"I was 13 years old when the German soldiers marched into town and killed poor Papa.
I was 14 when, in the middle of the night, they forced their way into our home and took my older brother Shmuel away.
I was 15 when the Nazis came for me. I didn't even have the chance to hug Mama and little Hirsh good-bye. It was the last time I would ever see them again."
Gifts from the Enemy is a true story told by Alter Wiener, Holocaust survivor and author of From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor's Autobiography.
Before the war, Alter was a young lad living in Poland with his family. They didn't have a car, or a TV set, or a refrigerator. They had books, food, and a good heart. Every Friday at sunset, they would welcome the Sabbath with the blessing and lighting of candles, followed by the treat of Mama's freshly baked challah (a kind of braided egg bread), which they would share along with the rest of dinner with a poor student or a homeless person.
When the war broke out, Alter was shipped from one prison camp to another. He was forced to work long hours and fed with very little food.
He missed Mama and her sweet, warm challah.
He missed the life he had before everything was torn by the war.
His strength faltered and his will to make it through another day weakened.
And then, something unthinkable happened. Alter was given a gift. It was a wonderful gift. And the giver? A German.
The enemy had just given him a precious gift that taught him not to judge, that taught him there were the kind and the cruel in every group of people.
I learned about this book from bloggers Patricia (Children's Books Heal), Erik (This Kid Reviews Books) and Alex (The Children's War). The author, Trudy Ludwig, has effectively told Alter's story and taught young and old readers the most important lesson of all ~ acts of kindness do matter. And to complement this story ~ Craig Orback's paintings, which are such a pleasure to flip through.
Do you enjoy reading war fiction and non-fiction?