Set in post-war Communist Hungary, in the fictional town of Békes, Never, Again is the story of seven-year-old Tomi Wolfstein, the son of Holocaust survivors who have never told him anything about their past experiences in the concentration camps. The story opens in the fall of 1956, when Tomi is about to start school, and chronicles his adventures and experiences in the months leading up to and during the Hungarian uprising.While most of the narrative is told from young Tomi’s perspective as he attempts to understand the events unfolding around him, interwoven into the escape story are flashbacks of his parents’ World War II experiences—stories of labour and concentration camps, of survival and escape. Never, Again is Tomi’s journey — physical, emotional and symbolic — from innocence to experience. It is about the complexities of being a child during turbulent times. It is about faith, prejudice, ignorance, hate and nationalism, as well as kindness, loyalty, hope and courage.
His parents are at the window in the sitting room. He scrambles out of bed to join them. "It’s a tank. It’s a real tank." It’s at the end of the street and it’s rumbling towards them! It’s huge. It takes up the width of the street.
Gabi and his parents are at the window now too.
"The Russians are back," Dezso-papa says. "I knew they wouldn’t stay away."
Unlike Tomi’s drawings, this tank doesn’t have the big red star painted on its front. It has a white stripe running from front to back. Also, its hatch is closed. It looks like some giant hound, its claws ripping up the cobblestones as it advances up the street.
Out of nowhere, a group of young boys and girls run out into the middle of the street.
"Oh, no." His mother reaches for Tomi. "What in God’s name are those children doing? The tank will crush them."
The children hold their ground and the tank comes to a slow grinding halt. The tank and the children face each other.
"David and Goliath," his father says.
A boy darts from an alley, and, like a spider, scurries up the side of the tank. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a fistful of something and smears it across the peephole. It all happens in a flash. He jumps off and the children scatter in different directions. The street is deserted again. Only the idling motor of the tank can be heard.
Mesmerized, Tomi watches. At first nothing seems to be happening. Then, like a mouth yawning, the hatch opens.