Saving children of the Holocaust in PART OF THE FAMILY

by Jason Hensley

Verdict: PART OF THE FAMILY is a thoroughly researched, deeply moving, and nuanced look at a less well-known aspect of the Holocaust that investigates the horror while simultaneously reaffirming humanity's ultimate goodness.

IR Rating

 
 

5.0

IR Rating

The horror of the Holocaust and the rise of Nazi Germany can never be overstated, but conveying the tragedy effectively is often best when an author humanizes it by focusing on a single incident or aspect and investigating it thoroughly.

In the case of PART OF THE FAMILY, the author has paired an exquisitely researched historical sensibility with memories from Jewish children who were sent to live with Christadelphian families overseas in order to escape the rapidly escalating atrocities of the Nazi era. The resulting narrative unfolds with a broad overview explaining the war’s context as well as precisely who the Christadelphians are, and then graduates into individual chapters detailing the particular logistical and emotional challenges each child and adoptive family had to overcome. The text is peppered throughout with vintage photos, reproductions of telegrams, and other first-hand artifacts, which often gave news of a family member’s survival after years of not hearing from them. The effect is that each person’s story becomes emotionally resonant and physically tangible; although only ten stories are featured, their cumulative effect is much greater.

The work succeeds because it is authentic; no one in the text is glorified or demonized, but rather revealed to be fully human, with all their accompanying flaws and buried heartaches. One Christadelphian couple who cared for a Jewish girl during the war had previously lost a son, and as a result often made hurtful comments to her about wanting a boy that she did not understand until much later on in her life. In another chapter, survivor Susanne Woodin describes the conflict between her Judaism and her hosts’ Christianity by talking about how she imagined that Jesus Christ would come to earth through a ventilation panel, an event she was eager to forestall. Although no one pressured her to become Christian, she eventually chose to convert, a testament to the kindness of her foster parents. In addition, harrowing accounts of Kristallnacht and the concentration camps underscore the severity of the children’s situation and the alienation many of them felt when they traveled away from their families to safety.

PART OF THE FAMILY: CHRISTADELPHIANS, THE KINDERTRANSPORT, AND RESCUE FROM THE HOLOCAUST is a thoroughly researched, deeply moving, and nuanced look at a less well-known aspect of the Holocaust that investigates the horror while simultaneously reaffirming humanity’s ultimate goodness.

Julia Lai for IndieReader.