I’m so honored to welcome Melanie Dobson to the blog today to chat about her new book Memories of Glass!
MEMORIES OF GLASS
GENRE: Inspirational Dual Timeline Fiction
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: September 3, 2019
Reminiscent of Diane Ackerman’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, this stunning novel draws from true accounts to shine a light on a period of Holland’s darkest history and bravest heroes.
1942. As war rips through the heart of Holland, childhood friends Josie van Rees and Eliese Linden partner with a few daring citizens to rescue Eliese’s son and hundreds of other Jewish children who await deportation in a converted theater in Amsterdam. But amid their resistance work, Josie and Eliese’s dangerous secrets could derail their friendship and their entire mission. When the enemy finds these women, only one will escape.
Seventy-five years later, Ava Drake begins to suspect that her great-grandfather William Kingston was not the World War II hero he claimed to be. Her work as director of the prestigious Kingston Family Foundation leads her to Landon West’s Ugandan coffee plantation, and Ava and Landon soon discover a connection between their families. As Landon’s great-grandmother shares the broken pieces of her story, Ava must confront the greatest loss in her own life—and powerful members of the Kingston family who will do anything to keep the truth buried.
Illuminating the story and strength of these women, award-winning author Melanie Dobson transports readers through time and place, from World War II Holland to contemporary Uganda, in this rich and inspiring novel.
heroes of holland
by Melanie Dobson, author Memories of Glass
In 1942, three Dutch leaders concocted a wild, outlandish scheme to rescue hundreds of Jewish children from deportation, right out from under the oppressive watch of their occupiers. And they, along with dozens of others, risked everything to save these kids.
Before the war, the Netherlands had been a neutral country, welcoming many German Jewish refugees across the border, but on May 10, 1940, after promising not to attack, Hitler’s army swept furiously into Holland and overtook this beautiful land. The Dutch were stunned but consoled by promises that the persecution happening in Germany wouldn’t occur in Holland.
A special council in Amsterdam—the Judenrat—was formed to meet the needs of Jewish residents, and they provided the best health care in the country at a camp called Westerbork. Even as new regulations were implemented in Holland, many of the 140,000 Dutch Jews believed they were safe because the Nazis granted thousands of exemptions to their growing list of rules.
Everything changed in July 1942 when the Nazis, assisted by the Judenrat, began rounding up Jewish citizens and cramming them into a gutted theater called Hollandsche Schouwburg. Residents waited there for days will little sustenance or fresh air before they were transported east.
Walter Süskind was a German Jewish salesman forced to oversee the registration and deportation of each man, woman, and child inside the theater. Across the street from the theater, separated by a tram line, were two brick-clad buildings that housed a day care run by Henriëtte Pimentel, a matronly Jewish woman, and the Reformed Teacher Training College with a young principal named Johan van Hulst.
The children housed at the theater were quite loud, annoying the German soldiers, so Walter befriended the commanding officer and suggested they transfer these kids to the day care. After the officer concurred, Henriëtte readily agreed to host them, and Johan and some of his teaching students volunteered to help.
But these leaders wanted to do more than just offer these children food and shelter before deportation. They wanted to save their lives.
The German records were quite meticulous and regulated, but Walter, Henriëtte, and Johan devised a seemingly impossible plan. With permission from the parents, Walter began to secretly eliminate the names of children from the registry lists. Once he erased them, these children—in the eyes of the Nazis—ceased to exist.
Still, the Nazis kept an eye on the day care center, so Johan and Henriëtte created a number of ways to steal these unregistered children away. When the tram divided the day care from the watchful eye of soldiers, for example, students would smuggle the kids out in laundry baskets, burlap bags, and milk cans. Sometimes the nursery workers would take a dozen children on a walk and return with eleven. Or a baby tucked away in its carriage would be replaced with a doll.
More than six hundred children were rescued from the Hollandsche Schouwburg.
And the Germans never found out about this scheme.
Each child was escorted to a safe home by a resistance worker, saving their life, but two of the three leaders who orchestrated their rescue died during the war.
In 1943 Henriëtte was killed at Auschwitz after accompanying her staff and the remaining children in her care.
Walter was exempted from deportation, but his wife and daughter were not. He chose to leave on a train with his family, and many think he was killed in 1945 by fellow inmates at Auschwitz who thought he, a former employee of the hated Judenrat, was a traitor.
Johan van Hulst passed away in 2018 at the age of 107. He knew that I was writing Memories of Glass about this incredible feat, and it’s been an honor for me to connect with those who loved him.
Most of the Dutch who rescued children didn’t think they were heroic, and Dr. van Hulst was no exception. In fact, he once said: “I actually only think about what I have not been able to do. To those few thousand children that I could not have saved” (Het Parool).
The six hundred that he helped rescue, I suspect, think of him often.
Memories of Glass was written to reflect both the corruption and heroism in Holland during World War II. It is a tribute, I hope, to those who risked everything to save a Dutch child.
Thank you, Melanie! What an inspiring story of 3 heroes, whether they considered themselves to be such or not.
Writing fiction is Melanie Dobson’s excuse to explore abandoned houses, travel to unique places, and spend hours reading old books and journals. The award-winning author of twenty books, Melanie enjoys stitching together both time-slip and historical fiction including Catching the Wind, Hidden Among the Stars, and her latest novel, Memories of Glass. Melanie’s historical novels have won four Carol Awards, the 2018 Audie Award, and the ForeWord Book of the Year. More information about her and her family’s journey is available at melaniedobson.com.
Tyndale House is offering a print copy of Memories of Glass to one of my readers! (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
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