Little Mitch Garwolinski was just seven years old when the Nazis invaded his village in Poland. Silent Screams of a Survivor is this young boy's story--a story of starvation, deprivation, and torture that at times seems so outrageous that it borders on the unbelievable. How could a child live through this incredible, seemingly unending nightmare and not only survive but also grow up into a normal adult? But that is just what Mitchell Garwolinski did. Silent Screams of a Survivor is 228 pages long; the story is set during World War II and opens with Germany invading Poland. Mitch is not a poor, Polish child. And he's not even Jewish. He is an American boy whose father works for the United States government. None of this matters to the Nazis, however. Mitch is taken from his family, starved, tortured, enslaved, left for dead more than once, and finally sent to a Nazi experimental hospital for children. The details are gruesome because of their authenticity. My heart was moved beyond words to read of this little child's struggle to survive, escape, and return to his family.
This is a book I would definitely have used when my children and I studied the Holocaust. I always tried to find books that showed real events through the eyes of those living during that terrible time. It should not be forgotten. However, because of the graphic portrayal of the horrific events in young Mitch's life, Silent Screams of a Survivor is a book for high-school-aged students or older. Young Mitch sees and experiences things that would not be wise to share with younger children--however true they are.
Mitch's struggle for survival forces the reader to ask hard questions: Is it acceptable to steal when your family is starving to death? Is taking life justifiable in war? What is the place of revenge in the aftermath of sadistic violence forced on a young child? Is forgiveness possible? These and other questions make for deep, lively discussions during your history studies. I would not hesitate to share this book with mature students who understand the Enemy behind the Nazis' atrocities.
But I do recommend discretion. I would read the story aloud to my high school children, allowing as much time as needed for discussing the material. I would certainly not hand Silent Screams of a Survivor to my child to read alone. It is too disturbing; but as a supplement to a well-thought-out unit study of World War II and the Holocaust, this book would be an integral piece. It is a book you will never forget.