Based on the incredible and moving true story of Dita Kraus, holocaust survivor and secret librarian for the children’s block in Auschwitz. This is the story of the smallest library in the world – and the most dangerous.
About the book:
‘It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ – prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp.
But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…
About the Authors:
Antonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist. In researching The Librarian of Auschwitz, he interviewed Dita Kraus, the real-life librarian of Auschwitz.
Lilit Zekulin Thwaites is an award-winning literary translator. After thirty years as an academic at La Trobe University in Australia, she retired from teaching and now focuses primarily on her ongoing translation and research projects.
Dita Kraus was born in Prague. In 1942, when Dita was thirteen years old, she and her parents were deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt and later to Auschwitz,. Neither of Dita’s parents survived. After the war Dita married the author Otto B. Kraus. They emigrated to Israel in 1949, where they both worked as teachers They had three children. Since Otto’s death in 2000, Dita lives alone in Netanya. She has four grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Despite the horrors of the concentration camps, Dita has kept her positive approach to life.
I can’t review this book properly because I don’t feel I have the words to do this story justice and honestly, my opinion is really inconsequential when it comes to the real life stories of WWII. I am lucky that none of my family were caught up in the atrocities of Auschwitz, however being Jewish we all know someone who was/is affected by this war.
The Librarian of Auschwitz is a book I chose to read with my real life book club and in order to read this book I had to mentally prepare myself because I know it is going to be painful, horrific, sad, shocking and in some instances completely unbelievable that human beings can behave and act in the way they did during 1939-1945.
There isn’t really much more I can say, however this is a book that should be read by everyone. The author brings some wonderful characters back to life and shows us that despite the horror and cruelty that the prisoners of Auschwitz experienced there was always an undercurrent of hope, pride and love.
“Auschwitz not only kills innocents; it kills innocence as well.”
I want to tell you how the book you are holding came into being. Some years ago, the Spanish author Antonio Iturbe was searching for someone who could tell him some details about the books on the children’s block in the Auschwitz–Birkenau concentration camp.
He received my internet address, and we started exchanging emails. His were short, apologetic questions and mine long, detailed answers. But then we met in Prague, and for two days I showed him where I grew up and where I played in a sandbox and went to school and the house that we—my parents and I—left forever when we were sent to the Terezín ghetto by the Nazi occupants. The next day we even traveled to Terezín itself. Before we parted, Toni said: “Everyone knows about the largest library in the world. But I am going to write a book about the smallest library in the world and its librarian.”
This is the book that you are holding. Of course he wrote it in Spanish and this is a translation. He used much of what I told him, but he also diligently collected facts from other sources. Still, despite the historical correctness of the narrative, it is not a documentary. It is a story born both from my own experiences and the rich imagination of the author.
Thank you for reading and sharing it!