Saturday, 19 January 2019

Book Review: The Librarian of Auschwitz (Historical Fiction)

Book Bingo 2019 #2 'A book with themes of inequality'


The Librarian of Auschwitz
Antonio Iturbe

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 27th November 2018
Pages: 423
RRP: $18.99
Format Read: Paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher


Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.

Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz.

Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope


The Librarian of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus. It is a story born of Dita’s experiences and the rich imagination of the author.

The story is set in the family camp at Auschwitz. The family camp was a cover the Germans concocted to deceive the world as to what was really happening in Auschwitz. While parents laboured during the day the children were gathered in Block 31. The aim was for them to play games, sports and sing songs. Learning was prohibited. Dita Adler, 14 years old, was the caretaker of the clandestine children’s library consisting of eight books. If the Germans ever found out about these books it would mean instant death.

The main theme of the story is how books and reading are something to be cherished and our right to read is something to risk death over. Dita protected these books with her life, lovingly restoring them and handing them out to the teachers each day.

The story follows Dita and her mother, Liesl, as they are taken to Auschwitz and the daily life in the family camp through sickness, death, hunger and fear as thousands of prisoners come and go in the camps around them.

The true violence of Auschwitz is very low key in this story which makes me feel it would be suited to a younger audience as a first introduction to the atrocities of the time, 13 years +. That’s not to say there is no violence, a prisoner is hung and a girl beaten.

The story had a lot of telling which caused it to lack emotion and I felt distanced from the suffering until the last 100 pages of the book where it became so much more immersive.

The Librarian of Auschwitz is impeccably translated to English by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites.

Iturbe includes a moving postscript which explains his reason for writing the book and his meeting with the woman that inspired this story, Dita herself, who is still as strong, outspoken and passionate in her eighties as she was as a young girl.

You can never, ever read too many stories about Auschwitz.

My Rating 7/10     

*This review is: 
Book 'L' in the AtoZ challenge 
and part of  #BookBingo2019 with Mrs B's Book Reviews & Theresa Smith Writes


Antonio Iturbe lives in Spain, where he is both a novelist and a journalist.

About the translator:
Lilit Zekulin Thwaites is an award-winning literary translator. After thirty years as an academic at La Trobe University in Australia, she retired from teaching and now focuses primarily on her ongoing translation and research projects.






  1. I'm really glad to see more real-life WWII narratives being brought to life. Another released around the same time (I think) was The Tattooist of Auschwitz, which my friend has *raaaved* about. I'm a bit exhausted with fictional WWII stories (All The Light We Cannot See, Life After Life), but when I see one that has at least a basis in fact, I sit up and pay attention. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this one, it looks great!

    1. I haven’t read The Tatooist of Auschwitz yet but I have read many glowing reviews. I just love stories set during the war but I need to read others in between so as not to be overwhelming by it all.
      Feel free to leave a blog link in your comments so others can check out your reviews ( blogger is a bit annoying just linking to your blogger profile )

    2. Awww, how sweet! Thank you!

      My review of All The Light We Cannot See is on my blog here ;)

  2. Glad to hear this was a good one. Have fun with the bingo challenge.

  3. This is great review and good timing for me! Pan sent me this book for review so I've had it sitting there for a while. I always feel like I have to talk myself into holocaust books, more so than other WWII fiction. I'm always glad I've read them, but I do find it draining. Your review has prompted me to just get on with it though!
    So glad to have you along for bingo!

    1. This one is very low key. I don't think you will need to prepare yourself but I know what you mean. I had to find something light for my next read.

  4. I love Holocaust stories but sometimes find them too hard to read. I'm glad this one is not too focused on the atrocities but on a woman I knew nothing about. Her story truly intrigues me.

    1. This is a good story for those that find the whole truth a bit overwhelming. The facts are all still there just not graphically described.

  5. I love World War II fiction, so I really need to read this one.

    Rachael |