The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe
U.S. release date: October 10, 2017
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
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 volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.
Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: This fictional account of the true story of the Librarian of Auschwitz does nothing to shy away from the realities of the Holocaust. The book opens with Edita Alderova, or Dita, running to hide books that were smuggled into the camp when a sudden inspection is announced. Throughout the book Dita, despite disease, death, and famine, fights to keep all of her books alive. Some books are battered and old, with no covers and pages missing. Others are “living books,” which are people, people who a story so well, they can tell it over and over again.
With the help of a man named Alfred Hirsch, Dita and several others fight to bring life to such a dark place, but when their leader is taken away from them under mysterious circumstances, everything begins to go topsy-turvy again. Death strikes Dita again and again, and the only thing she can do, is hold out until the fabled end of the war.
Each book on WWII, slavery, civil rights, etc. has it’s own distinctive mark of horror, brilliance, and the power of human hope. This book is filled with slivers of all three. The author does an especially good job of giving details of what life in the camps were actually like. From details about the arm bands, to the classification of prisoners there, and even his characterization of Nazis and Jews prove to be humanizing. Having read several other books on the Holocaust, even I managed to learn a few things I hadn’t known before. We even get a “guest appearance” by a very famous author who suffered and died in the camps. This was done so beautifully that I even teared up a bit as I read it.
However, there are some times near the end of the book when the author abruptly changes his writing style. Instead of giving us scenes, we are given summaries of what transpired. Since the book is getting so long and with it being based on a true story, I can see why the author chose to do it. But I wish his writing style would remain consistent throughout the book.
Beware: As I have implied before, this book is very graphic with its details. It is not overly done for the sake of commercial entrainment, but it does portray what happened it many different ways. The gas chamber, body pits, sex trafficking, disease, and bitter feelings are all openly displayed as they are.