Tuesday 2 April 2019

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe BLOG TOUR @EburyPublishing #thelibrarianofauschwitz #Giveaway #Win

'It wasn’t an extensive library. In fact, it consisted of eight books and some of them were in poor condition. But they were books. In this incredibly dark place, they were a reminder of less sombre times, when words rang out more loudly than machine guns…’

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 books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the secret librarian of Auschwitz, responsible for the safekeeping of the small collection of titles, as well as the ‘living books’ - prisoners of Auschwitz who know certain books so well, they too can be ‘borrowed’ to educate the children in the camp. 

But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, the children’s block, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonia Iturbe is published in paperback on 4 April 2019 by Ebury, and was translated by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and for inviting me to take part on this Blog Tour.

I have one paperback copy of The Librarian of Auschwitz to giveaway today. Entry is simple; just fill out the competition widget at the end of this blog post. UK Entries only.  GOOD LUCK!  

The Librarian of Auschwitz is a fictionalised novel, based on the true story of Dita Kraus; the real librarian of Auschwitz. I am often hesitant to read novels that are based on fact as I have concerns that there may be some 'air brushing' and sensationalism of the truth. When I researched this book, I found that it was endorsed by Dita Kraus, and is, in fact, based on a series of interviews that she gave to the author. She writes an introduction to the book too.

"Books are extremely dangerous - they make people think."

This is the line that most resonated with me as I started to read this book. This was the opinion of the Nazis, and to own a book whilst being held in Auschwitz concentration camp would mean immediate death. The prisoners knew this, yet the eight books they did hold in their makeshift library were treasured and hidden and Dita Kraus, the fourteen-year-old 'librarian', would risk her life to ensure their safekeeping.

These eight books were dog eared; some had only a few pages left; some were written in Russian and some were about geometry, but each one was a treasure, and gave the Jewish prisoners a little bit of power over their captors.

There are a multitude of books that deal with the horrors of Auschwitz, and no matter how often I read about them, I never fail to be moved, and humbled, and to cry a tear or two. Probably the most terrible time in the history of Europe that should never ever be forgotten and the stories should continue to be told.

Unit 31 in Auschwitz was a 'family unit', something that I was unaware of before I read this book. Despite the horrific conditions and the threat of death that hung over every prisoner, and despite the paranoia and suspicion of everyone, even their fellow prisoners; this unit became a place where a strange sense of normality could take place. The teachers became 'living books'; teaching the children by memory. It was a place of community and even of hope.

The story was a little slow to begin, and Dita does a lot of reflecting on her pre-camp life. This does allow the reader to learn more about her, but I was eager for more information about her life in camp. However, later on in the book, we find out more, and at times it is a very distressing and emotional read. But, it is important and one must push past the feelings of horror and dismay and take in these words.

I did feel that this book may have been written with a screenplay in mind, and it would be interesting to see it adapted for the cinema. This is a moving account of a young girl's experiences of one of the darkest and most terrible events in our history.

One Copy of The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

Antonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist. 

In researching The Librarian of Auschwitz, he interviewed Dita Kraus, the real-life librarian of Auschwitz.

Antonio Iturbe

                              Dita Kraus: The librarian of Auschwitz

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