Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Holocaust: The Nazis Seize Power, 1933-1941 by Stuart A. Kallen

In The Holocaust: The Nazis Seize Power, 1933-1941, one of a series of children's books on the Holocaust, Stuart A. Kallen touches on the core beliefs of the Nazis and how anti-Semitism was around long before Adolf Hitler. Kallen discusses how Hitler's rise to power was dependent on anti-Semitism. Germany was in a depression following World War I, and Hitler, as the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazis), said the Jews were responsible for the country losing the war. People were desperate without jobs and/or food, and Hitler promised these things. It's crazy what people will believe when struggling to survive, and oftentimes people aren't satisfied unless they have someone to blame.

Kallen goes back to 1873 when Wilheim Marr, the German author, coined the term "anti-Semitism." He writes, "Marr started the idea of Jews as a separate race, the Semites. This was a turning point. Before Marr, Jews were considered dangerous because of their religion . . . They could change their beliefs, convert to Christianity, and be considered better. But if they were a race, they simply could not change. This was the cornerstone of Nazi anti-Semitism." (page 11) From here, Kallen talks about Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which spells out his anti-Semitic beliefs but was largely ignored due to poor writing; the numerous laws passed by Hitler after he became chancellor of Germany, which paved the way for the concentration camps; and the horrible crimes committed against Jews that were only the beginning of the atrocities that would occur under the Nazi regime.

Though designed for children, I learned a few things from the book. I know I shouldn't be surprised after all of the documentaries I've seen about the Nazis and the Holocaust, but I was shocked to learn of the children's board game, "Get the Jews Out!," which sold more than a million copies by 1938. I was saddened (but also not surprised) that the U.S. government thought cutting off trade with Germany was a sufficient reaction to attacks against Jews. I knew many laws were passed to restrict the freedom of Jews in Germany, but I didn't know approximately 400 were passed from 1933 to 1939.

I was a little confused because the book The Girl took out of the library listed the dates 1933-1939 on the cover, but the inside title page and everything I've seen online lists the dates as 1933-1941. Regardless, this volume ends in 1939, so it doesn't touch upon the horrors of the concentration camps. But it shows that life was so hard for the Jews under Nazi rule that more than 300,000 of the 500,000 Jews in Germany as of 1933 had left by 1939.

I thought this was a great book to share with The Girl, and I was glad she wanted to share it with me when she brought it home from school. (She specifically asked the librarian for a book that would qualify for the WWII reading challenge!) Kallen explains Nazi politics and ideology in easy-to-understand terms and doesn't offer so many details that young readers are bored or confused. (Of course, you can understand the facts about Nazi politics, but I don't think you could ever truly comprehend the reason behind them.)

I was touched by Kallen's words in the foreword: "When a child is born it has no prejudices. Bias must be learned and someone has to display it. The goal of this series is to enlighten children and help them recognize the ignorance of prejudice so that future generations will be tolerant, understanding, compassionate, and free of prejudice." (page 4)


Here's what The Girl (age 8) had to say about The Holocaust: The Nazis Seize Power, 1933-1941:

This non-fiction history of the Holocaust talks about the Nazis and their rise to power. It also talks about how the Nazis felt about Jewish people. I learned how Jewish shops were destroyed by the Nazis. This book taught me a lot. It made me feel sad about how Jewish people were treated. I think people should read this book if they don't know a lot about the Nazis and the start of World War II.


We read The Holocaust: The Nazis Seize Power, 1933-1941 by Stuart A. Kallen as part of the WWII reading challenge at War Through the Generations.

Disclosure:  We borrowed The Holocaust:  The Nazis Seize Power, 1933-1941 from the library.


Serena said...

great review...and it sounds like a book that would be cool for adults and kids alike.

Tell the girl that her review rocked!

Ana S. said...

I was reading a book on racism the other day that also explained how economic factors played a large role on Hitler's election. Even larger, some researchers claim, than actual racism itself. This sounds like a fantastic series, and I think it's great that you're reading it with your daughter.

And Serena's right, her review rocked indeed!

Bookfool said...

How cool that your daughter asked the librarian for a book that would work for the WWII challenge!! The book sounds excellent.

I just finished my first WWII book, two days ago. Hope to get that review up by Saturday. It was really good: A Lovely Little War by Angus Lorenzen - the story of the author's experience living in a prison camp in Manila, told from his viewpoint as a child between the ages of 6-9. As I was reading it, I realized it's very possible that my father was nearby when the author was liberated. My dad was a navy corpsman on a hospital ship posted off Manila toward the end of the Pacific war.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed BOTH of these reviews. Good to know that books are written for children to understand the travesty of the holocaust. we must NEVER let that hideous memory and truth be erased from our minds and history books - lest it happen again.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

to The Girl: great job on your review, and I'm very proud of you for getting the librarian to help you choose a book for the challenge - you go girl!

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have been inspired by your co-posts with The Girl, and have decided to do something similar with my daughter and "Gossamer" which we are both reading right now. It's an awesome way to bond with your child and share your love of reading.

I am very interested in this book for my kids, who are 9 and 10. They both are very aware of the Holocaust and the general idea of what happened, but I struggle with how much they need to know at what age. My in-laws don't live too far from Auschwitz, and am considering taking the kids at some point...don't know when. I think this book would be a wonderful prelude to that trip. Thanks for your review!

ANovelMenagerie said...


This would be PERFECT for my girls to read. Right now they are reading Diary of Anne Frank. They are learning about the Holocaust as a result of me telling them about it after I saw The Reader. We'll look for this in the library!

Great review!


Staci said...

Excellent review and the girl writes better than most 5th graders I know!!

Andi said...

This one sounds interesting and very informative. Thanks for a fantabulous review.

Darlene said...

Great review by both The Girl and you. It's so cute that she asked for a book that would qualify for the War Challenge. I love how enthusiastic she is to learn-that's so awesome. Another good book to read and learn from.

pamwax said...

Both of your reviews were great. An interesting book to maybe share with my grandkids.

We must never forget...but unfortunately there are still to many parents around the world teaching their children to hate based on race and religion. It has to stop...

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm not sure if I would have wanted to read something like this when I was a kid or not. I know I didn't learn about the Holocaust until I was almost in middle school though.

Anna said...

Serena: Thanks!

Nymeth: Thanks! I hope to check out the rest of the books in the series. We'll see what The Girl wants to do.

Bookfool: I certainly was surprised when she came home with that book and told me the story. She's my little bookworm. I got a chance to read your review, and that sounds like a very interesting book. It's neat that it's told from his POV as a child.

Marvin: I agree that it's important for us not to forget. And I like that the children's books about the Holocaust that we've read so far don't sugar coat the facts but present them in a way that isn't scary.

Heather: Thanks! She loves talking to the librarians. Sometimes a little too much. LOL

Sandy: That's great! I think more parents need to take an interest in what their kids are reading. She might not always want to review what she reads, but I'm glad to do this with her as long as she's still interested.

Sheri: You'll have to let me know what your girls think of it.

Staci: Thanks! She was so glad to hear that. She's been writing stories since she first learned her ABCs. I'm glad that I can finally read and understand what she's writing. :)

Andi: I love it when I find a children's book and it actually teaches me something, too.

Dar: She really enjoys learning. I don't think there's a subject right now that doesn't interest her at least a little.

Pam: So true, and so sad.

Ladytink: The Girl walked in the living room one day when I was watching a documentary about Hitler. She also knew we were planning the WWII reading challenge, so she just started asking questions, and I answered them the best I could. We've had some interesting discussions, but I don't think I would have approached her with this subject until she was older.