First line: On August 4, 1944, a thirty-three-year-old German SS officer, Karl Josef Silberbauer, a sergeant in the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) Referat IV B4, known colloquially as the “Jew-hunting unit,” was sitting in his office on Euterpestraat in Amsterdam when the phone rang.
Summary: A former FBI agent, Vincent Pankoke, along with a team of investigators decided to dive into one of the most famous cold cases in recent history. Who betrayed Anne Frank? Using new technology they poured over interviews, documents and photographs, looking for clues that may lead them to betrayer. As the pieces began to fall together they believe they have found who may have been responsible for the raid on the secret annex in 1944.
My Thoughts: I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was younger. It fascinated me then and lead me to love the history of World War II. I watched the movies and read everything else I could get my hands on about this time period. Over the years though, my fascination waned as I found new topics to explore but after reading this I think I need to read it again.
I found the methodical research of the team intriguing. They looked in places I never even knew existed. I realized as I read that I did not know as much about the time period as I originally thought. There were thousands of Jews in hiding. It was not an uncommon event to have a hiding place raided. But the fact that the Frank family’s life in the annex was so well documented by Anne made the topic available to the world. After reading her diary, the reader feels connected to them and makes it much more real.
Even though I knew how the story ended I kept hoping that it would change. I liked the layout of the narrative. We start with the history and events surrounding the secret annex, the concentration camps and aftermath of the war. Then we dive into the evidence which is spread near and far. Some has disappeared with the witnesses. But the researchers used every avenue they could find. Interviewing family members, historians, archivists and even the Anne Frank Organization. I found myself saying just one more chapter!
I kept hoping for a definitive answer. Even though they think they discovered the betrayer there is still some doubt because there may be more evidence that has not been uncovered yet. They do make a very strong argument which I found believable and likely. Let me know in the comments what you think!
FYI: This can be a difficult topic since it deals with the Holocaust and the death of millions.
First line: Cilka stares at the soldier standing in front of her, part of the army that has entered the camp.
Sixteen year old Cilka Klein was sent to Auschwitz along with her
family. One of the head SS officers of the camp notices her and moves
her away from the other women. Over the three years she is kept in
barracks 25 until the day the camp is liberated by the Russian forces.
Upon their arrival she is arrested and charged with collaborating with
the enemy. She is sentenced to fifteen years in a Siberian gulag.
she arrives at the prison she finds a world that she has unfortunately
become very familiar with. The forced labor and brutal conditions of the
camp are not new to her. She makes friends with several of her fellow
inmates but when she catches the attention of the female doctor her luck
begins to change. With her work in the hospital she finds a way to make
amends for the guilt about her past and maybe even start to feel love
My Thoughts:The Tattooist of Auschwitz was such a heartbreaking story. But I was beyond shocked by the story of Cilka. She was forced into a Russian prison after suffering for years in a concentration camp because she was raped for three years. It makes no sense. The poor girl is stronger than I can imagine I could ever be. I really cared about what happened to Cilka while reading her story. She did so much good in a terrible place. If only there were more people like her.
I never even considered that things like this happened
to some of the survivors. It is sad that the “liberators” were nearly as
cruel as the Nazis. Her time in the gulag is unbelievable. I know that
the author did lots of research and she does a great job of bringing it
to life. People need to know these things in order to try and stop them
from happening again.
I felt like this was much better put together than the first book. It was not nearly as choppy.
FYI: This is a sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
History has been my favorite subject since middle school. I loved the stories of people’s lives and how they shaped the world we live in today. I read a lot of historical fiction novels. When I was younger my interest was on World War II and the Holocaust. It was and is hard to imagine what happened and reading about it helped me to understand it better.
We have some wonderful databases that are useful when studying history. It covers world and American history. There are links to articles and journals that are helpful for writing research papers.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
First line: Lale tries not to look up.
Summary: Based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Jew from Slovakia, who spent several years in Auschwitz as the Tatowierer. His job was to tattoo the numbers onto the arms of all incoming inmates. He witnesses shocking things every day. It is hard to imagine a happy world after the atrocities of the camp. When he meets a young woman, Gita, he uses his influence to keep her alive and safe.
Highlights: This story is heartbreaking but also beautiful. Lale is put in the most terrifying place but somehow keeps his spirits up in hopes of a brighter future. He learns quickly how to navigate life in Auschwitz. He “befriends” an officer who gives him news of the camp. The job of tattooist is a stroke of luck bringing him privileges which he uses to help out his fellow inmates. He was a good and honest man who did much to keep people alive and strong. It shows how being kind can lead to good things. I love his relationship with Gita. Even in such a horrible place he found the love of his life.
The writing was very simple but the story is powerful. It is shocking to hear the stories of survivors of such a place. I cannot even imagine living through those conditions. Read the author’s notes at the end where she discusses the interviews over years where Lale told his story.
Lowlights: Like I said before the writing is very simple. Sometimes it seemed a little choppy but if you can get past that the story is well worth the read.
FYI: If you found this interesting then check out The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe.
The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
First line: The Nazi officers are dressed in black.
Summary: Based on the true life events of Dita Kraus we see the courage and strength of the prisoners of Auschwitz. The story follows Dita, a fourteen-year-old girl, and her parents as they are transported to the death camp. Upon arriving, they are assigned to the family camp. Dita is made to work in the “school” where she meets Freddy Hirsch, the Jewish leader in charge of the children of Auschwitz. Hirsch gives Dita that responsibility of hiding and taking care of the contraband books, becoming the librarian of Auschwitz.
Highlights: I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I do. And this one is beautiful. I absolutely love it. The story is so rich and detailed but heartbreaking at the same time. I have read many accounts of the Holocaust. The strength of the people who lived and endured these hardships is hard to read but they need to be. No one should be allowed to forget these stories and atrocities have happened. I cannot imagine having the courage that Dita has. She was fourteen and risked her life for the love of books and reading. She kept her humanity in the worst possible situation. I loved how the author intermixed the stories that she read into the narrative. We, as the reader, get to experience what kept her going during the dark days.
Lowlights: Several other narratives of fellow prisoners at Auschwitz are woven into Dita’s story. I was confused at times when the story changed narrators.
FYI: Great as an audiobook!