GENESEO -- Footstool footnotes helped a young Geneseo author publish a Holocaust story.
Alanna Rumler, a 2012 Geneseo High School graduate, penned a book titled "The Footstool," a true story about a husband and wife who were taken by Nazis in Poland and forced into labor.
Miss Rumler interviewed the couple's granddaughter, Amanda Kodyra Baumgardner, of Geneseo, for the book, as part of "A Book By Me" series, created and directed by Deb Bowen, of Aledo.
Through Mrs. Baumgardner, "I learned that Jews were not the only targets of the Nazis during World War II, Miss Rumler said. "This young Catholic couple's story is about the Poles who were taken from their homes and forced into doing something they did not want to do."
Jennifer Barks, another 2012 Geneseo High School graduate, illustrated the book.Miss Rumler now studies business at the University of Iowa, and Miss Barks majors in art education with a minor in math education at Eastern Illinois University.
For information or to get a copy of "The Footstool," call Miss Rumler at 309-945-3711, or visit Mrs. Baumgardner's website, orangefootstool.com. Mrs. Baumgardner also is available as a guest speaker for area clubs and organizations.
The book, like others in the series, also can be used as Holocaust teaching tools, and includes activities and discussion questions.
Miss Rumler learned from Mrs. Baumgardner how, as a young girl, she would sit on an orange footstool at her grandfather's feet as he told her about "his nightmare" that began in 1943, when he and his wife lived on a small farm in the countryside of Malynsk, Poland.
The Nazis had invaded their country and were controlling everything, Mrs. Baumgardner told Miss Rumler. "They took over my grandparents' farm and moved them to a ghetto," Mrs. Baumgardner said.
Her grandparents and their three children lived in a ghetto for a year, before the Nazis loaded everyone into a train car and moved them to the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, where they were separated from their children. Mrs. Baumgardner said.
The story continues when, at that camp, a Nazi soldier handed her grandmother a death certificate of the couple's daughter, Josephine, 2. The note said Josephine had died of tuberculosis, even though she had not been sick when they came to the camp, Mrs. Baumgardner said.
The work camp was liberated by American soldiers in April 1945, and the Kodyra family was put in a "displaced persons camp" for three years before finding a way to go the U.S., she said.
The family settled in Keota, Iowa, in 1949, assisted by a group of people who helped Holocaust survivors start new lives in America. The Kodyras later moved to Kewanee and had another child, who became Mrs. Baumgardner's father.
Mr. and Mrs. Kodyra continued to search for their daughter, Josephine, even after they were told she had died of tuberculosis.
Mrs. Baumgardner well remembers sitting on the footstool and listening to her grandfather's stories, but didn't full realize the impact they had until she got older, she said.
"I loved and admired my grandfather then, but I respect him even more today," she said. "My desire is to keep the story of my family alive so that no one forgets what truly happened to real people during the Holocaust.
"As I did when I was a little girl, my children now sit on a footstool at my feet and hear the story of Jozef and Helena Kodyra and their journey of heartache, tragedy, hard work and survival. My children will never know my grandparents except through my stories, because they have passed away. Their memory lives on in me and will continue for generations to come."
ABOUT 'A BOOK BY ME' --"A Book by Me" Holocaust series established in 2003 by Deb Bowen, of Aledo --Contains 80 books, with 11 published --Authors and illustrators from 20 countries, including the U.S. --Became "Never Forget Publishing" in 2010. --For information, visit abookbyme.org. --Overview comments from Mrs. Bowen: "I'm asking ordinary children all over the world to use their talents to share extraordinary stories. Many students write about the Holocaust survivors, Righteous Gentiles (non-Jews who risked their lives to save the Jewish people(, prison-camp liberators and other important stories of World War II. Since this generation is getting older, the time to interview them, write and illustrate their important story is right now."