Antonio Iturbe’s prize-winning third novel, The Librarian of Auschwitz, translated by Lilit Thwaites, is a haunting lyrical tale in the vein of Elie Wiesel’s Night and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.
Iturbe interviewed real-life Auschwitz prisoner and survivor Dita Kraus in preparation for writing this fictionalized account of her life. Moving back and forth in time, Iturbe shows us Dita’s journey—from her middle-class family home in Prague to the Jewish ghetto known as Terezín, and finally to the family camp at Auschwitz. At 14, Dita is too old for the horrifying “lessons” being taught to the other imprisoned children, but she is entrusted to collect and distribute the few books snuck into the camp. Over the course of a year, the reader walks with Dita as she experiences the dehumanizing terror of life in a concentration camp.
The daily horrors of imprisonment are palpable, but Iturbe blends in moments of joy, love and mystery—each all the more poignant for their rarity. An essential addition to any reading list focused on the Holocaust, The Librarian of Auschwitz is best suited for an older teen audience due to some language and violence.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.