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Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust

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RENEE: I was ten years old then, and my sister was eight. The responsibility was on me to warn everyone when the soldiers were coming because my sister and both my parents were deaf. I was my family's ears. Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable -- together. This is their true story. As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents RENEE: I was ten years old then, and my sister was eight. The responsibility was on me to warn everyone when the soldiers were coming because my sister and both my parents were deaf. I was my family's ears. Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable -- together. This is their true story. As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents were in immediate danger when the Holocaust came to their door. As the only hearing person in her family, Renee had to alert her parents and sister whenever the sound of Nazi boots approached their home so they could hide. But soon their parents were tragically taken away, and the two sisters went on the run, desperate to find a safe place to hide. Eventually they, too, would be captured and taken to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Communicating in sign language and relying on each other for strength in the midst of illness, death, and starvation, Renee and Herta would have to fight to survive the darkest of times. This gripping memoir, told in a vivid "oral history" format, is a testament to the power of sisterhood and love, and now more than ever a reminder of how important it is to honor the past, and keep telling our own stories.


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RENEE: I was ten years old then, and my sister was eight. The responsibility was on me to warn everyone when the soldiers were coming because my sister and both my parents were deaf. I was my family's ears. Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable -- together. This is their true story. As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents RENEE: I was ten years old then, and my sister was eight. The responsibility was on me to warn everyone when the soldiers were coming because my sister and both my parents were deaf. I was my family's ears. Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable -- together. This is their true story. As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents were in immediate danger when the Holocaust came to their door. As the only hearing person in her family, Renee had to alert her parents and sister whenever the sound of Nazi boots approached their home so they could hide. But soon their parents were tragically taken away, and the two sisters went on the run, desperate to find a safe place to hide. Eventually they, too, would be captured and taken to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Communicating in sign language and relying on each other for strength in the midst of illness, death, and starvation, Renee and Herta would have to fight to survive the darkest of times. This gripping memoir, told in a vivid "oral history" format, is a testament to the power of sisterhood and love, and now more than ever a reminder of how important it is to honor the past, and keep telling our own stories.

30 review for Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Based on an interview with both Renee Hartman and her sister Herta for the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocause Testimonies at Yale University, this book is a good overview all too common experiences during the Holocaust. The two girls lived in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Due to a hereditary condition, Herta and the parents were deaf, and Renee acted as a translator for them. Herta briefly attended a school for deaf students, but when the Nazis took over, Jewish E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Based on an interview with both Renee Hartman and her sister Herta for the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocause Testimonies at Yale University, this book is a good overview all too common experiences during the Holocaust. The two girls lived in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. Due to a hereditary condition, Herta and the parents were deaf, and Renee acted as a translator for them. Herta briefly attended a school for deaf students, but when the Nazis took over, Jewish children were not allowed to go to school. As conditions in the city worsened, the girls were sent to a farm to be cared for in exchange for a hefting boarding fee. When the parents stopped writing, the girls were turned out of the house and left on their own. They turned themselves into the local law enforcement, not knowing what else to do, and were supposed to be sent to be reunited with their parents at Auschwitz. Instead, they ended up at Bergen Belsen, and endured many hardships. Renee managed to keep Herta safe from guard as well as the medical establishment that wanted to experiment on her. After the war, it took some time to regain their strength, but eventually relatives in the US brought the girls over, and they made lives for themselves here. Strengths: Like Ruth Gruener's Out of Hiding and Rena Finder's A Girl on Schindler's List, this memoir offers a less greaphic overview of one experience of the Holocaust that is a good introduction to the era for younger readers. Herta's deafness adds another layer of interest; the only other book I can think that covers this topic is LeZotte's T4: A Novel in Verse (2008). The Holocaust is a perennially popular topic, even though our eighth grade curriculm might no longer cover it. Weaknesses: Perhaps I didn't see it in the E ARC, but a map of the areas the girls were in would have been helpful. What I really think: Somehow this cover is really appealing, and I probably need to go through and do a refresh on my Holocaust books even though the 8th grade may not be covering it. While this was a bit simplistic for me, since I have read hundreds of Holocaust novels and memoirs, I do think it will be informative for younger readers, and I love the fact that it is based on actual interviews with Herta and Renee.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katie Boornazian

    As an adult, this was a quick, yet powerful and raw read about two sisters and their memoir of living through the Holocaust. As a teacher, this is a great book to use with students (especially my DHH students) when they are learning about World War II and the experiences that people went through.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    A powerful story of two young Jewish girls who survived the Holocaust. That any children survived is miraculous, especially having been in Bergen Belsen for over a year. It’s a young adult book, but it’s message transcends all ages. Thanks to Scholastic Nonfiction and Edelweiss for the early read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    ARC provided by Scholastic. All thoughts and opinions my own. Renee and Herta are the children of a Jewish couple living in modern day Slovakia. When German soldiers march in and begin announcing new laws, the family is nervous especially since they are all deaf except for Renee. The family attempts to continue to live their lives as usual but the changes are unsettling and it seems that they don’t even recognize their small town anymore. The fear comes when they are ordered to sew yellow Star of ARC provided by Scholastic. All thoughts and opinions my own. Renee and Herta are the children of a Jewish couple living in modern day Slovakia. When German soldiers march in and begin announcing new laws, the family is nervous especially since they are all deaf except for Renee. The family attempts to continue to live their lives as usual but the changes are unsettling and it seems that they don’t even recognize their small town anymore. The fear comes when they are ordered to sew yellow Star of David on their clothing that designate them as Jewish. Renee and Herta are sent out of their town to live with a couple that are hiding Jews. The couple kicks out Renee and Herta after their parents stop paying and when Renee and Herta return to their town their parents are no where to be found. Exhausted and scared they turn themselves into the Nazi soldiers and their nightmare gets worse. Packed in horrific conditions, Renee and Herta are put on a train to a concentration camp. Renee must be the ears for Herta who doesn’t understand what’s going on. After a long and arduous journey with little food and little water, the girls arrive at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. While in the camp the sisters witness horrific conditions and actions by the Nazi guards. Just as Renee gets sick with typhus, Herta catches the eye of a Nazi doctor and the two struggle to hold on until the end of the war. Signs of Survival is a compelling story of two sisters surviving the Bergen-Belsen concentrations camp during World War II. The book is written in conversation format which makes it quite easy for children to follow along the story. There isn’t much historical background given on the circumstances of the Nazi’s being in their country, so some knowledge of World War II is helpful. Signs of Survival should be required reading especially since it’s important part of history that should never be forgotten.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bella Rae

    Thanks to Edelweiss+ for providing me with an E ARC of this book! This book follows the journey of two sisters, Renee and Herta, as they navigate the struggles of being Jewish during the Holocaust. Herta and Renee live with their family in Germany when the Holocaust starts. It's more dangerous for them than others because Renee is the only one who can hear. Herta and their parents are deaf, and depend on Renee to know when there are soldiers coming. Renee and Herta's parents send them away to a dif Thanks to Edelweiss+ for providing me with an E ARC of this book! This book follows the journey of two sisters, Renee and Herta, as they navigate the struggles of being Jewish during the Holocaust. Herta and Renee live with their family in Germany when the Holocaust starts. It's more dangerous for them than others because Renee is the only one who can hear. Herta and their parents are deaf, and depend on Renee to know when there are soldiers coming. Renee and Herta's parents send them away to a different town, where they will be able to pass as non-Jews and be safe. Sadly, their parents disappear, and are no longer paying for Renee and Herta's stay, so the sisters are kicked out of the home. Eventually, after being on the streets, Renee and Herta turn themselves in to the police and are sent to Bergen-Belsen, a German concentration camp. Life is hard at the concentration camp, especially since the girls are around mostly Polish speakers. But finally, the war is over. The camp is shut down, and Renee, who got very sick, is rescued by the British soldiers who took over the camp. Renee and Herta go to live with relatives in America after receiving a letter confirming their parents' death. They both marry and have children, and I believe they are both alive today. The End After-book thoughts This book was pretty good. World War II books are often quite sad, and this one was not exception, but it was still an excellent memoir about two amazing people. I only have one complaint; the book's length. It was only 109 pages (not including photos). I think this book was based off an interview, so it's a pretty decent length when you think about that, but some parts of the story are kind of undeveloped. I think a little more detail would've been better, but that's my only complaint. I give this book the second highest score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennybeast

    This is a really extraordinary story of survival, and the adaptation from oral history to book is very well done. I loved the spare storytelling style, the context offered at the end of the book, and the sheer emotional impact. Loved that the story incorporates both sisters' points of view as well, and the different burdens they carried -- Renee in translating, Herta in isolation from deaf community. We so rarely get to see deaf community in the larger context of history, and it's good to see th This is a really extraordinary story of survival, and the adaptation from oral history to book is very well done. I loved the spare storytelling style, the context offered at the end of the book, and the sheer emotional impact. Loved that the story incorporates both sisters' points of view as well, and the different burdens they carried -- Renee in translating, Herta in isolation from deaf community. We so rarely get to see deaf community in the larger context of history, and it's good to see that diversity, even against the horrific backdrop of the Holocaust. Advanced Reader's Copy provided by Edelweiss.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Pierce

    When I ordered this book I thought it may be a wee bit different then what it was. The story about two sisters one deaf. Told from two viewpoints or two different voices. One of each sister. Definitely written for a younger audience. Not violent but informative. Thought they would also use more sign language. They did not include the T4 l program either. This may be they didn't know. The last chapter should have explained T4. The book is a quick read. Read it under an hour. Stayed interested. Go When I ordered this book I thought it may be a wee bit different then what it was. The story about two sisters one deaf. Told from two viewpoints or two different voices. One of each sister. Definitely written for a younger audience. Not violent but informative. Thought they would also use more sign language. They did not include the T4 l program either. This may be they didn't know. The last chapter should have explained T4. The book is a quick read. Read it under an hour. Stayed interested. Good for younger readers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Darlene Campos

    Excellent book!!! I was so intrigued by this book that I couldn't put it down. It's so well written and gripping that I wished it was longer. Renee and Herta's story really touched my heart. Excellent book!!! I was so intrigued by this book that I couldn't put it down. It's so well written and gripping that I wished it was longer. Renee and Herta's story really touched my heart.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    so sad

  10. 5 out of 5

    Inez

    Best book I have ever read I love the book I hope You would like it to people who have not read it I think it is awesome 😍

  11. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Very touching and educational especially when many people don't know back then, n**is would do experiments on Deaf people and disabled people as well. Very touching and educational especially when many people don't know back then, n**is would do experiments on Deaf people and disabled people as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cassie Bryan

    Very quick read, but very good. It was humbling to read a story I’ve never heard about the Holocaust.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Morian

    Such an important piece of history that should never be lost or forgotten. Heavy content carefully crafted for ages 8-12 with pictures that help humanize during a time when a major goal was to dehumanize.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Laura Twigg

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lylah

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rita

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jayna

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alyse

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin Love

  21. 5 out of 5

    Loan Stars

  22. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Schwabbauer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Hodgkinson

  24. 5 out of 5

    Isa

  25. 5 out of 5

    Liz Ward

  26. 4 out of 5

    Avery Kershaw

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Subbert

  29. 5 out of 5

    Erin Wolf

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ganna Turovets

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