One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping: The Diary of Julie Weiss
by Barry Denenberg; Scholastic, Inc.: New York, 2000; $12.95
When someone says the word "Jewish" do you feel a sudden rush of hate, a thrill of fear, or does it even stand out enough that it makes you feel anything at all? For Julie Weiss, a Jewish girl who is about twelve years of age, that word means fear and confusion. One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping is a book about the Holocaust. A book about the astounding measures the Nazis took while trying to banish the Jewish culture. Julie experiences the horrors of the Nazis, firsthand.
This author does an amazing job of creating a young girl that is just like the children today. Julie worries about growing up, making friends and going to school. But then one day her world is shattered. The Nazis take over Vienna and suddenly there is more to her life than just fun and games. Now, she has to worry about whether or not her life and her family's lives are in danger. Friends turn into enemies and respect turns to hatred. The Nazis chant in the street, "Kill the Jews, kill the Jews!" Is it possible that they could kill Julie?
Julie is immensely confused. Why is it that suddenly Jews are thought to be terrible monsters instead of just human beings? Before Hitler had entered Julie's life she hadn't thought anything of her religion. Her family never went to the synagogue, never prayed and never thought very much about God at all. So, why is it that suddenly she is thought to be this disgusting thing that everyone hates? Could it be that the only reason that she is considered Jewish is because Hitler says she is?
This book is portrayed to you in fascinating diary entries. One night Julie writes about when the Nazis barge into her home. As the Nazis go through her family's house, throwing things out of windows and destroying everything in sight, Julie sits silently in fear. Then, suddenly her brother and father are yanked out of the house. Outside, they are forced to scrub the sidewalk to rid it of anti-Hitler signs. Eventually, the men and boys realize that the liquid they are scrubbing the sidewalk with is not water, but a kind of paint stripper that burns their hands. If they stop scrubbing they are punished severely. Many other events like that one are referred to in the book. One man who refused to do as the Nazis ordered had gasoline poured over him. Then, they lit a match and as the man protested and screamed that he would do anything the Nazis wanted, he was burned to death.
The author, Barry Denenberg, tells the truth, plain and simple. Although I cried at many times throughout this book I am glad that I have finally found a children's book that tells the unvarnished truth. One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping will tell you what really happened in those years so long ago. It will not hide the story behind curtains of lies. I have read many books about the Holocaust, but none were quite as moving as this one.
Thankfully, I have never experienced the constant fear that Julie must have lived with every day, but when three buildings were attacked by terrorists in the United States I experienced as much fear as I have ever felt in my entire life. Though no one I knew was hurt or killed there, the thought of all those who were chills me to this very day. The fear that most American citizens felt on September 11, 2001 was a small taste of what so many people who lived during the Holocaust had to survive with day in and day out.
As Barry Denenberg weaves history and the life of an ordinary girl together, this story comes alive. Suddenly, you're reading much more than the diary of an ordinary, young girl. You're reading a book about human cruelty and human kindness. You're reading a book about something real that may have happened to your ancestors. Read this book to find out what will win in Julie's story, evilness or goodness?