Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

I will plant you a lilac tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's list survivor

I will plant you a lilac tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's list survivor

Laura Hillman
For ages 14 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2005   ISBN: 978-1416953661

On the day of her mother's birthday on May 8th, 1942, Hannelore, her mother, and her two brothers are deported from the home in Weimar and they are sent to live in a Jewish ghetto in Lublin, Poland. Conditions are pretty bad there but at least they are together and they have enough food to keep them from starving. Unfortunately the Nazis soon decide that they are going to empty the ghetto. A friend tries to help the family to hide but they are found, put on a train, and sent to Belzyce, a labor camp.

Hannelore is separated from her mother and her brother Selly, and she spends her days working as a nurse in the infirmary. One day she is horrified to discover that her new patient, a boy beaten within an inch of his life, is none other than her brother Selly. Selly never full recovers from his injuries and Hannelore does her best to protect him knowing full well that if the Germans find out how sick he is, they will kill the boy.

After a brief stay in a special camp Hannelore is sent to Budzyn, a camp where the conditions are horrific and where Hannelore and the other prisoners have to work very hard. One of the jobs that the prisoners are forced to do is to bury the dead in mass graves. Hannelore's friendship with a girl called Fella and her budding romance with a Polish Jew called Dick Hillman are the two things which keep her going and hoping. Dick does his best to help Hannelore whenever he can, and together they hope that they will be put on Schindler's list. If they are, then they will be taken to a camp which is a lot better than the one where they are now. They might even be able to survive the war.

This is the true story of Hannelore Wolff (Laura Hillman) who was one of the lucky few chosen to go to the camp overseen by Oscar Schindler, a German businessman who did his best to save Jews from gas chambers. Her story is grim, painful, and very moving. Readers will certainly find themselves wondering how such terrible things could happen, just as Hannelore herself did.

With great simplicity and honesty Laura Hillman tells her story, not only describing the horrors that she experienced but also describing the few happy moments she had. She was lucky enough to meet a few kind people who did their best to help Hannelore, even risking the ire of the Gestapo to do so.

Though this is a sometimes a hard story to read, it will remind readers that hope can survive under the worst of circumstances. It is also a fitting memorial to all those poor souls who did not survive the Nazi camps and purges.