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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hidden LIke Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival, by Marcel Prins & Peter Henk Steenhuis. Scholastic, 2014. $18.99 ages 12 and up

"Those first few months after the war were hard for my parents. They suddenly had four children in the house, three of whom were crying, "I want to go back to my mommy." "You're crazy," I used to say to them. "You're with your father and your mother." My little brother was six weeks old when he left and three when he came back."

The stories in this Holocaust remembrance are of Dutch survivors who were taken to people who could help find places for them to hide during Germany's reign of terror. There was little that the Dutch Jews could do but hide, when Nazi troops stormed family homes and businesses in an attempt to round them up and send them to the concentration camps. In each case, the fourteen men and women share their memories of their lives in hiding. Their voices are strong and honest, and they make it painfully clear to readers how brave and kind the people of Holland were in helping to save their lives. Each story is different, but has remarkable similarities in terms of the fear, the isolation, the cramped quarters where they spent long hours and the constant moves they made to keep everyone as safe as possible. The end of the war did not end the struggles that had become a part of each life.

Their hiding began for most at an early age; some were as young as three while others were teenagers. Their parents often sent them to live with friends, family, and strangers in an attempt to ensure their safety. Often they did not see other members of their families again. In fact many learned later that no one else in their family had survived. Some were treated with kindness and warmth. They found new families to share their lives, even after the war ended. For others, the ordeal of being away from all that was familiar was made worse by the actions of their sponsors and the terrible conditions they had to endure to remain safe. For some being reunited with their parents after such a long and stressful time was difficult. So much had happened to each that they had trouble finding common ground once more.

Their stories are hard to read, and heartbreaking. The survivors tell them with candor, and no expectation of pity. Readers will not soon forget the horror each faced as they struggled to survive, with no real awareness of what the future might hold for them.

The authors include maps, footnotes, and photographs (both past and present) of those willing to share their stories. A glossary is added, and there is a website where readers might find further information.

There you will find animated films to add detail to these stories. Dots on the map will connect readers to the survivors, and their voices can be heard telling the stories in their own words and voices. A photo at the end of each shows the survivors as they looked when the interviews were being conducted with the authors. An info button provides additional facts and some archival materials. Unlike Anne Frank, their stories have not been shared. This book ensures that they are.

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