I could likely write thousands of words on this. This book has become a centerpiece of tolerance-based educational programming for countless children around the world. It's available in dozens of languages. Here in London, the play has been playing to packed houses at the city's main stage, the Grand Theatre. A colleague of my wife at the school has built an entire curriculum around this work, and has made it available to every school in the region. Because of her efforts, thousands of students from all backgrounds have learned Hana's story, learned why the Holocaust isn't just a lesson for world Jewry, but for the world, period.
George Brady was Hana's brother. He was 13 and she was 10 when their happy world of family and togetherness in an idyllic Czech village began to come apart at the seams. After their parents were deported to a Nazi death camp, he took responsibility for his little sister, doing everything in his power to keep her safe. In the face of brutality and cruelty that continues to defy understanding, he couldn't.
Yet he survived, came to Canada and built a life of honor, family and achievement. He succeeded in spite of what he had been through - and in doing so reflected a trajectory shared by so many Holocaust survivors. When I think of the millions of stories like this one that remain untold, that risk being swallowed by a history that's all too willing to forget, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. We need to do more.
Listening to him share stories was nothing short of incredible. Watching our children absorb his message, respond to his voice, learn his lessons...well, that made it incredible-squared. Maybe even cubed.
If you haven't yet experienced Hana's Suitcase, I urge you all to follow the links below. Tolerance, after all, is a universal human need, and we all have a part to play in spreading its light as far as we can:
- Hana's Suitcase web site
- Wiki entry
- The award-winning CBC Radio program by producer Karen Levine (alternate link here.)
- The book, written by Karen Levine
- A review of the book
- London Free Press article
- Grand Theatre show info
- Background on Fumiko Ishioka, the much-honored museum curator who wouldn't let this story die