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Lies and consequences

BOOKS | A fragmented gospel lies within a Holocaust story

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Lies and consequences
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IT’S THE EARLY 1940s in the halcyon town of Salonika, Greece, where 50,000 Jews, including the Krispis family, listen for news of the war. By V-E Day, some 2,000 Salonika Jews have survived the Holocaust. The Little Liar (Harper 2023) by Mitch Albom details a little-­known chapter in the narrative of Hitler’s Final Solution. It’s fiction but grounded in historical events. The author doesn’t underplay the darkness of the Holocaust, and the moving story sets the bar for what Christian fiction could look like.

Everyone loves 11-year-old Nico Krispis since he’s handsome, kind, and never ever lies. His older brother Sebastian envies Nico, because everyone, including Sebastian’s crush, Fannie, clearly prefers Nico.

The Little Liar

The Little Liar Mitch Albom

Crushes and petty rivalries fade into irrelevance when the Nazis invade and block the Jews from education, worship, and owning private property. Udo Graf, a high-ranking German officer, confiscates the Krispis’ home. Instead of making Udo a clichéd villain, Albom explains why following Hitler gives Udo a sense of purpose.

Graf tricks gullible Nico into spreading the myth of “relocation” to the Jews. Partly in response to Nico’s message, many Jews obediently board trains bound for camps like Auschwitz. Once the child realizes his mistake, he begins to hide from the weightiness of truth, which eventually assumes a capital T.

If it were a movie, the book might get a PG-13 rating thanks to a mild swear word or two, a couple of suggestive jokes, some Holocaust-related imagery, and an oblique mention of marital intimacy. On balance, though, there’s little objectionable content.

The story is told from the per­spective of Truth, who uses several parables. Full of references to God and the Bible, the book sounds fairly consistent with Scripture. In the face of profound cruelty, Albom offers the only plausible answer: “Humans are broken. Susceptible to sin. … They lie. And those lies let them think they are God. Truth is the only thing that stops them.”

Truth does stop Nico, but only after he spends his adulthood trying to atone for his failure. Here, Albom may imply that a person can make up for his sins by doing the right thing. There is a clear moment of forgiveness in the end, albeit a conditional one.

Thus, the story might point readers in the direction of gospel redemption, but it does not take them all the way there.

Bekah McCallum

Bekah is a reviewer, reporter, and editorial assistant at WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Anderson University.


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