Present Day—With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairytale wedding just around the corner, Sera James feels she’s stumbled into a charmed life—until a brutal legal battle against fiancé William Hanover threatens to destroy the perfectly planned future she’s planned before it even begins. Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he never committed, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and any hope for a future.
1942—Kája Makovsky narrowly escaped occupied Prague in 1939, and was forced to leave her half-Jewish family behind. Now a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in England, Kája discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, Kája has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.
Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, these two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains and fight to protect all they hold dear—even if it means placing their own futures on the line.
About the Author
Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her grandfather’s stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.
Q: Your new book has a unique title — A Sparrow in Terezin. Where is Terezin, and what happened there?
Terezin (or Theresienstadt in German) was a small fortress and garrison city converted to a ghetto and concentration camp during WWII. Positioned just an hour automobile ride north of Prague in what is now the Czech Republic, the 18th-century fortress was an ideal place for the Nazis to set up a Gestapo prison for political prisoners early in the war. By 1941, the camp was converted also to a ghetto and transport camp for mainly Czech, but also Soviet, Polish, German and Yugoslavian Jews. Of the approximate 150,000 prisoners who passed through Terezin during the course of the war, nearly 90,000 were deported to Auschwitz or other extermination camps. Of the 15,000 children who were sent to Terezin between 1942 and 1944, fewer than 100 survived the war.
Q: How was Terezin different than other concentration camps we may be more familiar with?
Terezin was cruelly referred to as the “Model Ghetto” or “Paradise Camp,” but the horrors of indiscriminate killings, starvation and disease that occurred there made it anything but. The Nazi regime used this camp as a propaganda tool and transport camp, beautifying parts of the city late in the war as a model to show how “well” the Jews were being treated in all of the concentration camps. In reality, the Nazis used a beautified Terezin — with a public park, window boxes with flowers, even painted-plaster meat that hung in butcher shop windows — all as a ruse to mislead the International Red Cross. To alleviate over-crowding before the arrival of Red Cross workers, the Nazis shipped tens of thousands of Jews from Terezin to killing centers (such as Treblinka and Auschwitz) in occupied Poland.
Q: What compelled you to tell this particular story from the World War II era?
In early 2004, I was a young college student in an art history class. I remember the moment when the professor presented a topic I’d never heard of — the art of the Holocaust — and I was instantly captivated. From that day on, I devoured any books I could find on the subject, especially Elie Wiesel’s Night, which I still read every year. I remember hearing that whisper in my soul, that this topic was special somehow; the art of creation and worshipping God, even in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances one could imagine. It’s a stunning expression of beauty I still can’t fully understand. And though it’s a very weighty subject, I wanted to give a voice to these known artists, to help others hear their story. So I stored the idea away, hoping someday I’d know what to do with it. Ten years later, it turned into this series.
Q: Tell us about the children of Terezin. Where did you first hear their story?
While studying for my undergraduate degree in art history, I completed much research on the art of the Holocaust, specifically, the prisoner camp art of Auschwitz and the children’s art of Terezin. During that research, I came across I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944 (Schocken Books, 1993). This book changed my heart forever. There are stunning pieces of the children’s art inside its pages. Watercolors. Cut-paper collages in brilliant colors. There are peaceful still-life portraits and others, more heart-wrenching, of work details and guards with machine guns. There are songs and poetry, all imagined by the sweet little hands and hearts of the children of Terezin. The art of these children refused to leave my heart. The images are so heart-wrenching that they beg for a voice. It’s because of them Sophie and Kája’s story was born in A Sparrow in Terezin.
Q: Why did the arts thrive in Terezin? What do you think the appreciation of the arts tells us about humanity?
The real shocker for me was to learn that not only did the arts community exist in Terezin, cultural life seemingly thrived. Despite the lack of basic sanitation, food and clean water (and people dying by the thousands), great effort was put into the arts. There were academic lectures on topics such as medicine, the arts and Jewish history, full symphony and chamber orchestra performances — Brundibar (or Bumble Bee) was a children’s operetta both written and performed within the camp. There was even a 10,000-volume Hebrew lending library. An appreciation of the arts would usually be exciting to research, but given the conditions the people endured, the investment in it here is heart-breaking. The lack of humanity is sickening.
Q: What lessons can we learn from your heroine, Kája, as she uses her education and abilities in the concentration camp? How were her talents able to aid her survival?
Like Adele’s journey in The Butterfly and the Violin (the first book in the series), Kája’s skills had a very large part in her survival. She was smart and brave in a way she couldn’t fully understand. But in the world of Terezin, she had a better chance than most. In a cultural community that was thriving, Kája would have been seen as added value. And though survival was a big part of her motivation, I think there was something greater: hope. She knew most of the children in her ghetto school would ultimately not survive. Instead, she used her God-given gifts to infuse them with hope in the best way she knew how. I love the fact that in the end, she cared more about the children (her little sparrows) than she did about her own survival. This brave part of her story tugs at my heart like few things can.
Q: Did you struggle telling such a devastating story? How did you manage to infuse A Sparrow in Terezin with a message of hope?
That’s a great question. The simplest answer has to be — yes. Some of the research was so gut-wrenching that I had to take breaks just to get through it. I broke the book into segments on The Blitz, the contemporary storyline and the scenes in Terezin. Because the ghetto scenes were so heavy, I’d have to step away from both research and writing for a time, work on something else and come back to them later. But despite the difficulty, I wanted the story to have hope. In fact, everything hinges on it. Joshua 1:9 is the foundation for Kája’s journey, both before and during her time in Terezin. There had to be hope for her to lean on, to know that no matter what was happening around her, God was still faithfully by her side.
Q: Because of Kája’s stand, a little girl named Sophie survives and grows to have an impact on the second heroine in A Sparrow in Terezin, Sera. What does that teach us about the importance of leaving a personal legacy?
There’s so much in a story — I think that’s what endears Sera to Sophie’s character. It’s the story that carries on long after we’re gone, long after each generation passes and the world we live in is continually made new. For every decision we make and for every road we walk in life, the sphere of influence in which God places us has purpose, and stories are the witness of that.
Q: What is the number-one message you would like readers of A Sparrow in Terezin to walk away with?
Above all, my hope is that readers walk away from this reading experience with a changed heart — to know that no matter what journeys life brings, they can have strength and courage with every step. We can stand firm on the truths in Joshua 1:9 and find our courage in Him, whether it’s in circumstances as horrific as the Holocaust or the discouragements of our everyday lives. He can
**Disclosure: Press materials provided by Litfuse Publicity**
**Disclosure: review copy provided by Litfuse Publicity**