From Publishers Weekly
Polish-born Kramer, president of the Holocaust Resource Foundation at Kean University, was a teenager when her family and others hid from the Nazis in a secret bunker, rescued by a former housekeeper and her husband, a reputed drunken anti-Semite who turned out to be an avenging angel. Kramer's extensive recollections range from a liaison that threatened the household and daily squabbles in the tomblike underground quarters where food was scarce to their fear of discovery by the Nazis and the shock and desperation of learning about relatives and friends who had been killed. Her sister was sold out by a neighbor boy for a few liters of vodka. This vividly detailed and taut narrative is a fitting tribute to the bravery of victims and righteous gentiles alike. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Apr. 21)
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*Starred Review* For 18 months, a young teen hid with 17 other Polish Jews in a bunker dug under the home of their avowed anti-Semitic neighbor, Beck, while the Nazis occupied their town of Zolkiew. The unrelenting hardships of daily life are spellbinding. With German soldiers moving in upstairs, “a snore, a sneeze, a cough could mean the end of us.” How to keep children quiet and not smother a four-year-old when she cries; how to use the toilet bucket; how to empty it. When it is safe, the ethnic German Becks lift the trapdoor and bring the Jews food. Unlike Anne Frank, Clara survived; now she lives in New Jersey, and her diary is in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The blend of the young girl’s experience with the insight of the survivor looking back is riveting, especially because there is no idealization—neither of the Jews nor of their rescuers. World War II is raging outside; mass deportations are ongoing; bombings are terrifying. But in the house, there is war upstairs with the husband (“our saint”) betraying his wife, Julia, who is plain, arthritic, and the strongest of all. And, in the bunker, the families fight for food, air, and space; some resent taking in children; the wealthy do not share. When the Russians come at last, of the 5,000 Jews in Zolkiew, there are 50 left. And they must save their rescuers. Both a gripping thriller and a heartbreaking drama of human kindness, this is sure to become a classic of Holocaust history. --Hazel Rochman