The Librarian of Auschwitz

‘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…

Sometimes I come across a book that puts me through the mill in emotions. They make me cry, laugh and scream why. This is one of those books that has emotion exuding from every page. At times it’s the most difficult book to read, the content being heartbreaking, yet it urges you to keep reading on. It’s message is simple, books and words are the most powerful thing in this world. They deserve to be kept alive.

Books come in phases. At the moment it seems the holocaust novels are in vogue. That’s no bad thing with all the holocaust deniers having their voice. This is a story based on the life of Dita Kraus. At fourteen years old she lives, if you can call it living, in the Auschwitz concentration camp. It’s a dreadful place, the camp where the Nazi’s perform genocide on such a gigantic scale. It kills Jews, communists and anyone who doesn’t follow their philosophies. However there is a family camp deep in the heart of this death factory. This is where Dita and her parents live. Dita helps at the school. Well not quite a school, as the Nazi’s have banned them teaching. Yet even in this vile of places, hope springs and the inhabitants of the camp set up a clandestine school. Dita is charged with being the librarian of the books. Books that if are found will get her killed. You see the Nazi’s realise what education and words can do.

The book deals with death, friendship, betrayal and life. A place that you hope that Dita can escape or outlast. Even though you know that it’s a true story, you wonder how she will ever survive. No human should ever treat another like the people in this book. It’s against all the rules of humanity. Yet we see countries now setting up camps for undesirables, separating families. It may not be a death holding camp, but how long before deaths are acceptable?

In the present political climates, we see echos of the 1930’s happening everywhere. Populist right wing leaders and politicians trying to pull us apart. Trying to force divisions between citizens.

Books like this should really be fiction, they should never have happened, yet the worst thing is they have. We must not let these things happen again. No person should be killed, injured, persecuted for their race, colour, beliefs, sexual preference. We need to all read these to understand the world today, before we have more Dita’s in this world.

Never given a book 100% before, but this deserves it. Read it now and let it touch your heart, make you feel something. Books and words are the most powerful things we possess to fight injustice.

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