Don’t Tell the Nazis
1941 Ukraine is the setting for this harrowing story told through one pre-teen’s eyes. Krystia has already had her share of troubles. Her beloved father has succumbed to cancer, and the occupation of her village by the Soviets has led to more family members being shot and imprisoned. When the Nazis come, the town thinks at first this army means their liberation. They soon find out otherwise. Their friends who are Jewish are accused of crimes and executed. More are fenced off in a ghetto. Then the trains begin transporting them to be gassed.
Through all, Krystia, her mother, and sister act bravely as they work to care for the Nazi commandant’s house. They help relatives in the mountain resistance, leave food inside the ghetto, and hide Jewish friends in a hole they dig under their stove. Through terror and cruelty, they stand for their neighbors and against oppression at terrible cost.
The history of the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine is a part of the Holocaust only being brought to focus since the fall of the Soviet Union. The depths of the suffering of the Ukrainian people who stood for justice is brought to light in this well-wrought narrative inspired by real people. Scenes of sharing happy memories, a gesture of thanks from a friend before dying, and drawing remembered loved ones are achingly poignant. Difficult and intense, but immensely compassionate, this novel is a gift to Holocaust literature. Grades 4-8.