“What was that? Magic? In Auschwitz?” The guards laughed and cheered. “Another trick!” “Don’t stop!” “Do that one! Again!”
When Werner enters the barracks of the now famous Auschwitz, he bonds with a frail looking man, Herr Levin, with a special talent that is both a blessing and a curse. Herr Levin, a magician, is required to keep the guards entertained with his magic tricks. If he fails to entertain them, his life is will be over. Though a magician never reveals his tricks, Herr Levin makes an exception for Werner, teaching him tricks. At this point, the story jumps forward, as Werner carries these tricks and memories of Herr Levine throughout his life during and following his time in the concentration camp. Later, Werner would share the same magic tricks with his own grandchildren.
At the end of story, ‘How it Happened’ explains what became of Werner Reich as a boy and as a survivor of Auschwitz. The story, told in muted colours of gray, browns and black, add to the darkness experienced by Holocaust survivors. Only the deck of cards add colour. This appears to symbolize their role in Herr Levine’s survival and joy which magic can bring even in difficult times. The end of book, includes historical photographs of Werner and Levine. ‘Where it Happened’ explains briefly the persecution of the Jewish people under Adolf Hitler’s attempt to exterminate them. The final sentence of the book is an important reminder that we all need to choose to remember, because “at least one million Jews were killed at Auschwitz.”
This book is an important story to share with grades 5-12 students, especially around Remembrance Day and/or in Social Studies. It is an important story of Hope for teaching Character Education values.