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

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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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A Must Read

9-year old Anita lives in Czechoslovakia with her family when Germans invade them. Her family goes through the next few years being displaced and trying to overcome tragedy, but as Anita becomes orphaned at fifteen she is now left to fend for herself. This incredible story is told by Anita Shorr tells her story about bullying and abuse and how she overcame the worst of times during the Holocaust. With Bullying being such a big problem these days it was so sad to read about what Anita had to go through. If you have never had any experiences with bullying, reading about Anita’s story will leave you heart broken that people can be so cruel.

Mrs G

You Wan’t Forget this Book in a Hurry

Anita’s Piano by Marion Stahl, and narrated by Anita Ron Schorr is a deeply moving story that you won’t forget in a hurry. It is a poignant and heartbreaking story, a story which unfolds during the height of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It is a story which will leave no one untouched.

Anita led a charmed life as young girl. Living in Brno, in the erstwhile republic of Czechoslovakia, with her family, music fills her life and even at a tender age she could play the piano. She was only nine years old when her town was overran and captured by Hitler’s military forces. Anita’s beautiful world disintegrated and her family was displaced time and again over a short period of time, leaving her an orphan at the age of 15. Anita’s Piano follows her journey as she faces an uphill task to come to terms with her tragic fate, leaving her to look after herself all of a sudden, with her former beautiful life soon turning into a distant memory.

She has to endure tremendous hardships and pain, but in the process survived the horrors of the concentration camps and lived to tell her tale. Her undaunting courage and determination has won her recognition and many awards, including Movers and Shakers, Exceptional Leader Award(tm) by Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Distinguished Community Leadership Award by Governor Nancy Wyman, and the State of Connecticut General Assembly Official Citation.

A Heroic Woman

This book is as much a scrapbook as it is a memoir of a heroic woman: it is filled with photographs of family, of furniture, maps, documents, recipes, places, and other memorabilia that help bring to light the life of the amazing Anita Ron Schorr – her life as a child of a well to do, musical family in Brno, Czechoslovakia during the 1930s and 1940s as the heinous flame of Adolph Hitler consumed Europe and threatened the world. Stahl writes as though taking dictation from Anita who narrates the entire story of life during that time of change. She talks to us about the pre-war days, the mysterious news of the rise of Hitler, the pogroms, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the purge of Jews of her country, the admission to the death camps and her survival from these heinous events. Her heroics resulted in her eventually moving to the US where even now at age 83 and a grandmother of nine, she is a devoted advocate for the weakest members of our society. She received an Anti-Defamation League Award for Community Leadership and is widely sought by schools and other organizations as a guest speaker. Anita has also been nominated for the 2012 Movers and Shakers, Year in Review, by the Jewish Ledger.

The core spirit of this book is profoundly moving. Yet the importance of the content of the book is as indomitable as Anita’s spirit. At book’s end, before adding a detailed history of WW II that is very enlightening, Marion Stahl states, `I believe it is important to reflect on the roles that every country played in each and every one of these devastating actions. It is out of some convenience that we have chosen to focus on one man and his acolytes. When the facts are reviewed, we cannot keep the blame on one man or country. To take one example alone: The abandonment of Anita’s family by her own country, before and after the war. One can always find justifications, but there is never a good reason for cruel treatment.’
Despite graphic flaws, this remains a 5 star book. Grady Harp

Stahl’s book is intended as a discussion tool

Stahl’s book is intended as a discussion tool to introduce students to the consequence of Bullying and the Holocaust. It is just as valuable for any reader seeking a better understanding of how madness can spread so quickly and lead to such catastrophic results – how otherwise decent people can take part in, or ignore, unimaginable cruelty.” Charles Roy
“Her narrative reflects a positive attitude and touch hearts of all.” Echos and Reflexion by Anti-Defamation League at Quinnipiac University of Education.