If Only It Were Fiction

Strong-willed and ambitious, sixteen-year-old Elsa Thon is working as a photographer’s apprentice when the Nazis occupy her town of Pruszków, Poland, in 1939. Every ounce of her will and ingenuity is called into play as she moves from ghetto to ghetto, throws in her lot with a Zionist youth group and is recruited by the Jewish underground. Despite her deep belief that destiny is determining her fate, Elsa faces every fraught situation with self-possession and maturity. A vivid and beautifully written coming-of-age story, If Only It Were Fiction is enriched by Elsa’s family tradition of storytelling and her unerring eye for detail.

Introduction by Sylvia Vance

At a Glance
Warsaw and Krakow ghettos
Passing/false identity
Forced labour camps
Postwar Israel; Argentina
Arrived in Toronto in 1980
Educational Materials available: The Warsaw Ghetto: From Persecution to Resistance

304 pages, including index

Recommended Ages

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Photo of Elsa Thon

About the author

Elsa Thon was born in Pruszków, Poland, in 1923. After the war, she married Mayer Thon, and they moved to Israel in 1948. In 1955, they immigrated to Argentina, where Elsa worked in a photography studio and raised a family. In 1980, Elsa and Mayer moved to Toronto to be closer to their family. Elsa’s memoir has also been published in Spanish and Polish. Elsa Thon passed away in 2019.

Explore this story in Re:Collection

Only a miracle could save me now. What God would accept my prayers? I was a fraud. I carried forged documents. I lied all the time. I wasn’t who I said I was. But I wanted to live.