It’s a scary time we live in. Or perhaps it has always been scary, but thanks to the media, and online “journalism”, we constantly hear about it. And while I am all for going back into my box and not surfacing for four years – or forever – I feel, perhaps, that this is not the best plan of action. In order to effect change, you have to be mindful of what is going on around you even if it’s depressing and downright terrifying.

After all, turning our backs and being passive didn’t work more than 70 years ago, and I can’t imagine it will work again. And if we learned anything from the Second World War and the Holocaust is that we do not want it to happen again.

I am a big fan of Holocaust books. That always seems like a terrible, insensitive thing to say, and I don’t mean it as such. The stories, whether true accounts or fiction, are awful and heartbreaking. I cry every time, and think about the stories, and the people within them, weeks and years after I put down the book. Each time I read a story, I am shocked and disgusted about human’s capacity to hate. And to be evil. Truly evil. And while I get fear and I get hate, I don’t get how an individual person could hate a group of people so much they fail to see the person before them as a fellow human being, who has the same hopes and dreams as he does.

And it’s the fact that a group of people is actually made up of individuals who are just like us that we have to remember today, and for always.

Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine ($16.95, Second Story Press) is a true story about Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a Holocaust Education Centre in Tokyo, Japan, who receives a shipment of artifacts for an exhibit she was planning. Within the shipment was an empty suitcase with the name Hana Brady written on the outside. Ishioka begins a journey to find out what happened to Hana.

Through the book, and its author, we discover more about Hana, her older brother George, who survives and lives in Toronto with his family, as well as their life before the Nazis came.

Hana’s Suitcase is an awful story with an ending you knew was coming, but hoped it wouldn’t.

In 2001, after Ishioka contacts George, George travelled to Tokyo to see his sister’s suitcase and meet Ishioka and the children who encouraged her to find Hana.

“George realized that, in the end, one of Hana’s wishes had come true,” Levine writes in the book Hana’s Suitcase. “Hana had become a teacher. Because of her – her suitcase and her story – thousands of Japanese children were learning about what George believes to be the most important values in the world: tolerance, respect and compassion. What a gift Fumiko and the children had given me, he thought. And what an honor they have given Hana.”

During that meeting a poem was read that talked about how Hana, 13, was sent to the gas chamber when she arrived at Auschwitz. She would have been 69 (in 2001) if she lived.

“Why was she killed?

“There was one reason.

“She was born Jewish.

“Name: Hana Brady. Date of Birth: May 16, 1931.

“Orphan.

“We, Small Wings, will tell every child in Japan what happened to Hana.

“We, Small Wings, will never forget what happened to one-and-a-half million Jewish children.

“We children can make a different in building peace in the world – so that the Holocaust will never happened again.”

You can read more about Hana and her family by visiting, www.hanassuitcase.ca

Copy provided by Second Story Press for honest review

 

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