winter of 2000, a suitcase arrives from the museum at Auschwitz
to a small Holocaust education center in Tokyo. Fumiko Isioka,
the curator at the center, wants her young visitors to learn
about the Holocaust, and believes seeing an object that belonged
to one of the victims will help bring the event closer to
Written on white chalk on the suitcase there is a name: Hana
Brady, a date, May 16, 1931, and the word "WaisenKind"
that means "orphan" in German. Fumiko is determined
to find out who was Hana and what happened to her so long
ago when, together with more than 140,000 Jews, she arrived
at the concentration camp in Auschwitz during the Nazi's attempt
to kill them all.
At the same time that we learn about Fumiko's search through
museums and archives in Europe for any news of this unknown
girl, we learn Hana's story in alternate chapters.
"Hana had blond hair, blue eyes and a very pretty round
face. She was a strong girl," and in 1938 she lived in
a small village in Czechoslovakia. Hana had a loving family,
a mother, a father and a brother and many friends at school.
Then the Nazis came.
We know what happens next. Still the story, told in a simple
style devoid of all sentimentality (kudos to Karen Levine),
will bring tears to your eyes before, thanks to a determined
and strong Japanese woman, it manages to end in a tone of
I loved this story and recommend it highly.
Excellent book to teach grades 5 and up about such a disturbing
period of European History. Hopefully the lessons learned
through this story will help us not to do the same to those
who profess another religion, or belong to another race or
country, any time in the future.