Moishe Moskowitz’s painful experiences in the Holocaust are expressed in brief, gut-wrenching poems.
Moishe knows fear; he must avoid the Polish boys who will beat him for being Jewish. When the Nazis come in 1939, the danger grows exponentially, but they “could not have imagined such evil” would engulf them. Moishe views the Nazis as prowling, voracious wolves, and that metaphor is used throughout the poems. Changes come quickly: yellow stars, disappearances, and forced labor. They are driven from their home and pushed into a ghetto, followed by liquidation, murders, and deportation to the concentration camps. His family is torn from him, as “the Nazis peel us like onions,” his mother and sister, father, brother. He endures unending deprivation and starvation. Kindness is rare and punishable by death, but a Christian friend hides the family in the early days, a political prisoner gives him a bit of extra food, and, near the end, a group of Czech women throw warm, fresh bread into the cattle cars. Gray-toned thumbnail sketches can only hint at the devastating emotions. Moishe’s daughter provides the story, as told to her by her father, and entrusts Smith to pen poems that strike at the heart of each moment, each fear, each horror and make it personal for readers even as time erases witnesses.
A deeply moving, beautifully written portrayal of an evil that cannot be allowed to be forgotten. (author’s note) (Historical verse fiction. 10-adult)