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Until Father Comes Back

Judith Rotem

AGE: 9-14

It is 1942, and 8-year-old Robby Kastner is looking down at the street from a high window in his home in Bratislava, Slovakia, which has been invaded by the German army. All of a sudden, his slice of cake slips out of his hand and falls onto a Nazi soldier’s helmet. The scary events that follow change the lives of Robby’s whole family. First, he, his two siblings and their mother take refuge at his grandparents’ house. During the journey of survival that follows, he moves from town to town, country to country and from one family to another. And in each of his hiding places he has to get used to a different name, to learn new rules to save himself, and to forget everything he knew before. His father stays behind in Bratislava and works as a salesman in a store that until recently belonged to their family. Then he is taken to an unknown place together with the rest of the Jewish men, and all trace of him is lost. Robby is also separated from mother, brother and sister when he is smuggled with a group of children from Budapest to the Land of Israel. There, his uncle and aunt take him in and want to adopt him, but he refuses, still hoping that his father will come back, and he is sent to a boarding school. Later, his mother does turn up, but when she marries another Holocaust survivor, their relationship sours, and at age 14 Robby becomes virtually homeless. Must he forget his father in order to survive, or Vera, the girl he met on his journey and liked so much?

Until Father Comes Back is based on the true story of Judith Rotem’s partner, the author Moshe Bar-Yuda and commemorates the generation of children who survived the Holocaust.


This is a lovely and sad book … Rotem has sunk much spirit and compassion into the book, and these do not necessarily find expression in the great, engrossing tragedy, but rather in what are commonly called the “small moments” … The most evocative scene in the book is in the opening chapter … depicting the tragedy of son watching his father being humiliated … Until Father Comes Back provides an opportunity to visit long forgotten places, like those black and white postcards from somewhere that looks familiar but you can’t remember exactly where it is.

Matan Hermoni, Haaretz

A wonderful novel.

Nitza Ben-Dov, Makor Rishon

This is a dramatic and compelling story that is hard to put down, well written, and one that gives a complex picture of life … The book is suitable for reading in installments to a class, and I’m pretty sure the students will want to look for it so they can see what happens next.

Naomi Ben-Gur,

A human tale, hard, moving, painful. It is an interesting book, well written, and young people will strongly connect with it.

Kobi Finkler, Arutz 7

This is a touching and painful coming of age story that will sweep you away to other times and places.

Liri Goshen, Rosh1

Title Until Father Comes Back
Author’s Last Name Rotem
Author's First Name Judith
Language(s) Hebrew
Genre youth
Publisher (Hebrew) Kinneret, Zmora-Bitan
Year of Publication (Hebrew) 2015
No. Pages 251
Book title - Hebrew (phonetic) Ad She-Aba Yachzor
Representation Represented by ITHL
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