Sharon reviews The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, Henry Holt & Co., 2017
In a small, mostly unknown chapter of the Second World War, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, there was a separate small building called the Family Camp. And in that space, there was a school for the children of the Family Camp. Built only to serve as propaganda, should International Aide organizations hear the tales of what was happening to the captives in Poland, nevertheless, for some time it served as a place for children to learn, laugh, sing and play.
This school had a librarian. The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe is a telling of the true story of Dita, the youngest librarian of probably the smallest library in history. As guardian and care taker for 8 miscellaneous books, Dita protected the books and stored them secretly each day. These books included a history of the world by H.G. Wells, a book written by Sigmund Freud, a Geometry book, and a few novels that had been missed by the Nazis as thousands upon thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Communists and other prisoners were funneled through the worst place on earth.
Knowing she would be put to death if the books were discovered, still Dita had the strength to hold onto love, hope and the possibilities that life could hold. Would that we could all possess such strength and courage.
In an epilogue, the author tells of meeting Dita in Prague and traveling with her to Terezin. Even advanced in age, Dita still showed a zeal toward life and the world around her.