|Published in 2003|
Picturebook / Historical Fiction
"In 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, I met the woman in the story. My husband and I were sitting on a curb in Rothenburg, Germany, watching a clean-up crew gather shards of broken roof tile from the city hall. A small tornado had ripped through this lovely medieval village the night before and scattered rubble everywhere. An elderly merchant standing nearby was telling us that the storm left as much devastation as the last Allied attack of the war."
"When the merchant went back to tending his store, the lady sitting next to us introduced herself as Erika. . . . I noticed she was wearing a Star of David on a gold chain around her neck, so I mentioned that after our stay in Israel . . . we had driven through Austria and visited the concentration camp in Mathausen. Erika told me that she had one time gotten as far as the entrance to Dachau but could not bear to enter."
"Then she told me her story . . . "
Erika tells her story of how, as an infant, she was thrown from a moving train by her mother in
|Erika is thrown from the train by her mother.|
The yellow Star of David in the center of the book's cover powerfully symbolizes what happened from 1933-1945, when six million Jews were killed, shot, starved to death, burned in ovens, or gassed in chambers. The book's title simply states: "Erika's Story." The word Verboten, which means forbidden in German, is touching the yellow star to remind us that Jews were forbidden in Germany under the Nazi Regime. The muted colors, browns, blacks, and whites set the Star of David apart from the other images on the cover. When the book is opened, the endpapers are yellow, and the reader sees that the star has been cut-out so that the color of the star is revealed only by what is underneath the cover. The star is there, but it isn't.
The gray clouds in the distance and the wind blowing Erika's hair and dress create an ominous tone and represent the horror of what has happened to Erika and her family. The final sentence in Erika's story is on a solid, white page and stands alone in the top left-hand corner. It simply reads, "My star still shines." Beneath the sentence is a small, yellow star. Nothing else needs to be said.
Ruth Vander Zee Website
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Resources for Educators