I was born not long after the end of World War II. Some of my earliest memories are of hiding under the table out on my Grandma's porch listening to my Dad and all of my uncles talk about their experiences during the war. World War II, and in particular the Holocaust, has always held a fascination (for want of a better word) for me. I've read countless books on the subject, watched dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hours of movies and documentaries, and even had a chance to see & hear about some of what happened first hand both here at home and living in Germany.
In general, I do not approve of fiction when it comes to the Holocaust. Let me tell you why. This is an event that must never be forgotten, an event that some (all too many) deny ever happened, even with many survivors and combatants on both sides still alive. So, when I hear about something like "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas", first presented as a real event, then later declared to be a complete fiction by the authors themselves, I cringe. It will not be long before all of the direct witnesses have passed. Even my generation, the ones who heard the stories first hand, who saw the tattoos, who have walked the remnants of the battlegrounds, are getting on up there. Before too long, there will be nothing to witness except words written in a book. Those words must be truth, not fantasy. Otherwise, in 25 or 30 or 40 years people can simply point to a stack of made up books and say "see - all fiction - never happened."
There are some cases, though, where a story is important to tell even if it must be told through the medium of fiction because there are no longer living witnesses - or perhaps never were. One of those stories is the roundup,subsequent abandonment and final shipment to Auschwitz of more than 4,000 children in the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris, an action carried out by the French police on Petain's orders. There were few survivors - a mere handful - and most of those were young children at the time. Tatiana de Rosney does an excellent job of telling the story of this horrific event in Sarah's Key.
Until very recently even the fact that there WERE Jewish partisans was not particularly well known, at least not in popular mediums. Leon Uris talks about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Exodus. Rudi Weiss joins the Jewish partisans in Holocaust. Only in the last few years has the story of the Bielski Brothers - The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews and Defiance - truly documented the Jewish Resistance. As heroic as the Bielskis were, their group was not the only Jewish resistance group. It is vitally important that a couple of decades from now, when all who were there to witness or spoke to those who witnessed are gone, that people know that everyone did not march quietly to the slaughter like so many sheep, that the Bielskis were neither alone in their resistance nor an aberration. There is room in the historical record for The Remnant - Stories of the Jewish Resistance in WWII.
Othniel Seiden's story has its foundations in a great deal of research - interviews, records of the Nuremberg proceedings, diaries left behind by those who lived these events - and he has done a remarkable job of presenting characters that are accurate & compelling composites.
Some have commented negatively on his portrayal of the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Hitler's Final Solution, particularly as regards the Pope in office at the time of World War II, a role that has been the subject of great debate over the years, debate that is not yet entirely settled. The basic facts that Seiden addresses in this regard - that the Catholic Church had a pact with Hitler and that the Vatican helped thousands of Nazis to escape Europe at the end of World War II - are grounded in known, demonstrable facts. It is only since the papacy of Pope John Paul II, himself a Polish seminary student during World War II, that there has been some attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Pope Pius XII regarding his actions towards the Nazis and the "Final Solution." Had Seiden chosen to present this rehabilitative material, information that would have been unknown to the characters at the time during which these events occurred, would be to rewrite history. That would be a grave error.
Highly recommended. This is worth your time to read.