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Ages: 9 and up

Reading Levels

Grade: 6-up

Guided Reading Level: Y

To Hope and Back

The Journey of the St. Louis

Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers

by: Kathy Kacer
An ocean-liner carrying Jewish passengers can find no safe harbour...
Lisa and Sol board the luxury ship St. Louis in Hamburg, Germany on May 13, 1939 with mixed feelings. Lisa and her family are in first class; Sol and his parents are below in tourist class. Both children are excited to be beginning this voyage to a better life and sad to be leaving their old lives behind. They are Jewish, as are almost all of the 937 passengers on board, and although war has not been officially declared in Europe, the Nazis have been persecuting Jews for years. As they set sail for Cuba the atmosphere on the ship is optimistic, led by the German captain Gustave Schroeder, who is determined to see his passengers to safety. But as they learn that Hitler’s propaganda has turned the country against them, the mood changes to despair. They are turned away - first from Cuba, then the United States, and then Canada.

The story of Lisa and Sol is set against the tragic true history of the St. Louis. Denied entry from port after port, the captain was forced to return his Jewish passengers to Europe, where many died in the Holocaust. Through the eyes of Sol and Lisa we see the injustice and heartbreak that were caused by the prejudice and hatred of so many.

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Finalist for the 2013 Silver Birch Award (Non Fiction)

Finalist for the 2011 National Jewish Book Award


"Lisa and Sol’s stories, related with poignancy and immediacy, will touch young readers. An unfortunate lesson on the complicity and international complexities that made the Holocaust possible." - The New York Times, December 18, 2011

"A tragic story about an historical event that deserves to be told, and which should provoke thoughtful discussion about a difficult subject." - Quill & Quire, October 25, 2011

"With Lisa and Sol as the voices in To Hope and Back, Kacer wrote on how each child saw the voyage through the expectations of their families, resulting in two gripping accounts of the same event." - Marvin Glassman, The Canadian Jewish News

"A thoughtful and much recommended read, highly recommended for youth history and Holocaust studies collections." - Library Bookshelf, December 1, 2011

"[T]he historical significance of the St. Louis and the compelling photos make this a worthwhile supplementary purchase." - School Library Journal, January 1, 2012

Read about the "Wheel of Conscience" - a memorial, designed by Daniel Libeskind, unveiled in January 2011 at Pier 21 in Halifax, Canada's National Immigration Museum.


Reading Levels

Grade: 6-up

Guided Reading Level: Y

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