The Book Reviews – Website

August 30, 2009

After the War

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After the War

Author: Carol Matas

Page Length: 133

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Realistic Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: As World War II ends, Ruth Mendenberg has just been released from Buchenwald, one of the Nazi concentration camps. She returns home to Poland, and finds that her maid has taken over the house and she is the only survivor of her family.

She meets a man named Saul from Eretz Israel, who encourages her to travel to Palestine with him and other Jewish refugees.  Although Ruth believes there is no hope, she agrees to accompany the refugees on the journey.  When the house they are staying at is attacked, Ruth must once again hide to survive.

Ruth is put in charge of twenty orphans.  It is her job to lead them safely to Czechoslovakia, Austria, Italy, and then to Palestine. She hopes that this duty will help her forget everything that has happened. The group survives both an ambush by Poland and Czech border guards and a long train trip.  They are taken to a camp and are instructed to encourage the children to tell their stories about the war.  Ruth dreads this assignment because she does not want to dredge up her own memories. Ruth has an attraction for Zvi, one of the other older refugees, but refuses to show her emotions because she fears she will lose him, too.

On the ship to Italy, Ruth learns that her brother Simon and her Aunt Sophie have also survived the war.  The group manages to reach Eretz Israel, but are picked up by the British and sent to a camp in Syrus. Simon, who escaped the British, helps Ruth and Zvi escape. They return to Palestine, and Ruth and Zvi begin a relationship together.

REVIEW: Ruth’s and the children’s stories are bitter truths about what happened to the Jewish people during Hitler’s reign.  Matas does not spare the horrors the people suffered.  She includes the role the brave Polish people played at the risk of losing their own lives.  This is an excellent book to read in the study of the Holocaust and life after the war. 

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Sequence of Events, Setting, Point of View

RELATED BOOKS: Snow Treasure, The Upstairs Room, Number the Stars, The Book Thief

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: The Diary of Anne Frank (1995), Anne Frank Remembered (1995)


REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


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