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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Thanks to My Mother
by Schoschana Rabinovici
Age Range: 14+
Susie Weksler is eight years old when the Nazi army invades Vilnius, Lithuania in 1941. Forced to move into a ghetto with 10,000 other Jews her family endures the bitter cold, starvation, sickness and the constant fear of the ‘actions’ that take place regularly. When the Vilnius Ghetto is liquidated some Jews are selected for forced labour camps. Susie’s mother Raja, through cunning and courage manages to hide her daughter in her backpack to prevent her from being pushed to ‘the left’ with the old, infirm and young children, and to certain death.
Susie has to work as hard as any adult in order to survive, first in Kaiserwald, Stutthoff and then Taventzien camps. At every turn the ingenuity and bravery of her mother keeps Susie alive. She survives the inevitable ‘selections’ by being disguised as an adult, given extra food to add to her meagre rations, and more importantly, the will to endure. As the Allies move closer the inmates face their final ordeal of the Death March.
Susie’s narrative is written in a controlled, even tone and the harrowing experiences portrayed are heartbreaking which makes this a particularly grim Holocaust memoir. Written from the perspective of a Lithuanian survivor it provides some different experiences to other Holocaust survivors, such as being transported from camp to camp by ship and the selection for work camps taking place in a graveyard during the liquidation of the ghetto. There are brief footnotes provided in the text that help to explain the Yiddish expressions and Jewish customs.
Thanks to My Mother was awarded the Mildred L. Bachelder Honor in 1999.