April 22, 2012

Hana's Suitcase: 10th Anniversary

When the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource 
Centre, Fumiko Ishioka, attempted to bring in Holocaust artifacts to enhance the educational experience for children at the Centre, she could not have expected the chain of events that would be set into motion by the delivery of one item.  A small suitcase of unknown origin set Fumiko Ishioka on a quest for information which led her from Tokyo to Auschwitz and finally to Toronto and seventy-four-year-old George Brady, the brother of Hana, the young girl to whom the suitcase belonged.

Czechoslovakian-born Jews, Hana and George's parents were taken away by the Gestapo in 1941.  The following year, orphans Hana (11) and George (14) were deported to Terezin (Therenseinstadt), the concentration camp.  In 1944, the two young people were sent on different transports to Auschwitz, never seeing each other again.

When Hana Brady's story, via Fumiko Ishioka's meeting with George Brady, hit the Toronto news, Karen Levine, who worked for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), picked up the story and created a radio documentary about it.  Later Karen Levine wrote Hana's Suitcase which was published by Second Story Press in 2002. 

Hana's Suitcase
by Karen Levine
Second Story Press
120 pp.
Ages 9-12

Since Fumiko Ishioka received that lone archived suitcase, Hana Brady's story and Hana's Suitcase have been retold in dozens of translations, in an award-winning documentary (Odyssey of Hope: Hana's Suitcase), in a stage play (Hana's Suitcase Onstage) and in a docu-drama (Inside Hana's Suitcase).  Now, ten years later,  Second Story Press has published Hana's Suitcase Anniversary Album (2012), with numerous extras, like letters, photographs, play excerpts and more.

Hana's Suitcase Anniversary Album
(Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers)
by Karen Levine
Second Story Press
176 pp.
Ages 9-13

If you'd like to extend your exploration of Hana's Suitcase, Quill & Quire is commemorating the tenth anniversary of Hana's Suitcase with a free podcast (available on iTunes).  Get full details of this Quillcast (Episode 7) on Quill & Quire's website. 

Also, CBC Television's Doc Zone which aired the documentary Inside Hana's Suitcase last year (lousy timing on our part) has discussion forums, Q & As and links here used to promote the documentary's airing.

Finally, the Brady family has a wonderful website www.hanassuitcase.ca where Hana's family background is documented, as well as the timeline of events leading to the publication of the book Hana's Suitcase.  There is a wealth of information here to further the reader's appreciation of the book and Hana's story.

Imagine:  Such a big story from such a small suitcase.

In the next few weeks, I'll be putting together a number of CanLit book lists on different issues related to social justice, a hot curriculum topic in Ontario schools and elsewhere.  One such book list will be devoted to the Holocaust, and Hana's Suitcase will feature prominently in this list.  Look for it here soon.

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