Dear Mrs. Lois Lowry,         

Most of the time letters start with an introduction, but I will start with a story about my heritage, as I think it is the best insight into why I was so moved by your book, Number the Stars.  Quite a while before I read your book, my grandmother told me a story. It is set in World War ll, but my family and many others call part of it the Holocaust.

They heard them coming, my family’s faces froze. Everyone was paralyzed with horror. Their lives flashed before them, all of their memories flooding back like the waves of a tsunami returning to the ocean. The Nazi’s were strutting proud through my Abba’s neighborhood like a model would down the runway. The Nazi’s were attempting to execute all the Jews. My family scattered into hiding spots like ants when something stepped on their home. My great-grandpa, his father, his brother, his sister, and his mother were all hiding in the attic while the rest of the family was hiding in the basement. Abba, my great-grandpa, decided to check on the rest of the family, and thank God he did. He came upstairs to find some of his family taken away by the Nazi’s. Years later, he found out all of them were killed at a concentration camp.*

The summer after I had heard that story, I came across your book Number the Stars. It was the summer before entering fourth grade and I saw your book Number the Stars on the list. Technically that is not true, it was the last week of summer and I tend to procrastinate everything. I stumbled upon and your truly stunning life changing book, Number the Stars. Of course, at the time, I presumed it would be another average book.

By the end of the first chapter, your book already altered my beliefs in my religion. I started reading the carefully chosen words on the grayish pages, everything I believed in, fairies and princesses disappeared from my mind like a chocolate bar vanishing from my hands into my mouth.

Before I read this book, my beliefs were molded by what others told me. In my world, G-d was perfect and He would bring no harm to anyone. I even believed in tales from the Torah. An example is when Moses split the Red Sea. After reading your book, all of that was changed. I no longer believe G-d exists. The Torah states that G-d does everything to help us. I think now, really? If so, why did G-d have so many loyal people taken away from their loved ones. Why start a war that brought harm to so many of the Jewish people?

Your book helped me come to a realization that I believe in things than can be proven, in other words, science. My family is Jewish and that means I have to go to Hebrew school. Yes, everyone hates Hebrew school, but my disdain is different. I question what they say but, not everyone in the room does as I used to. Then I came to the realization of that if people who experienced the Holocaust first hand like the people in Number the Stars and never question their faith, then neither should I.

If someone said that my religion is Jewish, that would be one hundred percent different than saying I have a Jewish heritage. I am proud of my heritage as a young Jewish girl. The main difference is that religion is what you believe in, and heritage is your legacy, culture, and ancestry. Many families were forced to make sacrifices in order to shield their family from the Nazi’s. In Number the Stars, Ellen’s parents have her hide with Annemarie’s family while Ellen’s parents fled for safety.  Only families with such strong devotion to one another would stretch to those lengths to protect their loved ones. These families separated from their loved ones were like a rubber band stretched so thin to the breaking point. In my Grandma’s story, her father’s family was separated so far until they could no longer reach each other. Then, the “rubber band broke!” All of his immediate family died and they could never be reached until his time came.

In Texas, there was a mass shooting in San Antonio. This event happened in a church. I ask myself, why would this happen? Especially in a holy place for so many. I did some research on it and found that there was at least 26 people killed and no less than 20 more people injured. No one expected this man to start shooting, it came out of nowhere and was a surprise to everyone. There have been so many atrocious things happen to so many remarkable people over the course of history. If there is a G-d, why would treacherous things happen so often?

As I have grown older, my perspective has changed. This is my perspective from the present. Your heritage can also be a way of teaching core values. Some of the stories I have heard over the years are true like the one my Grandmother told me about the Holocaust. The stories from the Torah may not be true, but, they teach us morals that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. The Torah teaches us to be: kind, loyal, honest, compassionate, respectful, generous, and that those who do wrong will be chastised.         

All the stories true, or not, have one thing in common beyond teaching us our core values, they teach us to not repeat history. In other words, that means not to repeat mistakes that others have made in the past. This is why we have history class. Our teachers teach us about what had happened in the past and how it ended up so that we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. It took me a while to figure that part out. There are still people that are fifty years old and have yet to learn this lesson. If Society takes the time to read books, read the News, and even watch some shows! Some people are too caught up in the twenty-first century and all of its glories to pay attention to what’s happening outside of their social media account. Soon, I hope that more people can understand the importance and value of this and that they can take the time to understand and help others understand, too. It would truly make the world a better place.

I thank you, Lois Lowry, for helping me realize who I truly am. Since reading your book, my perspective has changed for the better. We have the opportunity to make choices, choose the right one.         

“The whole world has changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same”
     -Lois Lowry, Number the Stars

Sincerely,       

Hannah Gaswirth

 

* The writer’s letter reflects her authentic understanding as a twelve-year-old of her great-grandfather’s documented survival of the Holocaust. Yet, due to the sensitive nature of his experience, the student was not fully aware of all the horrific details, and therefore there are some historical inaccuracies in her retelling of his story.

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Page last modified: March 22, 2018