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Children's Nonfiction Holocaust

The Last Train

A Holocaust Story

by (author) Rona Arato

Owlkids Books Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2020
Holocaust, Judaism, Siblings, Historical
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2020
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2014
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 18
  • Grade: 6 to 12


The Last Train is the harrowing true story about young brothers Paul and Oscar Arato and their mother, Lenke, surviving the Nazi occupation during the final years of World War II.  Living in the town of Karcag, Hungary, the Aratos felt insulated from the war — even as it raged all around them. Hungary is allied with Germany to protect its citizens from invasion, but in 1944 Hitler breaks his promise to keep the Nazis out of Hungary.  The Nazi occupation forces the family into situations of growing panic and fear: first into a ghetto in their hometown; then a labor camp in Austria; and, finally, to the deadly Bergen Belsen camp deep in the heart of Germany. Separated from their father, 6-year-old Paul and 11-year-old Oscar must care for their increasingly sick mother, all while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy amid the horrors of the camp.  In the spring of 1945, the boys see British planes flying over the camp, and a spark of hope that the war will soon end ignites. And then, they are forced onto a dark, stinking boxcar by the Nazi guards. After four days on the train, the boys are convinced they will be killed, but through a twist of fate, the train is discovered and liberated by a battalion of American soldiers marching through Germany.  The book concludes when Paul, now a grown man living in Canada, stumbles upon photographs on the internet of his train being liberated. After writing to the man who posted the pictures, Paul is presented with an opportunity to meet his rescuers at a reunion in New York — but first he must decide if he is prepared to reopen the wounds of his past.

About the author

Rona Arato is a children’s author with a strong interest in human rights. As a writer and editor for over twenty years, she has written on a wide variety of subjects including education, business, travel, fashion and Internet technology. Her work has appeared in mag-azines and newspapers in Canada, the United States, and England. Rona is the author of Fossils, Clues to Ancient Life and World of Water (Crabtree, 2004) and Ice Cream Town (Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2007). Her new books include Working for Freedom: The Story of Josiah Henson for Napoleon (Fall 2008), Making a Difference for Maple Tree Press (Fall 2008), and Design It! for Tundra Books (Spring 2009). Rona began writing in the mid 1970s while raising her three children. She has also worked as a public relations consultant for profit and non-profit. She has taught adult Creative Writing for the Toronto District Board and conducted business writing workshops for profit and non-profit organizations in the Toronto area. She has written educational materials for organizations including Mosdos Press in Cleveland, Girl Guides of Canada, and B’nai Brith Canada. From 1994-1998, Rona had the privilege of serving as an interviewer for Survivors of the Shoa, a Steven Spielberg project that recorded the histories of Holocaust survivors. It was this experience that fostered her interest in and desire to write about human rights. Rona discovered Josiah Henson’s story while researching a project on Canadian heroes. She was immediately taken with his strength and courage in the face of seemingly insur-mountable obstacles. His dedication to human rights and freedom spoke to her heart and she hopes that his story will affect others, especially youth, in the same way it has affected her.

Rona Arato's profile page


  • Winner, Saskatchewan Diamond Willow Award
  • Winner, Rocky Mountain Book Award (Alberta children's choice)
  • Short-listed, Ontario Library Association Golden Oak Award
  • Winner, Ontario Library Association Red Maple (Non-Fiction) Award
  • Long-listed, Canadian Children's Literature Roundtable's Information Book Award
  • Winner, British Columbia Library Association, Red Cedar Book Award
  • Winner, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction
  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Best Books for Kids and Teens

Editorial Reviews

... this is an important story for anyone to read ... The Last Train is an accessible, yet heart-wrenching, account that will hopefully help to educate a new generation.

Canadian Review of Materials

The Last Train is a harrowing account of the Holocaust...a somber and quiet story that though it brings tears to the eyes, still manages to send a message of hope and survival.

New York Journal of Books

Arato tells the story matter-of-factly, but it is of itself a gripping story for young readers, of a young boy's memories of a time in human history that should never be forgotten.

Books for Kids Blog

The book is emotionally honest, with moving details ... a well-written smooth read.

Association of Jewish Libraries

A good introduction to a difficult topic-give it to readers for whom a 'true' survivor's story will carry more weight than a wholly fictional account.

Kirkus Reviews

…[in] moments of simple, profound human contact the story finds its real power.

Publishers Weekly

a powerful story worth reading.

Jewish Book Council

"Readers will be amazed at the everyday persistence of children and parents to stay together and support each other."

Resource Links

[This] personal account with many photos will stir readers to find out more Holocaust history.


Librarian Reviews

The Last Train: A Holocaust Story

The Norma Fleck Award–winning true story about young brothers Paul and Oscar Arato and their mother, Lenke, surviving the Nazi occupation during the final years of World War II.

A must-read for students learning about the Holocaust. The Last Train is a powerful story of bravery and resilience. This is one Hungarian family’s story of being trapped in a freight train with thousands of other Jews in Germany with the threat of the Nazi regime surrounding them. This remarkable true story is a story of fate, of coincidence, and of survival. It is also strong narrative that builds readers’ empathy by connecting the present to the past.

Also available: Why Do We Fight? by Niki Walker

Author available for school visits @RonaArato

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Top Grade Selection 2016.

Other titles by Rona Arato