A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Librarian of Auschwitz is a novel based on the real-life experiences of Czech teen Dita Kraus, who was a prisoner at the Auschwitz concentration camp. At age 14, Dita was entrusted with one of the most dangerous clandestine jobs in the camp. She was chosen to protect the precious and forbidden eight books that prisoners had smuggled into Auschwitz. Books that would be used in the secret school created by prisoners for the children of Block 31. The novel moves from Dita and her family's privileged life in Prague to Auschwitz and then to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The violence is sometimes graphic (how people died in the gas chamber, how their bodies were removed, a hanging, mentions of the medical experiments of Dr. Mengele) and the threat of it is ever present as people are beaten, starve to death, and get taken off to the gas chambers. In preparation for writing the novel, author Antonio Iturbe met with and interviewed Dita Kraus, who survived the camps and now lives in Israel.
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What's the story?
Before she became THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ , Dita Kraus lived a comfortable life with her parents in Prague. Now, in 1944, she and her parents are in a special section of Auschwitz called the Family Camp. In Block 31 of the camp, a secret school for children has been established. As books are forbidden, the school must rely on eight books that have been smuggled into the camp: a geometry textbook, H.G. Wells' Short History of the World, a Russian grammar, a novel written in Russian, The Count of Monte Cristo, Freud's New Paths to Psychoanalytic Thought, and Dita's favorite, The Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk. Under the watchful eye of the leader of Block 31, Fredy Hirsch, it's Dita's job to keep the books safe, storing them each night in a secret compartment. Secrets and unanswered questions are at the heart of the novel. What is Fredy hiding, and could he possibly be a traitor? Can Renee trust the SS guard who promises her freedom? Why is Dr. Mengele so interested in Dita? As for what becomes of families once they are rounded up and taken from the Family Camp, that's not a secret. An epilogue let's readers know how Dita's life unfolded after she was liberated from Bergen-Belsen.
Is it any good?
This is a haunting, heartbreaking, and unforgettable Holocaust story -- a powerful testament to the courage of a teen girl who risked her life to preserve eight forbidden books. Even teens who don't love reading or share Dita's passion for books are sure to be caught up in a gripping storyline that features secret meetings, a possible traitor, daring escapes, and even romance.
Fact and fiction are blended so seamlessly in The Librarian of Auschwitz that some readers may have difficulty recognizing which characters are real and which are fictional. To make sure readers can identify the real-life characters in the novel, there's a "What Happened To …" section at the back of the book. It reveals the fate of both Nazis (Dr. Mengele, Adolf Eichmann, and camp Kommandant Rudolf Hoss) and prisoners (Dita's best friend, Margit Barnai, and Resistance leader David Schmulewski). A postscript discusses the controversy surrounding the mysterious death of Fredy Hirsch. Whether teens have read widely about the Holocaust or are just beginning to learn about this period in history, the story of Dita Kraus is a must read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the strong bonds between parents and children that are part of The Librarian of Auschwitz. Can you imagine you and your family going through what Dita and her parents experienced?
What other books or movies about the Holocaust have you read or watched? Why is it important to remember and learn about this period in history?
Dita risked her life to protect eight books. Do you think that was heroic or reckless?
- Author: Antonio Iturbe
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: October 10, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 423
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: May 14, 2020
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