Monday, February 10, 2014

The Extra - Kathryn Lasky

Jewish people along with the Gypsies were persecuted by the Nazi's during World War Two.  On an Autumn night in 1940 Lilo, her father, and her mother are taken from their home and transported to a holding area.  Five nights later the three of them, along with many other Gypsies, are taken to Buchenwald.  Lilo and her mother are separated from Lilo's father at the camp.  After two days of asking where her father is a boy asks her what she's looking for.  Lilo describes her father to him and the boy, Django, says he will try and find him.  Django does find him and he's on a transport leaving the camp.  The next day there is roll call for the girls and women to be medical pioneers.  This is the polite way of saying the doctors are sterilizing the women so they can't have children.  Lilo is spared thanks to the Good Matron hiding her.  Two weeks later they are transported to Maxglan.  Shortly after arriving Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's favorite filmmaker, picks twenty-three of the prisoners including Lilo, her mother, and Django to be extras in a movie.  They are transported to Krün, hosed down and given new clothes.  They are reminded that they are still prisoners and the same rules apply as they did at Maxglan.  The next day some of them, including Lilo and Django, are driven to the film set.  They are in awe of how realistic the set looks.  The extras are cast as street urchins in the movie.  If some of them aren't needed for a scene they are kept in a cell until needed.  When they are off set the Gypsies are housed in a barn, which is a little better than Maxglan, but not by much.  Lilo wants her mother with her while she's on set and Django gets her on the bus going to the movie set.  Lilo is assigned to be a stand in for some of the wide shot scenes of the main characters entering and leaving the town on horseback.  Lilo sees this as a chance to be noticed by Leni and possibly keeping her and her mother alive after the film is complete.  Filming heads to Babelsberg in the winter of 1940-1941.  To keep everyone alive the Gypsies are given warmer blankets and a bit more food.  Shooting continues for the next few months at Babelsberg and by the second week of May 1941 filming is completed there.  It is announced that everyone would be returning to Krün, with a few going to Sarentino in Italy for further shooting.  Lilo and Django are among the few who get to go.  While in Sarentino Lilo has a strange waking dream about wanting to free herself from everything.  She dismisses it as just a dream.  The filming finishes up in Sarentino and everyone heads back to Krün.  On June 22nd, 1941 word is spreading that Hitler has invaded Russian and everyone is celebrating.  While all of this celebrating is going on Lilo sees her chance to escape.  She escapes and doesn't look back.

I enjoyed this book.  I'm not one for historical fiction, but this book kept my interest all the way through.  It was a good story about survival during one of the most horrific periods in human history.  I also liked the fact Lilo always had hope.  Even when everything looked really grim, she believed one day things would get better.

T.B. 2/10/14

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