“It’s the war, Edith……. it’s the war”. Every time I saw this comment in the novel I had to smile, for it showed me the attitude that some of the individuals acquired as they dealt with the circumstances they were dealing with.
This novel is about the prisoners that were held in the Family Camp, Block 31, a section of Auschwitz that allowed children and parents to be held together during WWII. The rules stated that the children would be entertained while their parents worked. School was forbidden but the children would be entertained with games and other activities. It was a unique situation, a first, and some individuals could not understand why it was happening. Fred Hirsch was in charge of the school, he knew the expectations but Hirsch had his own agenda. Hirsch created an invisible school, invisible to the people outside the walls of their contained area. He gave these children hope, strength and courage within their gated world. I loved how creative Hirsch was and how he encouraged others, he encouraged individuals to succeed. While death surrounded them, these children were able to be children, they were able to learn and have fun.
Hirsch has inquired a small library for this school, a handful of forbidden books. This library needs a librarian to make sure they are protected and safeguarded and Hirsch encourages Dita to accept this position. Dita is hesitant to accept this responsibility but Hirsch knew what he was doing when he asked her because she thrives in this position.
The world outside their contained area is full of change and uncertainty. The crematorium burns daily, prisoners are coming and going, romance still tries to kindle, and their future is uncertain but for now, the children feel safe. This was an excellent novel, because of its subject matter it is a difficult novel to read but it is an important novel that needs to be read and appreciated.