Just as Art Spiegelman’s Maus presented a dramatic new framework from which to view the Holocaust, Mendel’s Daughter combines an unforgettable true story with elegant, haunting illustrations to shed new light on one of history’s darkest periods. In 1989, Martin Lemelman videotaped his mother, Gusta, as she opened up about her childhood in 1930s Poland and her eventual escape from Nazi persecution. Now, in Mendel’s Daughter, Lemelman lovingly transcribes his mother’s harrowing testimony, andbrings her narrative to life with his own powerful black-and-white drawings, interspersed withreproductions of actual photos, documents and other relics from that unsettled era. The result is a wholly original, authentic and moving account of hope and survival in a time of despair.

Mendel's Daughter opens with a picture of shtetl life, filled with homey images that evoke the richness of foods and flowers, of family and friends and Jewish tradition.

Soon, however, Gusta’s girlhood is cut short as her family becomes witness to the rise of Hitler, rumors of war, invasion, occupation, roundups and pogroms. We follow Gusta into flight, hiding and survival—into the unfolding uncertainty of those terrible times.

As solemn and as hopeful as a prayer, Mendel’s Daughter isMartin Lemelman’s testament to Gusta’s bravery and a celebration of her perseverance. The devastatingly simple power of a mother’s words and a son’s illustrations combine to create a work that is both intensely personal and universally resonant.


Sample Pages
Preliminary Art
Author Interview
Reader's Guide
About the Author
Picture of Gusta
Dialup | Broadband
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Gusta Remembers: Dialup | Broadband
Last updated September, 2006. © Martin Lemelman
Web inquiries to mcfeely@kutztown.edu