“Really, it’s a very ordinary suitcase. You could fit quite a lot in it. Books, games, treasures, toys. But nothing is inside it now. Across the front, there is a girl’s name: Hana Brady. A date of birth: May 16th 1931. And Waisenkind. That’s the German word for orphan” – Back cover of Hana’s Suitcase
Hana’s Suitcase is a factual book following the story of a young Japanese woman; Fumiko Ishioka. Fumiko is the head of the Tokyo Holocaust Centre; a non-profit organisation that teaches Japanese children about the Holocaust. She requests artefacts from a concentration camp in Germany and receives a sock, a shoe and a suitcase. Interested to find out more about this mysterious suitcase (labelled Hana Brady); she travels around the globe for clues on Hana Brady’s story. The results are recorded in Hana’s Suitcase. It discusses many big ideas and issues, which I will discuss in this essay.
The author’s purpose was to tell the story of Fumiko and Hana. Hana’s journey is set during World War II in a small town named Nové Město in the Czech Republic. Her parents were taken away to concentration camps, and not long after, Hana and her brother George were sent to a concentration camp as well. Fumiko’s story is set in Japan in 2000, more than half a century after the Holocaust. Karen wrote this book to show what determination can bring for you.
Fumiko’s determination brought her to Canada where she found Hana’s Brother, George and together they pieced together Hana’s story from her childhood to her death.
The Holocaust was the massacre of Jews during World War II in Europe. A Holocaust Educational Centre was set up in Japan to teach children who did not know anything about the tragedies of World War II and this is where Fumiko comes in, strong-minded and willing to go all out for educating everyone.
“With each loss of a friendship and each new restriction, Hana and George felt their world grow a little smaller. They were angry. They were sad. And they were frustrated.” -Page 24, Hana’s Suitcase.
The quote above refers to the restrictions set up banning Jews from cinemas, parks, swimming pools, libraries and other entertainment and working facilities.
During the Holocaust, Hana’s determination to live as best she could and make the most of life is also a big issue. She only had 10 years of freedom (before her transport to Theresienstadt, and she died at the young age of 13 in a gas chamber at Auschwitz (a concentration camp). The author has brought to attention the horrors of the Holocaust by sharing Hana’s story with the world. I think she has tried to tell us (through Hana’s Suitcase) that the Holocaust is something that should never happen again. I strongly agree with her point of view. I believe the Holocaust was a mistake made in history and we should learn from the stories of all the Jews who survived and their stories.
George Brady’s story is also something I have been looking at. He survived World War II and he later moved to Canada where he became a plumber. Although George did not have a good time at the concentration camps, he encouraged people to “forgive and forget” the Holocaust. Instead of hating the Nazis, he helped Fumiko educate others. As said in an interview I heard with George Brady, George believes he shouldn’t hold a grudge on anybody, like the Nazis.
“George was proud of the fact that – despite his suffering during the holocaust and the fact that his mother, father and sister had been murdered – he had moved on with his life.” -Page 101, Hana’s Suitcase
Karen Levine’s message in the story is to always be determined and persevere, and not to hold useless grudges. For me, Hana’s Suitcase is one of the many books I have read about the Holocaust. It was different to the others, as there were two stories going on at once. Also, I haven’t yet read one with a relatively happy ending, which I enjoy once in a while. I really loved reading Hana’s Suitcase, and I look forward to reading other books and stories that have morals and stories as pleasant as this one!