Review Blog

Mar 04 2008

The night of the burning by Linda Press Wulf

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2007
(Age 11+) Set in Poland at the end of World War One, The night of the burning tells, from a child's perspective, the horrors of being in a small village, surrounded by war. They see the soldiers coming to take men for the war, returning the narrator's uncle only when he is near death, no longer of any use. They see typhoid take many villagers, and know the hunger that gnaws at their bodies. It is a gripping story, based on the memories of stories told in South Africa, the place of safety where many hundreds of Jewish orphans came in the 1920's.

Devorah and her sister see their parents die, and living with their aunt, are saved by her at the night of the burning, August, 1920, when the Cossacks, drunk and eager to kill, mow down the Jews in the villages in the area. The girls are found the next morning under their aunt's body, by a neighbour, who sends them to an orphanage at Pinsk. Here they are chosen by a benefactor from South Africa, Isaac Ochberg, in Poland to take 200 Jewish orphans back with him. It is an amazing story of courage and luck as the two girls survive and find their way to life in South Africa, where they are adopted by two quite different families. The Ochberg orphans' stories are kept alive in this sometimes sentimental book, but it will be a fascinating insight for those who have only known peace.
Fran Knight

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