Monday, February 25, 2008

Nonfiction Monday: I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree

Hillman, Laura. 2005. I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree.

"We are going to Brunnlitz, to Oskar Schindler's camp!" I recall the shouts of joy that filled the barrack at Plaszow. But the terrible place where I now stand is not that hoped-for refuge. It is Auschwitz. (1)

I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree is a memoir of one of the women saved by Oskar Schindler. Hannelore Wolff. Except for the two-page prologue, the book is a chronological account of Hannelore's life in Nazi Germany. The book opens with her attending a Jewish boarding school in Berlin. Since Hitler had come to power, it was dangerous for Jews to walk on public streets. In spite of the risk we walked along a tree-lined avenue in a suburb of Berlin, the ever-present yellow Stars of David sewn to our jackets. (3) One day she receives a letter from her mother with the news that her father has been taken by the Nazis and has died. Weeks later she receives another letter. A letter saying that her mother and two brothers will be deported to the East on May 8, 1942. In what could only be perceived as foolish-yet-brave behavior, Hannelore writes a letter to the Nazis saying that she wishes to be deported along with her family. They grant it. Now this family of four is facing the great unknown as they board a train that could lead them--probably will lead them--to their deaths.

Hannelore's story isn't always easy to read. Let's see if I can phrase this better. Those readers who aren't well-versed in Holocaust memoirs may find it difficult to read. The way the Jews are treated is despicable. It is callous. Hannelore's story is an account of some of the wrongs she faced, some of the wrongs she witnessed. But it is also a story of courage, of hope, of strength in a time of great despair. While sometimes surviving was a matter of luck--of chance--part of it had to do with will as well. Those that lost the will to live, those that gave up hope, those that gave in to despair... Starvation. Disease. Nazis. The Nazis were responsible either directly or indirectly for so many deaths. Hannelore's story of how she survived the various camps and came to be one of the lucky few saved by Schindler is amazing and fascinating and in places quite heartbreaking.

But this memoir isn't just a testament of survival, and it isn't just an account of the wrongs against the Jewish people. It is a love story as well, a story of how love can be found even in the darkest places, the most despairing times. A story of how one young man and one young woman found hope and love in each other. A story of how that love helped them endure.

I definitely recommend this one.

243 pages.

To read other Nonfiction Monday posts, visit the roundup.


Unknown said...

Wow...sounds like a book I will definitely add to my growing pile of books to be read. Thanks for sharing your review.

Jeane said...

Your review intrigued me. I'm adding it to my TBR as well.

Anonymous said...

hello my name is cheyenne and i am a high school student. i have just fineshes your book for a report that i am doing. it took me one day to read your book simply because i could not put it down. im looking forward to reading many other of your books. your friend Cheyenne!

Anonymous said...

this is one of my favorite books, and i'm only 13. i even did a book repoet on it! it was really inspiering. i try to read as many books about the holocaust as i can.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am an eighth grade student and I just got finished reading your book. Wow, is all I have to say. This book is incredible. At the end I was looking for more chapters about how Hillman and Hannelore spent the rest of their days. I always wondered more about this particular subject, because to me it was a very intriguing one at that. I don't want to exactly say that I feel sorry for you for you struggles, but I have gained exceding amounts of respect for you on not giving up and fighting for something you believed in. I know, well actually I don't. I don't know how hard it was for you to go through this because as you see I was born in the 90210. This story has opened my eyes to see way beyond the painting. The story behind the painting is the real work of art. I have a down sydrome brother and most off all he has opened my eyes to see what I can become and live life to the fullest because he is the normal one. This book has again opened my eyes. It was such a good story that I could relate to such as the struggles and heartbreaks. It is incredible to me that this kind of thing could happen in our History. I appreciate it much for you to take the time and fight back the tears to write this incredible book for all of us. New York times bestseller is what should be read at the top of this book. Laura Hillman (Hannelore), you have outdone yourself. Thank you very much(: