Friday, September 5, 2014

A picture book with a mentor text or a nonfiction memoir with a mentor picture book?

Trudy Ludwig's brilliant book (illustrated by Craig Orback) offers a unique if difficult window into life in Nazi-occupied  The book is in fact about Alter Weiner's life, before, during, and after the Holocaust. His is a painful and beautiful story, filled with grimness and hate as well as kindness and hope. Here is a particularly meaningful quote from the middle of the book.  A German factory worker gifts him with a sandwich. Midbook, he writes,

"To this day, I don't know her reason for feeding me. What I do know is that she gave me the energy and hope to survive. Her acts of kindness also made me stop and think: How can I believe all Germans are my enemy when this woman, a German, had risked her life for me? That's when I learned my most important lesson in life: There are the kind and the cruel in every group of people. How those you meet in life treat you is far more important than who they are."
Gifts from the Enemy

From A Name to A Number is written by Alter Weiner, the same person who is the sole focus of Gifts from the Enemy.
While I have only read parts of this text, I have found it remarkable. It is a dense text and most definitely a difficult story to hear. Weiner frames his life alongside the happenings in Nazi Germany, his life before, during, and after living in several concentration camps for 35 months!!! Weiner continues to speak publically; his website gives offers a brief glimmer into that world. His purpose remains clear: to not have another Holocaust occur.

Two rich books, filled with stories of an awful time in our history. I struggle to close this entry, wondering what words fit. Maybe his will be the missing puzzle piece. Here is Weiner's closing to From A Name to A Number:

"Just as the homosexuals, the Jehovah's Witnesses, communists, and others were murdered not for what they had done or said, but for what they were. I was a victim of insane cruelty for no offense or sin--just for my faith. I was condemned though never accused of any offense.

I have been clamoring to konw why! Sometimes I wish I could pretend that it did not happen, but it did. Regretfully, it may happen again if we let prejudice and evil rein." (229)

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