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January 27, 2020

4 Books to Read for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Susan Roberts

Amsterdam Publishers specializes in Holocaust memoirs & WW2 historical fiction.
Every year survivors with unique testimonies are passing away. Their stories need to be kept alive. Especially today, these accounts seem more important than ever. "We’re the biggest international publisher of Holocaust memoirs in Europe. The generation that experienced WW2 directly is dying out, and it’s our precious endeavor to get hold of their tales while they are still alive." – Liesbeth Heenk

I recently received four books from Amsterdam Publishers that are being published in December 2019 and in January 2020. 

International Holocaust Remembrance day is 27 January 2020
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Hidden in the Shadows: An Unforgettable WW2 Novel by Imogen Matthews

Hidden in the Shadows
December 2019; Amsterdam Publishers
978-9493056305, ebook, print (286 pages)
historical fiction
"He never imagined it would end like this.  Yet here he was, half paralyzed with fear as he tried to flee for his life.  He knew he should have stayed and behaved like the leader he'd been trained to be, but he hadn't.  Instead, he'd abandoned the woodland village, home to countless innocent people, when he should have been helping them to safety.  What could he have been thinking." (p 10)

This new novel is the sequel to The Hidden Village but I was able to read it as a stand-alone.  I do plan to go back and read The Hidden Village to get more background on the main characters.

It's September 1944, and a group of people has created a hidden village in the woods in the Netherlands.  Most of the people there are Jews who are trying to stay safe from the occupying German army and others are people who need to hide. The Nazis in this area have heard about this village in the woods and have been searching for it and on this morning, they have found it.  As the shooting begins, several people run into the woods.  The main characters, Wouter, who has been trained to help protect the people in the village, gets scared and runs to the woods to hide by himself.  As walks for miles, trying to find a safe place, he meets a lot of people who are doing the same thing.  Luckily, there were a lot of people who were sympathetic to the people in hiding and helped them with food and a place to sleep despite the danger.  As Wouter, travels, he meets other people who had been in the hidden village but no one knows what happened to Laura, the love of his life.  They are both running scared and their paths are often very close as they search for safety and each other.  Will they be able to maintain their safety and find each other before they are found?

The book is written in alternating chapters by Wouter and Laura so the reader has a chance to follow the travels of both of them.  Their time on the run was horrific - along with trying to keep hidden, they were often hungry with nowhere to get food until they found a person who was willing to help them.  As they face the cold weather in what is referred to as the Hunger Winter, their quest for survival grows even dimmer.  Will they ever be reunited?

Hidden in the Shadows is fiction but is based on true events.  The author says in the Foreword:  "Hidden in the Shadows is based on events that took place during the Dutch Occupation by the Nazis in World War 2.  The site of the hidden village still exists in the Veluwe Woods just outside Vierhouten, and it was here that I was able to piece together the events and characters for my novels." (p8)

Buy Hidden in the Shadows at Amazon

The Knife-Edge Path by Patrick T. Leahy

The Knife-Edge Path
December 2019; Amsterdam Publishers
978-9493056329; ebook, print (272 pages)
historical fiction
The Knife-Edge Path takes place in Berlin near the end of the war.  People are hungry and in many cases without hope and will do whatever needs to be done to stay alive.  Geli Straub is living in Berlin, waiting to hear from her husband who she hasn't heard from since the siege of Leningrad.  Her food rations have been cut off and she is desperate to stay alive.  A neighbor, who is an SS officer, asks her to spy on another SS officer after he finds out that she had been a spy earlier in the war.  Even though she doesn't want to get back into that life, she really has no choice if she wants to stay alive.  She goes back to her identity as a French woman who was in Berlin when the war broke out.  But nothing and no one is what they seem to be and that's when this historical fiction becomes a spy novel, too.

I thought that this was a well-written, well-researched novel with some interesting characters.  I found Geli to be a very interesting main character who was willing to do whatever needed to be done to guarantee her survival.

Buy The Knife-Edge Path at Amazon

My Lvov: Holocaust Memoir of a Twelve-Year-Old Girl by Janina Hescheles

My Lvov
January 2020; Amsterdam Publishers
978-9493056367; ebook, print (146 pages)
"Her father's last words to her had ominous implications: 'be brave and never cry.  Crying is humiliating, whether in joy or misfortune...'
Janina wrote 'When no one could see me, I cried without stopping.'  (p 13)

While still twelve years old, Janina Hescheles wrote this harrowing report from her hiding place in Cracow. The notebook, filled with clear childlike writing, was fortunately preserved. She tells about the German occupation of Lvov, the loss of her parents, about the Ghetto and mass murder in the notorious forced-labor camp Janowska in Lvov. Thrown into the abyss of horror, Janina understood and sensed more than could be expected of someone her age.

My Comments:  My Lvov is a view of the horrific events in Poland through the eyes of a child.  When she was rescued from a work camp and moved to Cracow, she was asked to write down her memories.  The journal was kept safe for years and published by Amsterdam Press this month.  Her journal is important because not only was it written with the thoughts of a child but it was written immediately after her rescue when her memories of the work camp were still strong in her mind.  Even though she was only 12, Janina understood what was going on in the camp with mass-murder and forced labor - things that no 12-year-old should have to face.  Her story was told in a very innocent way despite what was going on around her.  Despite all of the horrors she faced when she was young,  Janina Hescheles wrote the forward for this book,  in January 2020, from her home in Haifa.

Buy My Lvov at Amazon

Remembering Ravensbrück: Holocaust to Healing by Natalie B Hess

Remembering Ravensbruck
January 2020; Amsterdam Publishers
978-9493056237; print (298 pages)
"Is home, as Robert Frost has told us, 'the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in' and do they really have to take you in.  And what happens when home is your own lonely place and there are no 'they' to open the door?  What happens when only your own key can open that one and only door to your home." (p 62)
This is Natalie Hess's memoir from a five-year-old living in Poland in 1941 until present day in Pennsylvania at 80+ years old.  Her story shows not only her strength but also her will to survive and be grateful for her life.

When Natalie was 5 years old, her parents were exterminated at Treblinka.  She went to live with a non-Jewish family but when they became afraid about having a Jewish girl living with them, they sent her to the Jewish ghetto.  As the ghetto was being cleared out, she was sent to Ravensbruck and through the help of some people, she survived and was sent to Switzerland at the end of the war - she was 9 years old.  After she lived in Sweden for seven years, she was sent to America to live with her aunt and uncle.  When she moved to America, she made the trip by herself and didn't know any English at all.  She excelled in school and received a Master's Degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.  She met and married John and they had three daughters.  They moved to Israel and then back to the US.  Over the years, she was a teacher in six different countries.  Despite the horrific early years of her life and the memory of those years that was always tucked away in her mind, Natalie managed to have a happy life.  She was married for over 50 years and had 3 daughters and 6 grandchildren and was proud of her years as a teacher and educator and the students that she helped.  At the end of her memoir, she writes: "Yes, there is constant misery in the world...But we can - for one brief moment each day hear the symphony and sense the miracle of life." (p 238)

Buy Remembering Ravensbruck at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. Wish I could have honored Holocaust somehow on my blog...hopefully you'll enjoy them.