Aug 14, 2009

An Education in an Anti-tank Ditch (or why I became a publisher)

This week we’re sending out invitations to some of our Kar-Ben authors inviting them to post to this blog, to write about what inspires them in writing their books. For me, inspiration to do what I do comes from my mom, Hinda Danziger Kibort, among many other things a survivor of the Holocaust. The war came into her life just as she was completing her first year of university, and she never had the opportunity to finish her degree. Despite that, she was one of the best-educated people I’ve ever known, speaking seven languages and with a vast knowledge of world history, literature and even math (she learned to add on an abacus and was faster at it on that device than I was with a calculator).

Here is a story my mom told me about an experience of hers during the Holocaust, which inspires me to do what I do:

“I had a friend who I had gone to school with, whose mother was with us in the women’s camp. Her name was Frau Schmidt. As we worked in groups of five, digging anti-tank ditches for the Nazis, starving and beginning to lose hope that we’d survive, she did her best to make us understand that it was important to avoid self-pity. She insisted that some day we young women would be free again and we would need to resume our lives. She was, as I think back, a remarkable person. She decided that, as my sister, my friend and I had been students before the war, and our education had been interrupted, we should continue to study, even there in the camp! So, as we continued to dig in our ditch, she started a ‘school.’ Each day the five of us working in our group took turns, teaching a subject in which we were interested. One taught Russian literature, one taught poetry, one medicine, I taught French. And once a week we let Lorna give us a ‘cooking lesson.’

“Lorna, who was from Belgium, was always talking about food, driving us crazy since we were starving. So Frau Schmidt told Lorna that she could talk about food as much as she wanted on her one ‘lesson day’ each week in exchange for not talking about food at any other time. To this Lorna agreed. It was not as hard for us as you might imagine since, as Lorna was from Belgium, many of the ingredients and recipes she described included foods that were unfamiliar to us – we had never seen pineapples, for example.

“From Frau Schmidt I learned a valuable lesson: while you may have every physical possession taken from you, nobody can ever take away what’s inside your head. Your education is yours forever. “

This is why I do what I do, publishing children’s books, because, as Frau Schmidt said, their education will be theirs forever.

1 comment:

  1. This was so moving to read and truly an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing it.