Author: Kathy Kacer and Jordana Lebowitz
Genre: Nonfiction WWII
Length: 256 Pages
Release: September 2017
I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book tells the real story of Jordana Lebowitz traveling to Germany to witness the trial of Oskar Groening that took place in 2015. The ninety-two year old Groening was on trial for crimes committed while he was part of the Nazi war machine in Auschwitz during the second World War. While Groening never personally killed anyone, he was complicit in the murder of roughly 300,000 Jewish people.
The book reads more like a story than an account of a trial, which I think will make it more relatable to many readers. It tells of Jordana's struggles to get to Germany for a trial that she felt passionately about. It outlines her relationships with the survivors that she bonds with while she's there, her mixed emotions about Groening, her expanding views of Germany and its people. And while it obviously touches on very dark subject matter, it never gets too dark. It would be suitable for many middle-grade readers and could be a good introduction to the history of the Holocaust.
"I was on the ramp when the selections took place...I was there."
Groening's testimony was inserted between various pieces of Jordana's story, which worked really well. It was easy to see his viewpoint on many things, though it was hard to see where he was coming from on others. I can understand that many were indoctrinated with hateful beliefs, but how could you ever view the destruction of a group of people as right? If you were there, witnessing what was being done to men, women, children, no matter your personal role, how could you live with yourself?
One thing that I cannot understand is how anyone can deny the Holocaust and what happened. This isn't something that happened hundreds of years ago and records have been lost. It was less than one hundred years ago. There are survivors today, telling their stories. And these are people on both sides of the situation. Groening speaks against Holocaust deniers, telling them that he was there, he saw what happened. And there are those who were inside, being tortured for experimentation or forced into hard labor, with the tattoos still marking their skin, the memories still haunting them. How can you deny the reality of what happened when there is so much evidence that supports it? It is something I will never understand.
This is not complex or deep overview of what happened during the Holocaust or of the events of this trial, but it is the honest view of a teen's experience of this historic event. History is important, no matter how ugly it may be. It needs to be taught and learned from. If we don't make a conscious effort to prevent history repeating itself, then it will.
I definitely recommend this to those interested in the history of this dark period in history. Jordana is a modern girl trying to spread awareness and spread goodness. You can see some of her own opinions changing within the story as she grows. Her own opinions and beliefs were skewed by what her parents and grandparents taught her, but she began to see that not everything could be so easily categorized. Nothing is simple.