Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed this week, coinciding with Yom Hashoah. The United States Congress established April 28-29 as remembrance days because that is the anniversary of when troops liberated Dachau and other camps in 1945.
One of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust was 13-year-old Hana Brady, murdered at Auschwitz the same day she arrived. All that remained was a suitcase bearing her name, birth date, and the German word for “orphan.” When Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian Army three months later, Hana’s 18-year-old brother George had survived.
Karen Levine’s juvenile nonfiction book, Hana’s Suitcase, tells about Hana and George’s happy childhood in Czechoslovakia. Although Hana had blue eyes and blonde hair, prized by Hitler and his brainwashed leaders, she was Jewish. That reason alone resulted in the murder of her Jewish parents and herself.
Hana’s chance for a happy and productive life was cut off because of Hitler’s beliefs that Jews should be exterminated. Unfortunately, there are people and groups today who believe this, including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran who would like to see Israel “wiped off the map.” That is one reason why the Holocaust needs to be remembered and prevented from happening again.
How do we know about Hana Bundy? Fumiko Ishioka became the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Center in 1998. She wanted children to understand the terrible history of the Holocaust, so she had Hana’s suitcase donated to the center.
Then Fumiko wrote letters and visited Auschwitz and Czechoslovakia until her persistence paid off when she located George Brady in Canada. George had family photos that Gentile neighbors had saved.
Karen Levine weaves together the stories of Hana and George, along with Fumiko’s three-year-long journey of discovery. The book culminates with George’s emotional visit to Tokyo, where he realized Hana’s dream of becoming a teacher had come true.
“Because of her suitcase and her story, thousands of Japanese children were learning about what George believed to be the most important values in the world: tolerance, respect, and compassion” (Hana’s Suitcase, p. 105).
The book by Karen Levine should be read by every 10- to 14-year-old, so they will learn about the Holocaust and remember its message—that no one should be persecuted. Yes, people should be punished for their crimes but not for their ethnicity, appearance, achievements, or religious beliefs, unless those beliefs (like Hitler’s) cause them to commit crimes.
The Bible says every human being has one blood. That alone calls us to respect each other. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 16:26-27 NKJV).
My next article will tell about an 18-year-old girl who “groped for God and found Him” during her four years in German concentration camps. Alexandra Goode will be in Salt Lake City on May 11 to tell her story of survival and hope.