This post is going to focus on In the Warsaw Ghetto by Glenn Haybittle. I received an eARC through NetGalley. It was published on July 30, 2019. This book took me quite a while to get through–much longer than I expected.
When I read the summary and saw the beautiful cover of a ballerina in a rundown building I thought this would be a story that tried to take an uplifting route through World War II. I assumed Ala Silberman would be a dancer, impacted by the move to the ghetto, but somehow overcoming the atrocities performed against the Jewish people. Boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong!
I found the first half to two-thirds of the book incredibly difficult to get through. It was much slower paced than the last bit of the book, and did a lot of the building of scene, when life was still as “normal” as it could have been for the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. The book is told in alternating chapters between Ala Silberman, and her uncle Max.
Ala has been training to be a ballet dancer when she and her family is forced to live in the ghetto. In the beginning she leads a privileged life compared to many of the others in the ghetto because her family has ties to the Judenrat.
Max is still in love with the ghost of a girl he was close with while at university. They have been apart for a decade, and she has married and had two daughters. Once times become a bit harder, he finds Sabina once more, now separated from her husband. Max cares for her and her daughters to give them a better life within the ghetto.
As the story continues and years pass, living conditions within the ghetto get much worse. The reader is able to see what life is like through various characters that were previously built up. More and more are deported to Treblinka, or killed within the ghetto. Finally, there is a Jewish uprising against the Germans in the ghetto, which really sped up the reading.
This was a really heavy book to read thematically, but it was also somewhat enlightening to read. I feel like it brought you more into the world that the Jews lived in, instead of only learning about the atrocities committed against them by the Nazis. In school, students learn that Nazis are bad, and what they did was bad, but the deeper lessons are often glossed over, and I think this book did a good job of bringing some of those to light for the reader.
Happy reading 🙂