Claiming My Place: Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Holocaust
by Planaria Price & Helen Reichmann West
Farrar, Straus and Giroux – 2018 – 272 pages – Genre: Non-fiction, Biography, History
Recommended by PWBHS student E.W. & reviewed by PWBHS Librarian Shelley Dorrill
“There is my photograph; there is my new name on the gray cardboard Germans use to identify Poles, not the yellow cardboard designating “Jew.” I am no longer a Jew to be deported and sent to the camps, or worse; officially, I am a Pole.” – Barbara Reichmann
This book gives insight on what it was like for a young woman in Europe during World War II. It tells the story of a Gucia, who is Jewish but could pass as a German because of her blonde hair and blue eyes. – E.W. a PWBHS student
If you could change who you are and it would me a better life, a safe life, a successful life, would you do it? That is the foundational question that Barbara Reichmann faced as a Jewish woman in the midst of the Holocaust. She was once known as Gucia Gomolinska and grew up in predominantly Catholic Poland in the 1920s and early 1930s. She was intelligent, diligent, popular with friends and had a wonderful life to look forward to. However, in 1933 Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, and his “final solution” began to be carried out in Germany in other nations that Germany conquered. The Nazis invaded Poland, and Gucia finds herself living in a Jewish ghetto facing starvation, sickness, and the ever-present risk of deportation to one of the Nazis concentration camps. Yet, Gucia knows she has a possible escape. She knows her blond hair and fair skin means she can possibly reinvent herself as a Pole – a non-Jew and save herself from possible death. She also know that if she does this it will mean leaving everything and everyone she has ever known behind, and if she is caught, it will mean certain death.
Price and West, who is Barbara’s daughter, bring the reader into this harrowing journey. The reader is swept along as Barbara must use every talent and skill she possesses and make incredibly horrible choices to survive one of the worst events in modern history.
Includes maps and photographs