What World is Leftby Monique Polak
A pampered child used to having her own way, Anneke Van Raalte lives outside Amsterdam, where her father is a cartoonist for the Amsterdam newspaper. Though Anneke's family is Jewish, her religion means little to her. Anneke's life changes in 1942 when the Nazis invade Holland, and she and her family are deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Not only are conditions in the camp appalling, but the camp is the site of an elaborate hoax: the Nazis are determined to convince the world that Theresienstadt is an idyllic place and that European Jews are thriving under the Nazi regime. Because he is an artist, Anneke's father is compelled to help in the propaganda campaign, and Anneke finds herself torn between her loyalty to her family and her sense of what is right. What World is Left was inspired by the experiences of the author's mother, who was imprisoned in Theresienstadt during World War II.
Anneke Van Raalte is 14 when the Germans deport her family from Holland and send them to Czechoslovakia-because they are Jewish. Despite constant hunger, severe crowding and other deprivations, Anneke, the narrator, is repeatedly told how lucky she is to be at the concentration camp Theresienstadt, which lacks gas chambers. Her father, formerly an illustrator for a Dutch newspaper, occupies an important position in the camp and can protect the family from the worst fate, being sent on a transport "east" (she eventually learns a transport almost invariably means death). But Anneke wonders at the justness of her father's behavior, particularly when he participates in the commandant's "embellishment" program, designed to trick the Danish Red Cross when it comes for an inspection-and, when that plan succeeds, to make a propaganda film. Polak (Scarred) bases Anneke's experiences on those of her mother's; while convincing generally, her writing shies from the extremities of camp existence. What it does offer is a candid look at a father's presumed collusion, a perspective rarely seen in YA literature about the Holocaust. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Forced to leave their privileged life in Holland, Anneke and her family are transported to the "model city" of Theresienstadt. Her father is a well-known painter/artist and is ordered to create much of the artwork for the pleasure of the Nazi officers in charge of this "unique" concentration camp. Anneke's forced labor in the kitchen is less brutal and harsh than some of the other assigned duties, and this once-spoiled 14-year-old learns that survival motivates any kind of work and conditions. But when her father begins to create a false series of signage and backdrop scenes to use as part of Hitler's documentary on the camp to falsely represent the "good" treatment and conditions of the Jews imprisoned there, Anneke has difficulty understanding his rationale. Her father's continual mantra is "the important thing is that we are together." As she watches the weekly transport orders of her companions to what she understands are the death camps, Anneke learns that sometimes placing one's ethics and values aside may be the only way to survive. Yet, once she discovers the artists' depictions of the camp's truly barbaric status, she develops a greater appreciation for her father's role. This often graphic and realistic novel, written in memoir format, raises questions of moral principles and beliefs while it portrays the horrors of the Holocaust.-Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI
Read an Excerpt
I scratch the skin around my shoulder. I know I mustn't, but I can't help it. I am itchy everywhere. I fight the urge to jump out of the bunk. Besides, there is no place to go. We are prisoners here. If only this was the dream and I could wake up and return to my old life.
Meet the Author
Monique Polak has written many novels for young adults, including her historical novel, What World Is Left, which won the 2009 Québec Writers' Federation Prize for Children's and Young Adult Literature. In addition to writing award-winning books for youth, Monique Polak teaches English and Humanities at Marianopolis College in Montréal, Québec, and also works as a freelance journalist. For more information, visit www.moniquepolak.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Anneke and her family live a privileged life in Amsterdam.
She and her brother go to school, wear fine clothes, and never want for anything. Their world is turned upside down after the Nazis take control of Holland. They are forced to wear yellow stars on their clothing, they must attend a Jewish school instead of their own, and, inevitably, are forced to relocate to Theresienstadt, a "model" concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.
Life is difficult in the camp. Every member of Anneke's family must work to stay alive. They face disease, hunger, and violence on a daily basis. Anneke works hard to maintain her dignity and pride while in the camp, but her will is constantly tested. She watches as her father, a celebrated cartoonist, is forced to create propaganda materials for the
Anneke does not understand how her father can help the Nazis while they are suffering. His reasons are made apparent once the war has ended.
WHAT WORLD IS LEFT is a work of fiction inspired by true events. Polak's own mother spent a little over two years in the Theresienstadt camp. Many of the events in the novel were taken from stories that Polak's mother related to her, including the family's means of survival. Polak's grandfather, a Dutch artist, created propaganda drawings for the Nazis, thereby securing their safety while in the camp.
Ms. Polak has taken great care in telling this story because it is so very personal. It is an excellent novel - a great tale of overcoming adversity in a time of such dark despair.