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Description : IRENE GUT WAS just 17 in 1939, when the Germans and Russians devoured her native Poland. Just a girl, really. But a girl who saw evil and chose to defy it. No matter how many Holocaust stories one has read, this one is a must, for its impact is so powerful. “School Library Journal,” Starred “A” Book Sense “Top Ten Pick” “A” Publisher s Weekly “Choice of the Year s Best Books” “A” Booklist “Editors Choice””Age range: 11 and over
Irene Gut Opdyke was just 17 when the Nazis invaded her native Poland. From that moment she was wrenched away from her family and forced –literally–to run for her life. Eventually, while bearing witness to and falling victim to the brutality of war, she was forced to work as housekeeper to a Nazi officer. It was there that she took her life in her hands and committed the most audacious of acts in the name of humanity: she hid 12 Jewish people in the basement of her Nazi employer’s house.
In In My Hands Irene recounts her extraordinary history, leaving no stone unturned as she takes the reader through time from the moment of Nazi invasion to her eventual departure for America. But the most remarkable thing about this book is the matter-of-fact tone in which it is written, which somehow allows readers to observe the events of Irene’s life without forcing them to wallow in any kind of sentimentality. And although there is no doubt as to how Irene thought, felt and reacted, readers are required only to observe and draw their own conclusions.
This is by no means an easy read: the effects of war on the lives of ordinary people are surfaced to the point where it is impossible to not feel pain, and although it is ultimately a story of hope and inspiration, the spoils of the human condition are laid bare in a no-holds-barred manner that sometimes takes the breath away.
Jennifer Armstrong, who interpreted Irene’s story to form the narrative of In My Hands says: “I was afraid to write this book, to put my self into her past.” Irene’s past is indeed frightening, and being forced to confront evil in this way is certainly uncomfortable. But if nothing else, it serves as a reminder that there are some things we should never, ever forget. —Susan Harrison