Return to Auschwitz Summary
by Kitty Hart

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Return to Auschwitz Summary

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Return to Auschwitz: The Remarkable Story of a Girl Who Survived the Holocaust, Kitty Hart not only gives a personal view of the plight of Jews under Adolf Hitler’s regime but also provides a historical outlook on the events that took place leading up to and during World War II. She relates how she and her family struggled to evade the Nazis until she and her mother were captured and sent to Auschwitz. Hart describes her experiences through a series of twelve personal narratives, each of which makes up a chapter in the book and focuses on a particular time or incident.

Hart begins the book by describing her arrival in England after the war, explaining the struggle that she faced in rejoining a society that did not want to know or hear about the trials that she and thousands of other people suffered. In the next nine chapters, Hart retraces the journey from her birthplace in Bielsko, Poland, to a Jewish ghetto in Lublin, a hiding place in Dorohusk, a prison in Germany, and then Auschwitz, the most dreaded of all concentration camps. A map provided at the beginning of the book illustrates the paths that she took from one place to another, a journey that she finished with her mother alone; thirty of her immediate relatives perished during the war, among whom were her father, her brother, and her grandmother.

In Return to Auschwitz, Hart does not merely describe the horrors that she witnessed on a daily basis; in addition, she reflects on them, questions them, and, above all, shows how she learned from them. She rebukes those who seek to mitigate the atrocities performed in the concentration camps or who continue to claim the Holocaust never happened. In relating her personal experiences, Hart also poignantly describes the life-and-death struggles of the people around her, the most important of whom was her mother. Hart and her mother miraculously managed to stay together throughout the war, and it is a tribute to their support and love for each other that they survived.

In addition to her experiences, Hart includes a brief summary of Hitler’s rise to power and the events that took place during his regime. She gives specific figures as to the numbers of people exterminated in the concentration camps and describes the roles of the leading Nazis involved in this extermination, such as Heinrich Himmler, Rudolf Hess, and Adolf Eichmann. Hart also relates details regarding the philosophy and techniques employed by the Nazis to carry out their program of destruction. By interspersing her personal experiences with established facts and figures, Hart provides a strong historical background for the book and educates readers on the magnitude, effectiveness, and impact of the Nazi extermination machine.

Included in the book are two sections of black-and-white photographs depicting scenes from Auschwitz and a layout of the Birkenau extermination camp as well as portraits of Hart with both her brother and mother.

Hart makes it clear at the beginning of her narrative that Return to Auschwitz is a result of her determination to tell the world the truth about the atrocities that took the lives of six million Jews and thousands of other Nazi prisoners. As she movingly states, “Those of us who survived have a duty to those who died. They are not here to speak: we must speak for them.” Her commitment to this goal is obvious: Upon their liberation from Auschwitz, Hart and her mother immediately became active in the process of reestablishing order in the aftermath of the Nazi destruction. Working first for the Americans and then for the British, Hart and her mother acted as translators and aided with the trials of liberated Poles accused of stealing from German farms and the identification of Schutzstaffel (SS) officers and concentration camp staff members.

Hart begins the book in a positive manner by focusing the first chapter on her arrival in England after the war. Although she reflects on her experiences as they affected her new life, she does not...

(The entire section is 1,497 words.)