“No, as far as the Nazis know,
there are eight hundred adults
and no children
left in the Lodz ghetto.”
Well, then, aren’t we clever,
I think as I drift off.
We know more than the Nazis do.
(from Yellow Star, page 143)
Yellow Star is the story of Holocaust survivor Sylvia (Syvia) Perlmutter, as told to her niece, Jennifer Roy. Roy presents her aunt’s story in verse — which reminded me of T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte — intended for middle-grade readers. Syvia was four-and-a-half when World War II broke out, and she was one of just 12 children to survive the Łódź ghetto. When the ghetto was liberated by the Soviets in January 1945, only 877 of the more than 200,000 Jews sent there were still alive.
Based on taped conversations with Syvia, Yellow Star is written in the first person, so young readers see the horrors of the ghetto through the eyes of a child with whom they can relate. Because she is too young to work, Syvia is alone while her parents and older sister are working. When children under 10 are deported to the Chełmno extermination camp, Syvia must stay hidden indoors and remain quiet at all times. Even though I knew she survived because she was telling her story, my heart still beat rapidly as I read about how she and her father hid as the Nazis went from room to room, taking children away from their families and sending them to their deaths.
Roy does a great job contrasting Syvia’s innocence with the evil perpetrated by the Nazis. The family is hungry and cold, her beloved doll was sold and its carriage burned to keep warm, and Syvia occupies herself with clever games. Even in the midst of all the hardship, there are heartwarming, hopeful moments, particularly in the way that Syvia’s family emphasized her value when the Nazis did their best to make her feel worthless.
A family’s fierce love and will to survive are at the core of Yellow Star. I never grow tired of these amazing stories of courage and survival during the Holocaust. Roy shows how Syvia’s family kept their wits about them through the chaos, evading deportation time and again and staying alive when so many others perished. I read this book in a single afternoon, but I remain haunted by Syvia’s story weeks later. Yellow Star is a good introduction to the Holocaust for younger readers, but there is much in the poetic prose for adults to appreciate as well.
Disclosure: Yellow Star is from my personal library.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.