First Impression Friday: “The Librarian of Auschwitz” by Antonio G. Iturbe

I’ve seen this book on bookstore shelves many times, but for some reason I’ve never picked it up. I was browsing the “Now Available” section in my Overdrive app to see what my library had available while I wait on my holds to come available (I’m only #160 on The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue! What luck!).

From GoodReads:

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

The Librarian of Auschwitz

This book was originally written in Spanish, and it shows. Well, it doesn’t show that it was written in Spanish, but it shows that the book’s original language is not English. There are several stilted and awkward sentences in just the first few pages, and the translator appears to be playing them off as a stylistic/narrative choice, much like how Death narrates The Book Thief.

As mentioned in the summary, this book deals with Auschwitz, and a fourteen-year-old girl hiding eight forbidden books while she is imprisoned there. The tone of the first two chapters (all I read before sitting down to write this blog post) are already somber, but in a way we know what happens before the end of the book, as Dita herself (yes, she was a real person!) writes an introduction to the book. We as readers know that Dita at least survives, but how many people does she lost while she is there?

The book takes place in 1944, and there has already been mention of the Great Extermination, or the final push by the SS to eliminate their prisoners before the Allied Forces sweeping across Europe could liberate them. I’m assuming that the majority of those in Block 31, led by Hirsch, are not going to survive this book.

I used to read every holocaust book I could get my hands on, but I haven’t read nearly as much about World War II recently, just a book or two here or there. Maybe I finally got tired of all the depression and death that follows once you open the cover, because the vast majority of stories end in death.

Have you read The Librarian of Auschwitz? Let me know in the comments.

And as always, keep reading.

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