Jennifer Rozines Roy
A young girl is forced from her home. All around her things are changing drastically—food is scarce, illness is rampant, and her friends and family are being separated. Syvia Perlmutter and her family are Jews living Lodz, Poland at the time of the German Nazi invasion. They have been forced to live in the ghetto, starving to death and working for the very people who have plans to annihilate them. This story is about Syvia’s struggle to stay alive in the ghetto and her family’s heroic survival.
I read the book Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. The story is based on the true story of Syvia Perlmutter, later called Sylvia, and her family’s survival in Lodz, Poland during the German Nazi invasion. Syvia was Jennifer Roy’s aunt and had never told her story to her family until she grew old and the memories were more than she could bear. Jennifer Roy wrote the story in memory of her family’s survival as well as the survival and loss the Jewish community had faced. The story begins with Syvia and her orange jacket with the yellow star. She must wear the star to show she is Jewish. She is about five years old and is very agitated with the situation she currently finds herself. In a whirlwind of events, Syvia and her family are forced into a small one room apartment in the ghetto of Lodz. Forced from their home, they live with the rest of the Jewish community from Lodz in this small confinement. Throughout the story, we learn about how Syvia’s life changes. All the children in the ghetto are being taken to concentration camps and killed. Soon, Syvia’s best friends from the ghetto are taken and she is placed in permanent hiding. As the Nazis go door to door searching for children, her father takes her into hiding for several weeks during the middle of the night. After several weeks of this, the Nazis believe they have taken all of the children. The story then goes on to describe the ways Syvia keeps herself busy around the apartment while her mother, father, and older sister go off to work. As the war continues, food becomes more and more scarce and the Nazis are not the only ones claiming the lives of the Jewish community. Disease also claims the lives of the undernourished, overworked Jews. Toward the end of the story the Nazis are clearing out the ghetto and are only allowing the strongest and healthiest men and women stay to work. (The rest are being taken away to be killed, unbeknownst to them.) While Syvia’s father, mother, and sister are allowed to stay and work, the Nazis tell her father they will not allow her to go. Her father then refuses to leave his daughter behind and is told that he will not be allowed to stay. Syvia’s father notices that no lists are actually being taken down in writing. He sneaks his family into the work center and hides Syvia and one of her surviving cousins. When her father comes back for the two children, he sneaks them into the cellar where ten other surviving children are hiding at the work center. The children then wait there for weeks and then months. Occasionally a child would sneak away to stretch his legs, but most of their time is spent in the cool, damp cellar. The Nazis eventually discover the children hiding and everyone is forced to go into hiding again. A few days later, however, war planes fly over head dropping bombs to get rid of the Nazi army. The Nazis disappear and the Jews all flee to the town square hoping to be spared death. Soon, the bombing stops. A few moments later, some soldiers come upon the families. The soldiers had been the ones bombing the ghetto, but stopped because they saw the reflection of all the gold stars the Jews had been wearing. The soldiers had come to the rescue of the Jews.
This book was written in prose form which made it much more interesting than simply reading a fact for fact account of a terrible ordeal. The story is also told by the young Syvia and so the reader lives the story with her. As a reader, you do not always understand everything that is taking place, just like Syvia, and you are held in suspense just as she was as she clung to life from day to day. This book would be a great way to introduce or use in conjunction with the study of World War II and the Holocaust. The factual account is a sad, grave tale, but is very much needed as a reminder of the horrors the Jewish community faced. This book would serve for great discussion. Because it is written in prose form it could be used as a support for a poetry unit as well. This book is a very good read for any middle school or high school student interested in the Holocaust. - AM