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George Brady (1928–2019), Holocaust survivor immortalized in “Hana’s Suitcase”

by Linnea Crowther

He was the only one of his family who lived—and he lived to the age of 90.

George Brady (1928–2019) was a Holocaust survivor who became known to young readers when his childhood was dramatized in the 2002 children’s book “Hana’s Suitcase.” The book told the story of how Brady and his sister, Hana, were imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Though Hana was killed immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz, Brady lied about his age in order to be given useful work and later escaped a second camp, ultimately surviving his nightmare ordeal. He later immigrated to Canada, where he started a family and founded a plumbing business along with another Holocaust survivor.

We invite you to share condolences for George Brady in our Guest Book.


Died: January 11, 2019 (Who else died on January 11?)

Details of death: Died at home in Toronto of heart failure at the age of 90.

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How their tragic story became a bestseller: The inspiration for “Hana’s Suitcase” was an actual suitcase that had accompanied Hana as she and Brady were sent from their home to live with relatives after their parents were arrested by the Nazis and later killed. The suitcase further followed the siblings as they were deported to a ghetto, and then as they were moved to the horror of Auschwitz. It was among several Holocaust artifacts saved at the Auschwitz Museum and later sent to the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center. Written on the suitcase were Hana’s name, birthdate, and the German word Waisenkind, meaning orphan. The center’s director, determined to track down more information on Hana’s story, found Brady, and their connection prompted a CBC documentary and later the bestselling book.

Brady on Nazi brutality: “They made ten transports to Auschwitz and I was in the first one and Hana was in the next to last one. She was looking forward to seeing me. She asked a cousin to fix her hair, so that she’d look pretty when she saw me. When she got there they just cut her hair and then they killed her.” —Brady in a 2003 interview with Radio Prague

Remembered for his kindness: In a deeply touching entry in Brady’s Legacy Guest Book, a fellow Toronto resident told the story of how her young daughter read “Hana’s Suitcase” and was so struck by it that she became determined to meet Brady. By chance, years later, mother and daughter were able to visit him in his home, where they learned more about his childhood:

“George took his time, explaining to us all the details in the pictures that dated back to the early 1900’s. Photos of Hana as a young girl in smocked dresses, her hair in perfect curls, she and her brother smiling and carefree in their garden and playing on the street of their hometown in Czechoslovakia. Pictures of family holidays skiing and laughing before the war changed them forever.… The most special moment was when George brought Gabby a small box to hold. In it were small pale pink and cream coloured hearts. He explained to us how his mother sent them to him from Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp in Terezin. His mother had chewed small pieces of bread, formed them into the shape of hearts, and managed to mail them to her son. George said they were his most precious items, his most prized possessions in the world. In these small, roughly shaped hearts we felt the immense and powerful love of a mother for her child.” Read the full entry in Brady’s Guest Book

Full obituary: The Globe and Mail 

Birthdate:  February 9, 1928 (Who else was born February 9?)

Related lives:

  • Elie Wiesel (1928–2016), Nobel Peace Prize-winning author who told his Holocaust story in the book “Night”
  • Alice Herz-Sommer (1903–2014), Holocaust survivor whose story was told in the Oscar-winning film “The Lady in Number 6”
  • Miep Gies (1909–2010), office worker who helped hide Anne Frank and her family
  • Edith Flagg (1919–2014), Holocaust survivor and Dutch resistance fighter who became a noted fashion designer

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