came from my imagination.
From 1939 until 1945 the world was at war, and the leader of Germany, Adolf Hitler, tried to destroy the Jewish people in Europe. His followers, the Nazis, and those who supported them, murdered six million Jews including one and a half million children. They also killed a lot of other people, many of whom offered shelter to the Jews. We call this time of killing the Holocaust.
My grandfather was a Jew from Krakow in Poland. He left there long before that time, but his extended family didn’t and most of them perished.
Ten years ago I read a book about Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jewish doctor and children’s author who devoted his life to caring for young people. Over many years he helped run an orphanage for two hundred Jewish children. In 1942, when the Nazis murdered these orphans, Janusz Korczak was offered his freedom but chose to die with the children rather than abandon them.
Janusz Korczak became my hero. His story sowed a seed in my imagination.
On the way to writing Once I read many real life stories – diaries, letters, notes and memories of people who were young at the time of the Holocaust. Most of these young people died, but their stories survived, and you can read some of them in the following books.
The King Of Children by Betty Jean Lifton (biography of Janusz Korczak)
Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries Of The Holocaust, edited by Alexander Zapruder
The Hidden Children by Jane Marks
Words To Outlive Us: Eyewitness Accounts From The Warsaw Ghetto, edited by Michal Grynberg
Witness: Voices From The Holocaust, edited by Joshua M Greene & Shiva Kumar
A Childhood by Jona Oberski
Maus by Art Spiegelman
The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
Born Guilty by Peter Sichrovsky
The Hidden Children by Howard Greenfeld
Children Of The Ghetto by Sheva Glas-Wiener
Konin: A Quest by Theo Richmond
The Boys by Martin Gilbert
Flares Of Memory: Stories Of Childhood During The Holocaust, edited by Anita Brostoff with Sheila Chamovitz
Yiddishland by Gerard Silvain & Henri Minczeles
Children With A Star by Deborah Dwork
Ghetto Diary by Janusz Korczak
also came from my imagination, but like Once was inspired by a period of history that was all too real.
As with Once, I couldn’t have written this story without first reading many books about the Holocaust. Books full of the voices of the real people who lived and struggled and loved and died and, just a few of them, survived in that terrible time.
I also read about the generosity and bravery of the people who risked their lives to shelter others, often children who were not members of their family or faith, and by doing so saved them.
Here are some of the books that helped me write Then. I hope you get to read some of them and help keep alive the memory of the real people and their real stories.
Witnesses Of War: Children’s Lives Under The Nazis by Nicholas Stargardt
The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes Of The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert
Holocaust Journey by Martin Gilbert
The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn
The Mascot by Mark Kurzem
Bad Faith by Carmen Cahllil
Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny
Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny
The German Trauma by Gitta Sereny
Night by Elie Wiesel
If This Is A Man by Primo Levi
The Truce by Primo Levi
If Not Now, When? by Primo Levi
Eichmann In Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt
Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File by Alan Levy
Long Shadows: Truth, Lies And History by Erna Paris
Stalingrad by Anthony Beever
Child Of The Holocaust by Jack Kuper
I Didn’t Say Goodbye: Interviews With Children Of The Holocaust by Claudine Vegh
The Avengers: A Jewish War Story by Rich Cohen
Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story Of The Village Of Le Chambon And How Goodness Happened There by Philip P Hallie
The Lost Childhood by Yehuda Nir
A History Of The Jews In The Modern World by Howard M Sachar
There are of course many other real stories of the Holocaust in many other books. And if you have a Jewish or Holocaust museum near you, you'll find a wealth of memories in their archives that are perhaps not published elsewhere. If there isn't one near you, most have websites containing unforgettable personal stories. Putting 'Holocaust Museum' into Google or another search engine will give you many sites to explore.
Once and Then are my imagination trying to grasp the unimaginable. The stories in these books and archives are the real stories.
(For teachers and other interested readers, there are also Once and Then Teachers and Readers Notes on the Puffin website.)
The real life stories in the books mentioned above were also an important background to this third part of the trilogy. As were the real life stories of the people and communities caught up in the terrible bushfires that swept through parts of Victoria, Australia in February 2009. Many of those stories were recorded in the extensive media coverage of that time, and many others live on in the following books:
Black Saturday edited by John McGourty
A Future In Flames by Danielle Clode
Worst Of Days by Karen Kissane
Inferno by Roger Franklin
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