The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito
Holiday House, 2015. 978-0823433100
Synopsis: My name is Anna Bauman. That is what I tell myself as I am falling asleep at night. During the day, I am Anna Karwolska. Anna Karwolska is Catholic. I have to remember this along with many other things because if the German soldiers find out that I am Jewish and not Catholic, very bad things will happen. Not only to me, but to the other people that helped me. So even though I am Anna Karwolska, I must not forget Anna Bauman. I must not forget who I am.
Why I picked it up: Even though I find that World War II is sort of overdone, I was curious about this aspect of hiding Jews during the Holocaust.
Why I finished it: This is an intriguing and sad story based on true events in the life of Irena Sendler, a Resistance spy in Europe during World War II. Though Sendler appears in the novel as a shadowy and mysterious secondary character, Anna’s interactions with her give the reader a clear picture of what she risked and what was at stake. Though Anna herself is fictional, she represents one of hundreds of children who were given false identities and trained to shun their Jewish heritage so that they could be saved from the certain deaths that awaited them in the ghettos and later in the concentration camps. These children, in many cases, lost not only their families but their sense of selves, often transforming themselves to the point that after the war they did not recall their Jewish identities. The bravery and the heroism of the children and those that saved them is so moving and so utterly heartbreaking that it’s almost difficult to read; it needs to be read because it is important to understand the whole picture of the horrors endured by Holocaust survivors and victims. I was somewhat disappointed that the story ended somewhat abruptly, but the plot is still deeply moving and engaging, taking the reader through Anna’s journey from Jewish to Catholic and then remembering her heritage after the war is over. It’s a different look at the war is Europe that helps to fill out the picture of one of the biggest wars of the modern age.
Other related materials: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; Is It Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman; Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne; Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson; My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith; The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose; Somewhere There is Still a Sun: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Michael Gruenbaum with Todd Hasak-Lowy; Unlikely Warrior: A Jewish Soldier in Hitler’s Army by Georg Rauch; The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb; Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis; Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott; The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley