The Children's Train
Escape on the Kindertransport
by Jana Zinser
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Pub Date 26 Oct 2015 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2022
Boutique of Quality Books Publishing, BQB Publishing
A Note From the Publisher
The print book is available for pre-order through www.bqbpublishing.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and indie bookstores. Wholesale purchases can be made through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or New Leaf Distributing. The eBook is available for pre-order through Kindle and Kobo and will be available through all major eBook retailers when the book is released. Libraries will be able purchase the eBook through Overdrive or Follett.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 64 members
ARC provided by NetGalley:
If you asked me what my preferred genre is, I'd be hard pressed to narrow it down to just one. However, historical fiction ranks at the top of that list. I love a book that tells a great story while also teaching me a bit of something new. That's why some of my favorite books of all time include The Book Thief and The Orphan Train. It's for that very reason that this book by Jana Kinser caught my eye.
Nazi Germany was a terrifying place for all, but especially for young children. Their safe, secure world was turned upside down as they were targeted for nothing more than being Jewish. Homes and livelihoods were destroyed, families were separated, loved ones lost their lives. All because of something they had no control over. But there was hope for many of the children in the form of selfless volunteers who risked their lives to help these children escape and have a chance at a somewhat normal life.
For the most part, this story centers on young Peter. He and his family have a happy, secure life in their comfy little apartment above their butcher shop. That all comes crashing down when the Nazis invade their small town taking over everything. Suddenly, being Jewish is a crime, punishable by death even. Peter and his family find themselves without a home along with many others. When the chance to escape presents itself, Peter and his younger sister take it. On the Kindertransport they go, off to a better life. Their journey is not without risks, though, as the war rages on.
There are other characters, of course. And their stories are just as important. There's young Eva, the apple of Peter's eye. She has a ticket on the train to freedom but her older brother has a different idea. Stephen and Hans are sent on the train to safety by their respective families. And then there are the tragic stories of those left behind, children who didn't get a seat on the train as well as adults not able to escape.
This was an incredibly engaging story for me because I had no idea such a thing existed. The Kindertransport was something new that I'm now highly motivated to learn more about. For that reason alone, it was a book I just couldn't put down. The characters and storylines were good as well, although I did feel that many of the deaths were described too matter-of-factly. Still, a great story about an interesting subject!
This was a very powerful story about children who have a strong will to survive and the people in their lives who help and hurt them. We all know the history of Nazi Germany, this book is a great story but I felt that the atrocities that the Nazi's inflicted on Jewish people ( and others) was a little glossed over. It seemed to be rushed to cover the whole war. I would of liked to of heard more of specifics of the struggle to survive. Peter is a strong male, but he needs a little more time in the story. He goes from England to Germsny from chapter to chapter without hardly any discussion on how hard or easy it was to move between countries.
It has been estimated that from 1938 to 1940, the Kindertransport spared the lives of 10,000 children from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Most of those children, from infant to age 17, were the only members of their families to survive the brutality of World War II. Parents desperate to protect their children, handed them over to strangers to be boarded on trains that would take them to safety.
cover69421-mediumThis is the beginning premise of Jana Zinser's fictional, The Children's Train, A Novel to be released by BQB Publishing on October 26, 2015.
Zinser has written a heart-wrenching, epic story that follows lives of several children that survived (as well as the fates of their families); from the beginning occupation through the end of the war.
Zinser takes readers from escape of occupied territories, into hiding, to safety, the concentration camps; and then back undercover behind enemy lines.
Here's the description from the publisher:
In November 1938 on The Night of the Broken Glass, the Jewish people of Germany are terrified as Hitler's men shatter their store windows, steal and destroy their belongings, and arrest many Jewish fathers and brothers. Parents fear for their own lives but their focus is on protecting their children. When England arranges to take the children out of Germany by train, the Kindertransport is organized and parents scramble to get places on the trains for their young family members, worried about what the future will hold. Soon, trains filled with Jewish children escaping the Nazis chug over the border into Holland, where they are ferried across the English Channel to England and to freedom. But for Peter, the shy violin player, his sister Becca, and his friends Stephen and Hans, life in England holds challenges as well. Peter’s friend Eva, who did not get a seat on the Kindertransport, is left to the evil plans of Hitler. Peter, working his musician’s hands raw at a farm in Coventry, wonders if they should have stayed and fought back instead of escaping. When the Coventry farm is bombed and Nazis have reached England, Peter feels he has nothing left. He decides it’s time to stand and fight Hitler. Peter returns to Germany to join the Jewish underground resistance, search for the mother and sister he left behind in Berlin, and rescue his childhood friend Eva.
It's a story of fear, torture, loss, hope, freedom, survival and most important of all-- it's a story of heroism of epic proportions.
A freight car like those used to transport 80-100 prisoners to the concentration camps.
A freight car like those used to transport 80-100 prisoners, per car, to the concentration camps. (At Museum Stutthof.)
As someone that has had an ongoing interest in Holocaust studies and education, what I really like about The Children's Train is that this novel gives the reader an in depth look; both in varying viewpoints and through a broad scope of experiences, making it a perfect introductory-look into the history of the Holocaust. It is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. After reading, you not only have a better picture of the many devastating situations endured by Holocaust victims and survivors; you also have a clearer understanding of Nazi and German (not mutually inclusive) people's positions and actions. Yes, some believed in Hitler's plan of hate. Others acted based on financial reasoning and many more out of fear.
The subject matter may be a little heavy for young readers but I'd certainly recommend it for high school through adults. Zinser tells the story simply, without over-dramatizing or trying to be graphically-shocking. By the very nature of the events, even through the author's delicate handling, it might be too overwhelming for younger children.
The young lives of Peter, Eva and all the others will tug at your heart and inspire you. You'll discover hope in humanity though quiet, unassuming acts of courage and heroism; and mourn the lives of those that were lost.
Though 10,000 children may have been spared by the Kindertransport; 6 million Jews lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis -- many of them children. This is their unforgettable story.
Before starting this review I would like to make mention of the author Jana Zinser's dedication. In part it says ...
The Nazis killed six million Jews. One-and-a-half million of those Jews were children. Peter and Becca represent two of the more than ten thousand children who safely escaped to England on the Kindertransport. Most of the Kindertransport children never saw their parents again.
I personally want to say. I believe we must never forget these atrocities, these were mothers, father, brothers, sisters, children, and babies! What was done was to them was pure EVIL! We need to continue to educate generation to generation.
The majority of the novel is based around Peter the 11 yr old protagonist and his 6 yr old sister Becca.
Peter's father had fought in "The Great War" who had come back a hero and was left with the scars to prove it, shrapnel in his leg. Very early on we are shown the character of this man for example he owns the local butcher and in 1933 he is no longer supposed to slaughter the animals the Jewish way...he shows the strength of his convictions by still doing so. When Peter mentions that Hitler will be angry with him, his father replies that he would rather have Hitler mad with him than God. Peter's mother is also a strong and loving woman who was obviously put Earth to be a mother. To round of this beautiful family there is one year old rosy cheeked Lily.
Jana Zinser brilliantly expresses the horror, confusion and fear that not only Peter but the other children in the novel are feeling and thinking when witnessing the atrocities by the Nazis.
Peter is trying to comprehend why he is considered less than human and hated, he has never hated anything nor does he really understand the concept of hatred especially the hatred by the Nazis for him being Jewish. He especially finds it difficult since he has been brought up to be proud of his heritage.
Peter's confusion continues such as why would Germany no longer want him and his family when his Dad was a war hero who had fought for Germany during the "The Great War", even Hitler fought on the same side as his father. Some of the local Nazi's had fought side by side with his father, once his friends now his enemies.
This book is not just about Peter's family, but also Peter and his friends families. They all have the same things in common, they are Jewish, and all go to the same school in Berlin. Zinser's description is heartbreaking when she describes little children as young as 4 being marched out of the school and told they will never return because they are "rats".
As the situation becomes even more dire for the Jewish families losing their homes and businesses. The freezing winter begins to close in. The parents are given only one solution that could possibly save their children and that is The Children's Train called Kindertransport. Peter and Becca and some of their schoolfriend's were on one of those trains.
The Kindertransport was organised and fully funded by a group of wonderful volunteers and generous financial donators from England who transported as many Jewish children out of Germany as they possibly could before all of the German Borders were closed.
As the book continues we learn what happens to Peter's family left behind. We also learn the fate of other families and of some of the children whose parents made the decision not to send their children. This is spread out over a number of years as we watch Peter grow into a young man.
When I began this book I thought that I had quite a lot of knowledge about the Holocaust but I was surprised to learn about the Kindertransport children. Although this novel is fiction, the Kindertransport was not and I will never forget about the ones that made it on those trains and also the ones who did not.
Thank you NetGalley, the Publisher and Author for giving me the opportunity to read this in turn for a fair and honest review.
I'm positive that I held my breath for most of this book. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd held my breath for the entire time I'd been reading this. This book was so unlike any other I've ever read. It's gripping, powerful, heartbreaking and intense - so, so, so intense. During the terrible reign of Adolf Hitler, the kindertransport brought Jewish children away from Germany and into England, where they were all scattered into different families or parts of England where it was thought they'd be kept safe from Hitler's reach. The stories of each individual character in the book were horrifying; especially knowing that it was all based on real facts. I know I cried through about half of the book - all the way to the end, and when Hitler finally got what he deserved and Peter ran off to get his sister, my tears were pretty unbearable. I honestly have no words right now; this book was amazing and thrilling, and so sad.
This is a great introductory-level novel to the Holocaust. As someone that has had a lifelong interest in WWII and Holocaust studies, I like that this novel gives a variety of viewpoints and experiences...Jewish, German, Nazi, Resistance, British...they're all included in a realistic account. It is thoroughly engaging from start to finish. After reading, you have a better picture of the many devastating situations endured by Holocaust victims and survivors, as well as a clearer understanding of people’s positions and actions. But it's still all at an introductory level.
The novel is a little heavy for young readers, but I’d certainly recommend it for high school through adults. It's written without over-dramatizing or trying to be graphically-shocking, but the very nature of the events, even through the author’s delicate handling, could be overwhelming.
I was very grateful to be able to download and read this book for free by Netgalley. I realise that this book is a work of fiction but the 'kindertransport', organised to rescue children from Nazi Germany was real. Jana Zinser brings us such realistic characters that it is easy to see them as true victims. There are times that the book makes difficult reading, mainly because it is beyond our comprehension that these events took place but there is also a positive feel, as we are reminded of the wonderful people who organised and funded the 'kindertransport'. A great historical fiction novel..
Book review for ‘The Children’s Train’ by Jana Zinser
This book is about the Kindertransport that took Jewish children out of Germany when Hitler was in power. Peter, a small butcher’s son with a musical gift and a love of the violin, is the main character. Peter is sent away on a Kindertransport train at the age of 11 and the book follows the next seven years as Peter grows from a scared boy into a man fighting in the rebellion against the Nazi’s. This book takes a unique look at real life events from the fictional characters of children who left Germany on the Kindertransport.
All I can say is, wow! I have read the Diary of Anne Frank and other books based in this time period in history. I want my children to read this. Perhaps not suitable for elementary school children due to the violence, but if you want your children to know history (and not just the dry and watered down version in textbooks) then get this book for them. The author somehow manages to portray the horror of concentration camps, the brutality inflicted upon the Jews, and the harsh and hopeless living environments and still keep it okay for junior high children to read. Some of the violence and senseless slaughter is portrayed as people are shot right in front of the character’s eyes. There is some allusion to young girls being forced against their will, people being treated as slaves, as less than dogs, and the abject depravity that those who followed Hitler’s command perpetrated on the Jewish people. I am a writer and an editor and I had work I was supposed to be doing, but from the time I read the first line of this book, I was hooked. I read it in two nights and didn’t do any work other than read this book. Even the most imaginative author cannot come up with a story that rivals the horror of real life reflected in this book. I think it is very important for the younger generation to know the stark naked truth of what really happened rather than the glossed over history book version that they get in school. I hope youngsters will get this book, read it, and cry and rail against the fates at the suffering that these people endured at the hands of someone who convinced a nation to follow them in the wholesale slaughter of a people.
Disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy of this book from Net Gally in exchange for writing a review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.
Powerful retelling of the plight of the children of the Kindertransport. Would be good as a set text to get older children to understand the full horror of the Jewish Plight in WWII
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It tells of the Kindertransport, evacuation to safety of Jewish children from Nazi Germany to Great Britain before the outset of the Second World War. The main character is Peter, an 11 year old talented violin player who is separated from his family when evacuated to England. As he grows up, he becomes an underground resistance fighter and on occasion, uses his violin to help 'free the Jewish people' as he had been predicted to do. We follow his life and those of his friends and family from the beginning of the persecution of the Jews in Germany through till the end of the war.
The book is heartrending and at times difficult to read due to the subject matter, but I believe this type of book must be written and read to keep the memories of the evil that happened during the Holocaust alive, and to help prevent it ever happening again. It is a work of fiction but the situations depicted are ones that happened again and again to real life families all over Europe before and during the war. It is very well written, realistic and sometimes quite stark, never flinching from the truth of the situation. I would definitely recommend this book.
"The world has gone mad"!
"They're robbing our soul, and the world has turned out its light and gone to sleep".
From bleakness emerges a story about a pivotal period in history. It's a rich portrayal about Kindertransport children who were transported out of Germany to London when the massive attack on Jews changed 'everything'. Six Hundred thousand Jewish Children were in need of being rescued. Fluid storytelling and well-drawn characters make this novel compulsively readable. It's appropriate reading for as young as middle school children to read to adults. Jana Zinser educates the less knowledgeable reader about the holocaust, with dignity and sensitivity. The factual details mixed with a cast of breathtaking vivid characterless so persuasive and interesting...( troubling ), that even the more advance - adult reader- will have a hell of a hard time pulling away. I 'had' to read this in one sitting. ( tears a 'few' times). This was one of those books--where I did not touch my phone once- did not touch the internet once-didn't give a damn about the dirty dishes in the sink- laundry that needed to be done - or any hunger.
Yes, THE WORLD HAD GONE MAD. Under the Nazi regime, Jews were kicked out of their homes, their businesses destroyed,
Synagogues burned down, the burning of Jewish prayer books, Torahs, holy scrolls, Retailers had signs in their windows: "DO NOT SELL ANYTHING TO JEWS", schools were cancelled for Jewish Children, Jews beaten, arrested, and killed. The devastation and mayhem crushed spirits leaving people afraid to hope - unspeakable horrific pain. Children wrapped their arms around their parents as tightly as they could, petrified of separation. Yet.. even though the children didn't understand why they were being put on trains with complete strangers - sent to another country -separated from their parents....it was the best chance of them surviving.
You'll find a couple of 'in-house' troubling stories - besides the bigger world crisis. ( sadness and confusion.... Psychologically complex family choices) The storytelling is intimate: Standout characters:
The Weinberg family: Henry, Sylvia, Peter, Becca, and baby Lilly. Peter, might be consider the 'main character...but 'all' are memorable.
*Peter and Becca, brother & sister, get separated from each other once they arrive in London. Peter is sent to live with a family in Dovercourt working on a farmhouse. Becca is sent to London to live in luxury. Each child will face a new set of challenges. If a child is too young or too old...they need to stay back - and not be allowed out of Germany at all.
"Baby Lilly wasn't going on the train because his mother said she wasn't old enough. But Peter thought it was because his mother couldn't live without someone to love."
More Standout characters: The Rosenberg family: Bert, Helga, Eve, and William. Eve & William are brother and sister... ( William older).... The story of what happens to this family is something I think every reader will think about long after this story ends. Charlie, a child who had a seat on the train, was pulled off at last minute, because his parents couldn't stand to part with their child. Priscilla, a supporting character, a young girl in a wheel chair, lives in London. The author allows us to look closer at Priscilla's character and why her condition lingers in our thoughts. Marla: a pivotal strength in helping the younger children.
**Peter is born with music in his soul. A Violin Player. With no family - in a country that isn't his own- its music that comforts against loneliness. His music becomes his gift of gratitude to the world. Saved and thankful.
To hope, and healing!
Thank You BQB Publishing, Netgalley, and Jana Zinser ( a wonderful storyteller)
This is definitely a book that I'd recommend for older elementary school kids, maybe 5th or 6th grade and up. Our daughters visited concentration camps while on a field trip with their school while in Germany and I wish everyone had a chance to do so. No one would doubt the Holocaust if they experienced such a trip.
That said, this book showed a side of the war that not everyone has heard of, that of the Kindertransport that some of the Jewish children to safety in England.
The book starts out with some of the milder interactions between some of the Nazis and the Jewish people, but those interactions quickly escalate and get very ugly, very quickly, most likely this happened similarly in real life.
The book can be hard to read, especially for people that just can't understand how people could be so cruel to other human beings. I think it's something important for people to remember though, especially children today, because I think the history of Hitler and the Third Reich isn't taught as much as it should be. I'd definitely recommend this.
Great story from the view point of children, just how war looks. While it's hard to get across just how terrifying war is, the author does a great job conveying what it was like being persecuted by Hitler. Definitely a book to read if you're interested in the subject at all.
The Children's Train is wonderfully written, couldn't put it down!
Really makes you think what you would have done as a parent, grandparent and as a child, could you make the same decisions, and could you adapt and cope with your new circumstances. Loved it!
"Where there is life, there is hope." This is the theme that permeates this novel based on the historic events of the Kindertransport which helped Jewish children flee German (and other European countries) for England. .Although this is a novel and the individuals are not real, the author was able to paint a picture of these times and places in a way that made them come alive in a heart-wrenching way.
The story jumps between the viewpoints of several of the children and the families they left behind as well as the lives of children unable to escape, showing the wide variations in lives led based on what boils down to the luck of the draw. This would be a good novel for late elementary to maybe early high school as a companion to talking about WWII and the Holocaust.
A picture and story from Humans of New York a few years back really stuck with me and came to mind several times during the story. The woman said: "I lived in Poland, so we were persecuted from the first day of the war. First they took us from our home, then they put us in a ghetto, then they made us march, then they sent us to the camps. I was separated from everyone, but my brother later told me that my father froze to death. But I have children now, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren-- a great big family, all of them educated. Look at everything that came from just one person who escaped. Just goes to show that you can never kill a people with hate. There will always be someone left to carry on." https://www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork/photos/a.102107073196735.4429.102099916530784/516604491746989/?type=1
So much has been written about the Holocaust, but the story of the Kindertransport is truly unique. I knew that children in Britain had been sent to the countryside to escape the bombing during WWII, but I never knew that many young Jewish children had also been sent to England to escape Hitler's Germany. The story follows the fortunes of a group of neighborhood children, some of whom escape on the children's train, and some of whom do not. It was hard to put this book down; the characters were so engaging, I couldn't wait to see what happened to them! With war refugees in the news so much these days, The Children's Train really struck a chord.
Unfortunately, there was a true part to this story and a reason why this book could be written with this background. A sad, tragic background.
I found this book to be very interesting and actually very intense. I found myself holding my breath through quite a lot of it. It seemed as though someone was always close to danger. I think the writer did a great job with the story and while it is a tragic one, I found it to be very entertaining and I did not want to put the book down. I was definitely cheering for the these children. I was also thinking how hard it would be to just hand off my child to a stranger in order to assure they would live. That would have to be one of the hardest things to do. Letting that little baby go would have killed me. And then living with the consequences of that father who pulled his son off. And that horrible mother who let her arrogant criminal son go instead of her young innocent daughter? That was the worst tragedy. I can't believe the daughter still loved her mother and cared for her.
But then one could go on and on discussing the pros and cons of why a parent should have or should not have done what they did. That parent has to live with what they did. And, it is only just a story. But I'm sure some of those things did happen.
I liked seeing the children's version of what was going on around them. I've read several books regarding WWII, but this is the first one from the the children's point of view and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It was insightful, poignant and really worth reading. I highly recommend doing so.
Thanks to BQB Publishing and Net Galley for the free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
The Children’s Train starts out as a hard read. Young Jewish children have no idea why they are being mistreated. The attacks escalate, and their elders are powerless to stop the violence. Some parents are arrested, never to be seen again; others return broken, soon to die.
Peter, who never had any inclination to play rough sports, loves to play his violin. After his father dies from mistreatment, his mother manages to get him and his sister Becca on a kindertransport. The British have managed to arrange for Jewish children to come to Britain. Becca ends up in a wealthy home and a comfortable life. Peter becomes little better than a servant doing all the farm chores for a couple in Coventry. His friends Stephen and Hans are also in England, but Eva, the prettiest girl Peter has ever seen, is robbed of her seat on the train by her no-good brother.
As time passes, shy Peter becomes bold and joins the crusade against Hitler.
Ten thousand children escaped to England on the kindertransports. Few ever saw their parents again. The Children’s Train offers a glimpse of what life was like for those children, both in Germany and then in England. Besides Peter and Becca, we follow Charlie, whose father pulled him off the train, unable to part with his son; Noah, the orphan stowaway who is discovered and tossed off the train; Eva, who ends up in the camps; Stephen and Hans, who lose everything.
It’s a heart-wrenching tale, made all the more poignant because we know it accurately portrays life for the German Jewish children in the Third Reich.
My favorite genre is historical fiction and I especially "enjoy" this time period! While I have read hundreds of titles that focus on the subject of the kindertransports, they still bring tears to my eyes! The characters in The Children's Train were vivid and likeable! Although a fairly quick read, there was depth in the subject matter!
This review will appear on the link below approx 19th October
Peter and his friends Stephen and Hans had a happy life in Berlin, going to school, playing football and for Peter, playing his beloved violin. But change came in the form of Hitler; the Nazis were cruel and vindictive – adult or child, no one was safe from them if they were Jewish. After being banned from their school, the lives of the friends and their parents deteriorated quickly. Peter’s father owned a butcher shop; he was a proud man who had served in the Great War and achieved medals as well. But that didn’t mean a thing to Hitler’s thugs…
Marla and her supporters in London were determined to help the German Jewish children to escape Hitler. They organized the Kindertransport which would leave Berlin, travelling through Holland to the final leg of the journey which would be a ferry to England’s shores and safety. Peter and his sister Becca, along with Stephen and Hans were on one of the first Kindertransports, but Peter’s best friend Eva missed out as her brother William took her seat.
By the time the Germans closed the borders out of the country, 10,000 Jewish children had been saved. But there were still many more who would suffer along with their parents at the hands of the Nazis.
As each child was sent to a foster home in London and surrounding areas, the devastation felt by both Peter and Becca was heartbreaking. They had been separated – they had no idea if they would ever see each other again. Along with their parents and baby sister being left in Germany, they no longer had each other for love and support. Peter was taken by a cruel farmer in Coventry who put him to work as his farmhand – he was only eleven years old. Becca had a happier time of it, but missed her family dreadfully.
When the Blitz hit London, lives were to change once again. Older by a few years, Peter’s anger had grown – he was determined to do something; it was time to fight back. He was desperate to find his mother and baby sister; also his best friend Eva – he needed to help in the fight against Hitler and the horrific Nazi regime…
The Children’s Train by Jana Zinser absolutely blew me away! Heartbreaking, terrifying and traumatic it was also filled with hope and courage, determination and inspiration. Over six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis and many of them were children. Though The Children’s Train is fiction, the sad and tragic truth stands out and stays with you. I know this book will stay with me! The Children’s Train is an absolute credit to this author and I have no hesitation in recommending it extremely highly. I’d like to thank the Goodreads friend who recommended it to me as well…
With thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for my copy to read and review.
Have tissue handy as you read through the pages of this amazing tale. It is a great read that will have tears streaming down your cheeks as you come across the great injustice suffered by the children. I could not put this book down as it had me addicted wanting to know and hoping that each character would in the end be happy. An emotional roller coaster as I'm crying in one chapter and cheering in the next. Highly recommended for I truly enjoyed reading this book.
A beautifully written book. Sadly, the historical details are true and this makes the story all the more poignant. At times heartbreaking, at times hopeful and optimistic, this book will stay with the reader for a long time. The author is definitely one to watch.
We must never forget the atrocities against the Jewish people by Adolf Hitler in World War II and must ensure that a crime of this magnitude never happens again. The unbelievable courage and bravery of those who brought Jewish children out of Europe and to safe haven is incredible. In this well-written book we see much through the eyes of the children themselves, and their strength and bravery are dazzling. Recommended.
I knew nothing about the WW2 Kindertransport and was pleased to be given the chance to read this historical fictional novel. It’s particularly timely now, when we have so many thousands of children fleeing bombs or oppression and/or torture, but with not enough places willing to take them in.
England managed to save about 10,000 before Rotterdam was bombed and Holland surrendered. They even had to move the children (with their own) out of London during the Blitz.
This is a book that could be read by school-aged children, if you think they are ready to learn about how badly we are capable of treating each other. It also shows how generous people and nations can be during times of crisis.
After Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, November 9-10, 1938, England generously offers to foster Jewish children, bringing them via train -the Kindertransport – to Holland and then via ship. Peter’s parents manage to get him, his little sister and his beloved violin on the train, but the girl he is so fond of, Eva, loses her seat to her vicious older brother, William, and ends up in the camps while William gets up to no good in England.
We follow both Peter’s and Eva’s stories and learn of the increased suffering of their families and friends, but without an overload of graphic detail.
The text is simple and direct (excerpt below). The facts alone are horrifying enough, although we get a fair sense of the rot, the filth, the smell of death - and the cold and hunger, of course.
Peter and his violin survive a bomb attack, and he decides it’s time to fight back. He’s only 13.
“Peter emerged, crawling on his hands and knees from under the stairs. He was covered in dirt and blood, but he was still alive and relatively unharmed. He glanced around, and then looked down at his body, as if stunned to see it was still in one piece. He wiped the blood and debris from his face in long-fingered streaks.
“He turned and frantically pulled boards away, pulling up his mattress and revealing his violin. He grabbed the case and carefully wiped its cover with his sleeve. He set the case down and slowly opened it.
“The violin was unharmed. He picked it up and held it aloft, like an offering to God, an acknowledgment that this was evidence that confirmed God was watching over him. Then he bent down in prayer with the bow and violin still in his hands. ‘I give my life to you’, he prayed.
“What Peter had run from had finally caught up with him. A flash of understanding surged through his mind. A shiver ran through his body, and he knew that running wouldn’t work. Staying and fighting was the only way to survive, and it was time to stand up.”
We follow Peter’s scary, teen-aged exploits back in Germany, where he fights with older Resistance fighters, using Molotov cocktails and other home-made bombs. There are some particularly nervous scenes where Peter, disguised as a Nazi soldier, runs into someone who knew him years earlier!
I particularly liked the division into chapters by date, e.g., “Boarding the Train (January 1939)”. It makes it real and easy to tie in with other accounts. I was surprised that the German name “Kristallnacht” was never used, as it's the only name I've ever heard for "The Night of Broken Glass", but maybe that's just me.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the author for a copy to read and review. I think this could be a very useful addition to school libraries.
The writing is simplistic at first , but the story is not. It's horrifying and moving and enlightening and as heartbreaking and as gut wrenching as anything I've read about the holocaust ; yet it is hopeful . The horrors and the fears faced by the Jewish children in this novel were faced by the one and a half million children who were killed by the Nazis but the children in this story represent some of the 10,000 who were saved by the British on the Kindertransport , the train taking them from Germany to England to save them from the Nazis .
Heartbreaking does not adequately describe seeing these young children attempt to understand what is happening to Jews and why. How do you explain why their father's shop is destroyed or why he is taken away or why their home is ransacked in the middle of the night ? How do you explain why they are expelled from their school because they are Jews ? How do you explain why they must leave their home, their mother and fathers and get on a train to England?
This is the story of 11 year old Peter who loves his violin and his music and his younger sister Becca . It's about Peter's friend Eva who gets left behind. It's the story of their friends Hans and Stephen and the orphan boy Noah . Jana Zinser tells us that these children are fictional but we know they represent real lives . Their stories along with those of other characters are told simultaneously as the author moves among them simply by new paragraphs at times within the chapters . We move from England and back to Germany to Stephen's family hiding in the attic and Eva and her family in Bockenburg camp. Some of them children are safe from Hitler and alive but their lives are far from the happy ones they lived before. It seemed so chaotic at times but then you realize how it must have been that way .
For the next seven years we follow this circle of friends and their families , from Berlin to England to the camps back in Germany to Poland and back to Berlin . Their paths sometimes cross , some die, some live , all of them more courageous than can be described even though it is Peter and Noah who join the Resistance. I got more and more taken by these characters and the urge to know the fate of each and every one of them .
When I read about children of the holocaust, I am , of course reminded of Anne Frank and [book:The Diary of a Young Girl|48855] and I think about [book:Hana's Suitcase: A True Story|948584]. When I read about brave and good people trying to save their fellow human beings , I reminded of [book:My Mother's Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story|18167456]. I am always reminded of [book:The Street Sweeper|12088102] because all of these books say to us "Don't let them forget." Zinser has done a beautiful job of doing just that . I highly recommend this book .
Thanks to BQB Publishing and NetGalley.
I am often on the fence about whether I want to read another novel set during WWII. Good novels that depict this horrific part of history can be so painful, and bad novels are such an insult to the suffering of all people who died or survived during WWII. So I read novels set in that period, but I try to choose them carefully. I read The Children's Train based on Angela's great review and I'm glad I did. It's based on the real historical Kindertransport -- the courageous and forward thinking transportation of several thousand Jewish children out of Germany to England before the war. It tells the story of an interrelated set of characters, some who were able to leave Germany and some who weren't. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the children. It is horrific and moving. It brings to life the horrendous decision parents had to make about whether to send their children away. With 20/20 hindsight, it's obvious that it was the right the decision. But at the time when Jews faced brutality but didn't know where things were going, I can't imagine making the decision these parents had to make. That part of the book is heart wrenching. The book is also about what happens after the children are moved to England, moving back and forth between the families left behind and the relocated children. To me, the story became a bit unrealistic in the last quarter when one of the main characters becomes very actively involved in the Resistance. And there are a few improbable coincidences. But this is a minor complaint. This is a very moving novel, highlighting real and important events during WWII. It strikes me that it's a book that would work for my 14 year old daughter, as a way to understand the horror of the war and the courage of people who survived and who helped others survive. It contains enough information about the brutality perpetrated by the Nazis to be real, but it leaves enough unsaid to be appropriate for a younger audience. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read The Children's Train.
The Children's Train: Escape on the Kindertransport by Jana Zinser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction>WW II era
Excerpt from the book:
"Peter Weinberg, with the gray, piercing eyes, was eleven when he had to face the truth that the world was filled with evil, and there was nothing he could do about it. The Nazi monster, Adolph Hitler, had risen to power in Germany, and he didn't like Jews, not even the small ones."
The Nazi regime began closing in on the Jewish world slowly at first. They were no longer allowed in the parks, then they were banned from the swimming pools. Their safe, secure world began to turn upside down. Signs in retail stores said, "Do Not Sell Anything to Jews". By measured, deliberate increments, the violence and exclusion continued.
Peter's father was a WW I decorated hero. He had fought alongside Hitler and his Nazi thugs as patriots, brothers in arms, only a few years before. Peter cannot understand why he is now considered less than human and hated, just for being Jewish.
The confusion over the concept of hatred turns to dread. Synagogues and books are burned. Leaving Germany now requires permission, paperwork and money. Any control over their lives begins to slip away along with all human rights. Children are called "rats" as they are rudely escorted out of school and told not to come back.
The Night of the Broken Glass destroys shops, businesses and the means of making a living. The targeting escalates. Homes are destroyed or commandeered by non-Jewish Germans.
Being Jewish is now approximates a death sentence. Devastation morphs into unspeakable, unrelenting horror. Jews are beaten, arrested and killed. Or they just disappear in the night. Unknown to the Jewish population, it has only just begun.
I have read many stories about WW II, however, I had never heard of The Children's Train or Kindertransport. After The Night of Broken Glass, England organized a a program offering safe haven to Jewish children up to the age of 17. The children traveled by train to Holland and were then ferried to England. Ten thousand children were saved. Kindertransport continued until Holland was invaded and Germany closed its border.
This is a story of the parental heartbreak of sending terrified children away to save them and also the story of the children who did not get a seat on a train. The concentration camps received the children who missed the train.
Peter was eleven, his sister Becca was six, when they arrived in England. Their father was dead by this time and their mother could not bear to part with baby Lily. She kept Lily with her in Germany. All was not good for the children who survived the Nazi reign of terror. After arriving in England, Peter and Becca were separated. Peter was selected by a cruel farmer and his wife as a free farmhand. He was worked to the point of exhaustion daily. Becca was selected by a family that treated her well.
Most of the rescued children never saw their parents again and were subjected to the numerous Blitz bombings in England.
The story follows Peter as he eventually joins the Jewish resistance to wreak havoc with the Nazi war effort.
I highly recommend this novel, it should be required reading for middle and high school students so this history can never be repeated.
ARC courtesy of the author and publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
View all my reviews
In November 1938 German military forces destroyed synagogues, Jewish businesses, and murdered Jews with impunity. Three weeks after "Kristalnacht" the first kinder-transport left Berlin for England. These three hundred children are what this book is about.
We follow those who were lucky enough to go to England and what happened to their family and friends who remained in Germany. Zinser has done a fine job is bringing both the horror and revelations of courage that were part of the lives of these children. It's a story well worth reading.
Zeb Kantrowitz firstname.lastname@example.org
An intense and powerful book made even more heart wrenching because it is told through the eyes of children. It is a mix of desperation, survival and ultimately hope.
I knew before reading this book that it was an upsetting story. and it was. The book is fiction based on fact. The Kindertransport did exist, it was a rescue train in Germany during world war two. It carried children from Germany to Holland and then they took a ferry to England. The train saved many Jewish children's lives. This book tells the fictional story of brother and sister Peter and Becca also their friends Stephen and Hans. It is a carefully written book which does not embellish the drastic situation and was a good read.
I actually downloaded this novel for free from Netgalley, with the usual caveat I would provide an honest review, as if I write anything else, as it fit into my studies and was looking for a different fictional viewpoint for a paper I was writing. Little did I know that once I started reading this I would find it very hard to put down.
There really aren’t any words I could write here that could make anyone read this book, particularly given the subject, but it surely is a book that needs to be read to ensure something as horrific and tragic as this never happens again. The Author writes mainly from the viewpoint of the children involved in the journey of the Kindertransport, but also takes time to bring to life on the page the awful decisions their parents had to make in letting them go. As always with history, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at the time in which the novel is set many of these adults still did not believe their lives could possibly be in jeopardy, never mind the lives of their children.
Although there are few places in the book where the Author reminds us that this is truly a work of fiction, the novel is very informative and engrossing and I would highly recommend this book as reading for teenagers to help them understand another aspect of the Holocaust. I am always indecisive when it comes to the issue of whether to read another novel on this subject, but I am glad I read this and will be looking out for more from this Author in the future.
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