Book review: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig (Lithuania, 1930-2009)

It makes me pause and think how to approach historical topics like these to adolescents who themselves are going through stressful times. “When Hitler stole my pink rabbit” is another book that comes to mind.

Imogen is Reading and Watching the World: On Books, Film, Art & More

I hadn’t come across this classic of children’s literature until my son was assigned it as a year 8 (age 12-13) text. Published in 1968, The Endless Steppe is a memoir of Esther Hautzig’s childhood experiences during WWII, when she and her family were exiled to Siberia.

Hautzig was born in what is now Vilnius, Lithuania (then part of Poland). She had a comfortable early childhood in a large, upper middle-class, happy Jewish family on a tree-lined avenue and, as she recalls later, her wardrobe was bursting with pretty dresses.

In 1941 Vilnius was annexed by Soviet troops, and Hautzig was transported to exile in Siberia, along with her parents and paternal grandparents, leaving behind her extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins – a fact that would haunt the family thereafter.

After a gruelling train journey in cattle trucks, and months imprisoned in a labour camp as ‘capitalists’, amnesty…

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By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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