Review: Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust

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Title: Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust

Terezin245 Author: Ruth Thomson

Themes: Art, Discrimination, History, Illness/Death, Non-Fiction, Reference, Religion, War

Published: 2011, 64 pages

'Sweet' book summary:
Reviewer: Melissa G.

Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust is a valuable addition to the study of the Holocaust. It focuses on and highlights one aspect of the war, explaining what life was like in a Jewish ghetto and transport camp. The ghetto was established in a small fortress town called Terezin and renamed Theresienstadt by the Nazis. The book shares the basic facts of how the ghetto was established, how people managed to live there, what it was like specifically for the children, and how the Jews were systematically moved from there to death camps "in the East."

There are dates, timelines, maps, photographs, and statistics. The pictures are moving, and the numbers are staggering. "A total of 86,934 people left Theresienstadt on transports East. Fewer than 3,000 survived." "Fifteen thousand children passed through Theresienstadt. Fewer than one hundred survived."

In addition to the basic facts, Theresienstadt is further explained through the words of the people who were actually there, some written during their internment and some later penned by survivors in their memoirs and testimonials. Their personal accounts are powerful and give extraordinary insight into what went on there.

"The hopes for life in the work camp gradually disappear with the wave of prohibitions and orders issued daily: men are forbidden to meet with women; it is forbidden to write home; contact with the Gentile (non-Jewish) population is prohibited..."

"The dead lie among the living for an entire day, the sick on floors of stone."

"It was subdued grief as somebody held in their hands the ashes -- of their mother or father, brother, sister or friend - briefly before they passed it to the next person."

To further emphasize the human element in the ghetto and the lack of humanity on the part of the Nazis, Ruth Thomson also shares artwork created by the many artists who were imprisoned in Theresienstadt. Some of their work was done at the request of the Nazis and depicts Theresienstadt as the Nazis wished it to appear. The artists also drew in secret, showing the ghetto as it truly was, with "people huddled in every available space in every building. They stare out, hunched, hollow-eyed, and downcast, their misery hard to ignore."

This book would be an excellent resource for the classroom or library.



What You Need to Know:
  • This book shares the history of the Jewish ghetto, Theresienstadt, as told through visuals and personal accounts of those who were there. It would be an excellent tool to teach children about the Holocaust.
  • Many of the pictures in the book were drawn by artists who were also inmates. Their work was hidden away until after the war.
  • The timeline and glossary in the back will help readers to understand the sequence of events and the circumstances in which they occurred.
  • As you'd expect with a book on this topic, there are mentions of illness and death, but the details are limited.
  • Although it may look like a picture book, Terezin is for older readers, fourth grade and up. Just make sure that your reader is ready for the gravity of the subject that is addressed.

If you liked this book, try:
  • Into the Unknown by Stewart Ross
  • Is it Night or Day? Fern Schumer Chapman
  • The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett
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