The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig, was one of those books that sat in my sixth grade classroom library for years before I read it. I gave my sixth grade library to a friend recently, a new teacher just starting out, but I set this book aside, and I am happy to report that I finally read it. I’m so glad I did! It is a lovely little book, a memoir of Hautzig and her family during the Holocaust. She and her family survived because they were exiled to Siberia. Most of her other relatives that stayed in her beloved city of Vilna, Poland, did not survive. But as you can imagine, life in Siberia was harsh and survival was difficult.
“We spent nearly six years in Siberia,” Mrs. Hautzig wrote in “Remember Who You Are: Stories About Being Jewish,” a 1990 collection of childhood reflections. “I went to school there, made friends, learned how to survive no matter what life brought.”
This book, and Esther Hautzig, left a powerful impression on me. It’s a beautifully written story, and she was a beautiful, compassionate person. It is a story of the strength of love and family, of hope, and of the resilience of the human spirit.
The world lost Esther Hautzig last November. There were some lovely tributes paid her at that time. You can click on the links below to read two of them.
Another one for my wishlist!
Bybee, it’s worthy of being on that wishlist!
They are disappearing, people who experience and survived Siberian deportation and camps.
Many people felt discriminated against, as though their family members, killed by Stalin did not matter.
As when Germany accepted the treatment being crime and even paid for some people (not just the ones in camps, but also people taken for workers and soldiers by Germany), Russia always answered: “Only Hitler was criminal and people killed by Hitler were victims of crime.”
Without this book many Western people would not even have known about the Stalinist deportations.
This brought back so many memories to me. I didn’t read it as a child myself, but when I took over the running of the library in the first school in which I taught it was one of the first books I took out and one which I then recommended to many of my pupils. I hadn’t thought about it in years but now I shall have to go over to my library site and see if they have a copy available. Thank you.
After reading your blog I purchased this book off Amazon and I have just finished it. What a wonderful and thought provoking book. I am so grateful that she put her life story of this particular time in history, into a book. I never knew that people were sent into exile in Siberia during the war. This book has left me drained thinking of all the lives that were lost during WW11 and how terribly the Jews in particular were treated. I hope we never forget what they sacraficed for us here today.
I read this book as an adult a few years ago when I was homeschooling my 4 kids. It was a must read for them and I think it was actually a book choice listed in my literature based curriculum, Sonlight. I wish more of those kinds of books were on required reading lists.