CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 11 . . . .February 4, 2005
"My government has ordered me to issue no more visas," Mr. Sugihara said. Then he noticed Igor and Nomi. They were gripping Mother's hand. He looked into the back seat, where two small boys sat quietly. The car was packed with suitcases and boxes. The Sugiharas were leaving.
Mr. Sugihara wrote something on the form, then pulled out a bright red stamp and stamped the paper.
This is the paperback edition of a book that was first published in 1998. It is the story of author William Kaplan's father, aunt and grandparents and their escape eastward from the Nazis in 1939. They were among a handful of Jews who were able to leave Lithuania, get through Russia to Japan and across the ocean by boat to Canada just as all borders were shut.
The journey is recounted in a modified picture book format that makes it flexible for use with both younger and older children. Artist Stephen Taylor includes drawings, maps and photographs of historical scenes, landscapes and natural settings. Taglines and sidebars provide background information. The varied designs of the pages make the reader pause and consider the images before continuing.
The family was able to make it to safety because of the humanity demonstrated by Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Kaunas, Lithuania, and his wife, Yukiko. Going against the instructions of his government, Sugihara issued thousands of visas to Jews that enabled them to cross Russia and enter Japan. From there, some went to Dutch Guyana (Surinam) and Curacao, Palestine or North America. These people escaped the concentration camps and almost certain death. Sugihara's efforts were not acknowledged in Japan. He was eventually dismissed from his post and had to start his working life over again. His humanity and heroism were honored in 1985 at Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial) in Jerusalem in 1985 after survivors tracked him down and attested to his actions. Sugahara died in 1986.
The book follows the family's struggle to obtain the necessary exit visas and the delays that occurred because Mrs. Kaplan was a Russian national. Photographs of the lineups of refugees are somber testament to the fate they were desperate to escape. Finally, they embarked on the Trans-Siberian railroad that took them through the forests and mountains of Russia. Although it was a flight for their lives, still the children needed to explore, observe, play and learn. It was a mysterious and sometimes a miserable experience; they were excited about their adventure but fearful and homesick at the same time.
The Kaplan family was finally reunited with their grandparents in Cornwall, Ontario, and built their lives again.
Kaplan has written a tribute to his family and recorded an important individual act in the history of World War II that still has impact today. One More Border can be used in a unit on Holocaust studies and tells yet another story of people who were saved by the kindness of strangers.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.