I recently read an amazing first-person account of Eva Mozes and her twin sister Miriam who survived captivity at Auschwitz. Written by Danica Davidson, I WILL PROTECT YOU is a harrowing and courageous story taken from numerous interviews with Eva and deserves to be shared with the kidlit community.
Here is my review of this important book:
This book for middle grade readers is a powerful and chilling firsthand account of survival from the brutal Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII. Eva Mozes recounts the time she and her twin sister Miriam spent at the camp. Since they were twins, they were separated from the rest of the captives so that Dr. Joseph Mengele…the “Angel of death” could do experiments on them. Despite the cruelty, starvation, and deprivation Eva and Miriam were exposed to by Mengele, they survived. They emigrated to the US and lived their lives. Eva spent her later years educating others by sharing her story and spreading her message of forgiveness. While there are many adult books written by Holocaust survivors, few are written for children. It is not an easy read. It makes the reader sad, scared, uncomfortable, and angry. But it is an important book about an important time in history. A time we should always remember. Because it is through the open minds of children that we can change points of view about the world for the better and stop such horrors from happening again. Spare and well written, this book should be part of every classroom discussion about the Holocaust.
I had an opportunity to ask author Danica Davidson about Eva’s story and how she came to write it. Here is Danica:
I WILL PROTECT YOU is a remarkable firsthand account of twins who survived the horrors of Auschwitz. How did you discover this story?
I had experienced increased antisemitism in my life, especially in my work as a journalist, and I was trying to figure out something I could write that could possibly be helpful. I was reading a lot of Jewish books and seeing Jewish speakers, and one day an email came from my temple telling me that a Mengele twin was going to be giving a speech at a university about an hour from me. This was Eva. So I read up all about her and showed up for her speech. After she talked I introduced myself to her, hoping I could maybe interview her for a magazine, but when I mentioned I’d published sixteen kids’ books, she lit up and exclaimed she wanted to do a kid’s book about her story.
Why do you feel this story is an important one for young readers of today?
Eva said the only way to really fight antisemitism is to teach kids about it in an accessible way. She said that Holocaust education in schools usually starts at 12 (if at all), and by then it’s too late because the prejudices are already formed.
I agree with her. I knew all about the Holocaust in elementary school (mainly from my dad and from reading), and it’s been shocking to me over the years to realize how abysmal Holocaust education is, and how many people know next to nothing about the Holocaust. Knowing history helps us from repeating history.
You were lucky enough to interview Eva Mozes for this book. Tell us what she was like. What was it about her that resonated with you and made you want to tell her story?
Eva was vivacious, feisty, accessible, passionate, and strong. She was a relentless educator of the Holocaust, because she didn’t want it happening again. The horrible memories had taken over her life for years, but by the time I met her, she had faced her demons and was stronger for it.
I wanted to tell her story because I recognized how rare it is for a child to survive a death camp, and her child’s perspective would be a way to reach young readers about the Holocaust. After interviewing Eva and talking with her extensively, I would write chapters at a time and send them to her for her approval. She really liked how the book came together.
What message would Eva want young people to remember from her experience as a concentration camp survivor?
Eva would want young readers to know that you can accomplish amazing things, no matter what your age. She would encourage kids who listened to her speak to go out and do a good deed. What the good deed was, she left up to them, because there are many good deeds out there and people are talented in different areas. She also hoped that abused kids could find some solace in this book and understand that healing after trauma is possible, and that if you’re abused it’s not your fault. It is always the abuser’s fault, and you don’t have to carry that trauma with you.
What else would you like readers to know about this book?
I’d like readers to know that there is nothing else like this book on the market for the age range, and it’s meant to revolutionize Holocaust education and fill a gap. Eva hoped every child would be able to read this book. She passed away fifteen days after we accepted Little, Brown’s offer on the finished manuscript, and nothing is the same without her. But I’m doing my best to make her vision happen and have this book reach as many readers as possible.
Danica Davidson is the author of eighteen books for young readers, ranging from serious nonfiction to 12 middle grade Minecrafter adventure novels, to comic books, to the manga how-to books Manga Art for Beginners, Manga Art for Everyone, and Chalk Art Manga. Please visit her website at www.danicadavidson.com.
Order info: I Will Protect You is available as a hardcover, ebook and audio book. You can find a list of places to order online here [https://www.lbyr.com/titles/eva-mozes-kor/i-will-protect-you/9780316460637/]. It’s also available in local bookstores.
“The gripping story and fast-paced chapters make this a valuable purchase for reluctant readers. In a world where most people who lived the Holocaust are no longer with us, this book is a sincere and truthful reminder of this horrific event.” —School Library Journal
“Powerful… Unflinching in its first-person telling, the narrative is carried by its narrator’s passionate conviction, per an afterword, that ‘memories will provide the necessary fuel to light the way to hope.'”—Publishers Weekly
“A compelling story of survival.”—Booklist
“Bright and compelling, Eva invites young readers to plant flowers of knowledge, love, and acceptance in their own minds. Moving and informative; a powerful resource for Holocaust education.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Few Holocaust survivors have had Eva Mozes Kor’s impact. Together with Danica Davidson, the story of this young girl is narrated in a manner that I would not have thought possible, faithful to the history and yet accessible to young readers. Read this work and meet a person you will never forget with a story that is worth telling and retelling.”—Michael Berenbaum, award-winning author; Professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University; and former Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Research Institute