The Flag with Fifty-Six Stars: A Gift from the Survivors of Mauthausen

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW wrote, "This moving and perhaps lesser known WWII story concerns an American flag made by the prisoners of Mauthausen, the Nazis' slave labor camp." Ages 6-10. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This is a moving story, beautifully told. The concentration camp Mathausen was built as a Grade III camp, and no one was expected to come out of it alive. This slave labor camp was kept a secret from the whole world. Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jews, and others mined granite in the granite quarry and built aircraft or sewed uniforms in the underground factories. Some worked as servants in officers' homes. There were even three American prisoners of war. Sixty or more tunnels served as secondary camps. But in spite of the inhumane conditions in the camps, not all the inmates gave up and waited for death. Active members of the underground secretly listened to radios that they had built. Some sabotaged whatever work they did. By the beginning of 1945, it was obvious that that the Nazis were losing the war. One of the Americans taught the band members to play the "Star Spangled Banner." And a group of inmates "felt inspired to make something that symbolize their faith in the future." Somehow they managed to put together an American flag which they presented to the American soldiers who liberated the camp. Commanding Officer Richard Siebel ordered that the flag be flown over the camp. The illustrations blend beautifully into the text, although they are rather dark and sad. Parts of the story are confusing; the narrative jumps a bit in time and place. And the number of stars on the flag—56—is explained in two ways. Both are believable and it does not really matter which one is true. The world needs to hear stories from the survivors of these camps before they die. Simon Wiesenthal, a Jewish architect and the founder of the Wiesenthal Center, was in Mathausen for four years. Hiscomments and insights are invaluable. There are also excerpts of interviews with other inmates, and even some villagers from the town of Mathausen. Be careful to give this book only to young people who can take the truth about terrible things. Recommended, with limitations. 2005, Holiday House, Ages 8 to 15.
—Judy Silverman
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-In the spring of 1945, U.S. troops marched into the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria to liberate surviving prisoners and were given an American flag that had been secretly made by a group of detainees there. This is an inspiring account of the camp, its survivors, and its liberators. Using scraps and whatnot found at the camp, the prisoners secretly worked to create a gift for their American heroes. A photograph shows a carefully hand-stitched and well-thought-out flag. Although it has the correct 13 stripes, the prisoners overestimated the number of stars needed. Nazi atrocities are muted here, but the sorrow, hunger, hopelessness, and, finally, optimism shine through in the pictures and in the text. Large type is set in boxes on softly hued backgrounds. Full-page illustrations intensify the text, and an afterword explains that it is unknown exactly who made the flag. This heartening, unique volume makes a fine introduction to the Holocaust for students just beginning to learn about the evils of the era. The impressive bibliography includes books, videos, interviews, letters, and Internet sites.-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The bare bones of the story are remarkable and wrenching: In May 1945, a group of inmates at the infamous death camp, knowing the Americans were approaching, scrounged materials, including Nazi banners, their own ragged clothing and bedsheets, and stitched an American flag with which to greet and honor their saviors. Guessing at the number of stars, the prisoners added an extra row. The colonel in charge was so moved by the gift and by the indomitable spirit of the inmates who created it, that he flew it over the freed camp to the cheers of the joyful survivors, Simon Wiesenthal among them. Today the actual flag, shown in a colored two-page photograph within the text and on this title's back cover, is displayed in Los Angeles in the Museum of Tolerance named for the renowned Nazi hunter. Rubin's slim volume is spare in prose and tone; Farnsworth's paintings are stark, brooding and fittingly rendered mostly in somber colors. A little-known incident brought to heart-rending life. (extensive notes, index, Web sites) (Nonfiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823416530
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2006


    The man Albert Kosiek who first discovered the camp, was my Uncle. Our family accidentally came across this book from an Elementary School Library. Susan Goldman told this story beautifully. My Uncle Al would have been pleased with her accuracy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

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