My Mother’s Secret by J. L. Witterick is a simplistic, fictionalized account of two real-life heroines of World War II. Franciszka and Helena Halamajowa rescued fifteen Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust and did so for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. To put it into perspective, in their little town in Poland, only thirty of six thousand Jews survived the war. The Halamajowa women saved half of the survivors on their own simply by hiding them in and around their very tiny homestead.
At only 208 pages, Ms. Witterick does not go into great detail about the events at the Halamajowa household, but what she does show gives us four different viewpoints of the war and living in occupied Poland. We get a partial understanding of the desperation required to ask for help in hiding from the Nazis, and we also get an idea that not all Nazis relished their roles in occupying countries and terminating the Jews. More importantly, we can glean an idea of the humanity it takes to hide not one but two families as well as a German deserter from the enemy.
Again, My Mother’s Secret is more a novella than a novel, so there is no depth, no insight into the characters or the story. Instead, we get a very simplistic view of the generosity of spirit and the creativity it took to protect those most at risk during the Nazi occupation. Coming off of four years of inflamed hatred and burgeoning fascism, My Mother’s Secret inspires as it provides proof that humanity can be better than what the news media reports.