Thursday, November 06, 2014

Playing for the Commandant

20708768Zail, Suzy. Playing for the Commandant.
October 14th 2014 by Candlewick Press

Hanna, her parents, and her sister Erika are taken from their home in the Hungarian ghetto and sent to Auschwitz. Their father is separated from them early on, and their mother is unable to take the stress and doesn't do well mentally, and so is taken "to the infirmary". Hanna is a good piano player, and manages to secure a position playing music for the head of the camp and his son, Karl. This leads to some abuse from the head woman in their block, until Hanna starts giving the woman food. Playing piano is better than moving rock, like Erika does, and Hanna is able to share her warm coat with her sister, and sneak some food out of the kitchen, but she also has to be very careful that she doesn't run afoul of the Germans. She eventually realizes that Karl is helping the inmates despite his own peril, and when the camp is freed, he turns himself in. She and Erika manage to make it back to their home town, but realize that in order to remake their lives, they will need to go somewhere else.
Strengths: This was a very good Holocaust book, much like I am Rosemarie in that it follows one girl's whole experience of the war. I liked that Karl was included as a sympathetic figure; this is not common in books written by first generation survivors, for obvious reasons, but nice to see included. There must have been a few good Germans who tried to help out. The cover is excellent.
Weaknesses: I wish there were more written about when people got out of the camps. Usually, it is just a chapter at the end of the book, but I'd like to see more about the Jewish Diaspora, or even books about how people remade their lives in the towns they left.

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