This book begins with the author explaining why he went to Holland to interview Holocaust rescuers: he is the son of a survivor and felt compelled to do so because of his personal connection to the Holocaust. The next chapter provides the historical background for the oral histories that follow.
The book begins in full with the chapter about Hetty Voute, one of the biggest dare-devils among the rescuers, who relished confounding the Nazis by whisking away Jewish children from under their noses, not to mention distributing illegal newspapers. This is followed by a chapter about Heiltje Kooistra, who took nine--yes nine!--Jewish people into her little house in Utrecht and cared for them for the duration of the war. The next voice we hear from is Clara Dijkstra, who took in a Jewish baby on very short notice. Clara's story is followed by the chapter on Gisela Sohnlein, who was Hetty Voute's friend and partner: together they would take Jewish children on their bikes to safe hiding places.
The next chapter profiles Rut Matthijsen who was the nerd of the group: he stayed behind the scenes and designed false ID cards and other useful forgeries. We then hear from Janet Kalff, a Quaker who hid a Jewish women: then the woman was arrested she spilled the beans, and some Nazi interrogators showed up looking for Mrs. Kalff: she survived, with a story to tell, which is, of course, included here. Following this, comes the chapter on Kees Veenstra, a sad but brave rescuer who took many Jewish people on his bicycle out to the country, sometimes biking more than 50 kilometers at a stretch. We then hear from Piet Meerburg, who founded a whole rescue network based in Amsterdam consisting of students at the university there. We then hear from Mieke Vermeer, who tells of how her husband founded a different rescue network, but was arrested and tortured.
Finally the author writes about Ted Leenders, a rescuer who survived the war by laughing a lot and keeping his sense of humor despite everything. He recounts many hair-raising tales involving close encounters with the Nazis, with a few humorous anecdotes thrown in, such as the time he got some German soldiers to help him push a truck that was filled with arms for the resistance. The books ends with an analytical chapter that discusses what motivated the rescuers and what they have in common, followed by a chapter called Reflections in which the author discusses what meeting the rescuers has meant to him personally.
The review of this Book prepared by Cara Siano