This is the autobiographical story of the childhood of Ester Hautzig who was born in
The book is written for middle-schoolers and so is a quick read. I quite enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in stories from this era. Hauzig is a very good storyteller and this is an entertaining story. She is never self-pitying, not only because it would be unseemly and ungrateful given what happened to the rest of her family, but also because she was a child of 10 and it was her parents who did the worrying and working. They had hardly anything to eat, but they did find food even if it meant scouring the frozen fields for half-rotten potatoes. They were crammed in with other families into tiny rooms, but they did have places to sleep. There are many funny stories in the book. One of my favorites is when they first arrive at the gypsum mines where they are to do forced labor. In the morning after their arrival, the adults are given their jobs. Her father is told that since he is an educated man, he will drive the horses. Her mother, being an educated woman, is told that she will be the supervisor for the women. “And what will we be doing?” asks the mother. “The women will be dynamiting,” replies the mine chief. Her alarmed father begs to take his wife place, but he is told that the rules are that the men dig the gypsum, the women dynamite it, and the old people load it. Those are the rules. Such ridiculous and nonsensical Soviet rules are the source of many of the funny stories in this book.
On the cover leaf, they liken this story to The Diary of Anne Frank. I have not read that for years, but somehow I think that Endless Steppe is not at that level for a variety of reasons—not the least of which is that Hautzig survived and tells her story from memory rather than the moment. Nonetheless, it is an excellent book and gives young teenagers a view of a unique WWII experience.