and the stories and lessons they hold, read this book. You will smile, you will cry…it’s a roller coaster but so worth it (though I do recommend not reading in public, unless you’re ok with the ugly cry in public).
Do you read WWII books? Why do you read them?