Hana's Suitcase

Category: Book
By (author): Levine, Karen
Series: Holocaust Remembrance Series For Young Readers
Subject:  HISTORY / Holocaust
  JUVENILE NONFICTION / History / Holocaust
  JUVENILE NONFICTION / Religion / Judaism
Audience: children/juvenile
Awards: Great Lakes Great Books Award (2004) Winner
UNICEF Paolo Ungari Literary Award (2004) Winner
Cooperative Children's Book Centre Choices (2004) Commended
Rebecca Caudill Young Readers’ Book Award (2007) Commended
Canadian Jewish Book Awards - Issac Frischwasser Memorial Award in Children’s Literature (2003) Commended
IBBY-Canada Honour List (2004) Commended
Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction – Honour Book (2002) Commended
Information Book Award (2003) Winner
Governor General’s Awards – Children’s Literature, Text (2002) Short-listed
British Columbia Library Association – Red Cedar Award (Non-fiction) (2005) Winner
Published: June 2002
Format: Book-paperback
Pages: 120
Size: 9.02in x 7.50in x 0.36in
Our Price:
$ 18.95
In stock

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*In March 2000, a suitcase arrived at a children's Holocaust education center in Tokyo, Japan from the Auschwitz museum in Germany. Fumiko Ishioka, the center's curator, was captivated by the writing on the outside that identified its owner: "Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Waisenkind (the German word for orphan)." Children visiting the center were full of questions. Who was Hana Brady? Where did she come from? What was she like? What happened to her? Inspired by their curiosity and her own need to know, Fumiko began a year of detective work, scouring the world for clues. Her search led her from present-day Japan, Europe and North America back to 1938 Czechoslovakia to learn the story of Hana Brady, a fun-loving child with wonderful parents, a protective big brother, and a passion for ice skating, their happy life turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis.
From The Publisher*The extraordinary true story of the modern-day search for a young girl lost in the Holocaust, now with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
From The Publisher*New edition with foreword by Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu: "How extraordinary that this humble suitcase has enabled children all over the world to learn through Hana's story the terrible history of what happened and that it continues to urge them to heed the warnings of history." In the spring of 2000, Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a small Holocaust education centre for children in Tokyo, received a very special shipment for an exhibit she was planning. She had asked the curators at the Auschwitz museum if she could borrow some artifacts connected to the experience of children at the camp. Among the items she received was an empty suitcase. From the moment she saw it, Fumiko was captivated by the writing on the outside that identified its owner- Hana Brady, May 16, 1931, Waisenkind (the German word for orphan). Children visiting the centre were full of questions. Who was Hana Brady? Where did she come from? What was she like? How did Hana become an orphan? What happened to her? Fueled by the children's curiosity and her own need to know, Fumiko began a year of detective work, scouring the world for clues to the story of Hana Brady. Writer Karen Levine follows Fumiko in her search through history, from present-day Japan, Europe and North America back to 1938 Czechoslovakia and the young Hana Brady, a fun-loving child with a passion for ice skating. Together with Fumiko, we learn of Hana's loving parents and older brother, George, and discover how the family's happy life in a small town was turned upside down by the invasion of the Nazis. Based on an award-winning CBC documentary, Hana's Suitcase takes the reader on an incredible journey full of mystery and memories, which come to life through the perspectives of Fumiko, Hana and later Hana's brother, who now lives in Canada. Photographs and original wartime documents enhance this extraordinary story that bridges cultures, generations and time. Ideal for young readers aged 9 and up. Hana's Suitcase is part of the award-winning Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers.
Review Quote*The Globe and Mail

Saturday April 27th, 2002

by Susan Perren

The story of Hana Brady and her suitcase began with an article in the Canadian Jewish News. One of the readers was CBC Radio producer Karen Levine. She decided to produce a radio documentary about Hana; it was broadcast in January, 2001. Now, a little more than a year later, we have Levine's book based on her documentary.

The fact that Hana's story is known today owes more to the young director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre, an institution dedicated to education young Japanese about the Jewish genocide. Fumiko Ishioka felt that the best way for her young students to understand the terrible events would be through objects that had belonged to Jewish children.

She traveled to Poland and arrived at the Auschwitz Museum, where she requested artifacts in person. Several months later, a package arrived in Tokyo from Auschwitz, containing "a child's sock and shoe, a child's sweater, a can of Zyklon B poisonous gas and one suitcase- Hana's suitcase."

All the objects were of interest to the children but none more than Hana's suitcase; it was large and brown, and inscribed in white paint across its front was Hana's name, her date of birth (May 16th, 1931) and the word Waisenkind, German for orphan.

Who was Hana Brady? What had her suitcase held? These were just two of a barrage of questions from the children. Once again, the intrepid Ishioka, determined to find answers, set off. Record had been found indicating that Hana had arrived at Auschwitz from the former Czechoslovakia.At the Terezin Ghetto Museum, the shards of Hana's life began to fall into place. Her paintings, done at the camp, had survived her, as had camp lists indicating the existence of a brother. Miraculously, George Brady has survived and was living in Toronto.

Skillfully, and with great sensitivity, Levine weaves together the two stories, alternating that of a young life shattered in increments and that of Fumiko Ishioko's relentless search for answers.


Review Quote*The Toronto Star

May 12, 2002

Ghosts of Past

By Deirdre Baker

The suitcase was labeled, in German, in white paint: "Hanna Bady, brn 16 May 1931, Waisenkind." The English translation? "Hana Brady, born 16 May 1931, orphan. "Who was Hana Brady? Where did she come from? What was she like? Even more, did she survive?

These were the questions of the children of Tokyo's Holocaust Centre when they first saw the suitcase that Auschwitz museum had donated. Centre curator Fumiko Ishioka was driven by their clamouring to find out everything she could about the girl whose suitcase ended up in Auschwitz.

Hana's Suitcase, written by Toronto's Karen Levine, tells the story of Ishioka's search to learn about Hana Brady- a story that began in Tokyo but ended in Toronto.

Bit by bit, persevering despite dead ends and frustration, Ishioka uncovered Hana's path- from her deportation in 1942 from Nove Mesto, Moravia at the age of 11, to Terezin and then Auschwitz, where she was murdered. Even as she learned her tragic end, Ishioka discovered that Hana's older brother George had survived. He was here in Toronto, amazed to hear that half a world away children were eager to know and honour a sister he'd always mourned. He answered Ishioka's letter warmly, openly with a long letter recalling is active, beloved sister and a handful of fanily photograohs: Hana skiing, Hana dancing, Hana and George hanging out on a summer afternoon, doing what kids do in a charming, picture perfect town in Czechoslovakia.

Author Levine, an award-winning radio producer, first turned the moving story into a CBC radio documentary. And while it may seem that a radio documentary would make a strange children's book, in this case the result is one of the more useful and honest contributions to material for children about the Holocaust. Levine alternates between the account of Ishioka's long search and George's recollections of Hana; the abrupt shifts from past to present keep up always mindful of the end of the story. There are no concessions to children here: it's poignantly appropriate that this story remembers not a child who survived, but one who did not. Even as Hana comes alive for us through the recollections of her brother, we mourn her; even as we learn of Ishioka's healing contact wit George, we mourn him.

Levine writes at a walking pace and with a limited vocabulary, but the ups and down, the narrow timing of Ishioka's search, give the story momentum and suspense. Brady's more distant and general recollections of Hana enliven with anecdotes, provide a glimpse of a warm hearted, engaging girl whose innocent aspirations and pleasure underscore the unspeakable horror of Nazi crimes. Like the very best of museum exhibits, Hana's Suitcases shows how facts and objects can be put together to honour its subject in a very personal and loving way.

Highly recommended.

Review Quote*Quill & Quire

December 2002

Best Books of 2002

Hana's Suitcase was a prize-winning CBC radio documentary that morphed into a best-selling children's book. The gripping tale begins in Czechoslovakia with scenes from the idyllic 1930s childhood of a Jewish girl named Hana Brady. These chapters are interwoven with the contemporary story of Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a small Holocaust museum in Japan, who receives an empty brown child's suitcase from a Holocaust museum in Germany. Ishioka embarks on a worldwide search to find the identity of the former owner in order to help young Japanese kids understand the horror of the Holocaust. "Levine's spare yet vigorous prose, the short, punchy chapters, and the episodic nature of the storytelling move the events along rapidly." wrote Q&Q reviewer John Wilson in a starred review. Ishioka's search ends when she discovers Hana's brother, George, alive in Toronto. The photos of Hana's childhood in Czechoslovakia are, says Wilson, :an almost unbearably poignant record of a happy, yet doomed, life."

Review Quote*Quill & Quire

April 23, 2002

Adults have trouble understanding how people could do the things we know were done during the Holocaust. How then can we explain what went on 60 years ago to children? Fortunately, there are books like this one by CBC radio producer Karen Levine.

As a CBC radio documentary, Hana's Suitcase won the gold medal at the New York International Radio Festival. It's now available as a CD packaged with the book.

Paradoxically, Hana's story gains in power over other Holocaust chronicles because it is only half of Karen Levine's book. The other half is how Fumiko Ishioka, the curator of a small Holocaust education centre in Japan, uncovers the history behind an empty suitcase send as an exhibit for her museum. Fumiko's dedication to discovering Hana's story illustrates the fascination of history as much as it does the Holocaust, and the reader eagerly jumps between chapters about Fumiko's enquiries and Hana's brief and tragic life. Levine's spare yet vigorous prose, the short, punchy chapters, and the episodic nature of the storytelling move the events along rapidly.

Hana was gassed in Auschwitz in 1944, but Fumiko's search ends in hope as she uses Hana's story to create Holocaust awareness amoung Japanese children. The two endings are tied together by the discovery that Hana's brother, George, survived the camps and lives in Toronto.

George Brady managed to preserve a large number of photographs of Hana's childhood. These photographs constitute an almost unbearably poignant record of a happy, yet doomed life. Combined with the drawings Hana did in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt and the pictures of Fumiko and her children in present-day Japan, they enrich the book and increase its accessibility for younger readers.

Hana's story is, tragically, one of millions; Fumiko's is unique. Together, they will captivate children, reduce them to tears, and teach them invaluable lessons. Hana's Suitcase should be required reading.

Review Quote*The Montreal Gazette

October 26, 2002

Ordinary suitcase, extraordinary book

The small brown suitcase looks ordinary but for the words, daubed in white pain: Hana Brady 625, May 16, 1931. And in larger letters across the bottom: Waisenkind. (Orphan)

The voyage of the suitcase stopped CBC producer Karen Levine in her tracks. The veteran radio journalist read a report that the Japanese curator of the Tokyo Holocaust Centre was coming to Toronto to meet the brother of a young Czech girl named Hana Brady who had died at Auschwitz. In their efforts to understand the Holocaust, Fumiko Ishioka and her students, who had been sent Hana's suitcase by the Auschwitz Museum, had traced the story of her life and death.

Levine ended her self-imposed exile from radio and decided to do another documentary. Little did she know that the airing of that story in January 2001 would turn her into the author of a children's book Hana's Suitcase, now in its fifth printing in Canada, creating a flurry of interest worldwide. It is one of this year's nominees for a Governor General's Literary Award and has also been nominated for the Silver Birch Award of the Ontario Library Association. It almost didn't happen. "I've done a lot of radio about war and about the Holocaust," Levine said from her CBC office in Toronto. "In 1989, I did a six-part series on children in World War II, at which time I decided I'd never made another documentary again. It was very tough."

A 23-year veteran of the CBC, Levine has twice won the prestigious Peabody Award in the United States for her radio documentaries, Children of the Holocaust and A Murder in the Neighbourhood. "Then I read this story," she said, "and I loved it from the moment I read it."

No sooner had the documentary aired, than Levine got a call from an old friend, Margie Wolfe, editor at Second Story Press, who urged her to turn the documentary into a book. At work on another project, she thought no more if it. But Wolfe kept insisting and, finally, she started writing, for three or four hours every Saturday morning.

"Having worked in radio all these years is the best training in the world for writing for kids," Levine said, "and writing quickly." This spring, Second Story Press published Hana's Suitcase, the third in its series of Holocaust Remembrance Books for Young Readers.

As a story, it has everything Levine says. "It has a mystery; it had the great combination of terrible tragedy and tremendous hope, which most Holocaust stories don't have. And it has the wonderful element of Fumiko and the Japanese kids who are so inspirational." All those elements: Ishioka with her "heart of gold,: the three continents on which the story played out and one more thing that radio could not provide- the photographs and documents shown in the book- served to make this a most unusual and layered story. Nevertheless, Levine had no idea that the interest would be so huge. She, Ishioka and Hana's brother, George Brady, have spoken publicly many times about Hana's story since the book was published, and will so again on Monday night in Montreal.

"Fumiko is bringing the suitcase," Levine said, "which is quite amazing to see because it is a plain, old, brown suitcase and yet it has had such power and such impact because of what Fumiko has done in rescuing Hana's story."

That the youngest educator from Tokyo is so appreciated for the years of work she has put into this effort is particularly rewarding for Levine, as is the balm brought to George Brady now that Hana's story is being told. "Just before the book launch in Toronto, his daughter told me that although George hasn't spent his post-0war years dwelling on his experience, he would have terrible nightmares about his sister. "And since the discovery of the suitcase and the documentary and the book, his nightmares have stopped. It doesn't get better than that."
Review Quote*International Herald Tribune (Asahi Shinbun)

July 30, 2002

Suitcase carries memory of Holocaust victim to Tokyo

By Roy K. Akagawa

An empty, brown suitcase belonging to a Czech girl who died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz brought together a Holocaust survivor in Toronto with a group of children in Tokyo learning about the tragic events.

Photos depicting the search for the suitcase's owner years after her death and the resulting events will go on display at the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward today, and runs until Sept. 28.

The exhibition portrays the life of Hana Brady and her brother George, from their childhood in Nove Mesto, in then Czechoslovakia,to the horrors of the Holocaust that ended 13-year-old Hana's life. Hana was one of the 1.5 million Jewish children killed in the Nazi gas chambers. In all, 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Hana's suitcase, now a subject of a book, first came to Tokyo when Fumiko Ishioka, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, asked museums around the world to loan it possessions left by holocaust victims. She explained that the personal belongings will help bring the Holocaust closer to the children who visit the center.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 2000 sent a package that included a brown suitecase with the name Hanna Brady, her birthdate and the German word Waisenkind, or orphan, painted in white. Hanna was the German spelling of the Czech name Hana.

The children at the center wanted to learn more about the owner of the suitcase, prompting Ishioka to travel to Europe where she discovered that Hana's brother had survived the Holocaust.

George Brady, 74, who lives in Toronto, received a letter from Ishioka that same year, informing him that the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center had his sister's suitcase. After Ishioka visited Brady to explain the center's activities, he agreed to come to Japan.

In March 2001, he was reunited with his sister's suitcase for the first time in 57 years. Brady also brought with him happy memories of growing up with Hana, and lent the Tokyo center family photos that had survived the Holocaust. The pictures and stories brought little Hana to life for the children at the Tokyo center.

The display shows how Ishioka came to meet Brady, as well as Brady's meeting with the children at the Tokyo center. Explanations in both English and Japanese are intended to teach children third grade and up about the Holocaust.

George Brady- who had not talked about his Holocaust experiences to the public before coming to Japan- shares his thoughts on a message at the end of the display. While the loss of his younger sister remains the greatest tragedy in his life, he said the Japanese children's curiosity and concern about Hana gave him hope for the future.

The story was picked up by Canadian radio producer Karen Levine, who made an award winning radio documentary for CBC radio about the story of Hana's suitcase.

Levine also write a book titled "Hana's Suitcase," which was published by Toronto's Second Story Press this spring. The book, aimed at readers 9 years and older, was translated by Ishioka and published by Tokyo-based Poplar Publishing Co. this month.

It is fitting that Hana's suitcase is being used as a teaching tool to impart the horrors of the Holocaust to children at the Tokyo center. The 13-year-old had dreamed of becoming a teacher.
Review Quote*This remarkable, true story allows the young reader to understand the impact of the Holocaust on families and individuals, and to realize that each person has the capability of making a difference. Beautifully written.