The Endless Steppe

by Esther Hautzig

Paperback, 1987



Local notes

940.5 Hau





HarperTrophy (1987)


During World War II, when she was eleven years old, the author and her family were arrested in Poland by the Russians as political enemies and exiled to Siberia. She recounts here the trials of the following five years spent on the harsh Asian steppe.


Original publication date


User reviews

LibraryThing member amusingmother
I guess I am just drawn to human suffering. Young Esther is ripped from her home one morning with her parents and grandparents and suffers the next four years in Siberia where she accepts hunger, cold, heat, and nothingness. The last she learns to love. Interesting history. Well written.
LibraryThing member countrylife
When my children (or I) get to whining … “ it's so hot” … “ewww, that's not what I want for dinner” … I always think of these people and what they went through at the hands of other human beings – packed into cattle cars and left standing on tracks in the summer heat, perishing of
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thirst, freezing in the cold Siberia north with inadequate clothing and overwork, digging through the snow trying to find anything to sustain their bodies.

Esther was a happy young girl in Poland, when her world was changed. Her father had a business in Vilna, Poland and the whole extended family lived together in a nice, rambling home surrounding a garden which her grandfather tends meticulously.

In 1940 the Russians, who were then allied with Germany, occupied Vilna. They confiscated the family business and our property, but did not evict us from our house, our garden. … My world was still intact and I had not the slightest premonition that it was about to end.

Until the day the soldiers broke into their home. “… you are capitalists and therefore enemies of the people … you are to be sent to another part of our great and mighty country…”

The flatness of this land was awesome. There wasn’t a hill in sight; it was an enormous, unrippled sea of parched and lifeless grass. “Tata, why is the earth so flat here?” “These must be steppes, Esther.” “Steppes? But steppes are in Siberia.” “This is Siberia,” he said quietly.

Although Esther tells her story in a matter-of-fact way, it is heart-wrenching to picture what her family went through trying to survive. I found this book to have even more impact than The Diary of Anne Frank. (4.2 stars)
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LibraryThing member JanaRose1
In 1941 Ester Rudomin and her family were arrested and transported from their home in Vilna, Poland in cattle cars to Siberia. Forced to work in a Russian labor-camp, Esther and her family endure unimaginable suffering. From near starvation to the arctic winters, her family fights to stay together
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and merely survive.

Written as a book for young adults, the book is very touching and moving. It is well-written and its descriptions transfer the reader to the steppes of Siberia. I highly recommend this book to young and old alike.
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LibraryThing member dlmann
Esther and her family are accused of being "capitalist-enemies of the people" and are forced into the labor fields of the Siberian Steppe. The family struggles for the basic needs in life.

An excellent read! A very good book to read as an addition to history class.
LibraryThing member Dreesie
This story is very much a child's impression. Her parents and grandmother hid much from her (which she does recognize as an adult)--the hunger, cold, school, moving, close quarters, outgrown shoes--are all just part of this weird normal for Esther, exiled with her family in Siberia during WW2. I
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can only imagine what the physically demanding jobs, cold, hunger, need for better housing, and their daughter and mother suffering did to their thoughts. As well as worry about the family members left in Vilna.

When Russia sends the family back to Poland after the war, they learn that they--who endured 4 years exiled as Jewish capitalists--are some of the few Polish Jews who survived. Her aunts, uncles, cousins, maternal grandmother--all were killed during the war. She does not specify if they were sent to concentration camps, starved in ghettos, were killed in attacks--but she probably never knew. And this is YA/middle grade, so such details might have been glossed over intentionally.
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LibraryThing member STBA
The author describes her experiences during World War II when she and her family were arrested by the Russians and sent to work in he Siberian gypsum mines.
LibraryThing member annmckillop
I read this when I was 12 and have never forgotten it. A rereading this year confirmed its power for me and it seemed to strike my children the same way
LibraryThing member nolak
The Rudomin family in Vilna, Poland is arrested by the Russians as enemies of the people during World War II. They are exiled to Siberia, where they work in potato fields and in the mine and struggle for food and clothing to sustain them for five years. The story is told from the point of view of a
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teenage girl. It has haunted me since I first read it when I was a teenager...and that was a long, long time ago! Better than the diary of Anne Frank, and an alternate read-alike.
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LibraryThing member Venqat65
This was one of my favorite books when I was a child. We read it in "gifted and talented" class in the 6th grade and it captured my imagination. It was my first introduction to WWII. I could not imagine having to suddenly leave my home with only a few possessions and live in this
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way. The book really impacted my life. I read it over 30 years ago and it has stayed with me all this time. I thought of Esther each time I have witnessed places to do with the Holocaust. Striking book. Amazing.
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LibraryThing member janeyiaC
The story is about a young girl and her family getting arrested and exile to Siberia, and their experience in working in labor camps. The book goes in depth about her experiences working and how hope kept her and her family alive. This would be a great book to use when talking about world war two.
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This gives students perspectives from people who suffered and survived during this time.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
I've just about given up on this after numerous false starts. It seems so dreary and tedious. FWIW, I hated Anne Frank, so I suspect this will never be a favorite.
LibraryThing member thatotter
I found a copy of this book on the street in my neighborhood, and when I picked it up I remembered I'd read it in my childhood. Some of the episodes came back to me vividly: the men who got drunk off cologne, the peasants who never took money without throwing the promised food through the train
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windows, the disappearing/stolen food at the first hut in Siberia.

I think this is a great book, especially for kids, because it's not the typical story of what happened to Jews during WWII, but a much lesser-known (at least to me) experience. I also like it because it's not unrelentingly horrible: much of the family survives, including all the main characters, and throughout the story there are people who treat them relatively well to counterbalance the really awful ones. There are minor joys, like trading at the market. The writing is descriptive and gripping.
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LibraryThing member LibraryCin
3.5 stars. During WWII, 10-year old Esther and her family, Polish Jews, are arrested and taken by cattle car with other families to remote Siberia. They are exiled here for the duration of the war and this book tells their story. They live in poverty and often don't know if they'll have any food
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for their next meal, but Esther actually begins to enjoy her life in remote rural Siberia.

I liked it. I didn't know that people were sent to Siberia in exile during the war. It's a bit of a different type of holocaust story because of where it takes place and what happens to Esther and her family.
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LibraryThing member AprilBrown
What ages would I recommend it too? Twelve and up.

Length? Most of a day.

Characters? Memorable, several characters.

Setting? Real world. World War 2 Poland and Russia.

Written approximately? 1968.

Does the story leave questions in the readers mind? Ready to read more.

Any issues the author (or a more
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recent publisher) should cover? A little clarification on the grandmothers at the beginning. First chapter was slightly confusing.

Short storyline: A young girl and her parents and grandparents are deported from Poland to Russia during World War 2.

Notes for the reader: I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It delved so deep into the character, who wasn't afraid to have emotions and think before she acted. Then, I looked at the date it was written. 1968. Today, no writer would get past a beta reader with so well written a novel! They'd be told to cut the emotion and add commotion. Not to mention a million other things that would destroy the story.
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LibraryThing member raizel
Esther Hautzig's recounting of how her family was sent by the Russians to Siberia because they were seen as "enemies of the people." Her mother thinks she is saving her brother by telling him


(174 ratings; 4.1)
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