by Alexandra Zapruder
Reviewed by Linda F. Burghardt for the Jewish Book Council, October 7, 2015
In the best of scenarios, when a book is reissued in a second edition, it’s because so much new scholarship has been created around the topic that the first set of pages just cry out for expansion and even reinvention. This is certainly the case with Salvaged Pages, a readable, informative, and enlightening collection of essays by young writers who came of age in the poisoned air of the Holocaust years.
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award in its first edition (published in 2002), this set of first-person narratives contains eyewitness reportage by young people between the ages of 12 and 22. Scholars often ask how we can best understand the enormity of the Holocaust, and some answer, rather convincingly, that it is through deeply taking in the observations, impressions, emotions and activities experienced in the day-to-day lives of individual people.
Salvaged Pages, issued both in print and as an e‑book, serves many purposes: the full revision and updating of its contents reflects new ideas about survival and genocide and is designed to serve a range of readers, from academics to serious students of the Holocaust to lay people who want to be fully informed about the era. In addition, the second edition also incorporates a variety of media, so that it can be used as a classroom tool along with the interdisciplinary curriculum in history, literature, and writing that has been developed to support the teaching of the Holocaust in both middle- and high-school classrooms. These new media include photos of the writers and their diaries, original artwork, maps, survivor testimonies, and historical documents.
Because of these attributes, the new edition stands out as an educational tool. Alexandra Zapruder, who collected and edited the essays, has wisely collaborated with experts in a variety of disciplines and technologies, including the well-respected educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves. In a demonstration of the value of the book, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has adopted it as one of its foundational texts.
The essays are parts of real diaries and journals kept by the young people as their daily lives unfolded. They are filled with emotion that rings true, illuminating their experiences at home, in hiding, in transit camps, ghettos, and concentration camps. Despite fear and cold, displacement and loss, these writers continued to find scraps of paper and pencils on which to record what was happening to them. Time and again they ask why — why they are hungry, why they are losing their families, why they are forced to live in hell. And while we imbibe these extraordinary stories, what we mostly find is that we have no answers, only more — but perhaps better — questions.