The Year of Goodbyes: A true story of friendship, family and farewells

( 2 )


Like other girls, Jutta Salzberg enjoyed playing with friends, going to school, and visiting relatives. In Germany in 1938, these everyday activities were dangerous for Jews. Jutta and her family tried to lead normal lives, but soon they knew they had to escape-if they could before it was too late.

Throughout 1938, Jutta had her friends and relatives fill her poesiealbum-her autograph book-with inscriptions. Her daughter, Debbie Levy, used these entries as a springboard for ...

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Like other girls, Jutta Salzberg enjoyed playing with friends, going to school, and visiting relatives. In Germany in 1938, these everyday activities were dangerous for Jews. Jutta and her family tried to lead normal lives, but soon they knew they had to escape-if they could before it was too late.

Throughout 1938, Jutta had her friends and relatives fill her poesiealbum-her autograph book-with inscriptions. Her daughter, Debbie Levy, used these entries as a springboard for telling the story of the Salzberg family's last year in Germany. It was a year of change and chance, confusion and cruelty. It was a year of goodbyes.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Catherine Reef
Jutta Salzberg's "year of goodbyes" was 1938, the year she turned twelve. That year, her Jewish family left Germany and sailed to the United States to avoid imprisonment and likely death at the hands of the Nazis. How narrowly the Salzbergs escaped extermination becomes chillingly clear in the latter pages of Debbie Levy's lovely book. Levy, Jutta Salzberg's daughter, tells her mother's story in a cycle of 26 poems inspired by the Poesiealbum (autograph book) that Jutta circulated among friends and relatives during this memorable year. Album entries are touchstones for Levy's unadorned, potent free verse, which chronicles Jutta's life as a schoolgirl in a changing Hamburg, her father's tireless effort to transport his family to safety, a final summer vacation with relatives in Poland, and the journey itself. Levy perfectly captures a twelve-year-old's world view in one of the finest poems, "Slipping Away": "I can't imagine / being as old as / Mother and Father, / but I also can't imagine / not becoming as old as them." Adult life seems impossibly far away, yet death seems simply impossible. Children in Jutta's Hamburg confronted death's inevitability without being hardened to it, so that the loss of a beloved parakeet could still trigger grief. A selection of photographs enriches the reader's experience of Jutta's year, and an afterword fleshes out her story, carries it to the present, and reveals the fate of many of the children and loved ones who appear in earlier pages. Some of the latter is strong stuff. Highly recommended. Reviewer: Catherine Reef
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—Inspired by her mother's poesiealbum (poetry album), which survived her childhood retreat from Nazi Germany, Levy has created a verse novel slim in length but long on beauty, power, and anguish. Jutta Salzberg lived a normal, happy life until 1938. Although Hitler's reign is in its infancy, Jewish Germans already face severe restrictions in their lives; segregated schools, shops, and curfews are already the norm, with stories of the public humiliation of elderly Jews and concentration camps to follow. This book is comprised of actual entries in the poesiealbum penned by Jutta's friends, interspersed with verses in 12-year-old Jutta's voice that respond to and even challenge the sentiments conveyed within each poem. Although her entries get darker and more frightful during Germany's descent into madness, there is still some joy to be found in birthday presents, friendships, and gymnastics lessons. Jutta, based upon Levy's mother, is a character to whom many preadolescents and adolescents, on the brink of questioning spoon-fed platitudes, can relate. The foreword, explaining poesiealbums, and the afterword, detailing Jutta's post-immigration life, are essential reading. The author's extensive research, including tracking down the fate of the majority of Jutta's classmates, is detailed in an understated yet moving tone. A time line including pre- and post-World War II dates, as well as important dates within Jutta's life, is included, as are eight pages of family photos. An outstanding and emotionally taut read for children not quite ready for Jennifer Roy's Yellow Star (Marshall Cavendish, 2006) and other, more graphic depictions of the Holocaust.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA
Publishers Weekly
Artfully weaving together her mother’s poesiealbum (autograph/poetry album), diary, and her own verse, Levy crafts a poignant portrait of her Jewish mother’s life in 1938 Nazi Germany that crackles with adolescent vitality. Chapters open with photo reproductions and translations of friends’ comments from 12-year-old Jutta Salzburg’s album. Mostly platitudes, they sharply contrast with Jutta’s frank view of increasing anti-Semitism. “Always honor your elders,” writes one friend, to which Levy (in Jutta’s voice) writes, “Always, Cilly? Always?/ I should honor the Wahls,/ my parents’ friends,/ even after Herr Wahl/ stopped playing cards with Father?/ .... Hitler is my elder.” Levy creates a three-dimensional snapshot of this year of upheaval, from sweet family life to the sorrow of losing friends and the terror of seeing her father threaten to jump out of an official’s window if his family doesn’t obtain visas. They do and immigrate to the U.S., but many of Jutta’s friends and family do not survive, as Levy’s sober afterword relates. While abstaining from horrific details, this book clearly presents key historical events, and more importantly, their direct impact on a perceptive girl. Ages 10–up. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Writing for modern readers about the Holocaust is fraught, and when children are the intended audience, the difficulties can be insurmountable. Levy meets the challenges admirably, partly because she had access to unique primary sources: Her mother's autograph book, a poesiealbum, written by friends and family in Hamburg in 1938 and a diary from that same year, when she was 12, form a poignant and chilling basis for the true story of her family's experiences. Each chapter is a translation of an album or diary entry followed by a poem that evokes sadness, despair, anger and longing to escape. The author's introduction and afterword are integral to the work, as they explain some of the history and tell the fates of friends and family members-those who escaped and survived, those who "died at the hands of the Nazis" and those whose exact fate she was unable to discern. While writing as truthfully as the subject demands, she also spares young readers the gruesome details of those deaths. An immensely powerful experience that needs to be read with an adult. (Poetry/nonfiction. 10 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423129011
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 3/16/2010
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 946,592
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Debbie Levy's ( article for The Washington Post about her mother's escape from Nazi Germany led to a reunion between Jutta and former classmates from Hamburg. Debbie wrote The Year of Goodbyes in consultation with her mother to reflect Jutta's voice, feelings, and thoughts as a girl. Debbie lives in Maryland.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2013

    I Liked this book because it talks about what the people past th

    I Liked this book because it talks about what the people past through during the Holocaust,and it makes you reflect and appreciate what you have.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Courtesy of Mother-Daughter Book Club

    In The Year of Goodbyes, author Debbie Levy takes a fresh approach to memoir and the story of German Jews in the late 1930s. The book takes place in the year 1938, when Jutta Salzberg, Levy's mother, is a 12-year-old girl living in Hamburg, Germany. Restrictions against Jews have gotten tighter during the last few years, and her father is desperate to leave with his family for the U.S., where he has relatives who will sponsor him. They have permission from German officials and the money to book transportation, but visas from the U.S. are slow to come.

    Jutta certainly is aware of the tensions, but she's also concerned with the same things any 12-year-old girl would be-school, friends, her pet bird, and the neighbors in her building. Each day that goes by brings news of someone else who has disappeared, and often Jutta hears Nazi boots in the stairwell of her own building as soldiers come to take away neighbors. Salzberg's family managed to leave Germany for France and finally the U.S., departing just before Kristallnacht, otherwise known as Night of Broken Glass, when the Nazis destroyed many Jewish homes and businesses.

    When Jutta Salzberg left, one of the few treasures she took with her was her poesiealbum, an autograph book filled with inscriptions, verse and drawings, all written to Jutta by her friends and relatives. Each chapter of The Year of Goodbyes highlights a page from the poesiealbum and notes from Jutta's diary entries around the same time.

    The result is a simple, but moving account of everyday people, living everyday lives in an extraordinary time. Salzberg and her family knew they were leaving friends and family behind to move across an ocean; they never imagined the fate that awaited those who could not or did not leave. The book is even more poignant because Levy includes notes on her research and her discoveries about what happened to each of the friends who wrote in her mother's poesiealbum during the year as well as the fate of the Salzberg family's relatives. Photos of many of the people also brings Jutta's story to life.

    The heart of this book can be found on the pages from the poesiealbum. I was struck by how thoughtful the writings were, and the sentiments they expressed. They show a maturity that seems uncommon for 12 year olds of today. The Year of Goodbyes may be quick to read, but the words will linger in your mind for a long time to come. I recommend this book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 12 and up.

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