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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Delicate Dress Guarantees Memories of Stolen Childhoods Will Never Be Forgotten

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

One dark night in 1943, 8-year-old Lola Rein sneaks out of the Jewish ghetto. She whispers past buildings, quiet as a mouse, always on the look out for guards. Once she makes it to the bridge, she's safe - for now. A Ukrainian woman hides Lola in her farmhouse. Until it becomes too dangerous. On another dark night, the farm wife hustles Lola across the fields to a different hiding spot. Sheathed in her favorite dress - the one her mother made for her, the one with the beautiful, delicately stitched flowers - Lola slides deep into the dirt under someone's root cellar. Although there are other Jews there, none are her family. Lola's father is dead, her mother has been shot by the Gestapo, and her beloved Babcia (grandma) remains in the ghetto. She is all alone. For nine months, she crouches in the filthy hole. Not once does she take off the dress.

With this startling detail, so horrifying in its wrongness, begins the incredible true story of Lola Rein Kaufman. The Hidden Girl is her account (written with the help of YA author Lois Metzger) of a childhood ruined by Hitler's determination to exterminate the world's Jewish population. In her unsentimental, no-nonsense voice, Lola describes how she became one of the thousands of Jewish children hidden away during the war. Although she was "lucky" enough to avoid death camps and gas chambers, she stresses that

It's hard to feel lucky. We did what we could and what seemed to make sense, but even when things went right, we were scared every moment. That's not what "lucky" feels like (87).

Even when she was allowed to emerge from hiding, Lola's plight continued. With no family to care for her, she was left to scrabble on her own. Eventually, she found her way to America. There, she was able to begin a new life for herself. Years later, after pressing the terror of the war years into the deepest recesses of her mind, she felt compelled to share her story.

Her favorite embroideried dress now lays in a musem, a delicate reminder of the innocence stolen from thousands of children who spent what should have been their carefree years trembling in their dark hiding spots. It speaks of their strength, their courage, their resilience. Lola's dress guarantees that, although thousands of childhoods died in the darkness, their stories will see the light. Never, ever to be forgotten.

Lola Rein Kaufman's dress is now on display at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Learn more about her and her story here.

(Readalikes: Anne Frank, The Diary of A Young Girl; Rutka's Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust by Rutka Laskier)

Grade: B

If this were a movie, it would be rated: While stories about The Holocaust can never be rated anything less than R for senseless violence and abject horror, The Hidden Girl is written with a young audience in mind. It contains violence and mature themes, but they are described in a PG manner that should be suitable for children ages 8+.

To the FTC, with love: I received this review book from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to look into this one for my daughter. Sounds like a fascinating story! And I'll have to make it to the museum at some point.

    I hope it's okay that I linked to your review on the Book Reviews: WWII page on War Through the Generations.

    Diary of an Eccentric


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