Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A World War II Memoir

by Yehuda Nir

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-439-16389-7
Publisher: Scholastic

When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Yehuda Nir was nine years old, the son of affluent, well-educated parents. Two years later, his father was shot to death in a mass execution of Jewish men. Shortly afterward, as other Jewish families were being rounded up and taken to death camps, Yehuda, with his mother and his teenage sister Lala, managed to get false documents identifying them as Catholics. With these documents—and with the good fortune of looking Polish, and the further good fortune of speaking a non-accented Polish and some German as well—the little family managed to survive while hidden in plain sight, throughout the rest of the war. Originally published for adults, this new edition has been reworked for a younger audience. This story of how they moved from place to place, how the mother and sister both found work as maids in German households, and how Yehuda himself found work as an assistant to a German dentist, is full of harrowing escapes recounted matter-of-factly, as the normal circumstances of a life in which nothing could be normal. By the end of the war, the family had been moved first to a labor camp and then to a farm within Germany itself. There is a chilling description of a Polish fellow-inmate in the labor barracks saying to Lala, “Much as I hate Hitler, we have to be grateful to him for what he has done to the Jews.” An epilogue chronicles the lives of the three family members after the war; it will not surprise the reader that they all chose to emigrate. (Nonfiction. 12+)