Shadows of Survival: A Child’s Memoir of the Warsaw Ghetto

Shadows of Survival: A Child’s Memoir of the Warsaw Ghetto


Kristine Rosenthal Keese

Series: Jews of Poland
ISBN: 9781618115096 (paperback)
Pages: 160 pp.; 35 illus.
Publication Date: September 2016


After sixty years, Kristine Keese is finally able to share the memories of her years spent in the Warsaw Ghetto as a small child. She owes her survival, and that of her young uncle, to the striking resourcefulness of her mother. The story emerges as vividly as if it happened yesterday, full of details that only a child would notice. Although the the events of the Warsaw Ghetto and the fate of its victims has been described many times, Keese's story is exceptional, as it is told through the eyes of, not a victim, but a child engaged with her daily reality focused on survival.

Kristine Keese, born to a middle class Jewish family in Poland, was incarcerated as an eight year old child in the Warsaw Ghetto. After the war, Keese went on to attend Cornell University where she studied Philosophy and later received an ED.D from Harvard University. She worked at the Social Science Research Center at the University of Michigan where she had also been an instructor in the Slavic Languages Department, and later taught at Northeastern University's Department of Education. Most recently, Keese taught in the Sociology Department at Brandeis University. She left academic life to live and work on a fishing boat with her husband, along the coast of Florida and in Alaska, where she was an evaluator for the then newly-instituted Native education program under a grant from the Office of Education. She and her husband also spent a year on the North coast of Haiti attempting to organize a fishing cooperative. Currently they own and manage an organic cranberry bog in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: My Personal War
Chapter 2: 1939: The Clouds of War
Chapter 3: November 1940–July 1942: The Ghetto, First Stages
Chapter 4: The Ghetto, Last Stages
Chapter 5: The End of Safety
Chapter 6: Jasio’s Story and Leaving the Ghetto
Chapter 7: Times of High Anxiety
Chapter 8: August–August 1944: The Warsaw Uprising
Chapter 9: Leaving Warsaw
Chapter 10: Waiting for the War to End
Chapter 11: Spring 1945: Return to the Convent
Chapter 12: Living with Genia in Lodz
Afterword: What is Left???




Twelve-year-old Kristine arrived in New York City in 1946. When she tried to tell her story to her new American schoolmates they did not believe her. Seventy years later she tells the story she had thought best to put aside then. With neither sentimentality nor cynicism, but rather uncanny sobriety and a wondrous memory for visual detail, Kristine Keese narrates her time in the Warsaw Ghetto and later as a hidden child on the so-called “Aryan Side.” Calmly, without polemics, she revisits the eight year-old girl wearing high heels and a kerchief so that she could go to work beside her mother. She writes of her mother’s ingenuity, her stepfather’s coldness, and the surreal view of brightly-colored flowers from the bridge in the Warsaw Ghetto. Keese’s self-reflective attempt to understand what was humanly possible has meaning far beyond the particularities of Germans, Jews and Poles during the Second World War. In her story, told with no melodrama and no self-pity, we see the universal through the particular.
— Marci Shore, Associate Professor of History Yale University