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The Children of La Hille: Eluding Nazi Capture during World War II (Modern Jewish History) Paperback – November 19, 2015
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Walter Reed provides a gripping account of the experiences which the children of La Hille endured as targets of the Nazis’ murder machine – experiences which marked their lives and influenced their attitudes and behaviors. Through poignant description, Reed shares both the horrors and loss and the camaraderie of children who came together in their quest to live against the backdrop of the Holocaust. (Susan L. Abrams, CEO of Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center)
Walter Reed has done an admirable job of reconstructing the collective biography of the Children of La Hille, a group of some 100 youngsters, of which he was one, sent from Nazi Germany... riveting, inspiring and moving. (Michael Berenbaum, Director Sigi Ziering Institute)
This stands by itself among the very few books and films that address the stories of children who survived the Holocaust. Reed’s story tells his own tale; but along with it comes the constant and poignant tale of those Jewish parents, including his own, who knew they were virtually certain to die and wanted only the chance that their children might survive. (Richard P. Unsworth, senior fellow at the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute at Smith College)
The book underscores the challenges overcome by all―parents, children, rescuers―in making it possible for most of these children to survive . . . a singularly detailed account of collective survival, and a fascinating one. (Pierre Sauvage, producer and director of the award-winning documentary film Weapons of the Spirit)
Reed is to be commended for the careful archival work and the wide range of primary sources he was able to gather to reconstruct the stories of the nearly 100 children that sought refuge at La Hille as well as the adults that cared for them and helped facilitate their survival. (Shannon L. Fogg, author of The Politics of Everyday Life in Vichy France: Foreigners, Undesirables, and Strangers)
The Children of La Hille offers the treasure of an insider’s intimate knowledge with the key added dimension of deep research. Drawing upon archival records, documents in private collections that have never been used before, as well as his own recollections, Walter Reed has pieced together a stunning rescue story that arced over the Atlantic. (Debórah Dwork, Director, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University)
The Children of La Hille is an authentic historical portrayal of how an unusual group of children was persecuted, rescued, protected and saved from deportation and murder by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
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Top Customer Reviews
A group of Belgian women created a daring, but still largely unknown, rescue mission. More than 800 Jewish children were taken into Belgium from Germany and Austria. Many Belgian families volunteered to host a Jewish child or to provide a financial contribution, including the queen of Belgium, who gave 5,000 francs in cooperation.
After Germany invaded Belgium, almost 100 of the children were placed on freight trains to Southern France. Ranging in age from five to sixteen, the children and their caretakers spent their first brutal winter in a barn, with little food and primitive hygiene.
In 1941, Swiss rescuers moved the children to the Chateau de La Hille, in the countryside north of the French city of Foix. While the United States State Department did everything possible to delay or eliminate Jewish immigration, about 20 children were transported to America in 1941–1942. The remaining la Hille children were constantly tormented by Nazi soldiers and French Vichy militia. The older children became teenagers, maturing rapidly from the constant terror. Most worked hard to maintain the colony and care for the younger children. But the awareness that their parents had been deported to Nazi death camps wore heavily upon them.
About 35 of these resourceful children escaped on foot across the heavily guarded borders of Switzerland and Spain. This often occurred in terribly cold winters with deep snow and in the presence of Nazi border guards. Others were hidden by courageous French families. Some of these children joined the resistance to fight against Nazi Germany. Of the 93 original children, all but 11 survived the Nazi persecution. Many later completed university educations, some immigrating to Palestine.
This is a well-written, detailed, and poignant memoir about the courage of Jewish parents who in most cases would never see their children again and of the mettle of the children pulled away from their families. It also illustrates the strength of their adult protectors who together survived horrific conditions and the constant threat of Nazi soldiers and French Vichy militia.
Author Walter Reed reveals the escape and shelter of German and Austrian Jewish children in in a gripping account, with carefully coordinated events, dates, and comprehensive research sources.
Here we find the intimate details of a personal journal, as well as carefully archived records of the rescuers and of other La Hille children. Many pictures of the children from the author’s personal collection; appropriate maps of France were added. His narration of the children’s escape and their camaraderie during this dreadful experience is as terrifying and wonderful as it is comprehensive and meticulous. He summoned the words to describe a chilling and courageous experience that remains largely unknown today.
Charles S. Weinblatt was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1952. He is a retired university administrator. Mr. Weinblatt is the author of published fiction and nonfiction. His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Education, and Wikipedia.
This book should be an important addition to the library of those who want to know the truth about the evil of Nazism and the heroic resistance to it which a few people mounted.
Unfortunately, Walter Reed passed away unexpectedly in January 2016 just before his 92nd birthday.