A straightforward and accessible Holocaust survivor’s memoir shows Oskar Schindler through the eyes of a young person he saved.
Before the Nazi invasion, Rena’s Jewish family members are patriotic Poles; her uncle had been a decorated war hero. After the occupation, the everyday anti-Semitism 10-year-old Rena has faced all her life is replaced with something terrifyingly worse. The anti-Jewish laws start small: curfews, forbidding bank accounts, requiring hard-to-obtain work permits, deportations. The local non-Jewish Poles ignore the horrible treatment of their neighbors, looking away during mass arrests. The Nazis’ crimes escalate until the Jews are locked in the Krakow ghetto, then eventually deported to concentration or death camps. Rena is nearly murdered as well—in fact, she is briefly taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau—but she manages to get herself and her mother on Oskar Schindler’s list. Rena credits the quiet heroism of Emilie and Oskar Schindler with saving herself and nearly 1,200 Jews from Nazi atrocities. She recounts that Oskar’s original goal in obtaining imprisoned Jewish workers for his munitions factory was saving money, but he and Emilie risked their lives and spent their fortune protecting their workers. Rena, now 90, is a Holocaust educator, and her matter-of-fact narration reflects this. She urges readers, “when you see a bully, do something. Go get help.”
A vital look at one complicated man’s unwillingness to be complicit. (photos) (Memoir. 11-14)