Review: We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance

We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance

by Deborah Hopkinson

Scholastic FOCUS (imprint of Scholastic)

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

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On the heels of her 2020 release, We Had to Be Brave: Escaping the Nazis on the Kindertransport, Deborah Hopkinson gives us another impeccably researched collection of Holocaust survival stories in her new book, We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance. Like We Had to Be Brave, We Must Not Forget draws on oral histories, unpublished manuscripts, memoirs, and archives to weave the survivors’ memories together into a cohesive and powerful record of this horrific time in history. But middle graders will gain even more from this reading experience because of the book’s narrative structure. We Must Not Forget is divided into three sections: stories from Germany and the Netherlands, from France, and from Poland. Within each section are chapters that recount the nail-biting escapes of individuals and siblings, along with the stories of the courageous people who aided them along the way. The survivors, often at a very young age, faced separation from their families, as well as being forced into hiding in all kinds of dire circumstances. The bravery they showed makes their stories all the more inspiring. Hopkinson highlights the feats of resistance fighters and rescuers, both Jewish and gentile, and offers readers opportunities for further learning by ending each chapter with links to photos, video recordings, and audio interviews. Readers would be remiss to close the book after finishing the epilogue. Beyond the narration itself, Hopkinson provides a timeline of events, a glossary, an extensive list of resources, and an exhaustive bibliography for more information about any aspect of the text.

With anti-Semitism on the rise across the world, We Must Not Forget: Holocaust Stories of Survival and Resistance is an essential text for today’s young readers. We must preserve and disseminate the stories of those who courageously resisted the Nazi regime in any way they could and persevered through unimaginable circumstances. Remarkably, one of the survivors who recounts her story here died of Covid-19 as Hopkinson was writing this book. Her death brings into focus the sad fact that the last Holocaust survivors are leaving us, making books like We Must Not Forget even more important to future generations of Jews and non-Jews alike. Hopkinson relays this history in a totally age-appropriate way for her audience, not by sanitizing what happened to the Jews but by presenting the information in a readable and digestible format, rooted in authentic voices and cultural content. I hope the Sydney Taylor Award committee remembers this February 2021 book when they are judging entries later in the year and early in 2022. We Must Not Forget deserves the highest consideration for this and other children’s literature awards.

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Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher. Stacy received her Bachelor’s Degree from Brandeis University and holds Master's Degrees from Columbia University Teachers College and Kent State University. She is also an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Stacy is a PJ Library Writer’s Incentive Award recipient, and her debut middle grade novel, THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER, will be published by Kar-Ben in the fall of 2022.