Hana Brady, actually Hana “Hanička” Bradyová (May 16, 1931 – October 23, 1944), was a Jewish girl executed in the gas chambers at German concentration camp of Auschwitz.
She is the subject of the 2002 non-fiction children’s book Hana’s Suitcase, written by Karen Levine.
The story of Hana Brady first became public when Fumiko Ishioka, a Japanese educator and director of the Japanese non-profit Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, exhibited Hana’s suitcase in 2000 as a relic of the concentration camp. Visiting Auschwitz in 1999, Ishioka requested a loan of children’s items, things that would convey the story of the Holocaust to other children.
I went to Auschwitz in 1999 and asked for a loan of some children’s items. I specifically asked [for] a shoe, this little shoe, and I asked for a suitcase.
A suitcase – that really tells you a story of how children, who used to live happily with their family, were transported and were allowed to take only one suitcase.
[The suitcase] shows this journey. I thought an object like a suitcase would be a very important item to let children in Japan learn what happened to children in the Holocaust.
The suitcase turned out to be a very capable means of telling the story of the Holocaust, reaching out to children at their level.
In Japan, the Holocaust is so far away. Some people don’t see any connection whatsoever. But when they look at the suitcase, these children were really shocked. ‘She was my age.’
That really helped them a lot, to focus on this one little life that was lost. They could really relate her to themselves and try to think of why such a thing could happen to a girl like her. Why the Jewish people? And why children?
They then realized there were one and a half million children.
The suitcase has large writing on it, a name and birthdate and the German word, Waisenkind (orphan). Ishioka began painstakingly researching Hana’s life and eventually found her surviving brother in Canada. The story of Hana Brady and how her suitcase led Ishioka to Toronto became the subject of a CBC documentary. Karen M. Levine (born 1955), the producer of that documentary, was urged to turn the story into a book by a friend who was a publisher and whose parents were Holocaust survivors. Said Levine,
I first read about Hana’s suitcase in December 2000. I read about Hana’s suitcase in The Canadian Jewish News. My heart started to beat. I fell in love with the story instantly. This was a different kind of Holocaust story. It had at its centre a terrible sadness, one we all know too well. But it had a modern layer to it that lifted it up, that had connection, and even redemption.