Book Examination Site: Book of the Week for 7/28/03

by Karen Levine
Albert Whitman & Company

Yes, it is just a slightly battered suitcase that is the subject of this book. The suitcase, however, came to the Holocaust Museum in Tokyo, Japan in 2000 and initiated the determined and multi-continental search by Fumiko Ishioka, Museum Director, to learn its history.

Fumiko wanted to have something physical to share with children who came to her museum to grasp the horror of the Holocaust, and after many letters to other museums around the world was sent this suitcase from Auschwitz. In white paint on the top of the suitcase were the words “Hana Brady, May 16, 1931” and “Waisenkind” which means orphan.

The suitcase fascinated the children, but they wanted to know more. Fumiko, spurred on by the children, did everything possible to learn about Hana Brady. With letters, telephone calls, and a trip to Czechoslovakia, plus another determined museum worker in Czechoslovakia, she found eventually found information about this Holocaust victim. The most exciting thing she discovered was that one member of the family survived, Hana's brother, George Brady.

Now began a new search for George Brady. Talking with many people, she finally located a former bunkmate who knew George Brady now lived in Toronto, Canada – and he gave Fumiko the address.

Fumiko carefully wrote her letter to George Brady, fearful of opening deep wounds. She included copies of Hana’s drawings she had uncovered along with pictures and poems from the children with whom she worked at the Tokyo museum.
Not only did George Brady respond in a letter with photographs, he also visited the Holocaust Center in Tokyo in March 2001. Accompanying him was his 17-year old daughter, Lara Hana Brady. A little girl killed at age thirteen in Auschwitz, a young Japanese museum worker, and a 71-year old survivor of the Holocaust – three people on three continents – connected by young people determined that such inhumanity might never happen again.

Hana’s Suitcase was written by Karen Levine who first produced Hana’s Suitcase for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Chapters alternate between the present and the past in Europe with many pictures and copies of documents. This is a different twist among the current Holocaust literature and will be welcomed by young people and teachers alike.

Reviewed by Peggy Dillner
University of Delaware

Other new books in BES about the Holocaust:  
FATE DID NOT LET ME GO: A MOTHER’S FAREWELL LETTER by Vali Ollendorff (Pelican Publishing)
MALKA by Mirjam Pressler, translated by Brian Murdock (Philomel)

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