Read on . . .
One of my favorite types of books to read are books that take place around World War II and the Holocaust. There will never be a drought of stories to tell from this horrific part of history. But I was shocked when I picked up Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf. I had never read a book told from this particular perspective during the war. Completely and utterly fascinating to me. A true example of how a piece of historical fiction can open my eyes into a world that I knew nothing about. I could not put this book down. I carried it with me everywhere the day I read it.
Just a few short weeks after Milada’s eleventh birthday, Nazi’s storm every home in her town in Czechoslovakia and take everybody away. Milada, her mother and grandmother are immediately separated from her father and brother and taken to a gymnasium where she undergoes a physical and doctors measure her features. Milada and another classmate are torn again from their families, placed on a bus and sent to Poland. When they arrive in a new girls school, Milada realizes that each girl there shares two traits in common: blue eyes and blonde hair. In addition, each has exactly the right size head or nose.
It is at this school that their indoctrination to Germanization begins. She is renamed Eva and each girl is trained to forget everything about their past. They have no past. They only have futures of being the perfect German citizen and be raised up to be perfect German wifes. Eva struggles with her new identity, the new language and to remain true to her upbringing and background. She holds on to a pin from her grandmother to always remember who she is.
And then the impossible happens. Eva can no longer remember her true name. What did people use to call her? Can she recall it? She can’t remember her name. The Germans have taken everything from her.
After the intense period of training, each girl is adopted into a German family. With a new name, a new language, a new sister and a new mother and father, will Eva be able to remember who she really is? Or will she be lost forever?
Stunning. This story had me jaw dropping all over the place.
There is a seven page author’s note at the end of the book which really brought the whole thing home for me. Inspired by the true events that took place in the town of Lidice where Hitler had a personal vendetta for a particular officer there, Hitler ordered the entire town to be emptied and razed. The men and boys were shot immediately while the women and children spent three days in the Kladno school gym. Their heads were measured and their eye and hair colors examined to see if they matched Aryan standards. Children who were selected for “Germanization” and the very youngest were sent directly to orphanages where they were adopted by German citizens. Many children in the retraining program were literally kidnapped off of the streets. At the end of the war, these Lidice children were tracked down and returned back home to their families. And for the smallest children who remembered nothing of their former lives were traumatized when removed from their adoptive German parents.
Someone Named Eva introduced me to this horrific aspect of World War II. Eva’s story was beautifully told and I felt so drawn to her. Even to the very last page, I had no idea where Eva’s story would go. I’d love for more people to pick this book up. It deserves a wide audience. In fact, the more I think back on this book, the more I love it. An excellent book and I’d highly recommend it for readers of all ages.
(And by the way, the hardcover has a terrible cover. It’s the copy that I read. Thank goodness they improved the paperback.)
Links of interest: Joan M. Wolf website. More book blogger reviews.
Genre: Middle grade historical fiction. Approx ages 9-12.
Publisher: Clarion Books. July 16, 2007.
Hardcover, 208 pages. ISBN 0618535799
Someone Named Eva is available from your favorite independent bookstore, Powell’s, and Amazon.