“Cilka’s Journey,” written by Heather Morris, best-selling author of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” is a powerful, deeply moving story that views the Holocaust from the women’s perspective.
It’s based on the experiences of Cecilia “Cilka” Klein, a beautiful, 16-year-old girl at the time she entered that hell. In addition to her skills and steadfast courage, her mind’s ability to survive beyond the most atrocious and unfathomable horrors of the Holocaust was responsible for her endurance through years of savage brutality.
In both books, Morris did an exquisite job of focusing on the power of love, set in the soul-crushing background of the concentration camps. She was sought out as a non-Jewish writer, by Lale Sokolov, to tell his story as the Slovakian Jewish prisoner who survived by becoming the tattooist of Auschwitz.
Morris provides a vital degree of separation in her telling of their stories, that allows us to keep reading. Knowing upfront that Lale, his love Gita, and their friend Cilka survived, gives us the courage to imagine their pain, as we come to care for each one of them deeply.
Watching Holocaust films in my youth was traumatic. As a result, I avoided the topic as an adult, fearing I’d fall down the rabbit hole of despair. Through a string of synchronicities, however, and being ever reverent of those who experienced the Holocaust, I read “The Tattooist of Auschwitz.”
Morris wrote “Cilka’s Journey” next, through Lale’s account, along with Gita’s firsthand knowledge of what transpired in the women’s block.
The startling contrast between what stresses people today versus what those prisoners endured not so long ago, puts things in a perspective that needs to be realized. These outstanding books should be required reading for students, their parents and all adults.
The book will be featured at noon Nov. 4 in conversation with freelance writer Victoria Comella.