The Librarian of Auschwitz
By: Antonio Iturbe
“Life, any life is very short. But if you’ve managed to be happy for at least an instant, it will have been worth living.”
“An instant! How short is that?”
“Very short. It’s enough to be happy for as long as it takes a match to be lit and go out.”
The Librarian of Auschwitz is the story of teenage Dita Kraus (as well as several other people) Dita was the librarian of a “family” camp in Auschwitz one that the Nazi’s allowed to run just in case the UN or anyone ever showed up. It was essentially a front. Something they could hide behind.
But Freddy Hirsch and several other people including the librarian turned it into a school. Some place the kids could still be taught and hear stories and hold books (even though being found with the books could have gotten her killed instantly) it was a place in which they could hold some normalcy and be happy. If only for a moment.
The Librarian is also a story about the power of books and stories. Not just Dita’s. But really histories. For all it’s seeming niceness of singing children it doesn’t shy away from the brutality. We follow several different points of view and many of them will meet horrible fates.
“She has discovered that her life can be made much more profound, because books multiply your experiences and enable you to meet people…”
Despite the extreme differences in our lives it was so easy to connect with Dita on the level of reading. How it was for her to hide somewhere and be able to find solace in a story. A happy story can take you away from the world and make you laugh under the worst circumstances a tragedy can make you weep and give you the strength that you yourself might need to carry on.
I did find it a little hard to get into this book at the start. It does tend to jump around to people and back into Dita’s history. But once it does get going I really couldn’t put it down. The book also has a bit in the back about what happened to the people who survived the camps. It’s a powerful story about the power of actual stories in one of the worst times and places in history.
Recommend: Yes. Despite the story and the nice moments this doesn’t pull punches with Auschwitz or the horrible deaths and violence that pervaded.