The Warsaw Orphan: A WWII Novel

Written by Kelly Rimmer
Review by Hilary Daninhirsch

The year is 1942, and Elzbieta is living with her adoptive parents in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. She knows that there is an enclosed area overcrowded with Jewish people, but at the age of 15, she hasn’t quite grasped the magnitude of what is going on behind the walls. It is not until she befriends her neighbor, Sara, and stumbles upon Sara’s highly secretive work, smuggling children out of the ghetto and transporting them to safe houses, that Elzbieta learns the truth and also wants to get involved.

The Gorka family lives inside the ghetto walls; the older son, Roman, lives in fear that his family will get taken away. Food is getting harder to come by, and his family seems to be wasting away, especially his baby sister. Though he mostly keeps to himself at his factory job, Roman eventually befriends Chaim, who tells Roman about the concentration camps. He also confides that he is part of the underground and tries to recruit Roman.

Elzbieta and Roman meet when she volunteers her time teaching young Jewish children. The two eventually fall in love but are separated during the infamous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in which Roman plays a major role.

The book is intense, riveting and harrowing, but it is also a beautiful story of hope, love and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of two teens, one Jewish and one Christian. The rescue storyline was inspired by a real-life woman who saved many Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto, which adds a level of emotion to the reading experience. This is one that will be hard to forget.