I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. Thank you to Tracy Fenton for asking me to be part of the tour. I received a copy of the book but I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.
There seems to be a flurry of books about the second world war and more specifically, Auschwitz, being released. Perhaps partly down to the success of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, but whatever the cause is pretty irrelevant. The fact is that these books tell readers a very important story.
I had always considered myself well educated when it comes to the horrific actions of the German Army and their treatment of those that they considered to be less than themselves. But each book I have read teaches me something new.
The Librarian of Auschwitz starts off by telling us that the author had talked at length with Dita Kraus, who had been the librarian during her time in the concentration camp, a job that had been incredibly risky, but one she was determined to do.
It feels a bit funny saying that I enjoyed reading this book, after all how could anyone get any enjoyment out of the horror that is written about in this book. But I did enjoy reading it, I loved reading about how people were determined to stay true to themselves despite what was going on around them.
People like Dita, who was lucky enough to get a job in the tent where the children went each day. Staff there were meant to sing songs and play games, no teaching was allowed, but that is exactly what they did. With people keeping watch for the Nazi soldiers, the staff told the children stories about the world outside the camp they were kept in. They carved pencils from sticks and burnt the ends so children could write a few words, they found a way to mark the Jewish holiday’s and they found a way to have books, kept hidden under floorboards that could be borrowed for lessons.
Dita showed a strength and determination that was beyond her years, but her beloved books that she worked so hard to keep hidden helped her escape from the horrors around her as she found places to hide and read.
How anyone managed to survive the Nazi Concentration Camps is beyond me, the inner strength and will to survive they must have possessed is inspirational. This book gives us detail of the horrors they experienced and it is not easy reading. But it is important, we must never forget what happened and books like this, fiction and easily accessible to all yet heavily based on real life events and people are essential for bringing the stories to people who wouldn’t sit down to read a history book.
The Librarian of Auschwitz is a powerful book, it is an important book and it is powerful story of people’s fight to survive. Please read this book, it is a story you should know.
For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice: this is the story of the smallest library in the world – and the most dangerous.
‘It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’
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…
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. Dita Kraus was born in Prague. In 1942, when Dita was thirteen years old , she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz,. Neither of Dita’s parents survived. After the war Dita married the author Otto B. Kraus. They emigrated to Israel in 1949, where they both worked as teachers They had three children. Since Otto’s death in 2000 , Dita lives alone in Netanya. She has four grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Despite the horrors of the concentration camps, Dita has kept her positive approach to life.