Review

Day After Night

by Anita Diamant

DAY AFTER NIGHT is based on an actual event that took place in
October 1945, months after the end of World War II. Four brave
young women --- Holocaust survivors --- are freed along with
thousands of others, only to find themselves again behind rolls of
razor wire.

Shayndel, a fiery resistance fighter, is a Polish Zionist whose
spirit inspires the others. Tedi, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Dutch
girl, had hidden out in Holland but lost her home and family in the
final bombings. Leonie, a waif-like French orphan, grew up on the
streets of Paris and survived the last years of the war in a
Parisian bordello that catered to the occupying German forces.
Zorah is a concentration camp survivor whose personal horrors have
transformed her.

These women are among the thousands of “paperless”
Jews --- primarily young adults whose families, personal belongings
and official documents no longer exist. Loaded onto cattle cars
with other survivors and sent by rail to their new location, then
herded directly to the delousing shower stalls, they were
confronted by horrifying reminders that they just may have entered
a new Hell. The only difference is the surroundings --- they are
now on Atlit, a British Army base near Haifa in Palestine. And the
armed guards who man the surveillance towers are not Nazis but
British soldiers. The survivors are assured that, once cleared,
their new lives are in front of them. In most cases, they speak
only the languages of their European homelands. Daily lessons in
Hebrew --- the tongue of their newly adopted country --- will help
them assimilate once they are released. After years of starvation,
they learn to eat foods alien to their stomachs and their
palates.

Their detention in the camp is the result of something called
the Balfour Agreement, established in 1938, setting a cap of
75,000, the number of Jewish immigrants who could settle in
Palestine. However, in 1945, when the newly freed Jewish refugees
flee to their ancestral land, that number rises to the hundreds of
thousands. The British make efforts to relocate those with records
and papers, but the unfortunates who had lost everything --- like
our heroines --- are in a state of limbo. As days turn to weeks,
and weeks turn to months, over 200 detainees still remain.

As a result, a group of young men from a nearby Israeli
settlement (or “kibbutz”) begin planning to break the
prisoners out of the encampment. As the secret planning begins, the
four young women, who have formed a growing bond during their
months of captivity, are called upon to join with the young men
from the surrounding kibbutzim to help rescue the others. Shayndel
must draw upon her undercover survival expertise to covertly help
plan the escape, while the other three have to call upon skills ---
ones that they would prefer to leave behind --- in order to take
the lead with the other prisoners.

There has been an ever-growing collection of literature, movies
and plays on the subject over the 65 years since the horrors of the
Holocaust were uncovered. DAY AFTER NIGHT is one of the finest
works honoring those whose lives were marred by the despicable
event. And unfortunately, the number of people alive who carry the
tattooed numbers from the prison camps is dwindling; with their
loss, gone as well will be the first-line witnesses to the greatest
crime of the 20th century.

Anita Diamant, who dedicates the book to her grandfather and an
uncle who died in the Holocaust, offers homage to the survivors and
has added an important piece of historical fiction to that body of
work. One hopes that the stories will continue to be written and
the memories --- however horrific --- will never be lost.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on December 29, 2010

Day After Night
by Anita Diamant

  • Publication Date: August 10, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • ISBN-10: 074329985X
  • ISBN-13: 9780743299855