A pampered child used to having her own way, Anneke Van Raalte lives outside Amsterdam, where her father is a cartoonist for the Amsterdam newspaper. Though Anneke's family is Jewish, her religion means little to her. Anneke's life changes in 1942 when the Nazis invade Holland, and she and her family are deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Not only are conditions in the camp appalling, but the camp is the site of an elaborate hoax: the Nazis are determined to convince the world that Theresienstadt is an idyllic place and that European Jews are thriving under the Nazi regime. Because he is an artist, Anneke's father is compelled to help in the propaganda campaign, and Anneke finds herself torn between her loyalty to her family and her sense of what is right. What World is Left was inspired by the experiences of the author's mother, who was imprisoned in Theresienstadt during World War II.
Anneke Van Raalte is 14 when the Germans deport her family from Holland and send them to Czechoslovakia because they are Jewish. Despite constant hunger, severe crowding and other deprivations, Anneke, the narrator, is repeatedly told how lucky she is to be at the concentration camp Theresienstadt, which lacks gas chambers. Her father, formerly an illustrator for a Dutch newspaper, occupies an important position in the camp and can protect the family from the worst fate, being sent on a transport "east" (she eventually learns a transport almost invariably means death). But Anneke wonders at the justness of her father's behavior, particularly when he participates in the commandant's "embellishment" program, designed to trick the Danish Red Cross when it comes for an inspection and, when that plan succeeds, to make a propaganda film. Polak (Scarred) bases Anneke's experiences on those of her mother's; while convincing generally, her writing shies from the extremities of camp existence. What it does offer is a candid look at a father's presumed collusion, a perspective rarely seen in YA literature about the Holocaust. Ages 12 up.