Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. My thanks to Tracy Fenton for the opportunity to join and to the publisher for my review copy.
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ – prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp.
But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…
| MY THOUGHTS |
Decades after the second World War has ended, so many stories remain untold and this is one of them. The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Dita Kraus. At the age of fourteen, she and her parents find themselves in Auschwitz and Dita will become the secret librarian. Block 31 is where the children gather and one way or another, eight precious books have been accumulated. But books are dangerous because they make people think and if the Nazi’s were to find out about them, it would put everyone in danger. It’s up to Dita to make sure the books are kept safe at all cost.
No matter how many books you read about this incredibly disturbing era, it remains highly unsettling and heartbreaking. Life in the camp is harsh and almost impossible to fathom. Yet in the midst of all this despair, many held their heads up high, fought for survival, held on to hope and even tried to give children some kind of education. Obviously this was not allowed but the children kept this secret to themselves, singing silly songs when German soldiers were near and they even put on a show for the vile and despicable Josef Mengele.
This wasn’t the easiest of books to read. Apart from the topic, it jumps around quite a bit between different characters and time frames so it requires your full attention. The line between fiction and non-fiction is quite blurry but I enjoyed that the author added dates and facts throughout the story. Dita is an amazing young girl. She’s determined, brave and perceptive and sometimes makes you forget she was barely fourteen years old. But the character that stood out for me to most was Fredy Hirsh but you’ll have to read the novel to learn more about him.
I love a novel that makes me think and makes me google. Because despite having read quite a few WWII stories over the years, I had never heard of Block 31. Although it’s not quite clear what the reasoning from the Nazi’s was to have a family camp and this particular Block 31, it did “good things”. Many children were somewhat more protected from the even more severe realities of the rest of the camp and they were given slightly more food which meant not one child died from malnutrition.
Sadly, it’s not surprising to know many of them will not live to see the end of the war. As Dita’s story about life in Auschwitz reaches its conclusion, it becomes increasingly more devastating. Do make sure you also read the author’s afterword and learn more about what became of some of the other characters/people. The Librarian of Auschwitz is a powerful, unforgettable and touching novel and Dita’s story will stay with me forever.
The Librarian of Auschwitz is available to buy!
| ABOUT THE AUTHOR |
Antonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist. In researching The Librarian of Auschwitz, he interviewed Dita Kraus, the real-life librarian of Auschwitz.
Lilit Zekulin Thwaites is an award-winning literary translator. After thirty years as an academic at La Trobe University in Australia, she retired from teaching and now focuses primarily on her ongoing translation and research projects.