A fictionalized story of Edita “Dita” Adlerova, The Librarian of Auschwitz follows the daily life and motivations of Dita as she lives through World War II as a Jew and eventually is forced to move to Auschwitz with her family. Upon arrival, they are forced to strip for disinfection and given tattoos. But they are not subjected to the same horrible existence as the other camps. In the Family Camp, BIIB, Dita can see her family every day, wear her own clothes, and keep her hair. She also meets a man named Fredy, who works to keep the camp orderly and stands up to the Germans and the Kapos to get the prisoners various privileges.
Dita’s first job is being the replacement stage prompter in the children’s block, but after the performance, Dita is no longer needed until Fredy approaches her with a dangerous request: to become the camp’s librarian. In charge of the small number of books that are forbidden within the camp and carried with them a death sentence. Dita took her job very seriously and cared for the books and made sure people had access to them. She even starts setting up meetings with living books (people who tell stories from memory or share their own experiences). Before the end of the war, Dita experiences the loss of her parents, hunger, illness, and hard manual labor in addition to the constant threat of death. Fortunately, she was able to make a friend, Margit, who she reconnected with once the war had ended.
Included in the end material is a note from the adapter, who explains what types of changes were made for the graphic novel adaptation as well as a brief historical dossier about the novel’s creation and biographical information about some of the key characters.
I haven’t read the original novel this adaptation was based on; however, I did find the story easy to follow. The illustrations keep a good balance between showing stark truths and maintaining suitability for younger readers. To that end, there are some panels that show naked bodies, but nothing gory or sexual is on page. Mengele’s experiments are spoken of in order to showcase the terror felt by the prisoners but never explained in detail or in illustration. I liked the way the artist used muted neutral colors throughout the story. It set the tone and brought the reality of this part of our history into stark light.
This adaptation could be shared with readers as young as third grade and would appeal to readers through sixth grade. It would make an excellent addition to any public or school library in the historical fiction section.
The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel
By Antonio Iturbe, Salva Rubio
Art by Loreto Aroca Hollendonner
Godwin Books, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Spanish,
Character Representation: Jewish