Saturday, January 14, 2012

We All Wore Stars

I won my copy of We All Wore Stars by Theo Coster through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and I was well beyond pleased when I received it from the publisher, Palgrave-MacMillan.  For a long time I've had a kind of morbid fascination with the Holocaust.  I love to read anything I can about this tragic event in history, and any time I see that a World War II documentary is on TV, I watch it if I can.  Discovering that I have relatives who were killed in the war was no surprise to me, since my dad's mother's family is Polish; discovering that one of those relatives (maybe I should say one that I know of so far) was not only an inmate in Auschwitz, but was killed there, makes me that much more interested to soak up anything I can get my hands on to learn more about it.

We All Wore Stars is a short book of, as the subtitle reads, "Memories of Anne Frank from Her Classmates."  But it isn't just memories about her - I would describe this book more as a brief collection of memories of the contributors' own wartime experiences.  Coster decided to create a film about his and some of his classmates' experiences from the war, to ensure that their stories would endure after they have passed on; this book seems to be almost a companion to the documentary, in a way, and having read this, I'm very interested in finding the film.  Not many of their classmates survived the war - indeed, a vast majority of Holland's Jewish population in general did not survive - but Coster was able to get in touch with a few individuals, who he met with both as a group and individually, to reminisce about their time together at the Jewish Lyceum in Amsterdam, and to talk about some of their individual experiences after either going into hiding or being arrested and sent to the camps.

It's amazing how very different each of their stories is, and I have found this to be true of every Holocaust biography I have read.  They were going through the same troubles, and had a common enemy, but no two stories are quite alike.  I cherished every memory shared in this book, and was very sorry to come to the end as soon as I did.  It's a very short read, but incredibly touching.  It was fun and interesting to read what each of them had to say about how they remembered Anne when they were at the Lyceum together, as well as what they think of the things she wrote about them in her diary. 

What with the diary being so widely read, and with the play and the film adaptations, she seems larger than life - it's almost impossible to bring up that period without thinking of her or discussing her.  But through her surviving classmates, we are reminded that she was just a normal, average young schoolgirl.  She liked to be the center of attention and she was bright, but she wasn't any more or less remarkable than anyone else in her class - and yet hers is the story everyone is familiar with.

Coster's book is a lovely tribute to an average young girl and her extraordinary story, but it's more than that.  It's a humble but moving tribute to millions of average people and each of their stories - most of them tragic, all of them extraordinary, and many of them we can never know.



Palgrave Macmillan

Film Adaptations:
The Classmates of Anne Frank

See what others are saying about it, or buy it now:
Better World Books


  1. Thanks for the review. This sounds really interesting.
    Have you ever read: Elli : coming of age in the holocaust by Livia E.Bitton Jackson? That one really made me rage and cry.

    1. No, I haven't! I do have her book "I Have Lived A Thousand Years" though, and I felt the same way (I think I got it at a book fair after our class read Number the Stars in 5th grade). I definitely need to find Coming of Age in the Holocaust.