I have always been fascinated by stories of survival. During the past week I was stuck at home with the flu, and I had a lot of time to read. After reading one amazing story about the survival of a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust, I decided to read other adult and young adult books about survival during World War II. I wanted a more global perspective, so I searched for books about people and experiences that I had not previously read anything about. I certainly learned a lot about that period in history. What really struck me was the common theme in all four stories. Human dignity is as vital a component to survival as water, food, and shelter.
I’ve been thinking about these stories a lot over the past few days, and particularly, about that common theme. A sense of self-worth is necessary for survival in any decade, during war or peace. Those who strip others of their dignity take so much more. For every bully in the world, however, there are hundreds who choose to lend a helping hand, to say a kind word, and to treat others with the respect they deserve. In the new year, my resolution is to lend a helping hand when I’m in a hurry, to say a kind word when I’m in a terrible mood, and to treat others with respect even when they do not return the courtesy. I want to be a better person in 2012.
Click on each image to read a full description. A Lucky Child by is an extraordinary memoir written by Thomas Buergenthal about his narrow escape from death in Auschwitz and his life thereafter. Unbroken written by Laura Hillenbrand is the story of Louis Zamperini, a young Italian American who survives after his bomber crashes into the ocean only to be captured by the Japanese and held as a prisoner of war. Weedflower by Cynthia Kadahota is a fictional story about a young Japanese girl living in an internment camp in Arizona during World War II. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is a historical fiction novel based on the imprisonment of Lithuanian citizens in Siberia during World War II.
A Lucky Child and Unbroken are particularly difficult to read due to the extreme violence depicted during captivity. These books are particularly notable, however, because the stories continue long after both men are liberated. The stories of life after liberation are part of what makes these two books so exceptional.