Terezin: Voices from the Holocaust
by Ruth Thomson
Candlewick Press 2011
Rating: Recommend* grades 5 and up
Review by Marie-Anne Harkness
Middle School and high school students studying the Holocaust will find this book enlightening to understand daily life in the Nazi’s showcase transit camp using diary entries, photographs, drawings and paintings throughout. Terezin was a fortified city in northern Czech Republic, transformed into the Theresienstadt Transit Camp in Oct. 1941 by the Nazis during World War II..
The privileged Jews deported from all over Europe were told they were going to a spa-like Ghetto for artists, intellectuals and the wealthy. It was to be a holding camp where none would be harmed. Allowed to pack only 2 suitcases, they were forced to sign away their homes and furniture to be redistributed to Germans. They packed their suitcases with their nicest clothes, and belongings only to have them confiscated immediately upon arrival.
The reality was that the people were on their way on regular transports to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, if they had not died from starvation and disease at Theresienstadt.
Through documentation secretly recorded by artists, writers and diaries of children and adults, the reader experiences the true heartbreak of the camp.
When Jews from Denmark were deported to the “Spa” at Terezin in April 1943, the King of Denmark sent a delegation from the Danish Red Cross to inspect the living conditions of the Danish Jews. A sham “family camp” was erected on a carefully laid out route just before the delegation arrived. They did not see the real camp for what it was, only café’s, schools, theatre, neatly planted gardens and freshly painted houses as they were escorted by SS officers. The deception worked because the delegation reported back to the King that the Danish Jews were being well treated.
The layout of the book is attractive, including sidebars that expand on the text, index, glossary and a very interesting timeline. The material is well documented with source notes. A useful primary source website is listed: http://www.azrielifoundation.org/memoirs/.