How I WILL PROTECT YOU Fills a Gap in Holocaust Education, a guest post by Danica Davidson
There are a number of Holocaust books out there aimed for kids, but there’s nothing like I Will Protect You, a new middle grade (8+) nonfiction book published by Little, Brown that twin Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor and I wrote. I Will Protect You was written to fill a gap in Holocaust education.
Eva was an amazing woman — as an elementary school-aged child, she and her twin Miriam survived the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. This is nearly unheard of, as most children would automatically have been sent to the gas chambers. But because Eva and Miriam were twins, and because there was a Nazi doctor experimenting on twins, it saved them from the gas chambers and gave them a chance to survive. As an adult, Eva dedicated her life to Holocaust education. When I met her after one of her many speeches, and she discovered I was an author of 16 middle grade and YA books, she told me what her dream was: to write a children’s book of her survival.
Eva explained that oftentimes Holocaust education in school starts at 12, if there is any Holocaust education in school at all. It’s too late, because the prejudices are already set in, she said. We were both grimly aware of the increasing antisemitism in America and abroad, and disturbed reading study after study where young people are unable to say what Auschwitz was, or know that six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their helpers. I met Eva after experiencing more antisemitism in my life. Obviously Holocaust education, as it is now in America, is not working to either teach enough people about the Holocaust effectively, nor to stem antisemitism.
But Eva and I saw how we could do something: together, with her story and with my writing, we could make a Holocaust book, told from a child’s point-of-view, about surviving Auschwitz.
Most kids’ Holocaust books are either personal stories, or they’re textbooks. These each have their pluses and minuses. Personal stories, especially for kids, are needed for connection and empathy. But usually these personal stories do not tell the greater context of the Holocaust. Children can read stories of young Jewish children hiding or escaping, but the readers are left wondering why the children need to hide or escape in the first place. And that’s another thing — most kids’ Holocaust books are about hiding and escaping, and these are important angles to tell, but if that’s all that’s out there, it gives the false belief most Jews successfully escaped or hid. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If the kids’ Holocaust book is a textbook, you get the important context, but there is not a personal touch. There’s no connection, and telling the realities of the Holocaust by rote can be overwhelming to anyone, let alone to kids.
I Will Protect You combines a personal story with real history to give kids the most ideal way of understanding. The narrator is Eva, a girl who feels misjudged by her dad, wants to fit in at school, and wishes the adults would listen to her. It is a child watching antisemitism grow, a child being sent to Auschwitz, a child showing how strong children can be by surviving. But always it is the voice of a child.
And in-between Eva’s voice, to help kids understand, I weave in history. You can’t understand the Holocaust if you don’t understand the long history of antisemitism. Our book explains ghettos, the inquisition, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It’s important to understand all these things to understand not only the Holocaust, but antisemitism as it continues to manifest.
And because this is a middle grade book, as opposed to a young adult or adult book, it’s vital there be some sort of closure at the end. Our book ends with Eva finally finding healing after the trauma, and she hoped that this book could help abused children find their own healing once they’ve been freed from their abusers. It also ends with thoughts Eva had on how we — including children — can all do things to make this world better. Our book gives kids reality, but it doesn’t leave them stranded — it shows them that even in darkest times, it is possible to rise above, and it is possible to change.
Eva passed away just 15 days after we accepted Little, Brown’s offer for the finished manuscript. She was on an education trip at Auschwitz when this happened. She wanted this book to reach every child out there. It is about the Holocaust, and it is about humanity. It is about history, and it is about the present. It is about antisemitism, and it is about standing up for ourselves, whoever we are, when our rights are threatened. This is a book meant to change lives.
Meet the author
Danica Davidson is the author of 17 middle grade and young adult books, including serious nonfiction, Minecrafter adventure stories, and manga art books. In 2018, she was tapped as the main speaker for an educational event in Brussels, Belgium before members of the European Union. Official lesson plans around her Minecrafter books are available through Minecraft: Education Edition are available to millions of students in 115 countries.
About I Will Protect You: A True Story of Twins Who Survived Auschwitz
The illuminating and deeply moving true story of twin sisters who survived Nazi experimentation, against all odds, during the Holocaust.
Eva and her identical twin sister, Miriam, had a mostly happy childhood. Theirs was the only Jewish family in their small village in the Transylvanian mountains, but they didn’t think much of it until anti-Semitism reared its ugly head in their school. Then, in 1944, ten-year-old Eva and her family were deported to Auschwitz. At its gates, Eva and Miriam were separated from their parents and other siblings, selected as subjects for Dr. Mengele’s infamous medical experiments.
During the course of the war, Mengele would experiment on 3,000 twins. Only 160 would survive—including Eva and Miriam.
Writing with her friend Danica Davidson, Eva reveals how two young girls were able to survive the unimaginable cruelty of the Nazi regime, while also eventually finding healing and the capacity to forgive. Spare and poignant, I Will Protect You is a vital memoir of survival, loss, and forgiveness.
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: 04/05/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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