I'm not sure I have the words to give this book the justice it deserves. This book was not only moving but inspiring, teaching us as living, breathing humans that no matter what conditions are pressed upon us, we should never give up. The trials we face in our everyday lives are nothing in comparison to the devastating history of those who had to endure the Holocaust.
Based on a true story, a Jewish boy of only ten years, Yanek Gruener and his family find themselves under the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over Poland. They do all they can to stay together and free from the deathly grasp of Nazi hands. Unfortunately, the arms of the enemy were too strong to avoid.
One by one the family was taken to various camps. Yanek was alone to fend for himself until he too was taken. Plaszow Concentration Camp was his first destination before nine other camps. No matter which camp he was taken to, they seemed no worse or better than the one before. They all had three main things in common: work, starvation, death. It was an amazing feat to have survived all that he faced. He rode the cattle cars, walked in death marches, witnessed countless murders, tasted ashes in the air, was beaten, and starved. Despite it all, his one goal was to survive. If he could keep his head down, remain anonymous (aside from his tattoo B-3087), and work hard, he prayed he would make it out alive.
It is hard to imagine a time when this was a reality for so many. However gruesome and terrifying, it is a story that must be told if we are to avoid anything of this nature in the future. Alan Gratz took the details of Jack Gruener's, or "Yanek Gruener" life and added such detail to create a story suitable for students. While this book has many details that make the stomach churn, it is written in such a way to avoid scaring or scarring of its readers. In fact, it is the desire to live Yanek holds on to that leaves the reader hopeful rather than in despair.
This book was written fully suitable for students or adults who wish to learn the truths behind the gates of concentration camps. I have been to Dachau--one of the concentration camps Yanek spent time as a prisoner--and though I left with a feeling of sadness, I still had not fully understood the atrocities that had taken place. Perhaps it is because as a child we are only exposed to Diary of Anne Frank, which isn't a horrible book, but it leaves much to the imagination. Her words end when she is captured. Prisoner B-3087 will have the answers...It is the full scope of the unfathomable.
I received this book courtesy of Netgalley and Scholastic Press. In no way has my review of this book been influenced by either of these companies.