I read the young adult fiction novel, The Librarian of Auschwitz, by Antonio Iturbe.
In the family camp, there were children separated from their parents during the day. The parents did hard labor while the children had their own section. The children were permitted to play games in this section of the camp; however, the adults working with the kids decided to turn it into a school. They used a few worn books someone had snuck into the camp in order to teach the kids.
The kids were taught about many things, and then Dita arrived.
Dita became the librarian putting herself in great danger. She had to be in charge of the books. She took care of them and watched as they were borrowed by different people. She had to be aware of where the books were at all times. When the SS guards would come for inspections, she had to quickly hide the books. Then she had someone sew a pocket in her clothes to hide the books in exchange for giving them a piece of bread, which was lifesaving in those places.
What put her more at risk was Dr. Josef Mengele (also known as the Angel of Death), pulling her aside to tell her he was watching her if she should do anything she wasn’t supposed to. It seemed he took a special interest in her. Dr. Mengele performed inhumane experiments on people in the name of science, which was essentially torture.
If she were found out, she would risk her life being taken into his hands and the school being shut down. She didn’t know why they kept the family camp, but she later learned it was set up for visitors to show them that all was well there. So in a way, the family camp was playing into the Nazi’s hands.
In her bravery, Dita Kraus helped bring some humanity into an inhumane circumstance. She did so while being starved and through losing both of her parents. She survived though.
I cried throughout this book since it was a true story. Dita faced true evil in this world and risked it all to read books to children and create an imaginary world for them in the midst of horror. She was in charge and moved quickly. Creating the pocket in her outfit for the books was ingenious, but even more dangerous should she be caught carrying the weight of them.
If you’re looking for a real-life heroine, look to Dita Kraus. She kept kids’ spirits alive as everyone around them was being tortured, starved, and killed. This was an amazing feat. Not all the kids made it, but for the time they were there, she got to share a different world with them. This was the world found in books and in knowledge, which the Nazis tried to ban and burn.
This was defiance. This made the difference. Even as everything was taken from them, they found life in literature.
They found a reason to go on.