The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito
The truth is the safest lie. These are words that nine-year-old Anna Bauman lived by during World War II in Poland. The story begins in the Warsaw Ghetto with Anna and her parents during the Nazi invasion of Poland. They are Jewish and forced to live in the ghetto with little food, clothing and other basic necessities. Anna draws the attention of Jolanta, a woman who helps smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto. Jolanta follows Anna home one day and then her world begins to change as she becomes Catholic Anna Karwolska, not Jewish Anna Bauman. Her mother begins to train her in the Catholic prayers. One day Anna is smuggled out of the ghetto and sent to a farmhouse where she is taught more on the traditions, the prayers and the catechism every Catholic child would know.
Anna is then sent to go live in a Catholic orphanage away from Warsaw where she spends a year until she is moved to live with a foster family out in the Polish countryside. Her family is warm and loving and Anna begins to feel safe here but still does not reveal her true identify. Stephan, Sophia and Jerzy have their own secrets they are hiding. What future will await Anna when the war ends?
This book is based on the true story of Irena Sendler, whose group, Zegota had smuggled more than twenty-five hundred Jewish children out of the ghettos so that they could have a chance at a life. Based on her research, Angela Cerrito tells us the story of Anna Bauman who survives the Holocaust thanks to the courageous efforts of Sendler and the network of people who rescued children just like her. The library also has a nonfiction picture book by Susan Goldman Rubin entitled Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto if you'd like to learn a little more about Polish social worker.
The perspective of this book was new to me. The other books on the Holocaust dealing with children had mainly been about life in the camps or in hiding or just staying at home with their mothers while their fathers and older brothers were at war. By telling the story through Anna's eyes, the author helped capture all the tension, fear, constant hunger and suffering that children experienced during the war as well as how some lost their Jewish identities. The book also shows the mixed emotions parents must have felt when their children were offered the possibility of safety.
Cerrito interviewed Irena Sendler before she wrote the book as well as read hundreds of transcribed interviews of children who survived the Holocaust. She did her research at the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland.