Anne Frank's words gave the children of the Holocaust a voice. Yet many other young Jews were affected by this terrible tragedy, and it is important that they also be heard. Clara's War gives the Jewish children of Czechoslovakia a memorable, albeit fictional, face and voice. Kathy Kacer's intriguing historical portrayal of this period highlights the deportation of 13-year-old Clara Berg and her family from their beloved home to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp located within a walled city near Prague. There, Clara finds fear and friendship, loses faith, keeps hope and ultimately, survives. Despite its difficult subject matter (the cruel and inhuman annihilation of Europe's Jews), Clara's War proves easy to read and understand. Accessible characters bring this dreadful period of history to life for readers. Surprisingly, Clara's story stems from an inspiring atmosphere in which imprisoned Jews worked together to foster an appreciation of art and music, as well as educational growth for their children in the face of potential death. Sadly, Clara represents one of only 132 child survivors of Theresienstadt. Yet, as such, her story offers enlightenment and still allows the reader to grasp some hope for humanity and its future. (Holocaust Remembrance series) KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2001, Second Story Press, dist. by Orca, 128p., $5.95. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Lynne Remick; Freelance Reviewer, Nesconset, NY , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
A refreshingly different look at Jewish life in a concentration camp, Clara's War focuses on the positive attitude of people forced from their homes at the hands of Nazi Germany. The children continue to make friends, learn, and perform a children's opera. Fictional characters bring to life actual events from Terezin, one of many ghetto communities where Jews were taken prior to being shipped off to Hitler's death camps. Upon arrival at Terezin, Clara and her brother Peter are separated from their parents. Scared and desperate, Clara reaches out to a newfound friend, Jacob, an ambitious young man who is busy working on an escape plan. Meanwhile, young Clara attends the ghetto school, and wins the part of the lovely sparrow in the school play, "Brundibar". Jacob, anxious to conceal his escape plans, earns a role in the play, as well. Together, they enjoy each other's company, all the while planning for their escape. Clara's War is a nice companion to Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. It is another example of the sheer power of human will to overcome even the most horrible of human events. 2001, Orca Book Publishers, 128 pp.,
Lu Ann Brobst Staheli
Clara, her brother Peter, and their parents live in Prague when World War II breaks out and the Nazis take over the city. From living a privileged life, going to the best schools, taking piano lessons, wearing lovely clothes, having a cook and a housekeeper, they're now part of a despised class. Why? Simplethey are Jews. They can no longer ride the streetcars or buses, or play in the park or go to school. Their father can no longer treat non-Jewish patients and loses his hospital job. Then they are taken to the walled city of Terezen, which the Nazis call a ghetto but is actually a concentration camp. Always hungry and cold, they are awakened at all hours and forced to stand outside in the rain or cold for reasons known only to the Nazi guards. But this is not a typical concentration camp. Clara manages to make two very good friends in spite of the situation. And all the inmates (some quite well known in their fields) are encouraged to create poetry, art and music. There will even be a performance of a new children's opera, and Clara lands a coveted lead role. Rehearsals are held even while whole families are deported to "the east," which adult readers know means Auschwitz and almost certain death. Eventually, the reason for the existence of this "good" camp is revealed. The Red Cross is sending a group of "observers," so the landscaping and buildings are improved and white picket fences are installed. The visitors arrive and see exactly what has been planned for them to see. The opera is a huge success. Everyone is fooled/pleased, except of course, the inmates. After the war is over, the remnants of Europe's Jewry pull themselves together and slowly try to repair their lives. Anafterword tells that this book, although fiction, is based on real events. Terezin did exist, there was a children's opera and the Red Cross visitors reported that the Jews were treated exceptionally well. Thanks to this book, even quite young children can know the truth. 2001, Second Story Press, $5.95. Ages 10 up. Reviewer:Judy Silverman
Gr 4-7-Thirteen-year-old Clara and her younger brother Peter are living in Prague with their parents in 1943 when the family receives orders to join a transport. Their destination is Terezin (also known as Theresienstadt), a lesser-known concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic. Although her family is separated for most of each day and the living conditions are harsh, Clara learns to find comfort in schoolwork, music, and friends, especially streetwise Jacob. He tells her what is really happening to the people chosen for further transports to Auschwitz, and that he plans to escape from Terezin when the time is right. The story is realistically open-ended; when Jacob disappears, Clara never learns if his escape was successful or if he died in the attempt. Also, since the story ends before the camp is liberated, readers never find out if the main character survives the war or not, which is disconcerting and disappointing. The novel is not as engaging as the many Holocaust stories by Carol Matas and others, and has an annoying tendency to overuse the term "alright." However, the details are accurate and the historical photos and artwork at the end add realism.-Paula J. LaRue, Van Wert Middle School, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.