BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival by Marcel Prins & Peter Henk Steenhuis, translated by Laura Watkinson

Hidden Like Anne FrankAnne Frank, the world’s most famous hidden child during the Holocaust, was one of 28,000 Jews in the Netherlands alone who went into hiding. She was one of 12,000 who were betrayed and didn’t survive. Among the 16,000 who lived, was award-winning filmmaker and cameraman Marcel Prins’ mother. Her stories inspired co-author Prins to “look into the experiences of other people who went into hiding,” he explains in the “Foreword.” What he found was that “their stories were very different.” And so he co-created this book; the English translation hit shelves in March this year.

Hidden opens with the memories of Prins’ mother, Rita Degen, who was just 5 when she was first sent into hiding: “around this time … I began to realize I was Jewish, without really understanding what that meant.” With her long blond hair in two perfect braids, even the German soldiers handed her treats. She was raised Protestant by her foster parents, and rejoiced that she didn’t have to wear the Star of David. When the food shortage hit in winter 1944-1945, she stole whatever she could to help feed the family with whom she felt so bonded that she didn’t want to return to her own parents after liberation.

Other children were not so lucky with their foster families. One child moved 42 times. Others were mistreated, hidden only for the money the resistance paid host families. Some hid with relatives, many with complete strangers. Some went to orphanages. Some worked; others spent whole days in the tiniest of spaces barely able to move. Others were betrayed by friends and neighbors. Some never saw their families again. Some landed in prisons or work camps. One went to Auschwitz at the same time with Anne Frank and her sister Margot, with whom she had gone to school.

As both harrowing and superb as the book is, perhaps even more effective is the associated website, a fully interactive resource that allows the reader to see and hear each of the 14 stories, plus an additional eight more. Every hidden child gets his/her own animated mini-film, narrated by the now elderly adult, followed by a slide show marked “info” that offers an overview of the child’s war memories, including the many addresses the child went through, black-and-white pictures, documents, ending with a recent full-color photograph. Some of the hidden children have passed away since the project was begun, adding greater poignancy. As more and more witnesses leave us, the preservation of their voices, memories, stories, can only grow in urgency, making Hidden – on the page and on the web – that much more valuable in the fight for ‘never again.’

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2011, 2014 (United States)


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