Memories of Survival

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz, Author, Bernice Steinhardt, Author , illus. by Krinitz. Hyperion $15.99 (64p) ISBN 978-0-7868-5126-3

In 1977, at age 50, Krinitz (1927– 2001) began the creation of 36 embroidered fabric panels recalling her experience as a Jewish teenager caught up in the Holocaust. She had no formal artistic training, but drawing on her childhood experience as a dressmaker's apprentice, she stitched together scenes of homespun beauty and heartbreaking bluntness (the untutored artistry brings to mind a similarly searing work, Toby Fluek's Memories of My Life in a Polish Village ). Steinhardt, Krinitz's daughter, here collects the panels and adds commentary that expands on Krinitz's hand-stitched captions. The early panels capture a happy if hard-working life in the rural Polish village of Mniszek. In one remarkable scene, three girls and a boy are seen from behind as they walk down a path flanked by waving fields of grain, the sisters' red hair plaited into long, blazing braids. "Shavuot [the Jewish summer harvest festival] 1938," Krinitz stitched in thread. "My brother and sisters followed as I walked on stilts to our grandparents' house." But four years later, Esther and her sister Mania flee a Nazi round-up and assume the identities of Polish Catholic refugees; they are the only members of their family to survive. Krinitz spares her readers little: she sews scenes of "giant cabbages growing on human ashes" at Maidanek concentration camp, and Nazi soldiers hanging from trees in the wake of a Russian victory. But while the panels speak of an almost unfathomable loss and horror, they also stand as one woman's testimony to hope, endurance and the unquenchable passion to bear witness. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
Genre: Children's
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