Gerta didn’t know she was Jewish until she and her father were taken for transport by the Nazis.
When Bergen-Belsen is liberated, Gerta and the other survivors are ill, skeletal, dying, or sunk in madness, and they have no homes to which they can return. Relating the events that led her there, she tells of a seemingly carefree life in Würzburg with her musician father and German gentile stepmother, an opera singer who is also Gerta’s voice teacher. But they were living with false identification papers, and their lives become ever more withdrawn. She has fleeting visions of her early childhood in Köln, of her mother, and of Kristallnacht. The cattle-car journey to Theresienstadt is only the beginning of days, weeks, months, years filled with unspeakable horrors in the “intricacies of the Nazi web…the animalization of human souls.” Then comes Auschwitz, where her father is gassed, then Bergen-Belsen, typhus, and, finally, a kind of awakening to her own humanity. Later she covertly enters British-occupied Palestine, Eratz Yisrael, and builds a life there. Stamper spares readers nothing. Everything that Gerta witnesses or experiences really happened in the hell that was the Holocaust, including the further humiliations in its aftermath, a rarely told part of the story. The text is on pale, sepia-toned paper with dark, eerie illustrations in the same tones, reminiscent of real drawings produced by camp inmates.
Evil that is impossibly difficult to comprehend and filled with word-images that will leave readers gasping. The author’s dedication says it all, in both Hebrew and English: “Remember.” (author’s note, map, glossary, resources, acknowledgments; not seen) (Historical fiction. 14-adult)