What World is Left
"...He said children are disposed of in death camps. 'Disposed
of' Those are words people use to talk about garbage, not human
beings. Not children. Can it be true? It must be true. What would
this man stand to gain by lying?"
When Monique Polak's mother was only fourteen, an age in which
we think of girls as making the transition to high school, she was
making a transition of a whole different kind. She and her family
were shipped off to Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp. Like
many other survivers, most of her life she did not share her
experiences...until 2007 when her writer daughter, Polak, was give a
grant to write a book based on them. What World is Left is a poignant
and gritty work of event based fiction.
Anneke, her parents, and her little brother, Theo, are taken by
train to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, a place that was originally
built in 1780 as a garrison town by Emperor Joseph II and named after
his mother, Emperor Maria Theresa. Meant to house 7,000 it holds
nearly 10 times that many, quartered in squalor and filth. Meals
consist of watery soup. Labor is hard and unending. Nazi guards can
abuse and kill on whim. And there is a constant fear. "The one goal--
the only goal at Theresienstadt--is to keep your name, and the names
of those you love, off the transport lists. But transports are as
much a part of life here as bedbugs and latrines."
As bad as conditions are in Theresienstadt, it is not a death
camp like Sobibor or Auschwitz-Birkenau. In fact it is touted as a
model camp--a gift from Hitler to the Jews. The Nazis use it as
evidence that the rumors the rest of the world has heard are just not
true. Cosmetic embellishments like flower pots and fake store fronts
installed before the arrival of the Danish Red Cross and a movie with
the most healthy inhabitants drafted as extras have Anneke facing a
moral issue no young person should have to. Her father, a well known
artist, has been compelled to lend his talents to those projects. She
knows that his refusal would have doomed the family to suffering and
quite possibly death. But if the world is successfully deceived, no
one will come to their rescue.
What World is Left is an excellent read for the mature YA or
adult adult reader. The context of the quote I started the review
with is a conversation between two doctors Anneke overhears. One is
wondering why they are told to cure children who are doomed to be
killed. Later on she is groped by a Nazi. No matter how filthy and
degraded she feels, she knows it is best for her not to tell anyone.
On a personal note, it sometimes seems to me that humanity never
learns from history how wrong it is to dehumanize and mistreat those
we label "other." We may not do this on the scale of the Nazis. But
it happens all over the world. I am very much troubled right now by
Governor LePage's fight to deny basic assistance to immigrants. He
portrays them as lazy bums who come to Maine to take advantage of our
generosity. Really those families would be in grave peril in their
native lands. Also the whitest, oldest state in America is badly in
need of their energy and talents.
A great big shout goes out to all who advocate on behalf of those who
experience prejudice and hatred.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod