For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is a thought-provoking book, which made me pause and ponder several times. The heroine in the story, Stella Muller (Hadassah), is modeled on Esther. She, too, will be the salvation of her people. Set in Theresienstadt (Terezin), the story recounts Stella’s rescue from Dachau and her journey to health and determination as the Kommandant’s secretary. Aric Schmidt, the Kommandant of Theresienstadt, is a decorated war hero to the Nazis. After being wounded in a battle against the Russians, he is rewarded with this post following his recovery. Touring Dachau, he came upon Stella on a firing squad line still holding the hand of a little girl who had just been killed by the squad. Compelled to rescue her, he takes her to his home in Theresienstadt, allows her to recover, and then uses her as his secretary.
Providentially, her uncle, Morty, is imprisoned in the ghetto at Theresienstadt, and they are reunited. Aric does not know that Stella is really Hadassah Benjamin, but believes she is an Aryan who has been imprisoned through a mishap over her papers (which actually are false). Morty is the last of the Jewish Elders still alive there and has the gruesome task of picking the prisoners who are to go on the trains to Auschwitz. Joseph, a young Jewish boy whom the Kommandant has made his houseboy, is the go-between for Morty and Stella.
This was a very hard story to read. I didn’t want to remember the atrocities that the Nazis inflicted upon the Jews during WWII. I didn’t want to face the hardships that they lived with on a daily basis. Perhaps the most telling scene for me was when the Kommandant forced one of his officers to eat a bowl of the “potato soup” that was being served to the Jews. The officer ate it and immediately vomited. How awful it must have been to have had to eat rotten potato soup to survive!
After having said all that, I will still recommend that you read For Such a Time. The story, although ugly in the situation, is still a story of hope and redemption and love. You will fall in love with Stella and Joseph and Helen and ache for Morty and Leo and Yakov and the others in the ghetto. You will agonize with the Kommandant, Aric, as he tries to ascertain who he is and what he has become. For Such a Time will be that unforgettable book for you. Four stars. For Such a Time can be purchased by clicking this link.
Kate Breslin is a Florida girl who migrated to the Pacific Northwest. She now lives in Seattle and has a son and a grandson. She spent fifteen years as a bookseller. She loves classical movies, the outdoors and gardening. Her favorite authors are Francine Rivers, Liz Curtis Higgs, Stephanie Landsem, and Julie Garwick. I love that her writing view in Seattle is much like mine here in Massachusetts!
When I interviewed her she told me she chose this topic because of a parallel story she had read about a WWII Nazi concentration camp. She had been reading Esther and asked herself if she could bring Esther’s story to “modern” times. Each chapter starts with a relevant quote from the Book of Esther.
She has received much acclaim for For Such a Time. The book is up for a Christy and two Carol Awards as well as a Romance Writers of America award. She won Christian Retailing’s 2015 Best-Selling Award for First Time Author. Her next book, Not By Sight, has just released.
I asked Kate what she had learned about herself while writing For Such a Time. She told me she learned to finally hear her calling and have the courage to follow it. She feels she needs to stop writing for the general market and to do what God wants her to do. To hear from Kate, watch this video produced by Bethany House: Interview with Kate Breslin