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Be a Hero: A Witness to History Paperback – January 25, 2014
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About the Author
About the author: A Montaigne Award Finalist, Marion A. Stahl, has a medical degree and specializes in writing about health-related topics. In “Anita’s Piano,” she combines her loves of history and her professional background to help readers, especially young audience, explore the repercussions of harassment. “I was touched by Anita’s life story. This is a lesson about lasting damage caused by bullying or social abuse,” says Marion.
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As you trace this young life's calamities beginning at age 9, you may discover in part as I did, that the human optimistic will to survive may be the most important ingredient in trauma. With family suicide being a choice for some, it was March 23, 1943 where the day of transport began and where home no longer existed. In detailed fashion will events capture and enrage you on how such injustices were allowed and carried out by those indifferent to human suffering.
Taken more than 70 years for Anita to share her feelings, she recalls "I kept those memories locked up, feeling ashamed of them for much too long". Discover the sad statistics of the number of prisoner fatalities. Though a melancholy plot there is a hope that has sprung from the ashes of life as today she lives to speak to audiences, empowering them.
This book is history at its finest as you will gain the inside picture into both event and emotions. Sometimes in life losses can ultimately be gains in other avenues. I recommend this book with a 5-star rating as the contents will captivate you page after page.
I kept those memories locked up, feeling ashamed of them, for much too long until Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, inspired me. It is when I began speaking to schools. I would stop there if it wasn't for the bewilderment and fascination I see in the eyes of the young students when I share my story. When I see the expressions on their faces, I know I have to do more to keep my voice alive. I also want to honor those who did not survive and ensure that history does not repeat itself.
Stahl's first person narrative opens with fifteen-year-old Anita, who is living in a Czech orphanage and awaiting word on surviving family members. Although the latest information indicates that there are "absolutely no traces" of her family, Anita hopes for a miracle. Stahl quickly shifts the story to Anita's life before Hitler's regime transforms "the largest Eastern European country outside of Russia" into a place of destitution and hopelessness. While Anita's memories are filled with the wonderful sights and smells of her childhood, Stahl keeps readers connected to Anita's recollections by incorporating apt historical information about Czechoslovakia and its impending tragic events.
Stahl emphasizes that the key to Anita's upbringing is the music that fills her home. By the age of seven she not only begins to learn how to play the family's beautiful Steinway piano, but also witnesses a miracle when her two-year-brother effortlessly corrects Anita on a difficult piece. She is unaware of the powerful effect that event will have on her life. Reflecting on the moment, Anita makes this comment:
The memory of that moment still brightens every dark space of my present life. I feel his presence there helping me play those notes; helping me resolve whatever difficult task I try to carry out.
The anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws spell doom and gloom for the Jews, and Anita's peaceful life—including playing the piano—comes to a halt. Anita's family is visibly upset and begins to disperse their prized belongings, including the piano, to close friends. In the meantime, Anita decides that she is going to give Mr. Hitler a piece of her mind. Amid this cruel moment in time, Stahl offers a bit of comedic relief by including Anita's opinionated handwritten letter to Hitler.
While Stahl continues to unfold Schorr's harrowing tale from the ghettos to Auschwitz, she veers off in another direction. Anita's life suddenly transitions when workers are needed in Germany and her mother forces her to go, in the hope that this will be Anita's ticket to freedom. Now that Anita is separated from her family and placed in appalling circumstances, miracles occur when she is shown compassion by none other than German soldiers.
Be a Hero includes group discussion questions, a brief Czech glossary, and chronological WWII highlights. Stahl and Schorr's purpose for this novel is to raise awareness that bullying in its most extreme forms leads eventually to wars and genocide, but also to show that victims of this form of cruelty can become advocates for peace—as Schorr has chosen—rather than instruments of retaliation. Closing with a cliffhanger, Be a Hero leaves readers earnestly anticipating the next chapter in Schorr's life.
by Anita Lock
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
Marion manages to write with such a fresh and authentic voice, that I felt completely transported, as if I were viewing the Holocaust's infamous events for the first time. Anita, now as an adult speaking to the next generation, says she wants to share her story so that people will stand up and speak out against oppression and bullying of all kinds. Marion has captured that spirit through this book. It's an intimate and vital call to remember the past and carry its lessons into our future.