When the Soldiers Were Gone: A Novel

 
9781422353103: When the Soldiers Were Gone: A Novel
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FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. After the German occupation of the Netherlands, Benjamin leaves the Christian family with whom he had been living and is reunited with his real Jewish parents, who returned from hiding and whom Benjamin doesn't remember.

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About the Author:

Vera Propp lives in Albany, NY.

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Gr. 4^-9. The opening chapter is heartrending: an eight-year-old boy in Holland in 1945 is forced to leave the loving farm family that hid him during the war. He feels torn away from those he continues to call "Papa" and "Mama." He must go and live with strangers who tell him they are his parents. His name is Henk; why do these new people, David and Elsbet, insist on calling him Benjamin? Who is this baby, Carl, they call his brother? Based on a true story, this spare, beautiful, first novel captures the hidden survivor's trauma from the small child's bewildered point of view. Living in the city, he remembers the farm, the fun he had there, and also the terror as he hid absolutely still in a clothes hamper whenever the soldiers came looking for Jews. Elsbet shows him the shirt with a yellow star that he wore before he went to hide on the farm. He is glad to be able to go to school now in the city for the first time, and he makes friends there; he also encounters anti-Semitism, even after the Nazis are gone. Elsbet tells him how she and David survived in hiding and on the run, and he learns that Carl is really his cousin, whose parents died in the camps. Middle-grade readers will be swept up in Henk's personal story. They will also feel the sorrow and tenderness of the two groups of parents. The foster family cannot bear the parting. The Jewish parents speak softly to the child, leave him space, and try to bring him home. The violence is distanced but never sentimentalized, and, like Ida Vos' Hide and Seek (1991) and other stories of children who hid to survive, this is a dramatic story to introduce children to Holocaust history. Hazel Rochman

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