Nieuwsma, Milton J(ohn) 1941-
NIEUWSMA, Milton J(ohn) 1941-
PERSONAL: Born September 5, 1941, in Sioux Falls, SD; son of John (a minister) and Jeanne (a teacher) Nieuwsma; married Marilee (a teacher), February 1, 1964; children: Jonathan, Gregory, Elizabeth. Ethnicity: "Dutch/German." Education: Hope College, B.A., 1963; University of Illinois—Springfield, M.A., 1978. Politics: Independent. Religion: Protestant.
CAREER: Contributing editor to Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, 1978-98; TransAmerican Syndicate, Chicago, IL, president, 1988-97. Visiting professor, Rutgers University, 1992-96, St. Xavier University, 1996-97. Worked as a consultant to Amicus Group; president of Idlewood Beach Association; former governor of Chicago Zoological Society; chair of Riverside United Fun Campaign.
MEMBER: Society of Midland Authors.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Books for Teen-Age selection, New York Public Library, 1999, and Top Ten Books about the Holocaust selection, Institute of Higher European Studies, 2001, both for Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors.
(Editor) Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors, Holiday House (New York, NY), 1998.
Also author of Our America, a documentary film for television, WTVS-TV (Deroit, MI), 1968, and Thomas Jefferson: The Reluctant Rebel, 1978. Author of hundreds of feature articles published in newspapers.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Children of the Shoah, a documentary for WGVU-TV (Grand Rapids, MI).
SIDELIGHTS: Milton J. Nieuwsma is an editor whose book Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors brings to light the experience of three young Polish girls who survived deportation to the Auschwitz death camp during World War II. An oral history, Kinderlager features each woman retelling her own story as a child in the camp in her own voice. Tova Friedman, aged five when she was shipped to Auschwitz, Frieda Tennenbaum, aged nine, and Rachel Hyams, aged six, were all from the same small Polish town. Each experienced an initial move to a Jewish ghetto with their families before their final deportation to the camp, where they eventually met again in the Kinderlager, as the children's portion of Auschwitz was called. In each of the narratives, the women recall the efforts of their mothers to save them from the gas chambers. Nieuwsma frames the accounts with a prologue and epilogue, but otherwise does not intercede between the narrators and the reader. "Indeed, the lucid narrative style is that of memory itself," commented Serena J. Leigh in Voice of Youth Advocates, continuing, "the three 'books' seem like collections of snapshots."
These children were some of the youngest survivors of Hitler's plan to erase the Jews from the planet, and as the older generation of survivors begins to pass away, "this account . . . comes as a powerful witness to the Holocaust," remarked a contributor to Horn Book. Their narratives overlap once they reach the camps and reunite, but otherwise, the stories are both individualized and representative, commentators noted. Each concludes with an account of the postwar years, first in displaced persons camps, searching for lost relatives and friends, and later, emigrating, but never leaving behind the memory of the atrocities they witnessed or its toll on their hearts and minds. "Nieuwsma . . . has done an impressive job of capturing their voices and presenting coherent accounts of their experiences," claimed a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. However, this reviewer did fault the author for failing to provide a more complete context for the narrator's stories. While Betsy Hearne, a contributor to Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, found that the journalistic style of the narrator's accounts prevents readers from becoming emotionally involved with them, "nevertheless, this collective narrative will contribute to a young reader's understanding the weight of systematic destruction of children younger than themselves during the Holocaust."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Kinderlager: An Oral History of Young Holocaust Survivors, p. 480.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, January, 1999, Betsy Hearne, review of Kinderlager, p. 177.
Horn Book, January, 1999, review of Kinderlager, p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, November 23, 1998, review of Kinderlager, p. 68.
School Library Journal, December, 1998, Yapha Nussbaum Mason, review of Kinderlager, p. 141.
Voice of Youth Advocates, Serena J. Leigh, review of Kinderlager, p. 381.