Wednesday 19 January 2022

A Discovering Diamonds Review of Over the hedge by Paulette Mahurin


"During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children."

1940: Johan van Hulst, Deputy Principal of the Reformed Teachers’ Training College in Amsterdam, decided he couldn’t sit on the fence. Every day, across the road at a converted theatre, he watched truckloads of Jews arrive. People were beaten and traumatised, families separated, and then trucked out to unspeakable destinations.

Next door to the college was a Jewish kindergarten; the Nazis turned it into a holding pen for young children before shipping them out to the camps with their parents. Christian Johan at the college, Jewish Walter at the theatre, Jewish Henriëtte at the kindergarten and other associates, colleagues and students of all faiths became part of a secret network to smuggle the smallest children away to safety. Think of the anguish of each parent, hoping against hope that a stranger somewhere would cherish their beloved child, otherwise heading to a certain death.

How they did it under the noses of the watching Nazis, and the price many of them paid for their bravery, is inspiring. It is estimated they saved the lives of between 500 and 1,000 tiny babies and children, whisked away in baskets, parcels and other secret methods.

You’ll hold your breath in fear as the story shares the events of this dark period of Dutch history and the sacrifices made by people who daily put their lives on the line. 

However, at times the writing style gets a bit bogged down on description, rather than being a well-paced narrative - I have to be honest, the story-telling gets a little hard-going at times because of the somewhat inflexible writing style is a short read, only 176 pages, is free to download on Kindle Unlimted or less than£1/$1 to buy, the true-life events are dramatic enough to keep you reading and this story of courage and sacrifice does need to be told and heard. So overall, I give it 4 stars.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Robyn Pearce
 e-version reviewed

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