“Not even the scariest of fairy tales could have
prepared me for the monsters I would confront
while just a boy of ten . . . or for the hero,
disguised as a monster himself, who would
save my life."
My words seem so powerless when set against the story told by Leon Leyson. Powerful and moving memoir about a young Jewish boy struggling to stay alive during WWII. Leyson has aimed for a target audience of middle-school aged children; he hit the mark. I felt the story captured the horrors Leon faced in a way appropriate to the age group. If a parent is looking for an alternative to The Diary of Anne Frank, here is an excellent option, Leon in their age, and you follow him through six years of WWII.
We meet Leon living a typical young boy’s life when a single event shatters his childhood bliss. His world is rocked by watching German soldiers beat his father. From this point life changes and his boyhood dreams of the future no longer exist. Today it is all about how can I survive the next minutes, do I want to survive?
Leon paints a picture of how the changes swept through his neighborhood. His safe-haven of home;' with a loving family and the "normal" neighborhood they live in. Slowly things changed, neighbors began treating him differently, he is no longer allowed to move freely, and in what seems like the final blow, his family is moved into the Nazi approved Jewish town ghetto. Living conditions here seem as bad as it can get; you are already stripped of your identity, and your food allowance is barely life sustaining and if you step out of line you can simply be shot. Was this the best life or was taking one of those trains out-of-town a ticket to a better life? Following Leon along he described his time in the Plaszów work/concentration camp that was commanded by Amon Göth.
You know that saying "it's not what you know but who you know?" Well through some glimmer of light in all this bleakness Leon's father made the right connections. Along the journey, Leon's father caught the eye of Oskar Schindler. Mr. Schindler may have been a member of the Nazi party, but he is credited with saving the lives of 1200 Jewish people. Risking his own life, he employed Jewish people in his factory and bribed others in the Nazi party to allow them to be seen as essential workers and not marched off to death.
In a touching sentiment, the factory workers gave Schindler a ring inscribed “He who saves a life saves the world entire."
Young or old, this book is an excellent read.
[Notice: Original posting 2014-02-07 at Plethora of Books Blog: http://bookchallenges.weebly.com]
Tags: 2013, History, Memoir