In today’s world, we are continually being bombarded with stories of atrocities that humankind is inflicting on one another in the name of personal or religious beliefs. For many of us, it seems as though any effort we make to help is a small droplet in an ocean of pain, but we need to be reminded that human kindness always has an effect. Since I live in the world of books, my mind always goes to books and stories as an example, and as I think of human atrocities versus human kindness, I am drawn to a book we recently published – The Children’s Train by Jana Zinser.
The Children’s Train: Escape on the Kindertransport is a novel about a real event in World War II when England arranges to take Jewish children out of Germany by train. It is a novel about the atrocities that humans can inflict upon each other, but also the story of the lives that can be touched when people are passionate about helping each other. In an interview with the author, Jana Zinser, we find out why she was compelled to write the story.
How did you get the idea for your book?
In doing research for another project, I came across the story of these incredible children and the Kindertransport. I was amazed. I had never heard of it before. I started asking people if they had ever heard of it. Most people did not know what I was talking about, but a few people did and they shared with me what they knew. As each door opened into this piece of history, I became more fascinated.
It’s truly an amazing story. The great evil that forced the unthinkable separation of children from their parents, the sacrifice of the mothers and fathers who gave up everything so that their children could live, and the kindness of England to take these children into their homes is unparalleled. But it’s not that simple either. It’s an unbelievable twisting of tragedy and sorrow, and the endurance of the human spirit.
What was the hardest part of the writing process, and how did you overcome your obstacles?
The hardest part of writing The Children’s Train was living with the characters who were victims of the Nazi world. During all of my writing, I was thinking about what they went through, what they must have been thinking and feeling, and what their suffering means to us. That can be a very dark place when you really start to reach into their experiences and try to understand what happened to them.
I am still haunted by some of the stories I read, and one particular film footage of a woman being dragged from her farm house by Nazi soldiers as her little two-year-old girl chased after her. The mother tried to turn the child back to the house but the little girl, not understanding the gravity of what was happening, only that she wanted her mother, would not budge from her determination to follow her mother. I do not know what happened to them, but I began to think about the choices these parents made, whether to save their children or die together. It is a choice no one should have to make. It was from that point on that the problems of my life came into perspective, and I often think of the incredible bravery and fullness of spirit of the people who suffered at the hands of the Nazis, and I hope the world will never let it happen again. If we do not change because of it, the shame is on us.
What do you hope for your book to accomplish? Is there a particular message you’d like to impart to the reader?
Although it is fiction, I wanted to make The Children’s Train an honest representation of the real Kindertransport children and their families, so that their story would be appreciated. So their experiences would be respected. It’s time the world knows their heart-wrenching story. It’s time we tell them how much they are admired and loved for their sacrifices, and their courageous journey.
In The Children’s Train, Peter reads A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and sees the parallel from the story of oppression and revolution to his own life. I admire the power of Charles Dickens to weave his story with adventures and emotion that created real social change from his books.
I hope the people who read The Children’s Train will see how injustice and persecution of any people affects us all, and possibly find the courage to stand up for others, particularly the children. It’s always about the children. And perhaps there is a little bit of Peter in all of us, with a soul for music and a heart for freedom, which pushes us beyond anything we ever thought we could do.
Jana’s book can be purchased directly from BQB or ordered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your favorite local bookstore.