July 2021 – Rose and Odette novelist Joy Lucius tells the story of two sets of sisters, two different countries, two eras in history, and one great God.
“Isn’t that the whole purpose of sisterhood?” asked Claire. “A glorious, bothersome, inseparable friendship that can never, ever end, no matter what?” Claire is a character in the novel Rose and Odette: Unknown Children of the Holocaust.
Most individuals with a sister are aware of how meaningful that relationship is to all involved. For Lucius, over the last two years, the meaning of sisterhood has morphed into more than she could have imagined as she wrote Rose and Odette.
Lucius’ novel is young adult historical fiction revolving around two sets of sisters. One pair of sisters, Tori and Tilly, live in a current-day town in Northeast Mississippi. Meanwhile, Rose and Odette (ages 11 and 8) were real sisters, Holocaust victims in the 1940s. Lucius did not have to look far for sisterly inspiration. God had given her one long ago, her sister Lisa.
“From the moment I first looked at the picture of Rose and Odette Aboulafia, all I could think about was my sister Lisa.” Lucius continued, “I could not imagine a life without her.”
After first discovering that photograph of Rose and Odette, Lucius was haunted for days. So much so that she printed it and packed it in her purse. Each time she looked into the innocent eyes of the Aboulafias, she realized something the girls had lost: not only their lives, but the precious gift of sisterhood.
“[Lisa] is my best friend, my confidante, the one who knows me from beginning to end. I kept trying to imagine how different my life would have been without Lisa. And in the process, I thought about all that was stolen from Rose and Odette – even in just that one basic relationship of sisterhood,” Lucius said.
Unfortunately, the heartrending truth is that the Aboulafias never knew the beauty of a lifetime sisterhood as Lisa and Joy do. At ages 8 and 11, their lives were snuffed out in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. They would never attend each other’s wedding, see children born, or grow to become each other’s most trusted confidante.
“As a result of their heinous murders,” Lucius said, “the entire world missed out on the precious fruit Rose and Odette would have produced and shared with us.”
Likewise, 1.5 million children of the Holocaust suffered the same fate. But sadly, knowledge of that era is waning in Western education, and there’s little public interest in increasing awareness of it. (See below.)
It is often said that those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
One can only pray that the world will never repeat the horrors of the Holocaust. Hopefully, Lucius’ eye-opening account of Rose and Odette’s dark deaths will spotlight not only the strength of one of God’s greatest gifts, sisters – but also the tragic truths of the Holocaust.
Lessons to learn
Last October, the American Jewish Committee (ajc.org) released a study titled The State of Antisemitism in America 2020. Asked how much they knew about the Holocaust, 84% of American Jews were aware of what happened; yet only 37% of the general public knew.
When polled about the importance of teaching Holocaust information in middle and high schools, 91% of American Jews thought it is necessary. In contrast, only 68% of the general public saw the need for the subject to receive greater attention.
AFA eagerly anticipates a July 1 release of Rose and Odette. It will be available at afastore.net. After the book is released, the Unknown Child Foundation (unknownchild.org) will partner with Lucius to develop lesson plans and resources for school-age children.