Fumiko Ishikoa, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Center, wanted objects in her museum to spark Japanese children’s interest in the Holocaust. One day in winter 2000, Fumiko received from an Auschwitz museum a big brown suitcase with these words painted on it: “Hanna Brady”, born “May 16, 1931”, and “Waisenkind” (which means orphan). Fumiko and a group of children wondered what the story was behind the suitcase.
This book alternated between Fumiko’s search for Hana Brady in 2000-01, and the true story of Hana Brady’s life in the 1930s and 1940s. Fumiko’s search for more information about Hana was difficult, and there were very few clues to who she was.
The life of Hana and her family was slowly revealed throughout the book. From a happy life with her family in Nove Mesto, Czechoslovakia, World War II became an ugly reality which tore the family apart.
Fumiko found out that Hana’s name had been spelled incorrectly (with an additional ‘n’) on the suitcase. She also found out that Hana had ended up in Auschwitz via Theresienstadt – a ghetto town in Czechoslovakia used by the Nazis to hold Jewish prisoners in World War II. The biggest questions became: Did Hana survive? And, was anyone still alive who knew her then?
Recommended for readers in grades 4 to 7. Provides another view of World War II that would complement Lois Lowry’s “Number the Stars” and Anne Frank’s “The diary of a young girl.”