Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Category: Narrative nonfiction
Source: I received this e-galley from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review.
It is hard to pass up a Holocaust story. Although they are always filled with atrocities that we as post WWII citizens can barely comprehend, the stories of survivors and the futures they built summon that sense of hope everyone yearns to hold in their hearts despite their own situations and life experiences. The narrative nonfiction work Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors, by R.D. Rosen, starts with the stories of three Jewish girls who survived the Holocaust by hiding, but lost their childhood and identity just the same.
Sophie Turner passed the war by hiding in plain sight with her mother. Sophie's story interested me because I've heard very few actual stories of Jews who survived by "passing" as a nationality other than Jewish. Flora Hogman had several name changes and religious conversions throughout the war years for the sake of hiding her Jewish heritage. However, Flora was passed from home to home, from stranger to stranger, as no one had many resources to feed and raise an extra child. Carla Lessing spent the years in Holland, most of the time hidden by a large Christian family.
The second and third parts of the book discuss the aftermath of all "hidden children's" lives. Even children who never saw any Jews beaten or harmed because of their hiding, suffered psychologically from the knowledge and fear of it and suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally at the hands of relatives and parents who survived and returned to reclaim them from the hiders. Amazingly, hidden children were not known as an existing population of survivors to the world and were not acknowledged among other Holocaust survivors. It is only since 1991 that the hidden children of WWII were given a voice as they began to gather in conferences in NY City. Rosen documents here the long, rocky path some hidden children traveled to begin and further the healing process.
Since reading this book, I've seen reviews of others saying the author's telling is cold or emotionless. I don't think this is really the case. No, it is not absolutely gripping as other Holocaust stories have been, but Rosen does a good job of detailing the hidden children's experiences and bringing this overlooked group of survivors' stories to light. Two-thirds of the book is more of a presentation of how the hidden children's lives carried on and how their stories were brought into the history of the Holocaust as we know it. I would say this would need as much an informational approach than anything.
Have you heard of the Holocaust survivors who were "hidden children"?