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The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

The Student News Site of Mercer Island High School

The MIHS Islander

“And a Child Shall Lead” Centers Humanity in the Holocaust

Photo courtesy Alec Chvany
Alec Chvany
Photo courtesy Alec Chvany

“And a Child Shall Lead,” written by Michael Slade, is an inspiring and heartfelt story in which a group of young children living in a camp during the Holocaust start an underground newspaper.

The story takes place in the concentration camp Terezin and incorporates real letters, poems and writings from the Terezin camp in 1942. In the story, eight children navigate love, death and their creative passions while attempting to survive.

The children in the story record aspects of their day and things they wish they could tell their families, which all come from found texts. The inspirational, sensitive and moving story portrays the diverse ways in which Jewish children coped during the Holocaust. The show was extremely informative and it was clear that each student took the time to learn about the Holocaust and bring their real character to life onstage.

As new children are transported to Terezin, they have to learn the unfortunate truth that food, privacy, shelter and family are no longer available to them. When the recently transported child Gabriela Winterova (Sadie Jensen in Cast Butterflies) manages her new life in Terezin, she develops a bond with Pavel Hoffman (Giovee Roque) as they discover a shared love for music. Their love story gives the children a reason to keep fighting and find happiness. Towards the end of the story, more and more children are put on a transport list to Auschwitz, including Gabriela, resulting in an end to their relationship. Their companionship helps show that victims of the Holocaust were capable of emotions beyond sadness and despair.

Despite the realistic set and original writings, there are aspects of the play that do not match the conditions in which it takes place. While attempting to depict the immature characteristics of youthful characters, I believe the delight and playfulness of kids in the Holocaust was misrepresented.

As the children attempt to distract themselves from the severity of their situation by playing games, telling stories, putting on puppet shows and acting out skits, the ratio of lively moments to despair seemed peculiar for a story taking place in a ghetto.

“There definitely was a challenge in taking on the mindset of a younger child, especially since my character was more mature,” Brielle Gradek said. “I often found myself saying the lines as I would myself but then having to remind myself to add youthfulness and innocence in as well.”

It can be awkward to laugh during a story about children in the Holocaust, but there are definitely comedic elements. Alena Lederova (Gradek) fantasizes of a world in which she can be a Nazi soldier, treated with dignity. As the children play and spend time together throughout the camp, she and others mimic Nazis and use German accents. Lederova also represents the desperation for respect that many felt throughout the Holocaust.

The incorporation of real writings from the Holocaust made the play much more enriching and entertaining to watch. Each actor does an amazing job of taking on the perspective of a young child, especially Christopher Burnside as Martin Lowy. Upon arrival, Lowy questions the rules, conditions and reasons for being at the camp. Like many children in the Holocaust, Lowy struggles to understand why he was taken from home. Throughout the story, he draws images for “Vedem” and writes letters to his family. Projections help show the real drawings from Terezin as well as images of children affected by genocide, seen in a slideshow at the end of the play.

“And a Child Shall Lead” is an extremely inspiring, sentimental and beautiful story. The creation of an underground newspaper in order to cope with the tragedy of the Holocaust is creative and enriching to watch. The MIHS Drama 2 students do an amazing job of informing audiences of a sad reality and reminding them of the victims’ humanity.

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About the Contributor
Julia Weisfield
Julia Weisfield, A&E Editor
Julia Weisfield (she/her) is a sophomore at MIHS and is the Arts and Entertainment Editor. Outside of school hours, she enjoys reading, skiing and traveling to new places. Julia is a 2nd year member of the MIHS Drill team and the MIHS Islander.

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  • K

    KMar 3, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    Great job, Julia! As someone who went to the play, I agree with all your thoughts but wouldn’t have thought about some of the points you made. Really thoughtful!