CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 16 . . . .April 14, 2006
The original prose version of this story was reviewed in CM in Volume VIII Number 21, June 21, 2002. Emil Sher has now adapted this valuable story into play form, broadening its use and ensuring its longevity. This edition has both the full text of the book and the play, making it a most useful tool.
Hana's Suitcase is the story of a Japanese woman, Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre, who set out to teach children about the Nazi genocide of Jews in World War II. She contacted the curators of the Auschwitz concentration camp who sent her a child's suitcase to use as a tangible example of someone who was a prisoner there.
Fumiko decided that she needed to find out about Hana Brady, the Czech girl whose name was inscribed on the suitcase. She discovered that Hana had been interned in the Terezin concentration camp. Fomiko used an opportunity to travel to Europe to go to the Terezin Ghetto Museum, where records showed that Hana had been sent to Auschwitz where she was killed. The records also showed that her brother, George, had survived. Fumiko traced him to Toronto where he had worked as a plumber and had raised his family. George had promised to protect Hana when the Nazis arrested his parents, and his greatest regret was that he never knew her fate.
George Brady, who was 74-years-old when Fumiko made contact with him in 2000, never imagined that one day he would be visiting Japan and educating children all over the world about the Holocaust. When Karen Levine, a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, heard the story of Fumiko's determination and the unlikely result, she developed a radio documentary that became an instant sensation. She turned the documentary into a book, which has chapters that alternate between Fumiko's journey to find out about Hana and Hana's journey from childhood happiness to the death camps.
Sher's contribution, Hana's Suitcase on Stage, is a simply written, but powerful, teaching tool for middle and even high school students. It follows a similar structure to the book, going back and forth between the search launched by Fumiko and her students and Hana's struggle. This format relieves the intensity of the story and allows the audience to reflect along with the student narrators about what will happen to Hana. The spare language adds emphasis to the emotion and the fear of the unknown.
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.