He is 10 years old when the Nazi’s gradual extermination of European Jews begins. Yanek’s dad is confident that the West will protect them and that the war will not last long. Yanek takes these words as fact and goes about life as though everything were normal.
However, when Poland is annexed, it’s clear that he cannot resume normalcy; Jewish children were prohibited from attending schools, Jews were banned from working, going to the movies, etc. Worst of all, they were branded with the Star of David. Explicitly marked as despicable Jews.
By the time Yanek is 12, a solid wall is built around his neighborhood, now officially a Jewish ghetto. Now he had to share his home with 14 other people. Although his dad continue to assure them that everything will end quickly, Yanek is no longer sure. Within a year, Yanek’s entire family and relatives are deported. He remains alone in his old neighborhood until he too is taken away to a labor camp. Thus begins nearly 4 years of being transported from one camp to a worse camp where death, starvation, torture, and endless labor become the new normal.