The Endless Steppe

by Esther Hautzig, Esther Rudomin Hautzig

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Critical Context

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Hautzig’s story mirrors countless similar experiences, told and untold. World War II, in particular, is the backdrop for a host of war survival stories reflecting the human capacity for endurance, resistance, and heroism. Many are autobiographical, recounting personal experiences that often echo one another. Together, these personal recollections of a particular era form a subgenre of young adult biography. The Endless Steppe is an early example of European memoir, appearing the year after the English translation of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl by B. M. Mooyaart in 1967 and breaking the ground for such later titles as Journey to America (1970) by Sonia Levitin; When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (1971) by Judith Kerr; and The Upstairs Room (1972) by Johanna Reiss.

Because Hautzig draws an unflinchingly honest picture of herself and her family, her characters possess unmistakable authenticity. Readers feel her longing to be ac-cepted no matter what the price, they are witness to her grandmother’s despair, and they are affected by the pride that will not let her mother ask for or accept help. Hautzig’s characters live in the pages of her book. It is this ability to portray real people, together with Hautzig’s exceptionally readable style, that makes The Endless Steppe one of the best of the war-survival personal experience stories for children and young adults.

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