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Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps

Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps

4.7 34
by Andrea Warren, Aaron Lockman (Narrated by)

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Living happily in Poland, twelve-year-old Jack Mandelbaum is hardly aware that he is Jewish. Then Hitler comes to power. Forced to work for the Nazis, then torn from his family as they are herded into a concentration camp, Jack fights to survive. Each day is a struggle to get enough food, stay clean, and avoid physical harm. Jack's friend tells him to think of it as a


Living happily in Poland, twelve-year-old Jack Mandelbaum is hardly aware that he is Jewish. Then Hitler comes to power. Forced to work for the Nazis, then torn from his family as they are herded into a concentration camp, Jack fights to survive. Each day is a struggle to get enough food, stay clean, and avoid physical harm. Jack's friend tells him to think of it as a game, to work hard and not take anything personally. But life in the camps is brutal, and Hitler's guards are skilled at crushing a prisoner's spirit.

Award-winning author Andrea Warren powerfully evokes Jack's experiences in this gripping true story of a boy growing up in the Holocaust.

About the Author:
A former journalist and teacher, Andrea Warren tells the extraordinary stories of ordinary individuals in her critically acclaimed books Orphan Train Rider, winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for nonfiction, and Pioneer Girl. She lives in Prairie Village, KS, near the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education cofounded by Jack Mandelbaum.

Editorial Reviews

Horn Book
...this book is not only a compelling testimony to the Holocaust but an involving survival story as well.
Bulletin of the Center for Children' s Books
...Mandelbaum's unadorned words have blunt impact.
Jack Mandelbaum, a Polish Jew, had a happy family life until 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. Fifteen-year-old Jack is sent to Nazi concentration camps. Despite fear, starvation, and other horrors, he survives. Teachers often use fiction to introduce the Holocaust—particularly the concentration camp experience—to younger students, who are not as emotionally ready as older teens for titles such as Elie Wiesel's Night. Warren's book would be a perfect nonfiction title for fifth through seventh grade. The author gets the tone just right for the age level. She does not skirt the horrors, but because Jack maintains a positive attitude, this book is not a devastating read. Warren includes enough background information so that students new to the subject will have some context, but not so much that the book will seem old hat to students who are already familiar with the Holocaust. The author includes good supplementary material, such as more information on concentration camps, and lists recommendations of excellent print and nonprint resources, organized according to age. Because few of Jack's family photos survived the war, the photographs used in the book are sometimes generic WWII-era photos—Hitler, a group of religious Jews, lines of people arriving at an unidentified concentration camp. These are high quality and evocative, however, and act more as background to Jack's story. Despite that quibble, this book is a valuable addition to Holocaust literature for children and teens and should be in every middle school collection. Index. Photos. Source Notes. Further Reading. VOYA CODES: 4Q 5P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, HarperCollins, 160p, . Ages 12 to 14. Reviewer: Alice F. Stern SOURCE: VOYA, June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
Children's Literature
A boy's youth is the subject of Andrea Warren's Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps. At twelve, Jack Mendelbaum's successful father sent his family to the countryside to escape their Nazi-occupied Polish town. He told Jack, his eldest son, "I am counting on you to take care of our family." Jack did his best to support his family, taking on the tasks of grown men. Jack kept his promise until he faced the "worst moment" of his life when his actions separated him from his mother and brother forever. Alone at Blechhammer concentration camp, Jack's quick thinking and positive attitude helped him survive hunger, cold, sadistic guards, unbearable duties and the sorrows of those around him. He uses memories of boyhood competitions to beat "Hitler at his game." Above all, his primary strategy "was not to allow myself to hate. I knew I could be consumed by hate." Mandelbaum has followed this approach his entire life; he has taken "tolerance and forgiveness as the themes of my life," working with others to recognize and stop evil so that "there is hope for humanity." 2001, HarperCollins, . Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Through the words and memories of Jack Mandelbaum, Warren presents a harrowing account of a Jewish boy's experience in Nazi prison camps. Mandelbaum had lived a comfortable life with his family in Gdynia, Poland, until the German invasion forced them to flee to a relative's village in 1939. Later, when the Jews were sent to concentration camps, the 12-year-old became separated from the rest of his family and wound up in the Blechhammer camp. By describing events through the boy's voice, the author does an excellent job of letting his words carry the power of the story. She avoids historical analysis, sticking to Mandelbaum's experiences, and brings readers into the nightmarish world of the concentration camp with a strong feeling of immediacy. As with many stories of great suffering, some of the minor details, such as risking death to steal a jar of marmalade, deliver the most impact. Besides the physical hardship, Warren conveys how frustrating and confusing it was for a child in such an environment. Once liberated, the young man learned the sad fate of his family and as he ironically observed, had he known his parents and siblings would not survive, he might not have struggled so hard to live himself. Black-and-white contemporary photographs illustrate the book. This story works as an introduction to the Holocaust and will also interest readers of Lila Perl's Four Perfect Pebbles (Greenwillow, 1996), Anne Frank's diary, and other works on the period.-Steven Engelfried, Deschutes County Library, Bend, OR Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Audio Bookshelf
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rumors of War, 1939

Until he was twelve, Jack Mandelbaum assumed his life would always be a carefree adventure.

He lived with his father, mother, older sister, and younger brother in beautiful Gdynia (ga-DIN-ya), Poland, on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

"Our city was the pride of Poland," Jack recalled, remembering his childhood. "Ships came into port from all over the world. I heard many foreign languages. I saw sailors who wore turbans, and black sailors from Africa. This was just part of my daily life."

Jack collected stamps and begged ship captains for ones from faraway places. He kept his stamps neatly categorized in books and loved to imagine the strange and exotic countries they came from.

His father, Majloch Mandelbaum -- "Max" to his friends -- was the prosperous owner of a fish cannery. The family lived comfortably in a spacious apartment with big windows on one of the most prominent streets of the city, just a few blocks from the beach.

"We had every modern convenience," Jack said. "Because I lived in the city, I did not realize that many people in Poland were without electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones.

"Our home was filled with laughter and kisses. My parents were very much in love. They were openly affectionate with each other and with us children. It was a lovely life."

Jack's mother, Cesia (Sesha), dressed elegantly. She wore silk dresses, high heels, jewelry, and hats with veils. In cold weather, she wore her fur coat. She was very beautiful, with dark eyes and long, shiny black hair, which she arranged in the latest styles fromParis.

"Mama was the heart of our home," Jack said. "On winter nights, my mother would warm my comforter on our tile stove and then gently wrap it around me as I climbed into bed. She was an excellent cook and had many specialties. One of my favorites was a sweet fried pastry with pockets of jelly inside. I could never figure out how she got the jelly in there."

Mama took the three children to the market with her, on picnics in the nearby forest, and on outings in the mountains surrounding Gdynia. "We often went to the beach," Jack said. "I remember Papa sometimes taking a break from work to join us. From street vendors, he would buy us handmade waffle cones filled with delicious, rich cream."

The family employed a full-time housekeeper to help with laundry, cleaning, and cooking. Each morning, she arrived early by bus and streetcar from her nearby village to brew the coffee, filling the apartment with its strong aroma.

"She was a pretty, young woman, and I remember how she would lick the red wrapper the coffee came in and then rub it on her cheeks to make it look like she used rouge, which she could not afford," Jack said. "She was good-natured, and I loved to tease her."

Sometimes, Jack also teased Jakob, his brother, who was five years younger than he. Jakob was a handsome little boy and had his mother's jet black hair and dark eyes. Jack felt protective of him and often played with him. Like Jack, Jakob loved sports. Jack often took him to the ice-skating rink and played hockey with him.

Their sister, Jadzia (Ya-jah), was serious and studious. She was three years older than Jack. "Jadzia loved music and listened to Italian opera on the radio while she did her homework," Jack said. "She had perfect penmanship. She was gentle and kind. I remember that she wore little gold earrings with her school uniform, which was a navy blouse with a sailor collar and navy pleated skirt. She had black hair and big hazel-colored eyes."

Like his father, Jack had naturally curly blond hair and blue eyes. "Papa was my hero. I thought he was strong and brave, and I always felt safe with him. I remember the night he brought me a bicycle. It was not my birthday or anything; he just got it for me because he thought I would like it. Even though it was late, I immediately rode it around and around our big mahogany dining-room table. After that, I rode it everywhere, for I was free to come and go. I even entered bicycle races on Square Kosciuszko -- named for the Polish patriot who fought with George Washington in the American Revolution -- and once I won third place."

Every school day, before Jack put on his navy blue uniform and walked to his public school, his mother insisted he eat a big breakfast. Typically, it included fruit juice, hot cereal with milk and butter on it, a roll, cheese, and perhaps smoked fish, along with a boiled egg served in a little cup.

"Mama always packed a lunch for me, but after such a breakfast, sometimes I was not hungry, so I would give my food away to some of the poor children who attended our school."

When classes ended, Jack and his friends went to the movies -- Charlie Chaplin was Jack's favorite actor -- or they played soccer, rode their bikes, or went to see the Greco-Roman-style wrestling matches at the local sports arena. Often they headed to the beach or docks.

"I was a mischievous boy," Jack recalled. "My parents never knew all the things I did that I was not supposed to, especially at the boat docks. The worst was when my friends and I would swim alongside ships in the harbor. It was very dangerous, because you could be crushed between the ship and the dock. This had once happened to a boy. But I never thought about the danger. We would even climb up the ship ladders and then dive into the water. The port police often chased us. I was lucky my parents never found out, or I would have been punished. City boys like me learned to get away with things. We were clever."

Surviving Hitler. Copyright © by Andrea Warren. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Andrea Warren says, "I'm always looking behind facts and dates in search of how extraordinary times impact ordinary people. I think the most engaging way to study history is by seeing it through the eyes of participants. Each of us wants to know, If that had been me at that time, in that place, what would I have done? What would have happened to me?"

Among Warren's honors are the prestigious Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story, which was also selected as an ALA Notable Book. She won the Midland Authors Award for Pioneer Girl. Growing Up on the Prairie. A former teacher and journalist, Warren writes from her home in the Kansas City suburb of Prairie Village, Kansas.

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Surviving Hitler 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Rose_P More than 1 year ago
Since the genocide of the Jews during WWII can be a lot for some children to handle, this book would be a great classroom tool because it is not too detailed or overwhelmingly graphic. While it is important that children know what horrible things happened in Europe there is a time in their life that they only need to get the main picture and they don't need to be traumatized. This book is an inspiring story of Jack, a young boy who survived one of Hitler's concentration camps without his family. It talks of the daily struggle that the poor souls in the concentration camps had to face including the poor living conditions, lack of food, and physical danger.This book is suggested for grades 5-8.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really think this is a fantastic book and its sad to Know that some kids have been through this before and thats what hurts the most I think. I`ve read a book like this once before and its called Daniel`s Story I just hope you can read it beacause its an experiance you will never forget!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this book ok for 12 year olds?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He was in a terrible time but through it all he had faith and lead him to victory.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The main character is a boy named Jack Mandelbaum, and he is Jewish. Jack lived in Gdynia, Poland in 1939. At 12 years old, he liked to collect stamps and imagine the far away places they came from. He was also sneaky about swimming in the bay next to the ships with his friends. Jack was the middle child in a family of five. He had an older sister and a younger brother. Jack loved his family very much. The book is about Germans putting Jews in concentration camps. They accomplished this by over powering the Jews and making them afraid. The Germans who did this were called Nazis and were followers of Hitler. Jews on the other hand were learning to survive Hitlers army. Jack made his experiences in the death camp like a game, and was determined to win against Hitler. Losers of the game were sent to the gas chambers. Winners would not only survive but make life long friendships with others in the death camps.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was a good Holocaust story. It was sad that Jack had to go through the Holocaust. It is sad that people go through things like genocide. But it also gave you hope even in the worst situation. Everyone should read books about the Holocaust. Its very intresting to learn about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a awsome book, it tell you about History and about a man great and sad life. When your reading this book it feels like you are going through out his life day by day. I really, really recomend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I read this book a million times, brcaise its so amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is sort of sad, but its my favorite part of history to read about. Its a really good story, and it is worth the money!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good book! Read it twice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Assom book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emoitional but great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book was very interesting and I would recamend this book to any one who would like to read about the Zazis concentration camp. At first when I started to read this book I thoght it was boring but then I got to the realyinteresting part and continued the book and read it alot more and enjoid it so like I said id recamend it to any one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book really is amazing. its about a boy who survives a nazi concentration camp after being seperated from his family. he goes through many battles and makes friends along the way. he finds ways to survive and feels for the others who cant. its a nice, short, excellect read about the survival of a boy in a nazi death camp.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This outstanding book is a true account because Jack takes the reader back into time to tell us the harsh truths behind the holocaust. This outstanding book falls in the category history. In the beginning Jack tells his sorrowful and woeful story about how he and his family were in the Nazi Concentration Camp. In the middle of the book some of Jack's friends and he himself explain the hardships the faced and how unfortunately their dear ones died in this horrible event. Towards the end it happens to be that Jack tells you that sometimes 'Life just isn't as easy as it seems!' The book's strengths are it acknowledges you about a time in history were Adolph Hitler changes the way Jews live, for example it talks about the time where Adolph asked his men to do horrible things that hurt a lot of Jews. Furthermore, the book's weakness is, it is a very emotional book that can weaken about anybody's heart. The weakest part of the book is when Jack gets himself and his family dragged to the Concentration Camp. I would personally recommend this book to older people like somewhere around the age of 9, because some parts in here might be a little painful for little kids. I would not recommend this book to a 7 year old, because it has some starvation pictures that might frighten the younger people. Otherwise, this is a wonderful book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was sad and it was a good book.I recommend it to people with ages between 10-24.I really liked this book. P.S. Numa Numa is awsom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
best book ever.it reminds me of my neighbors dad.thats a good thing!