We Are Their Voice, Young People Respond to the Holocaust is a collection of stories, tributes and reflections written by Grade 6 to 8 students in Canada, the U.S. and Europe

In the introduction of We Are Their Voice, Young People Respond to the Holocaust ($16.95, Second Story Press), creator and editor Kathy Kacer, who creates both fiction and non-fiction books about this horrific time in our past, writes about the importance of keeping this history alive as those who survived it are getting older “and, all too soon, their voices will be gone.

“I wondered – could a new generation pick up the baton and be the voice of this history and those who lived through it?”

Kacer asked kids in grades 6 to 8 in Canada, the U.S. and Europe to write about the Holocaust in a meaningful way, “to understand the impact of the event and to translate that into a story, a reflection, a response to a book or photo, a journal entry, a letter or a tribute to a survivor.”

Schools signed a letter of commitment and sent in their Top 5 pieces with one of the five being entered into this book.

It’s an interesting concept and an important one as Kacer and many of the contributors of this book point out: we still haven’t learned from the mistakes of the past and we are still are choosing hate and fear over kindness and understanding. Like Kacer and these intelligent and thoughtful children, I also hope people will remember these horrific events and when the time comes, people will stand up for what is right – not easy. Including now. Particularly now.

Each chapter was introduced by Kacer who offered some input into why the stories and pictures were arranged the way they were. The pieces were a mix of stories and thoughts and reflections. I think the book would have been more powerful without the stories written by the children. They were OK, but distracting. I enjoyed reading the opinions and tributes more.

I hope the children who participated, even if their stories weren’t chosen, remembered what they wrote and remember they are the voice for the more than 11 million people murdered by the Nazis.

Cayley McAllister, a Grade 8 student from Eugene Reimer Middle School in British Columbia writes about a picture she saw of a Jewish person on the ground and a group of Nazis standing around him laughing and sneering.

“I wonder how it is possible for a human being to experience feelings of joy like this, to laugh at another human’s suffering and humiliation…The Nazis were not the only ones to inflict suffering on others. I see this kind of behaviour almost every day at school, though these incidents are far less severe…How do some humans find it so easy to dehumanize others without feelings of guilt…

“The strongest feeling that I had while viewing the photo was guilt, for all the times I had put down someone of less value in my eyes.

“I felt sorrow for all the people who have had or will go through any time of pain at the hands of others….So the next time I have the urge to tease or put someone down, I will think of this picture. I will remember all the feelings of anger and hate I have developed toward those laughing, smug figures. Then I will ask myself, ‘Do I really want to act like those I despise?’ I will think of this picture and decide to do the right thing when it is time. I can only hope that I have convinced anyone reading this to do the same.”

Holocaust Education Week is Nov. 1 to 8.

A copy of this book was provided by Second Story Press for an honest review. The opinions are my own.