Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport


An excellent example of narrative nonfiction, this book tells of the 10,000 children who were evacuated from Germany, Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia during the 1930s. Several of the children from various locations are used as examples to give readers a sense of the diversity among those who were sent to Great Britain to escape the Nazis. Some were boys, others were girls; they were from a range of social classes; they might be an only child or have siblings; and the majority were Jewish, but some of them were not. The author describes the lengths some parents went to so that their children would be taken to safety, even though the adults were not allowed to accompany them. And it is heartbreaking to think that those goodbyes at the train station were the last time some of them ever saw each other.

Readers who are unfamiliar with the Kindertransport will hear about the individuals who began the effort and how aid organizations and donors made it all possible. Other events such as Kristallnacht are mentioned to help place the evacuations in context, and descriptions of the various Antisemitism laws and their effects help to show why it was necessary to get the children to safety. Historic photos show the children whose stories are highlighted, as well as other scenes. Quotes from the children and a few of the adults involved help to make the narrative personal and relevant. The children's lives after the war are also related, including the fact that some of them rode in a commemorative Kindertransport in 2009 from Prague to London.

Often in books about World War II there is a focus on the battles, or the concentration camps, but stories about those who helped and who survived are also important. Books such as this one show that even in the darkest times there are good people who are willing to do the right thing and offer assistance to those in need. I especially like that the author points out those 10,000 survivors now have 60,000 kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids who would not be here today if the Kindertransport had not taken place. 

Features that are helpful for using the book in classes or for research include a timeline, glossary, index, bibliography, and discussion questions. There is also a list of book for further reading, and information about the Kindertransport Association (KTA).

Recommended for upper elementary and older. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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