If I Should Die Before I Wake

Essay, Research Paper

In the book if i should die before I wake, the author, Han Nolan, portrays

Chana to be a very strong person emotionally. Chana’s strength is shown

throughout the book from losing her family one by one, to the consequences

dealing with escaping Lodz. Chana lost her father first; he was shot by

Nazis.(16-18) Next Chana’s little sister Nadzia left the family to live with

non-Jews.(43-44) In the ghetto Zade died of old age and malnutrition.(89,90) Anna and her mother were next; they were taken to concentration camps.(137-140) Jakub was the last person she and Bubbe saw before they tried to escape from Lodz to Germany.(154-156) Chana and Bubbe escaped Lodz only to be jailed, tortured and sent to concentration camps. Only a strong willed person could mentally and emotionally endure such tragedy and horror as Chana did.

Chana’s character was also very caring and compassionate towards

others. Although she was miserable in the concentration camps, she was

respectful towards the other inmates.(220-221, Another example of this was

when she was living in the ghetto with the Krengiels’. It took all her

strength to be nice to them, and inspite of her kindness, they were hostile to

Chana and her family.(80-83)

A noticeable trait shown in Chana as her character developed

throughout the book was her religious and spiritual self. In the beginning it

was only her grandmother, Bubbe who had total faith in God, and who tried

to encourage Chana to have faith also. Chana did not believe Bubbe, she

thought that God was not on her side and that he was nowhere.(34,196) She

resented God until she looked into the eyes of her shvester and then “felt

ashamed of her anger with God”.(236) Towards the end of the book she prays to make Matel well.(253) Next she puts on a Jewish ritual ceremony to “thank God officially”, by the request of Matel.(254) This shows that Chana’s faith in God had developed throughout the book during a time of crisis.

A major problem Chana faced was survival. She dealt with the

struggle for food each day and torture and hard labor in the concentration

camps. Chana’s family dealt with the struggle for food each day by working

as hard as they could. While in the concentration camps Chana was tortured

and forced to work. She couldn’t just rebel because the camp officials

would harm her more.

Another great conflict Chana had to deal with is the ghetto life. She

lived where it was very crowded and often needed a way out. She solved

this problem by hiding in a hole of the roof of the House of Culture and

listening to music. She often thought of escaping and running away and

suggested to her family that they should hide in the House of Culture, but

Bubbe decided to take Jakub’s advice and get fake papers and go to


If I was faced with Chana’s problems I would’ve done some things the

same as she did, but some different. Regarding the struggle for food, I

would’ve brought things that are very valuable and rare like coffee and

cigarettes to trade for food. If worse came to worse, I would have sold the

violin for food. With the problem of survival in the Concentration camp, I

would’ve tried to make friends with alot of people in the concentration camp

because like Dvora, if one of them became an assistant to someone important, they could have pull into putting me somewhere else where the work and torture are less. If I had to make the decision whether to run away from the ghetto life, I would’ve done the same as Chana and Bubbe, but I would’ve hid while in public places so I wouldn’t be as noticeable to people. Overall Chana made good decisions considering the atmosphere she was living in most the time.


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