Author Carol Bierman, a professor at SUNY Rockland, collaborated with Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman to write a moving, first-person account of this significant event in Jewish history. The book, out in September, is appropriate for ages 10 and up.
When Carol Bierman met Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman, she knew she wanted to help tell Brandman's story. Brandman was one of the youngest survivors of the concentration camps and still had a vivid memory of her childhood experience. Bierman, who lives in Wesley Hills, NY, and teaches at SUNY Rockland, hoped the story might resonate with young readers who might otherwise be unaware of this significant part of Jewish history.
The result is The Girl Who Survived, A True Story of the Holocaust by Scholastic Books. The book, out this month, aims for readers ages 10 and up.
"There really are a great many challenges in bringing a book like this to a young audience. I wanted [children] to understand this is a very important issue and that they are the ones who will carry the message that this must never happen again - without scaring them or turning them off," said Bierman. "Bronia and I spent many evenings, for three to four hours, going over the text and refining it so that we could accomplish this goal."
Meetings took place at Brandman's home in Boro Park, Brooklyn.
Brandman's personal challenge was the guilt she carried with her for many years. "Bronia has never forgiven herself for leaving her baby sisters to die in the gas chamber alone and for not saying goodbye to (her sister) Mila," Bierman said. "This was the most difficult thing for me to deal with because she was only 12 years old when this happened. I spent a lot of time trying in vain to convince her that she was a child incapable of making better decisions than those that she did make. All to no avail."
Bierman met the subject of her new book nine years ago. She was teaching at Orange-Ulster BOCES high school and asked her principal if she could take some of her fellow teachers to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. Brandman was the group's docent for a tour of the museum. "I fell in love with her instantly and knew that there was a story there worth writing," said Bierman. Her subject was skeptical. "It was totally my idea to do this book. Bronia did not ask. In fact, she did not think it was possible since so many of her friends had tried unsuccessfully to publish a book."
The result of their partnership is an easy-to-read and compelling book, even for older readers, and a legacy for the two women's families. "I have a grandson, and his whole class will be the exact age for reading the book (when it comes out)," said Bierman, 63, who added "No one read the book in advance except the editors, Michael (my husband), and Bronia's children and grandchildren, who
Carol Bierman currently teaches History of the Holocaust and English Skills at SUNY Rockland. She is also the author of Journey to Ellis Island, published by Hyperion/ Madison Press Books, which tells the story of how her own father came to America from Russia. "I have had the pleasure of speaking before audiences all over the U.S., once in England and Israel about the book," Bierman said. "I still get letters from kids from everywhere in the U.S., as it is used in the curriculum to teach immigration."