Thanks to My Mother

Thanks to My Mother

4.5 10
by Schoschana Rabinovici, Mirjam Pressler

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Susie Weksler was only eight in 1941 when Hitler's forces invaded her Lithuanian city of Vilnius, a great center for Jewish learning and culture. Soon her family would face hunger and fear in the Jewish ghetto - but worse was to come. When the ghetto was liquidated, some Jews were selected for forced labor camps; the rest were killed. Susie would live - because of the… See more details below

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Susie Weksler was only eight in 1941 when Hitler's forces invaded her Lithuanian city of Vilnius, a great center for Jewish learning and culture. Soon her family would face hunger and fear in the Jewish ghetto - but worse was to come. When the ghetto was liquidated, some Jews were selected for forced labor camps; the rest were killed. Susie would live - because of the courage and ingenuity of her mother. It was her mother who carried Susie, hidden in a backpack, to the group destined for the labor camps; who disguised her as an adult in makeup and turban to fool the camp guards; who fed her body and soul through gruesome conditions in three concentration camps and a winter "death march"; who showed her the power of the human spirit to endure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Particularly grim, even for a Holocaust memoir, this work owes much of its force to the author's unusually detailed powers of memory. Only eight when Germany occupied her home city of Vilnius in Lithuania, Rabinovici endured nearly two years of extreme privation in the Jewish ghetto established by the Nazis and spent the balance of the war in concentration camps. As her title indicates, she owes her survival to her mother, a fast-thinking realist whose courage and ingenuity were bolstered by family wealth and extensive contacts. Rabinovici is unsparing in her recollections: she describes "selections" during which babies abandoned by their mothers are trampled by the crowds; bathhouse abortions; a hellish journey in the cargo deck of a ship, where the passengers are sprayed with feces and vomit. The only concession to young readers appears to be footnotes that define religious, political and historical terms. The writing suffers from repetition and a stiff styleperhaps a reflection on the book's original composition in German, not the author's native tongue (although she has made her home in both Tel Aviv and Vienna since 1964). Too, the author lacks the redemptive vision of, for example, Livia Bitton-Jackson in I Have Lived a Thousand Years. But readersadults or youthswhose interest in Holocaust testimonies does not pivot on literary polish and who are mentally prepared for the harshness of Rabinovici's experiences will come away with renewed appreciation of the extraordinary fortitude and fortune required to survive in those dire times. Ages 13-up. (Apr.)
VOYA - Victoria Yablonsky
The unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust are told in plain language in this detailed memoir. The author, known then as Susanne Weksler, survived the Vilnius ghetto and spent more than three years in the Kaiserwald labor camp and the Stutthof extermination camp, enduring "actions," "selections," forced marches, camp liquidations, hunger, beatings, illness, and degradation. Rabinovici credits her survival to the indomitable spirit of her mother, whose love and bravery carried them both through their harrowing ordeal while only one other member of their entire family survived the war. Because Rabinovici was only eleven when she entered her first camp, her mother hid her from selections for extermination, continually concealed her age by disguising her as an adult, bartered and smuggled food and clothing for her, and kept both their spirits and bodies alive. Rabinovici provides graphic details of ghetto and camp life as well as her family history and personal feelings. Her commentary gives us descriptions of her feelings of loss, her growing awareness of the baseness and cruelty of mankind, and lessons she learned from her ordeal. This clear translation from German, with helpful footnotes explaining terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader, makes the book accessible for high school age audiences. This is a welcome addition to the growing list of Holocaust memoirs. Photos. Maps. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Will appeal with pushing, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
This memoir is the harrowing story of young Susie Wexsler and her mother, Lithuanian Jews who survived the Holocaust. Originally written in Hebrew, translated into German, and then from German to English, this book should not be read for its literary style. Its emotional impact, however, is tremendous. Rabinovici (her married name) witnessed, at the age of eight, the invasion of the Germans into her hometown of Vilnius, and immediately her life changed. Discrimination and deprivation became the norm; in no time the family lost their business and their home and soon were forced to live in the Jewish ghetto, where food, shelter, sanitation, and safety were in short supply, and terror and disappearances of loved ones and acquaintances were routine. Later came the emptying of the ghetto, the train ride to the concentration camp, and the camp itself. Susie's mother took brave measures throughout the terror to protect her daughter, making sacrifices and taking risks on her behalf, using ingenuity to gain favors, and hiding her from the Germans when necessary. Daily life in the concentration camp is described, as is the later transport to an extermination camp, the Death March, and a final camp. Ultimately, at the point when Susie could no longer go on despite her mother's courageous efforts, the liberation came. This memoir is graphic and disturbing. It makes a tremendous impact. How could people be so cruel? How could anyone survive? Fortunately some did live to tell the tale as it really happened, and thanks to her mother, Rabinovici has done that. KLIATT Codes: JSA—Recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1998, Penguin/Puffin, 246p,23cm, 97-14407, $7.99. Ages 13 to adult. Reviewer: Barbara Shepp; Chevy Chase, MD, July 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 4)
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Schoschana Rabinovici, born Susie Weksler, survived three concentration camps and unimaginable horrors, all before she was twelve years old. In this fascinating book, she tells us more than most of us want to know about the Holocaust, shows how her mother managed to smuggle her in a backpack through the lines of prisoners, disguise her as an adult, and keep her as safe as humanly possible. By the end of the war, only three of her entire family remained. Rabinovici makes clear that her survival was due to her mother's strength and love.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 UpRabinovici recounts in exacting detail how the Holocaust decimated her large, extended Lithuanian family. She was only eight years old when Hitler's army invaded Vilnius, a once-vibrant center of Jewish learning and culture. Staying one step ahead of the Nazis and their Lithuanian and Polish sympathizers, her family migrated from one house to another until they were caught and herded with 10,000 other Jews into a barbed-wire ghetto where they endured starvation, sickness, torture, and bitter cold. From the ghetto prison, the surviving members of her family were transported to a labor camp after narrowly avoiding being sent to a concentration camp and certain, immediate murder. Only three family members survived the ordeal. One was her mother, who through cunning, courage, and will saved the author from death countless times. Although the narrative is written in a controlled, even tone, the harrowing experiences described here are hard to forget. Especially helpful to teen readers are the many brief footnotes explaining Yiddish expressions and Jewish customs that appear in the text. The book is clearly one of the most instructive and moving memoirs that have emerged from the Holocaust. It is both a living testament to the incomprehensible reality of the Holocaust and the author's tribute to her heroic mother.Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
9.28(w) x 6.34(h) x 0.97(d)
790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

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