One of the most memorable Holocaust books for junior high school students is Ruth Minsky Sender's book, The Cage, her autobiography of Holocaust experiences in the Lodz Ghetto and at Auschwitz. Here are some reflections by eighth graders about parts of her book.
"The soldier pulls us back. Our screams don't bother them. They push her into the waiting wagon. We run toward the wagon, pleading, begging. 'Please, let her go. She is a young woman. She is not sick.'" (31)
This situation is when their mother is being taken away because the Germans think that she is sick. She is not ill; she is just worn out and hungry. The children are begging to let her go. They will probably never see their mother again. How can the Germans just separate a family like that? How can someone just do that and not feel guilty? These are the questions that ran through my head as I was reading this section. The part of the excerpt that caught my attention was "Our screams don't bother them." I don't see how anyone can just ignore the screams of children who are losing their mother.
"But we need much more than laughter to make us well. It does not cure tuberculosis or put calcium back into my bones." (42)
This excerpt reflects the suffering that Riva and her brothers are going through. Liabele is sick with tuberculosis and Riva has a calcium deficiency, but they try to stay positive as possible. They try to think that the both of them will get better, that their mother will come back, that they will be freed from this ghetto, and this wretched war will finally come to a halt. Right now it is very important for Riva and her brothers to keep their hope and work to somehow try to be happy.
I know from experience, that when people are put in difficult situations, whether it's a death in the family or just being stressed out over a major exam, the best possible thing to do would be to keep your spirits soaring. It's attitude, not aptitude which determines altitude. A great way to relieve the tension is to laugh. But as Riva states above, laughing can't cure anything. It's merely just to keep your mind off the terrible things that sometimes occur in life. This passage shows how many hardships were faced during the Holocaust. The pain that the Nazis caused by tearing the Jews and their families apart was just astonishing. I couldn't even imagine to think what it felt like to be separated from my family and sent to a concentration camp. And even when the Holocaust ends, the pain will still continue on with you and leave an internal scar.
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