First Lines Friday – 14/04/2023
Good evening and welcome to this week’s feature post – First Lines Friday!
For today’s post, I feature a book with difficult themes. The book is set in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp during the Second World War. The narrative jumps straight in to discuss the treatment and deaths of those interred in the camp (which sadly was one of many such sites). What makes this narrative even worse is that it is heavily based on a true story. An individual who was unfortunate enough to have spent time in Auschwitz came forward with her story, her experience.
So, consider yourself warned. If this is a topic that you don’t feel comfortable with reading, then stop reading this post here. If, like me, you do not shy away from this theme or setting in history, then read on below for today’s excerpt and find out what my featured book is!
The Nazi officers are dressed in black. They look at death with the indifference of a gravedigger. In Auschwitz, human life has a little value that no one is shot any more; a bullet is more valuable than human being. In Auschwitz, there are communal chambers where they administer Zyklon gas. It’s cost-effective, killing hundreds of people with just one tank. Death has become an industry that is profitable only if it’s done wholesale.
The officers have no idea that in the family camp in Auschwitz, on top of the dark mud into which everything sinks, Alfred Hirsch has established a school. They don’t know it, and it’s essential that they should not know it.
The Librarian of Auschwitz – Antonio Iturbe
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: 04 April 2019
Goodreads – The Librarian of Auschwitz
Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.
Despite the awful events that occurred in Auschwitz-Birkenau, or any other concentration camp that was established during the Second World War, I’m fascinated by the subject. To date, I have read numerous books that explore the tragedy and cruelty that those interred experienced.
I am a firm believer that we should not blinker or censor our history. It is only through reading books like this, and learning from those who had to suffer, that we can ensure the same mistakes do not happen again. I was initially interested in this book for its setting alone. However, to understand that the fiction is heavily based around the real life experience of a woman called Dita Kraus makes it all the more heartbreaking.
The Librarian of Auschwitz is a rare book on my TBR, in that it was initially written in another language (Spanish) and then later translated into English. I don’t have many books of this nature, and historically I haven’t read that many either. That’s not really a conscious decision on my part. So much so, I didn’t even realise this book wasn’t originally written in English until I picked up my copy of it today to feature the book!
Have you read The Librarian of Auschwitz, or any of the other books in this period and setting? Let me know in the comments!