US Book Reviews

“I dreamt… I was playing the piano. The notes were strangely monotonous and had lost their melodious tone.”

Anita Ron Schorr lived her early years in Czechoslovakia as the daughter of a Jewish family who loved music. Their lives changed when Germany invaded their country and began targeting Jewish people. The family was ordered to vacate their large home near Spielberg Castle in Brno. Anita, a precocious nine year old, called Hitler a yobo (bully) and wrote him an angry letter. When she turned eleven, they were forced to leave their apartment and transported to a ghetto. There Anita and her younger brother stayed with their mother, while the father lived and worked elsewhere in the complex. Their possessions were gone; they were hungry all the time. Anita realized they were living a nightmare.  Cont

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Well Written – Moving – Powerful

If Anita’s Piano doesn’t burrow into your heart and mind, I can’t imagine what will. If you don’t feel ill to read of this dark stain on history, I would be amazed. This is powerful reading, moving, educational and the true story of a young girl who survived the brutality of WWII, concentration camps and the terror of wondering which day will be your last. What kept Anita going, how was she able to survive? Was it holding on to the happy memories, love of family and the way life used to be? Was it an inner strength and resourcefulness? Anita’s story comes to life under the pen of Marion A. Stahl, chronicling Anita’s life before the German invasion and after the hateful and horrendous devastation of their occupation.

As an educational tool, no student should miss Anita’s story. This is history, the proof of the cruelties that racism and bullying, greed and the lust for power can create. Much more personal than a classic text book, Be a Hero: Anita’s Piano allows the reader to see, hear and feel the truth of living through such atrocities. It takes a caring hand to write this tale and a brave soul to share their life with such honesty. I cannot recommend this book enough to ALL readers, young and not so young.

Dii

Touching

Anita’s Piano written by Marion Stahl and narrated by Anita Ron Schorr herself, is the story of how Anita persevered against the odds in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Until age 9 Anita’s life was happy and filled with a great deal of love. She played the piano and lived in Brno, Czechoslovakia. When she was 9 her world changed when her beautiful town was captured by Nazi forces. From there her family is moved again and again, each time shrinking in numbers until she becomes an orphan at the age of 15.

This book takes us through her life and all of its struggles including the moves, her time in a concentration camp, and learning that she has no family left. This book follows her as she comes to terms with the tragedy that impacted her life.

Anita’s story will tug at your heart strings all the while providing a first person account of what it was like to live through and survive the holocaust. This book is definitely worth a read.

Robin

Page Turning Memoir

The story engages you from the onset as we feel the worry and loss of Anita while she searches for her family. We also feel the camaraderie of her and her friends as they gossip about boys and what they want in life. Anita is like many teen girls forced to grow up too quickly in a world at war. But then we find out what happened before the orphanage. The idyllic family life, the fear, the many betrayals, the pain, cold, sickness, separation and unrelenting hunger. It’s tragic. Frightening. Amazing. Amazing that Anita is sharing her story.

Admittedly, memoirs aren’t my favorite, but I do read them and this one is wonderful. I really liked how the author brought in trivia and historical points, as both a comparison and a timeline tool for the reader. The historical aspects were engrossing and her storyteller style made the combination of history and Anita’s story, seamless. The photos are a charming addition to the story and the recipes reminded me of my grandmother. I will have to try them. Please pick up a copy, you won’t be disappointed.

Leslie O’Brien

Heart Breaking

A happy extended family destroyed by insane evil. There are many books by Holocaust survivors, but this one is from the point of view of a young survivor still hoping she will find someone from her family. The story goes back in time to her happy childhood and the slow loss of everything and everyone dear to her. She survives because of a push from her Mother, the unexpected intervention of a female Nazi official, the kindness of an ordinary soldier and her own strength and bravery.
She goes beyond the Nazi insanity to warn against all forms of hate and bullying and the tragic results that continue to this day. She also makes clear that all of the eleven million souls lost in the Holocaust should never be forgotten.
An important book from an unforgettable lady. Fortunately there are two additional books that continue her message.

Carolyn Hoyt

Poppy Seed Torte

Be a hero, this book tells us. Each one of us can do this by living our lives, however tough the times, and standing up to bullies. Anita Ron Schorr relates her childhood in 1930s – 40s Czechoslovakia to illustrate her message.

Family photos help to bring the story and characters to life. Anita lived in Brno, a large town with a castle and river. Her family was quite well off and played tennis; her mother cooked plum dumplings, while her father worked in a family fabrics business and her grandmother and aunt told stories of bygone days. Anita enjoyed handcrafts but thought she would like to be a doctor. She and her little brother, five years younger, loved playing the piano.

Life changed after the publication of the Nuremberg Laws. Jewish people in Germany were taunted and harmed by bullies with impunity. Anita’s father was drafted into the army, but she was told not to worry as ‘it couldn’t happen here.’ However a political campaign began and Anita’s family had to surrender their house to German officers, while Jewish children were suddenly not welcome in school. By threatening to reduce Prague to rubble, in bombing raids, Hitler gave the president no choice but to surrender Czechoslovakia to his troops. Aged eleven in 1941, Anita with her family was forced to live in a ghetto, finding that not all Jewish people, including older relatives, survived the upheaval. Worse was yet to come, including labour camps.

Kindness became extraordinary, such as when, aged fourteen, Anita was doing hard physical work and a camp guard who had been a professor shared his lunches with her. She fought back against Nazi oppression by surviving despite the odds, and was unable to speak of the times for many years. She now speaks in schools against the culture of bullying.

Anita mentions the UNRRA; this was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration which looked after displaced persons, but the initials are not explained and I thought the information should have been provided for young readers. I was surprised to see Wikipedia quoted as the author’s source on WWII. The architecture, history and fabric trade of Czechoslovakia also seemed a little weighty for children to absorb, though fine for older readers. Recipes such as poppy-seed torte are a great idea and make the book more interactive as well as showing us Czech culture.

Having recently read The Roses Underneath by CF Yetmen, a novel set in Germany just after the war ended, I would recommend that book to any who wish further to explore this period. Another memoir, harder to find, is A Horse In My Kitbag by Olga Pyne Clarke, of an Irish woman who ran a field kitchen during the Allied advance and after the war ended. ANITA’S PIANO as told to author Marion Stahl presents a sharp contrast between the two halves of a child’s life, with the tearing apart of her family, and reminds us of the need to stand up for others. Young adults and adults alike can learn a lot from this richly described memoir.

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