I’ve read many, many books about the Holocaust, but every time, it seems that I learn something new.
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While perusing the kids’ section of the library with my kids, I saw Somewhere There Is Still a Sun by Michael Gruenbaum.
Michael “Misha” was a young boy when the Germans invade his hometown of Prague in March, 1939. Soon, Misha and his family are relegated to a ghetto.
Life continues to be more and more difficult as they are making less money, food becomes scarcer, and Misha is no longer allowed to go to school.
When the SS show up at the family’s door one day and ask Misha’s father to come with them, he does, without every kissing his family members good bye. The family never sees him alive again. Later, his body is returned to them for burial.
Misha’s story is one of delay–delays that save his and his mother and sister’s lives. His family, thanks to his father’s influence, even after he dies, is one of the last to leave the Prague ghetto, in late 1942. Misha’s excited to leave because he thinks conditions can’t be any worse than they are in Prague.
The family arrives in Terazin, a concentration camp only an hour from Prague. While this IS a concentration camp, it serves as a holding tank, so to speak, before the Jewish people are transported to Auschwitz. Many people, like Misha, remain their for years. I had heard of Terazin before, but I did not know it was for this purpose. After I finished this book, I read an interesting article about Terazin and its purpose in the cog of concentration camps.
Once there, Misha is separated from his mother and lives with boys his age and a young man, Franta, who manages the 80 boys in his care. While in Terazin, Misha is able to study and play sports. The SS, especially in the beginning, are very rarely spotted at the camp.
However, as the years go on, there are more and more deportations to “the East.” Those who remain in Terazin suspect that conditions in the East are much worse than they are in Terazin, but they have no idea until near the end of the war when a train arrives filled with concentration camp victims who are bald and walking skeletons.
Ultimately, Misha’s mother’s skill and quick thinking saves the family’s lives so Misha, in his 80s, can finally tell this story.
Overall, I liked the story, but I felt that the middle got bogged down with too many details about the sports and tournaments Misha competed in at the camp. I feel like the book could have been about 50 to 100 pages shorter without so much of the sports information in the story.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.