(Review) Irena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children From The Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Irena's Children

Publisher and Publication Date: Simon and Schuster/Gallery Books paperback. 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, Poland, World War II, Holocaust.
Pages: 352.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.

I’d first heard of Irena Sendler after watching a film titled, The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler.

There is a project and film about Irena’s life: Life in a Jar

Summary:

Preface: Page xii. But while Irena Sendler was undeniably a heroine-a woman of immense, almost unfathomable moral and physical courage-she was not a saint either. To make her a saint in the telling of her story is, in the end, to do a kind of dishonor to the true complexity and difficulty of her very human choices…She was at once a heroine-although she disdained that word, too-and a flawed and average person.

All humans are “flawed and average.” A hero is someone who is ordinary in every way yet rises to the challenges set before them. The challenges set before Irena were immense. She was given an opportunity, and because of her career, to make a difference in the lives of children. Some people would have said no. Irena said yes.

Irena Sendler was age 29 when Nazi Germany attacked Poland in 1939. She was married and had a boyfriend. Irena was not Jewish. She had grown up with Jewish friends and neighbors. Most of her friends were not religious. They were educated leftist thinkers. She was a social worker. During the war she became involved in the underground network of helping Jews survive. Irena specifically worked to help Jewish children escape and survive the Holocaust.

My Thoughts:
One of the few things I disliked about the book was Mazzeo’s direct quote I gave. I don’t believe it was necessary to state Irena was a “flawed and average person.” However, I believe this was stated to show one of the elements of the book: Irena was a normal person who became a heroine by rescuing Jewish children during the Holocaust. I believe the story itself showed me the kind of person and character of Irena.
What I loved about the book:
1. I was given a broad and detailed view of the city of Warsaw-it’s people specifically.
2. The book gave me a view of the Jewish people I’d not seen before in other stories. For example, the Jews are not a 1 type people. They are as varied as any other people group. Some Jews are orthodox, some are educated, some had businesses, some were intellectuals; and some had Jewish blood in their ancestry but did not consider their religion to be Jewish. Some of the Jewish people were not religious at all, and were leftist thinkers leaning towards communism.
3. The events leading up to and during the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany.
4. The network system of getting children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.
5. The individual stories of those children Irena helped.
6. Irena’s story showed me the immense task, suffering, brutality, fear, and betrayal of what she endured, as well as the other people who worked to save the Jews.
7. The after affects of surviving the Holocaust is looked at in brief. The two stories shared gave a great impact on this aspect.

 

 

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(Review) The Good At Heart by Ursula Werner

The Good at Heart

Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. February 21, 2017.
Genre: Historical fiction, World War II, family, Germany.
Pages: 320.
Source: Free hardcover copy from Touchstone.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Ursula Werner’s website. Please scroll down at Werner’s website to read a tribute to her great-grandfather, and the reason behind writing The Good at Heart.

Summary:
Oskar and Edith Eberhardt had built a vacation dream home in the town of Blumental, Germany. Their home has a lovely view of the Alps of Switzerland. During the war, they relocated to this home in order to move away from Berlin. Their daughter, Marina, and her three daughters live with them. Oskar is apart of Hitler’s cabinet. He is away from home often. Marina’s husband, Franz, is in Hitler’s army. Marina hates Hitler and Nazism. Despite her husband being in the military and her father’s work, Marina became involved with helping Jewish people escape. Marina also has a lover who is involved in the Nazi government. Marina helps shelter Jews until they can move to the next safe place. During the arrival of one of her “packages,” Hitler came to visit her parents home.

The story’s timeline is over a three day period: July 18, 19, and 20, 1944.

My Thoughts:
I loved the story taking place over a three day period. By slowing down the timeline of days, the story had a pace I could keep up with, and understand the details of each day.
When the story began, I had no idea the attention each character would have in the story. One of Marina’s daughters has a strong role. She is a child, but the full scope of her purpose will become apparent at conclusion.
Marina and her father, Oskar, are at enmity. However, Oskar is adored by his wife and grandchildren. He is a quiet man. There is a gentle quality in his personality. This is a sharp comparison to his role alongside Hitler.
Marina is a sad character. She represents women who married the wrong person. I don’t know how else to express this predicament she’s in. She did not marry the person she loved, but the person who was available…she settled. I watched her story unfold. On one hand, she could have stayed at home and cared for her daughters in quiet duty and stoicism. Instead, she joined a movement to rescue the oppressed. This task took her out of her melancholy life and gave a new focus.
At times, I thought Edith was thin-skinned and unready for her new situation away from her beloved Oskar. But, her character showed me differently.
The Good At Heart is a very good character study. I loved this aspect more than the story itself. The story is good, but watching the characters move through the three hard days was the reason I could not lay the book down.

 

 

 

 

(Review) Choices: The True Story of One Family’s Daring Escape to Freedom by J.E. Laufer

34948814
Publisher and Publication Date: Little Egg Publishing Company. May 15, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir, novella.
Pages: 116.
Source: Free copy from Little Egg Publishing Company and Smith Publicity.
Rating: Excellent.

A map of Europe is included for the time period of the 1950s.

Seven family photographs are located at the end of the book.

Choices is a novella, and a story for both adult and young adult readers.

For more information from the publisher about the book: Choices.

Summary:
J.E. Laufer has written a true story of her family’s escape from communist Hungary post World War II and the Hungarian Revolution. She was age two when the family left. She has an older brother named Gyorgy. Their parents names are Adolf and Kati Egett.
The story centers on the love and sacrifice the parents made for their beloved children.

The time period is the mid 1950s. Adolf and Kati Egett are aware of people leaving the communist country of Hungary. Some of the people leaving are known to them. People are afraid to tell anyone they are leaving. Some people leave with only the clothes they wear. Adolf and Kati contemplate leaving. They want a safe and secure future for their children. They hate to leave family, friends, job, and home. The escape itself is difficult and risky.

My Thoughts:
I love big books. I love long stories. I love a well-developed story and characters. Choices is a small book. A small package with 116 pages of written material. Before I began reading, I wondered, will Laufer be able to share this important story in so few of pages? The answer is yes!
I love this story!
I did not know anything about life in Hungary post World War II and after the country became communist. I have been given a glimpse of what the people endured.
Several reason led me to give Choices an excellent rating:
1. The story builds with anticipation as to what Adolf and Kati will do. Will they leave Hungary? How will they escape?
2. The story shows the dramatic events of leaving Hungary. Several questions are answered about their defection:
-how much money do they take and what it is spent on?
-how do they dress for the trip and what belongings do they take?
-who do they trust on the journey and who do they tell before leaving?
-how do they keep their children calm and quiet?
-what will they do until they can work and earn money?
-how will they leave Europe?
3. Kati reflects on the story of her experiences during the Holocaust.
4. A teenage girl is met on their journey. She takes a risk in helping them. They took a risk in trusting her. The relationship is tantamount to their survival.
5. The love expressed between Adolf and Kati. They have commitment and tenderness towards one another. They show patience and self-control. One does not make a decision without the other. I feel they are a beautiful example of a marriage and family.