Monday, February 25, 2008

The Secret of Priest’s Grotto

While exploring in Ukraine, caver Christos Nicola first visits Priest’s Grotto, the ninth-longest cave in the world. While researching the cave, he uncovers its fascinating history—38 people hid and survived there for almost a year during the Jewish Holocaust.

Nicola, along with photographer Peter Lane Taylor, recounts the survivors’ experiences in the children’s book The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story.

Their story is interspersed with the authors’ experiences working in the cave. What makes the book interesting is the survivors’ experiences—not the scientific details of Nicola and Taylor’s research.

Priest’s Grotto is similar to other children’s scientific picture books. The photographs feel stark and the content is more textbook than narrative. This scientific focus transforms a harrowing and emotional tale into a rather stark and clinical study.

Nicola and Taylor base much of the book on the memoirs of one survivor: Esther Stermer’s We Fight to Survive. This incredible story deserves a more thorough, more literary, account than Priest’s Grotto. Unfortunately, Stermer’s memoir was privately published, and I have yet to find an available copy.

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