Booktalks

Elly: My True Story of the Holocaust Booktalk

Author Elly Gross spent years in concentration camps and doing slave labor during World War II. This is her story of how she survived.

  • Grades: 3–5

Elly Gross is a Jew. She has blonde hair and blue eyes, but she is a Jew. She grew up in Romania in the 1930s. There was a Depression, jobs were almost nonexistent, and people were looking for someone to blame. By blaming the Jews, Adolph Hitler united his countrymen. Hitler's ideas spread across Europe. In 1940, Hungary invaded and took over Romania, and the Jews were blamed for the shortages in food, clothing, and shoes. Their belongings and property were taken away and given away to loyal Hungarians. Harsh new laws were enacted. Restrictions were placed on travel and schooling, curfews were implemented, and men were forced into labor camps. 

Elly's father was burned alive in one of those camps, when she was only fourteen. A year later, Elly, her mother, and her five-year-old brother were loaded into cattle cars with other terrified woman and children. They were packed in so tightly it was almost impossible to breathe. There was no food, no water, and no bathrooms. The train didn't stop for seven days. When it did, and the doors of the cars opened, the sick, the dead, the old and the injured were pushed in one direction along with mothers and young children, and the rest, a much smaller group, were pushed in the other. It was done quickly, before any of the exhausted, confused and hungry deportees could object. 

Those pushed to the left would die immediately, those pushed to the right would be allowed to live as long as they could, in the Nazi concentration camp, Birkenau. Elly was one of them. They slept in barracks, in bunks, fourteen women to a bunk, sharing one blanket, sleeping head to toe, smelling the feet of the women on either side of them. There were two roll calls a day, and anyone who was sick was taken away, and never seen again. 

Elly says she survived because of a series of miracles. She survived the camp, she survived the factory where she was forced to work as a slave, making automobile parts, and she survived the war. This is her story of those miracles and her survival.

This booktalk was written by Joni Richards Bodart, university professor, writer, consultant, and well-known booktalker.

  • Subjects:
    Jewish Experience, Social Studies through Literature, World War II, Women's History and Experience, Holocaust
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