When We Were Shadows

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2018

Member Reviews

Just when you start thinking that all the stories that will be told from the Holocaust have been told, along comes a new one with a completely different experience than the others you have read! When We Were Shadows is one of those. This book is told from the point of view of a boy who was only 5 ½ years old when his Jewish family fled Germany during Hitler's rise to power.
Walter and his father and mother, older sister and grandmother, fled from Germany to Holland in 1937 when they could see trouble coming. They rebuilt their lives—but in 1940 Germany invaded Holland and their nightmare began. The family divided up and hid; Walter stayed with his parents as the Underground hid them in one place after another. He made sense of his life by writing letters to Oma (his grandmother) when he could.
The series of hiding places Walter and his family found themselves in was quite varied—a camper in the forest and a village the refugees built for themselves deep in another. There was always the fear of being discovered by the Nazis, wondering where Oma and Walter's older sister were, and learning how to survive in a new place when the Underground moved the family for their safety. The way this story is told makes it really come to life. 
This is a true story, told by Walter to the author. It is illustrated with photographs of Walter's life. This is an incredible account of survival during the Holocaust, quite different from others I have read in a lot of ways. This is one I would like to own a physical copy of! 
Though When We Were Shadows takes place during a war, and there is violence mentioned a lot of times, it is not very graphic. The main focus of this story is the day-to-day struggle to survive and remain sane. I would not hesitate to read this one aloud to children eight and older, with some guidance, of course.
I received a free ecopy of this book from NetGalley, and chose to write a review.
WARNING: As I mentioned, there are references to violence, as the Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews.
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This book tells the true story of Walter and his Jewish family. In the early years of Hitler's rise, Walter's family fled to the Netherlands, only to be forced into hiding when the Nazis invaded years later.

This story was so fascinating and harrowing. Walter and his parents are separated from Walter's sister and grandmother who are too physically infirm to weather the harsh living conditions of life on the run. Walter and his parents are moved from place to place with a number of narrow escapes. I was very interested to learn about the make-shift camp set up by the Resistance in a state park.

Walter's story is one of a childhood spent in fear and with extreme limitations, but steadied by the constancy of his parents and the bravery of the Resistance fighters who put their lives on the line to help so many people. I'm so glad that Walter was willing to share his story.
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If I could give this 10 stars, I would. I don't how to put in to words how much I loved When We Were Shadows. Historically well done. This story will not only keep you absolutely riveted but leave your heart changed. I have read a lot about this subject/time period and never knew about this. I wish I had enough copies to get into the hands of every high school student and teacher I could reach.~ My almost 16 year old son is reading it on my kindle now.~
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This is the account of Walter, a Jewish boy whose family escaped to the Netherlands from Germany when Hitler rose to power.  Although they were safe for awhile, when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands the family was forced to go into hiding.  Because of an illness, Walter's sister Hannah was sent to a different location.  Walter and his family had several close calls and hide in various locations during the war but all managed to survive.
What I found the most interesting part of the story was the hidden village in the woods built by the Underground where over 100 refugees lived in underground homes and well camouflaged houses.  The site of this village and reconstructed homes can be visited.
This is a solid addition to World War II and Holocaust literature.
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Walter knows that changes are coming, but for a six year old boy - he is not really sure what is going on. All he knows is that his family is quiet, and they must be prepared to run at any time. The reason? His family is Jewish, and the German Army is moving closer to their location. Hearing what is happening to other Jewish families, they prepare to move as many times as they need to, leaving everything behind. 
Walter's father owns a shop, and as they get ready to leave, the butcher who works close to them comes with a proposition. He will work the shop and keep it open while they are gone, and send the money as he can until they can get back. Walter father's hesitates briefly, before signing over his shop to the kindly butcher.
As they move from place to place, learning to live in quiet and in secret, Walter shares his story through letters he writes to his grandmother. These letters are very vague, but they show the terror and fear that each person felt as they waited.
The war drags on, and the family is separated for a time. While they wait to be reunited, Walter keeps writing, recording his thoughts and daily activities in his notebooks and letters. 

This book was an amazing read. Told from the perspective of a young boy growing up amid the terror or WWII, the struggles, fears and survival are plain to see as we move through this book. This is one that I am looking forward to reading with my boys. The ingenuity and those who risked their own lives to help many of the European Jews hide from the incoming German soldiers was astounding. These brave people risked everything, sharing their food, supplies and any information they could glean from listening to those around them. Some were captured and executed, but many survived. 

This book is a must read!
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This memoir of a young Jewish lad's existence in the hidden corners of Holland in WW2 gains from the immediacy of being styled as one long letter – which quotes in full from letters to his auntie written in exile.  The family (grandmother, parents, sister and he) all fled Germany but didn't go far enough, and when two of them get separated through inability to flee and seek shelter, it's down to just the boy and his parents to stay as the family unit, hiding out in caravans, woodsman's huts and so much more, forever trying to disguise their Jewish origin and their very existence in Nazi-occupied Holland, and forever reliant on charitable people with some smidgen of food to spare, and the Underground resistance workers who provided the chain of safe houses.  It may in the end be too fictionalised, but it certainly serves as a great testimony to what many had to go through – everyone of whatever stripe were starved and cold in those winters.  The book also serves as proof that not everyone had to suffer the Holocaust as we think of it, cattle trains and camps et al – but it was horrific enough for those staying in their home country.  The helpers and the sufferers all must be remembered, and this very good young read goes far towards that.  Four and a half stars.
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When We Were Shadows
by Janet Wees
Second Story Press
Children's Nonfiction
Pub Date 18 Apr 2018
I am reviewing a copy of When We Were Shadows through Second Story Press and Netgalley:


Walter is a young child when his parents decide to leave their home in Germany and start a new life in the Netherlands.  As Jews, they know they are not safe under the Nazi regime.


In this book we not only learn about Walter and his families life during hiding but before it as well.


At first Walter is to young to appreciate the danger that he is in, and everything feels like a great adventure.  But as his family is forced to keep moving from city to countryside eventually they are hidden deep in the Dutch woods.  Walter soon has his eyes opened to the danger they are in.


I give When We Were Shadows five out of five stars!


Happy Reading!
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I liked this book.  I've heard many things about the holocaust, but to see it through the eyes of a boy whose childhood was lost to it was amazing.  It was interesting to hear about his sister and her health issues and how she was hidden safely away.
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"When We Were Shadows" is a true story about a family, along with many Jews, had to hide from places to places to save their lives from the Nazi when Netherlands was invaded. Many Dutch who opposed the Nazi regime formed an underground organization and they helped the fugitives to get through their darkest days by providing shelters, food and other assistance. The Holocaust subject is always something heavy to read about, but "When We Were Shadows" is rather a heart-warming story. 

The voice of the story is told through then a boy but now an old man whose name is Walter. He recounts and narrates his story to his granddaughter about the hardships as well as his utmost respect and gratitude to those who helped to keep him and his family alive. His attitude towards his experience stresses less on complains or doubts but more on the positive side amidst his living in constant fear, lack of food, proper shelter, and many other struggles he faced. 

Pictures of the people mentioned and places where Walter spent his fugitive days at add personal touches to the story. A wonderful little book about Holocaust. Highly recommend.
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When I was in Amsterdam, back in the 1990s, there were certain places I wanted to go and see. While others wanted to visit the canabis cafes, I wanted to visit Anne Frank's house. It is an amazing tour, and you can still see some of the things that she saw, while she was in hiding, such as the clock tower. We know of her struggles because of her diary, but she was not the only jew in hiding in the Netherlands. There were many, many more, and this book is the story of one family and their hiding out during the war.  They were not in an attic, but in barns, caravans and forests.

One such place, that this family hid, was called "The Hidden Village", which were dugout houses in the forest. Although it was destroyed by the Nazi's when it was discovered, the people of the Netherlands rebuilt it, so it can still be visited.

Although we know that that Walter and his family survives, because it is brought up in the story, from time to time, this might be a good way to pull children in to the horrors that he went through, of never knowing when he would have enough to eat, or be able to play outside again. While I found it frustrating that there was no suspense, or fear for him and his family, this could work well for middle-grade students, who may be just learning about the holocaust. I do remember well wishing that Anne Frank survived, when I read her diary in grade school, and feeling that it wasn't fair, which of course it wasn't.

Good book to introduce kids to the holocaust, and how people survived, and hid, so they wouldn't be taken away by the Nazis.
Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
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When We Were Shadows is a middle grade and young adult novel that is based from the real life experience of Walter and his family during the Holocaust period. This book recounts what happened to them and the constant fear the Jews have to deal with while trying to stay alive. Walter’s Oma, grandmother, was able to keep the letters he has written to her throughout the time they were hiding; these written messages were included in this book as they were clearly describing their suffering.

Walter and his family left their home in Zwickau, Germany in 1937 when he and her sister, Hannah, were only five and nine years old. His family rode the train to Den Haag; their peaceful life in Netherlands was cut short after three years because the country was succumbed to the hands of the Nazis. His father entrusted their home and his business to a butcher who had a shop beside his father’s. 

Their family left Den Haag and stayed in a summer home in Nunspeet; however, their lives were still not safe hence their parents had follow the Underground’s advice to hide his sister in a hospital because of her osteomyelitis. Her illness will be a hindrance once they need to flee their home immediately because of the constant raids by the Nazi soldiers in towns. His Oma was the first member of their family that the Underground has taken in 1940 when they arrived in Den Haag and was kept until the country was free again. Walter and his parents were the only left in their family that was not safe so they have to continuously on the move into some new hidden shelter.

The Underground is a group of people who helped the Jews by hiding them; providing them with food, clothing, and information; they also transported them from one place to their new hideaway; and they also helped them build their huts in the hidden village in the forest on 1943. Even though these people put their lives on stake, they tried to do everything that they can so they can save these Jews from the Nazis. 

When We Were Shadows is another novel that will intensely illustrate how it was to live during the Shoah. The story of Walter and his family show us courage, the willingness to live, and hope amidst their situation. Also, even though there were times that they were indistinctly persuaded to change their religion from being a Jew to be a Christian, they didn’t falter and keep to their faith.
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A heartbreaking novel about a young boys life during WW2 as a member of a Jewish family and the constant threat from the Nazi regime.

Walters family has to move constantly  to find a safe country, to survive, and this is the story of their lives.
And the Dutch resistance movement during that time, they put their lives on the line every day, the constant threat of capture, yet they  saved others.
A wonderful yet heart wrenching book which was impossible to put down.
I think this book should be on a reading list for schools teaching about the Holocaust.
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*thank you to Netgalley and Second Story Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review*

4 stars.

I find that all holocaust/world war 2 stories are so heartfelt and emotional reads. This is also like that. Most stories I've read in this category are of those people who have ended up in the death camps such as Auschwitz. Few have been about those who go into hiding going from place to place to place, living in fear for their lives. So I was rather interested in this. I wanted to experience a small taste of what it was like for these people who were constantly on the run. This is such a sad story and definitely heartfelt but also one of hope and greatfulness to have survived. This is a true story and while saying it was an enjoyable read isnt quite the word I was after, its an important story, and I am glad it was told.
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