I have to tell you, writing a review of Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival is no easy task. In fact, I’ve sat here in front of the computer screen for quite some time making a valiant attempt, yet, still, words elude me. To say it is a powerful story of survival against all odds seems a superficial understatement. Clara, a young Jewish teenager in Nazi occupied Poland tells her story of survival drawn from the diary she keeps during the twenty months she spent in hiding underground (literally) with her family and other Jews, 18 total.
This heart-stopping story of a young girl hiding from the Nazis is based on Clara Kramer’s diary of her years surviving in an underground bunker with seventeen other people.
Clara Kramer was a typical Polish-Jewish teenager from a small town at the outbreak of the Second World War. When the Germans invaded, Clara’s family was taken in by the Becks, a Volksdeutsche (ethnically German) family from their town. Mrs. Beck worked as Clara’s family’s housekeeper. Mr. Beck was known to be an alcoholic, a womanizer, and a vocal anti-Semite. But on hearing that Jewish families were being led into the woods and shot, Beck sheltered the Kramers and two other Jewish families.
Eighteen people in all lived in a bunker dug out of the Becks’ basement. Fifteen-year-old Clara kept a diary during the twenty terrifying months she spent in hiding, writing down details of their unpredictable life—from the house’s catching fire to Mr. Beck’s affair with Clara’s neighbor; from the nightly SS drinking sessions in the room above to the small pleasure of a shared Christmas carp.
Against all odds, Clara lived to tell her story, and her diary is now part of the permanent col-lection of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Amazing. Gripping. Honest. Shocking. Surreal. Horrific. Heartbreaking. Her account is all this, and more. It is a grief stricken lament over the death of her sister. It is a loving tribute to the man Beck and his wife Julia who risk their own lives to hide Clara and the other Jews in a bunker carved under their home. It is the day to day details of life in the small underground bunker, how they deal with their waste for example. It is a surprising cat and mouse game with several harrowing near misses. It is a scathing indictment of hatred and unimaginable depravity that seeks to annihilate, in a gruesome and gleeful fashion, a whole race of people. Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival is a story of unthinkable loss as well as a story of love and life.
I have often wondered what I would do if faced with similarly horrific circumstances. What if I were in Beck’s place? Would I risk my life and the lives of my family to save another? What if my situation mirrored Clara’s? Could I do what it took to survive? Sobering questions. And, if I’m honest, I hope I never have to find out.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….