I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson

I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins who Survived Auschwitz

Eva Mozes Kor with Danica Davidson, Authors

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Nonfiction, Apr. 5, 2022

Pages: 240

Suitable for Ages 8-12

Themes: Jews, Romania, Twins, Persecution, Holocaust, Auschwitz, Medical experimentation, Survivors, Biography

Book Jacket Synopsis:

The unforgettable true story of sisterhood and survival during the Holocaust.

Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a fairly happy childhood as part of the only Jewish family in their small Transylvania mountain village — until antisemitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to a ghetto for several weeks and then put on a cattle car for Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and two other siblings, The twins were selected as subjects for Dr. Josef Mengele’s infamous medical experiments. Her family was sent to the gas chamber.

At Auschwitz, twins were considered the lucky ones because their lives were spared.. Eva became “A-7063” and Miriam “A-7064.” They were housed in rat-infested wooden barracks several miles from Auschwitz, allowed to wear their own clothing, and fed bread and a fake coffee daily. In return, they were  subjected to Mengele’s cruel medical experiments and fought daily to survive.

During the course of the war, Mengele would experiment on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive–including Eva and Miriam.

Writing with her friend Danica Davidson, Eva reveals how two young girls were able to survive the Nazi’s unimaginable cruelty of the Nazi regime. Eva eventually found healing through forgiveness. Written  specifically for young readers, I Will Protect You is an accessible and deeply moving memoir of survival, forgiveness, and hope.

What I like about I Will Protect You:

I Will Protect You is a powerful and inspiring story of survival, narrated by Eva Mozes Kor with author Danica Davidson. Kor gives readers a firsthand account of the twin experiments and their interaction with Dr. Mengele. However, they wrote Kor’s story with a younger audience in mind. It is presented with sensitivity and is age-appropriate.  

I especially appreciated how Davidson set the stage of “hatred” at the start of the book. Hate begins with name-calling, exaggerated drawings, objects thrown at your home, neighbors spying on your activities and threats made against your family. People you thought were your friends, turn on you, don’t try to stop the retched name-calling and eventually become part of it. It all begins with HATE and it is a poignant lesson for all readers, especially during the times we live in. 

Eva’s mission throughout their ordeal was to protect Miriam. Eva was the strongest twin. She stood up for herself and was more outspoken and daring than Miriam, who was sweet and kind. She knew their survival depended upon her. Her instincts were good and she understood that the Nazis wanted to kill every single Jew. There was no time to feel sorry for herself, so she remained alert and depended upon luck. One ray of hope was the occasional nightly visits from her mama’s friend — a mother of twins — who was allowed to live at the camp. Mrs. Csengeri brought extra food, warm hats and clothing.

Eva became very sick from the injections she received and realized that Miriam was the “control” subject. Her strength of character and strong will kicked in and she was determined to survive for Miriam’s sake. She hid her illness because she was determined not to succumb to the experimentation. Her luck ran out when a nurse saw her swollen legs. She was taken to the Hospital Barracks to die. Her efforts to live were extraordinary. And she wouldn’t die and give Dr. Mengele that satisfaction. 

No matter what Eva lived through, readers won’t see hatred and bitterness. Yes she was angry, as would be expected. But she was focused on surviving the camp until it was liberated by the Soviets on Jan. 27, 1945, just shy of their 11th birthdays. What Eva experienced and saw was unspeakable, yet she was able to create a meaningful life for herself  in later years. She found healing through forgiveness.

I  spoke with Danica Davidson about her writing relationship with Eva Mozes Kor. Here’s what she had to say

Yes I worked very closely with Eva. I met her in the fall of 2018 when she gave a speech at a college about an hour from me. I introduced myself to her afterward, hoping I could interview her somewhere (as I am both author and journalist) and I mentioned I wrote kid’s books. She got very excited an said she wanted to write a children’s book about her survival, because she felt we needed to teach kids Holocaust stories early. She believed waiting until age 12 or later, when the Holocaust is usually taught at school (if it’s taught at all) is too late because prejudices are already formed.

“I interviewed her and discussed ideas I had for ways we could write a book. Then I did all the writing. I had the first draft finished in December and I sent her a few chapters at a time. She sent me her thoughts so I could make revisions. The manuscript was finished by March,  and Eva approved.  I submitted our story to my agent and received an offer from Little, Brown on June 19. Eva was so excited for this book. She was going on an educational trip to Auschwitz, and said as soon as she got back she’d start promoting the book. But she passed away on that trip, 15 days later on July 4, 2019.  It’s fallen to me to get the word out about her story and our book.”

Resources: Make sure you read Davidson’s Afterword about Eva Kor at the end of the book. She includes a speech Eva  had written and planned to deliver at Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation. There is also a glossary and timetable.  

Eva Mozes Kor (1934 – 2019) was a Holocaust survivor, forgiveness advocate, and a public speaker. Powered by a never-give-up attitude, Eva emerged from a trauma-filled childhood as an example of the human spirit’s power to overcome.  Founded the CANDLES Holocaust Memorial Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Indiana, dedicated to the Twins Mengele victimized, in order to teach about the Holocaust and as a testament to the power of forgiveness. She was a community leader, champion of human rights, and tireless educator. A frequent public speaker, Eva was also the subject of a PBS documentary about her life. 

Danica Davidson wrote I Will Protect You under Eva’s supervision. Danica is the author of sixteen books for middle grade and young adult readers. Her books are used by Minecraft Education Edition in special lessons on reading, writing, and cyberbullying, available to millions of children in 115 countries. Danica invites you to visit her online at her website.  

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Little Brown in exchange for a review.

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine

Hana's9780807531471_p0_v1_s260x420Hana’s Suitcase

Karen Levine, Author

Albert Whitman & Company, Biography, 2003

Suitable for Ages: 10-14 (Grade 5 and up)

Themes: Hana Brady, Jewish Children, Holocaust, Persecution, Czech Republic, Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, Promoting Peace

Synopsis (Book Jacket)This is a true account of two brave children caught in the Holocaust and a young Japanese woman’s determination to tell their story. In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children’s Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan.  On the outside, in white paint were these words”  Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, and Waisenkind–the German word for orphan.  Children who saw the suitcase on display were full of questions.  Who was Hana Brady?  What happened to her?  They wanted Fumiko Ishioka, the center’s curator, to find the answers.  In a suspenseful journey, Fumiko searches for clues across Europe and North America.  The mystery of the suitcase takes her back through seventy years, to a young Hana and her family, whose happy life in a small Czech town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.

What I like this book:  Kudos to Karen Levine who performed the original Canadian radio broadcast about Hana, George and the children of Tokyo, which resulted in this book.  This was a tragic story about a Jewish girl killed in Auschwitz. It was also a heartwarming story about the determination of a woman, Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Center, who wanted to teach the children of Japan about the Holocaust and the importance of building peace.  Since Japan was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War II, the children of Japan knew little about the atrocities that occurred.  Once the suitcase arrived with Hana Brady’s name and birth date, the children asked questions.  Fumiko embarked upon a journey that linked three continents together.  She found Hana’s brother in Canada and invited him to visit with the children of Tokyo, and see Hana’s long-lost suitcase.  He told the students about Hana and their life before the Holocaust and about life in prison camps .  Although difficult for George Brady, he discovered that in the end he was honoring Hana’s wish to become a teacher.  In her death, she was teaching millions of children worldwide about what happened to one-and-a-half million Jewish children.  The exhibit traveled all over Japan.

Resources:  This book is a great teaching tool for grades 5 to 8.  There is back matter in the book.  A 90-minute DVD about Hana’s Suitcase can be found in libraries.  It chronicles the events from Fumiko receiving the suitcase, her research, the Japanese children’s involvement, to George’s visit to Tokyo and his interaction with the students.  I highly recommend this book for classrooms and homeschoolers.  You may want to check out the Brady Family Website which if full of fascinating information and Karen Levine’s original radio interview.