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A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps

by Andrea Warren

Age Range: 10 - 15

Pub Date: March 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-688-17497-3
Publisher: HarperCollins

A moving memoir recounts an all-too-familiar chain of events. Jack Mandelbaum, the child of a loving, middle-class Jewish family in Poland, had his happy childhood and adoring parents snatched away from him and experienced the worst horrors of the Holocaust. In 1939, just before the Nazi invasion of Poland, Jack's family left their city for the countryside, hoping that the Nazis would leave them alone. But after two years of working as a laborer for the Nazis, Jack, then 15, was rounded up along with the other 900 Jews in the village. Separated from his mother and little brother, he was taken to Blechhammer concentration camp where he experienced the horrible initiation into camp life—all his hair was shaved off, he was given a number (16013) that was to be his only identity to the Nazis, and the ill-fitting cotton uniform and wooden shoes that were to be his clothes. After three years of wretched deprivation and terror, he and the other prisoners woke up one morning to discover that the guards had abandoned the camp. For the first time, no one was controlling Jack's every movement and, amazingly, he just walked out the front gates. The date, he learned later, was May 7, 1945; 18-year-old Jack weighed 80 pounds. Eventually, he learned what had happened to his family and that only two of his relatives had survived—an aunt and an uncle. Chillingly, Jack says, "If I had known this when I was in the camps, why would I have struggled so hard to live?" Though told by another narrator, direct quotes of his remembrances make Jack's story immediate and personal. Telling details of moments of horror, desperation, misery, and the tricks of survival add to this richly involving biography. (introduction, afterword, recommended reading, films, software, and Web sites) (Biography. 10-15)