Social Justice Stories

building compassion, tolerance, and responsible citizenship through social justice narratives

Clara's War

by Kathy Kacer

It's a dangerous time for thirteen-year-old Clara and her family. They have just been imprisoned in Terezin (Terezinstadt), a ghetto in a medieval town near Prague. Terezin was built to show the world how "well" the Nazis were treating Jews during the Second World War. Here Clara encounters hunger, disease and filthy living conditions. Even worse is the constant threat of being deported to concentration camps where the possibility of death awaits her. But in the midst of the horror of these conditions, Clara makes strong friendships with Hanna, a girl from home and Jacob, an older boy who helps her learn about life in the ghetto. She also participates in classes where education, music and poetry flourish. Life in the ghetto takes an unusual turn for the young people when a children's opera, Brundibar, written by an inmate, allows them moments of joy and laughter. With a real escape being planned by Jacob, a family tragedy to confront, and an inspection tour from the Red Cross at hand, Clara has some life-challenging decisions to make.

Inspired by real events, particularly by performances of Brundibar, this compelling work for readers ten and up includes historical photographs of the ghetto and of the children on the opening night of the opera. A review of the performance written by a young boy in an underground ghetto newspaper adds further depth to the book.