Reviewer June Maffin:Living on an island in British Columbia, Canada, Dr. Maffin is a neophyte organic gardener, eclectic reader, ordained minister (Anglican/Episcopal priest) and creative spirituality writer/photographer with a deep zest for life. Previously, she has been grief counselor, broadcaster, teacher, journalist, television host, chaplain and spiritual director with an earned doctorate in Pastoral Care (medical ethics i.e. euthanasia focus). Presently an educator, freelance editor, blogger, and published author of three books, her most recent (Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality) has been published in e-book as well as paperback format and a preview can be viewed on YouTube videos. Founder of Soulistry™ she continues to lead a variety of workshops and retreats connecting spirituality with creativity and delights in a spirituality of play. You can find out more about June by clicking on her Web Site.
Imagine – it is 1942 in Paris. You are eight and a half years old and you witness your father’s arrest and your mother’s deportation. It is the last time you will ever see your parents. You survive only because of the kindness of strangers who hide you from the Nazis.
Years pass and you are now 73 – a father and grandfather. Over the years, you have learned the details of how your parents were separately transported to Germany and died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
In this short, poignant book, author/illustrator Isaac Millman and his two grandsons (in actuality, his sons but for the sake of narrative, his grandsons), retrace the Paris-to-Germany train journey taken by his parents, Ryvke and Moische Sztrymfman sixty-five years before.
Millman’s illustrations are expressive and his emotional story unfolds gently. Told from a personal perspective, the reader quickly begins the journey with Millman and his two young grandsons. As the train arrives in Germany, they enter the gate of Auschwitz whose welcome sign reads “Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) and the reader is catapulted into history. A tour of the concentration camp is followed by a visit to the museum where the original death certificates of many who died at Auschwitz were kept. Sadly, no information about Great Grandmother Ryvke was uncovered, but after pouring over many records, it is discovered that Great Grandfather Moische survived seven months. How he survived – how he died are unknown. But a connection has been made.
The three kneel outside the Auschwitz gate, dig a small hole and place a framed photograph of Millman’s parents, as they say the Kaddish - the Jewish prayer for the dead. Finally, his parents are put to rest and the almost-nine-year-old boy-now-Grandfather is able to say good-bye to his much-loved parents.
The book’s closing paragraph, “When my brother and I become parents, we will tell our children of Great Grandfather Moische and Great Grandmother Ryvka and the story of our pilgrimage to Auschwitz. In turn, their children will tell their children and their children will tell theirs, for generations to come, to ensure that their lives, their struggles, their triumphs and their final journey will live on” challenges readers of all ages to continue telling the stories of the Holocaust.
The author has written a powerful little book that not only ‘tells the story’ but offers readers (particularly Middle School students) the opportunity to ask some of life’s difficult questions such as the one asked by one of his grandsons: “Why did Nazis hate Jews?” Well done, Isaac Millman. You honour the memory of your parents and all who died in concentration camps.