Memoirs of the holocaust are often hard to read. They shine a light on a very dark part of history and remind us of the inhumane acts of humanity. I WMemoirs of the holocaust are often hard to read. They shine a light on a very dark part of history and remind us of the inhumane acts of humanity. I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree: A Memoir of a Schindler's List Survivor by Laura Hillman is no different. The ugliness revealed within these pages should stand as a reminder of what we don’t want to happen again.
In the spring of 1942 Hannelore received a letter from Mama at her school in Berlin, Germany--Papa had been arrested and taken to a concentration camp. Six weeks later he was sent home; ashes in an urn.
Soon another letter arrived. "The Gestapo has notified your brothers and me that we are to be deported to the East--whatever that means." Hannelore knew: labor camps, starvation, beatings...How could Mama and her two younger brothers bear that? She made a decision: She would go home and be deported with her family. Despite the horrors she faced in eight labor and concentration camps, Hannelore met and fell in love with a Polish POW named Dick Hillman.
Oskar Schindler was their one hope to survive. Schindler had a plan to take eleven hundred Jews to the safety of his new factory in Czechoslovakia. Incredibly both she and Dick were added to his list. But survival was not that simple. Weeks later Hannelore found herself, alone, outside the gates of Auschwitz, pushed toward the smoking crematoria.
I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree is the remarkable true story of one young woman's nightmarish coming-of-age. But it is also a story about the surprising possibilities for hope and love in one of history's most brutal times.
While I found Hannelore’s story to be harrowing and inspiring, it disappointed me. She told the story without really sharing it. While I understand not wanting to relive the events, I believe they would have a greater impact had she injected more emotion.
There were instances where she shared a memory that would have easily been revealed through the course of the story. For instance, when Hannelore arrives in Wieliczka, she’s assigned to work as a maid for Joseph Liebholt and his mistress. On her first day at their villa she “noticed a faded mark on the doorpost.” She realized it once held a mezuzah. Then she remembers the mezuzah that hung on their doorpost. “Before leaving Weimar, Mama had insisted we remove the box. ‘The Nazis will desecrate it,’ she had said.” As the story begins before they were deported, it would have been easy to add this bit of information at the beginning of the book and doubled the emotional impact when she realized Liebholt lived in the home of a Jew.
As a historical document, this book is a testament to the resilience of the Jewish people. It tells of horrors no person should ever witness. The lack of emotion hinders the overall impact. We are told how Hannelore feels, but never really grasp the depth of those feelings. Had I survived such atrocities and humiliation I’m not sure I could write about it. Hillman’s bravery deserves recognition. ...more