Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps

Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps

by Andrea Warren

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The life-changing story of a young boy’s struggle for survival in a Nazi-run concentration camp, narrated in the voice of Holocaust survivor Jack Mandelbaum.

When twelve-year-old Jack Mandelbaum is separated from his family and shipped off to the Blechhammer concentration camp, his life becomes a never-ending nightmare. With minimal food to eat and harsh living conditions threatening his health, Jack manages to survive by thinking of his family.

In this Robert F. Silbert Honor book, readers will glimpse the dark reality of life during the Holocaust, and how one boy made it out alive.

  • William Allen White Award Winner
  • Robert F. Silbert Honor
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book
  • VOYA Nonfiction Honor Book
  • Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9780062252135
    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
    Publication date: 06/11/2013
    Format: NOOK Book
    Pages: 160
    Sales rank: 138,608
    File size: 2 MB
    Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

    About the Author

    Andrea Warren says, "I'm always looking behind facts and dates in search of how extraordinary times impact ordinary people. I think the most engaging way to study history is by seeing it through the eyes of participants. Each of us wants to know, If that had been me at that time, in that place, what would I have done? What would have happened to me?"

    Among Warren's honors are the prestigious Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Orphan Train Rider: One Boy's True Story, which was also selected as an ALA Notable Book. She won the Midland Authors Award for Pioneer Girl. Growing Up on the Prairie. A former teacher and journalist, Warren writes from her home in the Kansas City suburb of Prairie Village, Kansas.

    Read an Excerpt

    Chapter One

    Rumors of War, 1939

    Until he was twelve, Jack Mandelbaum assumed his life would always be a carefree adventure.

    He lived with his father, mother, older sister, and younger brother in beautiful Gdynia (ga-DIN-ya), Poland, on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

    "Our city was the pride of Poland," Jack recalled, remembering his childhood. "Ships came into port from all over the world. I heard many foreign languages. I saw sailors who wore turbans, and black sailors from Africa. This was just part of my daily life."

    Jack collected stamps and begged ship captains for ones from faraway places. He kept his stamps neatly categorized in books and loved to imagine the strange and exotic countries they came from.

    His father, Majloch Mandelbaum -- "Max" to his friends -- was the prosperous owner of a fish cannery. The family lived comfortably in a spacious apartment with big windows on one of the most prominent streets of the city, just a few blocks from the beach.

    "We had every modern convenience," Jack said. "Because I lived in the city, I did not realize that many people in Poland were without electricity, indoor plumbing, and telephones.

    "Our home was filled with laughter and kisses. My parents were very much in love. They were openly affectionate with each other and with us children. It was a lovely life."

    Jack's mother, Cesia (Sesha), dressed elegantly. She wore silk dresses, high heels, jewelry, and hats with veils. In cold weather, she wore her fur coat. She was very beautiful, with dark eyes and long, shiny black hair, which she arranged in the latest styles fromParis.

    "Mama was the heart of our home," Jack said. "On winter nights, my mother would warm my comforter on our tile stove and then gently wrap it around me as I climbed into bed. She was an excellent cook and had many specialties. One of my favorites was a sweet fried pastry with pockets of jelly inside. I could never figure out how she got the jelly in there."

    Mama took the three children to the market with her, on picnics in the nearby forest, and on outings in the mountains surrounding Gdynia. "We often went to the beach," Jack said. "I remember Papa sometimes taking a break from work to join us. From street vendors, he would buy us handmade waffle cones filled with delicious, rich cream."

    The family employed a full-time housekeeper to help with laundry, cleaning, and cooking. Each morning, she arrived early by bus and streetcar from her nearby village to brew the coffee, filling the apartment with its strong aroma.

    "She was a pretty, young woman, and I remember how she would lick the red wrapper the coffee came in and then rub it on her cheeks to make it look like she used rouge, which she could not afford," Jack said. "She was good-natured, and I loved to tease her."

    Sometimes, Jack also teased Jakob, his brother, who was five years younger than he. Jakob was a handsome little boy and had his mother's jet black hair and dark eyes. Jack felt protective of him and often played with him. Like Jack, Jakob loved sports. Jack often took him to the ice-skating rink and played hockey with him.

    Their sister, Jadzia (Ya-jah), was serious and studious. She was three years older than Jack. "Jadzia loved music and listened to Italian opera on the radio while she did her homework," Jack said. "She had perfect penmanship. She was gentle and kind. I remember that she wore little gold earrings with her school uniform, which was a navy blouse with a sailor collar and navy pleated skirt. She had black hair and big hazel-colored eyes."

    Like his father, Jack had naturally curly blond hair and blue eyes. "Papa was my hero. I thought he was strong and brave, and I always felt safe with him. I remember the night he brought me a bicycle. It was not my birthday or anything; he just got it for me because he thought I would like it. Even though it was late, I immediately rode it around and around our big mahogany dining-room table. After that, I rode it everywhere, for I was free to come and go. I even entered bicycle races on Square Kosciuszko -- named for the Polish patriot who fought with George Washington in the American Revolution -- and once I won third place."

    Every school day, before Jack put on his navy blue uniform and walked to his public school, his mother insisted he eat a big breakfast. Typically, it included fruit juice, hot cereal with milk and butter on it, a roll, cheese, and perhaps smoked fish, along with a boiled egg served in a little cup.

    "Mama always packed a lunch for me, but after such a breakfast, sometimes I was not hungry, so I would give my food away to some of the poor children who attended our school."

    When classes ended, Jack and his friends went to the movies -- Charlie Chaplin was Jack's favorite actor -- or they played soccer, rode their bikes, or went to see the Greco-Roman-style wrestling matches at the local sports arena. Often they headed to the beach or docks.

    "I was a mischievous boy," Jack recalled. "My parents never knew all the things I did that I was not supposed to, especially at the boat docks. The worst was when my friends and I would swim alongside ships in the harbor. It was very dangerous, because you could be crushed between the ship and the dock. This had once happened to a boy. But I never thought about the danger. We would even climb up the ship ladders and then dive into the water. The port police often chased us. I was lucky my parents never found out, or I would have been punished. City boys like me learned to get away with things. We were clever."

    Surviving Hitler. Copyright © by Andrea Warren. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

    Customer Reviews

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    Surviving Hitler 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
    Rose_P More than 1 year ago
    Since the genocide of the Jews during WWII can be a lot for some children to handle, this book would be a great classroom tool because it is not too detailed or overwhelmingly graphic. While it is important that children know what horrible things happened in Europe there is a time in their life that they only need to get the main picture and they don't need to be traumatized. This book is an inspiring story of Jack, a young boy who survived one of Hitler's concentration camps without his family. It talks of the daily struggle that the poor souls in the concentration camps had to face including the poor living conditions, lack of food, and physical danger.This book is suggested for grades 5-8.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I really think this is a fantastic book and its sad to Know that some kids have been through this before and thats what hurts the most I think. I`ve read a book like this once before and its called Daniel`s Story I just hope you can read it beacause its an experiance you will never forget!!!!!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Is this book ok for 12 year olds?
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    He was in a terrible time but through it all he had faith and lead him to victory.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    The main character is a boy named Jack Mandelbaum, and he is Jewish. Jack lived in Gdynia, Poland in 1939. At 12 years old, he liked to collect stamps and imagine the far away places they came from. He was also sneaky about swimming in the bay next to the ships with his friends. Jack was the middle child in a family of five. He had an older sister and a younger brother. Jack loved his family very much. The book is about Germans putting Jews in concentration camps. They accomplished this by over powering the Jews and making them afraid. The Germans who did this were called Nazis and were followers of Hitler. Jews on the other hand were learning to survive Hitlers army. Jack made his experiences in the death camp like a game, and was determined to win against Hitler. Losers of the game were sent to the gas chambers. Winners would not only survive but make life long friendships with others in the death camps.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I thought this book was a good Holocaust story. It was sad that Jack had to go through the Holocaust. It is sad that people go through things like genocide. But it also gave you hope even in the worst situation. Everyone should read books about the Holocaust. Its very intresting to learn about.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book is a awsome book, it tell you about History and about a man great and sad life. When your reading this book it feels like you are going through out his life day by day. I really, really recomend this book.
    CardCatalogue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    An excellent non-fiction book that is written almost like a novel. Jack's story is well-told and shares many of the horrors that millions of people faced in World War II, but is never explicitly detailed or overwhelmingly graphic. An excellent resource to aide young adults in understanding the inhuman situations facing concentration camp detainees.
    meggyweg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    A decent grade-school introduction the Holocaust. It isn't graphic, but it doesn't whitewash the horrors of the camps, and you really feel for the young protagonist of the story and his friends and family. The book is well-illustrated with photos too. A good pick for elementary and middle school libraries.
    ydraughon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This book would be good for grades 5 - 12. This is a good book to give students insight to the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. It is a biography of a Jewish boy, Jack Madelbaum, who is separated from his family when herded to a Nazi concentration camp. It tells of the harsh conditions he endured and his couragous survival. A history class could use this book to compare discrminatory racial Nazi law vs. Jim Crow law. The book could also be used to compare to current genocide.
    KWoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Although I've seen firsthand the photographs of this terrible time-my dad was in WWII and his unit went into Baden Baden to clean it up. He had photos of piles of bodies and the buildings; this book was a good read. This gentleman went through hell and survived it. The issues that followed his release were horrific as well. Let us hope that our world never has to go through another Holocaust.
    JanaRose1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Jack Madelbaum was twelve-years old when the Nazis invaded Poland. His family fled to a relative¿s village, leaving his father behind to gather their belongings. They soon received a postcard from their father telling them that he was in a concentration camp. For the next two years, Jack worked hard to support his family by doing a variety of hard labor until he was separated from his family and sent to a labor camp. Jack spent the next three years being transferred from camp-to-camp as he struggled to survive despite the horrendous conditions.Beautifully written, the story blends Jack¿s voice with details about his life during WWII. It is a story of strength, courage and determination. Overall, this book would be a great way to introduce and discuss the horrors of the holocaust with children.
    NMkimdykstra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Personal Response:I found this be a very good story and a very easy read. The author did a very good job making the people and the situations seem real. I read this book in one setting.I found a typo in this book, and that really bothered me. I'm sure that wouldn't bother most normal people.Classroom/Library Uses:I read this book shortly after reading the book and watching the movie, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." These two books tie in together very nicely. In "The Boy in the Striped Pajams" the reader gets so much more of a glimpse of the Holocaust from the outside, in this book, the reader gets to see what it was like for someone who spent years inside the camp. I think teachers could give their students a good introduction to the Holocaust by incorporating this book and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" into their curriculum.
    TaraThompson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    I think older children will like this book.Because the author makes you feel like your there and makes you angry and sad at the same time. It really showes you the horror of World War 2.(13+)
    STBA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    An inspiring account of the Holocaust experiences of Jack Mandelbaum, who survived three years as a teen in several camps. His zest for life and ability to form friendships enabled him to begin a new life in the United States.
    MattW1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is a good, but sad and disturbing book. A 15 year old boy is separated from his family and thrown into a Nazi death camps during the holocaust. He is forced to do hard manual labor with terrible conditions. He must face these terrible conditions in order to survive.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    So good
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this book. I read this book a million times, brcaise its so amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is sort of sad, but its my favorite part of history to read about. Its a really good story, and it is worth the money!!!!!!!!!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Really good book! Read it twice.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Assom book
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Best book ever
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Emoitional but great