We Are Witnesses: Five Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust

Book review by
Cindy Kane, Common Sense Media
We Are Witnesses: Five Teenagers Who Died in the Holocaust Book Poster Image
Powerful stories from young Holocaust victims.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Persecution of the Jews.

Violence

Not as graphic as some other Holocaust accounts, but does describe massacres and cold-blooded murders. Boas describes the circumstances of each teenager's death. All the diarists are haunted by the murders of friends; descriptions of particular moments--

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the diary excerpts lack the power of a continuous narrative, though their cumulative effect is devastating. Only one photo of each diarist is provided; they range from muddy to riveting.

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What's the story?

Among the Holocaust's millions of victims were many children and adolescents. Here, in their own words, are some of their powerful stories: vivid excerpts from the diaries of five Jewish teenagers, with concise commentary by Holocaust survivor Jacob Boas. The diarists come from different parts of Europe, yet they share common themes of hope, ambition, fear, and resilience.

 

Is it any good?

These sobering diaries show how the Nazi terror blankets Europe, touching the home countries of each teen; the records of the three who spend time in Jewish ghettos are especially harrowing. Though his comments may at first seem intrusive, Jacob Boas proves a trustworthy guide, filling in details that enrich the diaries and eloquently showing how the teens are united in life as well as in death.

Few Holocaust diaries are as finely observed, or offer the same narrative opportunities, as Anne Frank's. Yet reading excerpts from these five journals is a powerful reminder that every victim's story deserves to be known. Each of the teenage writers reveals emotions that will resonate with readers: David's tenderheartedness, Yitzhak's idealism, Moshe's ambition, Eva's longing for her mother, Anne's desire for independence. They speak and act as adolescents do, yet the day-to-day events they chronicle grow increasingly horrifying.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the teen writers. In what ways can you relate to them? How do their voices illuminate the Holocaust for you?

  • What did you learn about the Holocaust from We Are Witnesses? Did yhte history have more of an impact in the voices of teens who experienced it?

  • Do you keep a diary? How does it help you? 

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