When We Were Shadows

When We Were Shadows cover

By Janet Wees, MEd '90

Walter and his family stay one step ahead of the Nazis, hiding to save their lives.

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. From one day to the next, Walter's world goes from safe and predictable to full of uncertainty. Walter is at first too young to appreciate the danger that he is in, and everything seems like a great adventure. But as the years pass and the war progresses, his family is forced to move again and again, from city to countryside to, eventually, a hidden village deep in the Dutch woods.

As the danger of being discovered increases, they are forced to rely on strangers for their safety. Walter’s eyes are opened to the threat that surrounds them every day, and to the network of people who are risking their lives to help them stay hidden. Told through a combination of narrative and Walter’s letters to his grandmother and, later, his granddaughter, the book—based on a true story—shines a light on this part of WWII history and the heroes of the Dutch resistance, particularly those involved in the hidden village. Without their protection, Walter, his family, and hundreds of others would not have survived.

Second Story Press, April 2018