Never to Forget: The Jews of the Holocaust


Six million— a number impossible to visualize. Six million Jews were killed in Europe between the years 1933 and 1945. What can that number mean to us today? We can that number mean to us today? We are told never to forget the Holocaust, but how can we remember something so incomprehensible?

We can think, not of the numbers, the statistics, but of the people. For the families torn apart, watching mothers, fathers, children disappear or be slaughtered, the numbers were ...

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Six million— a number impossible to visualize. Six million Jews were killed in Europe between the years 1933 and 1945. What can that number mean to us today? We can that number mean to us today? We are told never to forget the Holocaust, but how can we remember something so incomprehensible?

We can think, not of the numbers, the statistics, but of the people. For the families torn apart, watching mothers, fathers, children disappear or be slaughtered, the numbers were agonizingly comprehensible. One. Two. Three. Often more. Here are the stories of thode people, recorded in letters and diaries, and in the memories of those who survived. Seen through their eyes, the horror becomes real. We cannot deny it—and we can never forget.

'Based on diaries, letters, songs, and history books, a moving account of Jewish suffering in Nazi Germany before and during World War II.' —Best Books for Young Adults Committee (ALA). 'A noted historian writes on a subject ignored or glossed over in most texts. . . . Now that youngsters are acquainted with the horrors of slavery, they are more prepared to consider the questions the Holocaust raises for us today.' —Language Arts. '[An] extraordinarily fine and moving book.' —NYT.

Notable Children's Books of 1976 (ALA)
Best of the Best Books (YA) 1970–1983 (ALA)
1976 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction Best Books of 1976 (SLJ)
Outstanding Children's Books of 1976 (NYT)
Notable 1976 Children's Trade Books in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)
1977 Jane Addams Award Nominee, 1977 National Book Award for Children's Literature IBBY International Year of the Child Special Hans Christian Andersen Honors List Children's Books of 1976 (Library of Congress)
1976 Sidney Taylor Book Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)

By the time World War II was over, the dead included six million Jews--killed specifically because they were Jewish. This collection of first-person accounts of the Holocaust serves as a timeless reminder of how Europe's Jews reacted to the threat of extermination, exphasizing the wide variety of resistance efforts. Illustrated with photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
Nothing is evaded or scanted in this extraordinary fine and moving book. for our own souls' sake it is indispensable.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064461184
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/28/1991
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 587,388
  • Age range: 9 - 13 Years
  • Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Milton Meltzer, a Christopher Award and Jane Addams Children's Book Award winner, is the author of over eighty books in the fields of history, biography, and social reform. His most recent books are The Amazing Potato, a 1993 ALA Notable Children's Book, Gold and Hold Your Horses!. He lives in New York City.

Winner of the 2001 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal

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Read an Excerpt

Not Citizens, Only Subjects

Jude verrecke . . . Jew perish . . .

How did it come to that? And why in Germany?

Germany is the country where modern anti-Semitism of the racist kind began. The term itself, "anti-Semitism," was first used only a few years before Hitler was born. But the roots of antiSemitism go much farther back in history. The religious basis for it in the Christian world is the accusation (it appears in the Gospels) that the Jews were to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus. "Christ-killer" became a synonym for Jew. The anti-Semites took that charge as sanction for the persecution of the Jews.

In the early fourth century, Constantine the Great made Christianity the state religion of the Byzantine Empire. The Church insisted that Christianity was the true religion, the only religion, and demanded the conversion of the Jews. When the Jews would not easily give up their faith, the Church used the power of the State to make them outcasts. They were denied citizenship and its rights. By the end of the century, Jews were viewed as devils, cursed by God.

 A popular and enduring hatred of the Jews built up. If Jews suffered misfortune, it was only divine punishment for Christ's crucifixion. But the punishment was not left to God alone. Both Church and State took legislative steps-later imitated in Hitler's edicts-to ensure Jewish misery. Among them were decrees that made it impossible for Jews to farm the land or to engage in the crafts. Trade was almost the only choice left, and many Jews became merchants, working with and through other Jews scattered throughout the world.

As the economy of themedieval world developed, the Church lifted the restrictions it had placed on commercial activity, and Christians replaced Jews. The Church still forbade Christians to receive interest on loans, so the Jews provided the service of banking. But when banking profits became attractive, the Church eased its restrictions, and Christians then competed with Jews in finance, too. Yet, even as Christians took over the same financial functions, they libeled the Jews as avaricious and heartless-the image perpetuated by Shakespeare's Shylock.

The launching of the Crusades in 1096 marked the beginning of an oppression that for duration and intensity would be unmatched until Hitler's time. The hordes of nobles, knights, monks, and peasants who set off to free the Holy Land from the Moslem infidels began their bloody work with "the infidels at home"-the Jews. Offering the choice of baptism or death, the Crusaders slaughtered Jews on a stunning scale. Those Jews who refused baptism and sacrificed themselves "to sanctify the Name of Cod" became martyrs who set an example of heroism for centuries to come. What had been done in the name of Christianity made very few in the Church feel regret when the fury ended. Nested in the popular mind was the conviction that such atrocities must have been deserved. Piety became a convenient excuse for plunder.

To make the Jew an ever easier target for mobs hunting down the "Christ-killer," the Church's Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 required Jews to wear a distinctive badge on their clothing. Now no Jews could escape humiliation. As public pariahs, they were blamed for everything that went wrong. "The guilty Jews"-the words were inseparable. Expulsion or extermination seemed to be the Jews' fate. What delayed their elimination was their usefulness. While their money could be diverted into the treasuries of king and noble, they were tolerated. When that value was gone, they were expelled. In England it happened in 1290, in France in 1306, in Spain in 1492.

It was in these centuries that Europe began moving from the medieval into the modern world. Epochal changes were taking place in economic, political, cultural, and religious life. But the mass of Jews remained cut off from the mainstream and isolated. They were compelled to live behind ghetto walls. A new humanism induced more tolerance, but not for the Jews. Persecution continued, followed often by expulsion.

The Jews of Spain and Portugal fled into Turkey, the Balkans, Palestine, northern Italy, and Holland. Some migrated to the New World, settling in Brazil and the West Indies, and soon in North America, too. The Jews of Germany made new homes in Eastern Europe. The Polish rulers welcomed them because they needed Jewish enterprise. Jews were allowed to become traders and financiers.

The flow east was heightened by the founding of Martin Luther's new faith in the sixteenth century. In his youth, Luther had been a champion of the Jews. When he failed to win them to Protestantism, he raged at them in a language that exceeded even Hitler's for violence. He renewed all the old charges-the Jews were poisoners, ritual murderers, usurers, parasites, devils. He called for the burning of their synagogues, the seizure of their books, and their expulsion from all of Germany. (Centuries later, Hitler would find it helpful to circulate Luther's anti-Jewish writings in mass editions.)

Even as Catholics warred with Protestants, a few brave souls dared to argue for toleration. The Dutch scholar Erasmus suggested that toleration among all Christians would mean a more humane faith. He could even conceive of being a friend to a Jew. New ideas about the rights of the common man emerged later, as the Industrial Revolution developed in Western Europe. A struggle for civil emancipation began. By then there were numbers of middle-class Jews eager to break free of the ghetto and to share in the civil rights promised by the movement for Enlightenment.


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