During World War II the German Nazis began killing millions of Jews living in German-occupied countries. This terrible time of aggression and death is known as the Holocaust. During this time, there were many non-Jews, such as Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler, who believed that the Nazis acted unjustly. The Europeans who wanted to help the Jews had confidence in themselves that they could overpower the Nazis and protect the Jews from Nazi attacks and arrests. After the war ended in 1945, the Israeli government organized a committee at the National Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem honoring non-Jews like Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler, who risked their lives to save millions during the Holocaust. These people were awarded with the ‘Righteous’ title by the Israeli government in recognition of their hard work, determination, and bravery during the war. Non-Jews like Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler dedicated their lives during World War II to protect the Jews from the German Nazis and to help them secure and maintain their Jewish identity.
Like the millions of Jews who had to overcome difficult obstacles to survive and protect their Jewish identity, Carol Matas' children’s novels focus on young adolescent children who are searching for their identity. Carol Matas’ fictional character, Rosie, is a young, Jewish girl who tries to find her identity by understanding her religion and struggling to overcome difficult obstacles. In one of Matas’ novels, Rosie in New York City: Gotcha, Rosie takes her mother’s position as a factory worker when she becomes sick with pneumonia. The harsh treatment that her bosses inflict upon their employees teaches Rosie about the abuses of the working class and helps her understand what it is like to not have basic human rights. Rosie overcomes this obstacle by participating in the strike fighting for women’s rights and standing up for what she believes. The main theme exemplified in Matas’ novels focuses on young children, like Rosie, who discover their identities by overcoming difficult obstacles, and modeling for young readers that anything is possible.
Major Works Consulted:
Streissguth, Thomas. Raoul Wallenberg, Swedish Diplomat and Humanitarian. New York: Rosen, 2001
Matas. Rosie in Chicago, Play Ball. New York: Aladdin, 2003.
---.. Rosie in New York: Gotcha. New York: Aladdin, 2003.
Paldiel, Mordecai. The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Hoboken: KTAV, 1993.
Matas, Carol. Greater Than Angels. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.