Kramer, Clara. Clara’s War.
When the SS invaded on July 5, 1941 the Jews in Zolkiew felt lucky they has some wealth, an oil press business, and could ransom a bit for their lives, but still sensed the days were numbered. Clara Schwarz and her immediate family, along with two other families, escaped the ghetto and lived in an underground bunker over the Beck family’s home, hiding from the SS for nearly two years. Ordered by her mother to keep a written record, her diary, detailing day to life of a Jewish family in Poland during WWII is now on display at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. The book’s endpapers are decorated with an image of the blue penciled diary.
Clara’s story, as told to Stephen Gantz, is chronologically arranged, with each chapter prefaced by an excerpt from her diary, written between ages 15-17. The writing at the beginning of the story contains some nice turns of phrase (“his father … was on his heels, but only managed to catch his shadow” and “… I could make out the silhouettes of Zolkiew’s baroque church spires with their pregnant onion tops and golden domes…” ), but as the tale of love, loss and horror wears on, the writing becomes less distinguished. Many Yiddish words aren’t defined in context, the pacing is slow, and the introduction of the entire (large!) family at once over a few pages is a lot to keep track of; keeping characters straight is in part aided by a family tree. A map of the cramped living quarters is also included.
Certainly, the Holocaust was a terrible tragedy, and only by sharing these stories can we ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Although the story is unique to the family, it’s not a unique concept for a book, and it pales in comparison to Anne Frank’s classic Diary of a Young Girl, and doesn’t compare in voice, language, or style. Purchase for larger collections.