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Adult biographies, Book excerpts, Book Reviews

Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986): a Japanese bureaucrat who saved Jews

This is a chapter from Dr. Glenn Sunshine’s “32 Christians Who Changed Their World” and is reprinted here with permission of the publisher. *****  In the mid- to late-1800s, Japan ended its long centuries of isolationism and opened to the outside world. Knowing the de facto loss of sovereignty in China to Western nations in the aftermath of the Opium Wars, Japan decided not to give the industrial powers an excuse to do the same to their country. They rapidly industrialized and patterned their government on superficially Western lines while preserving the existing power structure. Then they started building their own empire, starting with taking Chinese cities following the model of the Western powers, and then moving on to take Korea and Manchuria (northeast China). After World War I, the Japanese continued to build their empire in China as well as setting their sights on other areas in the Pacific. Given that Britain, France, and the Netherlands all had interests in the western Pacific, the Japanese allied with Hitler on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Although the Japanese had a culture of obedience to superiors and especially to the emperor, at least one man and his wife gave their first allegiance to God over the empire. His name was Chiune Sugihara. Sugihara was born into a middle-class family in Gifu Prefecture in Japan. His father, who was a physician, intended Chiune to go to medical school. Chiune had other plans, however: he intentionally failed his entrance exams by writing only his name on the tests. Instead of medical schools, he entered Waseda University in 1918, where he majored in English. While there, he joined Yuai Gakusha, a Christian fraternity. In 1919, he passed the Foreign Ministry Scholarship exam and was soon sent to Harbin, a city in Manchuria, China, to study German and Russian. He graduated in 1924 with honors and was promptly hired by the Foreign Ministry as deputy foreign minister in Manchuria.             During this period, Sugihara joined the Russian Orthodox church and was baptized as Pavlo Sergeivich Sugihara. He married Klaudia Semionova Apollonova, a Russian woman, though they divorced in 1935 before his return to Japan. While in Harbin, Sugihara was involved in negotiations with the Soviet Union over the Northern Manchuria Railway. Manchuria was under the control of Japan at this time, and Sugihara was disturbed by the poor treatment of the Chinese. He resigned in protest and returned to Japan. Back home, Sugihara married Yukiko Kikuchi. The two would have four children. He was sent as a translator for the Japanese legation in Helsinki, Finland, in 1938. In March 1939, he was appointed vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he was expected to report on Soviet troop movements. What he actually did there, however, was far more important. Kaunas was full of Polish Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. One day, Sugihara was in a gourmet food shop. An eleven-year-old boy named Solly Ganor, the nephew of the shop’s owner, was also there. His parents were Russian Jewish menshevik refugees. Solly was concerned about the fate of Polish Jews and had given all of his money and Hanukah gelt (money given as gifts during Hanukah) to aid them. But then he heard that a new Laurel and Hardy movie was showing in town, and so he went to visit his aunt Anushka in hopes of getting a lit (Lithuanian dollar) to go to the movie. Sugihara overheard Solly and offered the boy money. Solly, who had never seen an Asian before, did not know what to make of this offer, so he mumbled that he couldn’t accept money from strangers. Sugihara said that he should consider him his uncle for the holiday, and since that made him family, it would be alright to accept the money. Solly looked into the stranger’s kind eyes and impulsively said that if he was his uncle, he should come to the family’s celebration of the first night of Hanukah, 1939. Sugihara and his wife were delighted to accept, and so they attended their first Jewish Hanukah celebration. They were warmly welcomed and long remembered the cakes, cookies, and desserts they had at the party. Most of the evening was a warm celebration of the holiday. But Solly’s family was housing a Polish refugee named Mr. Rosenblatt. As the evening wore on, he talked about the slaughter of the Jews in Poland under the Nazis. He tearfully told of the bombing of his house, which killed his wife and children. His story had a tremendous impact on everyone, especially the Sugiharas. The next day, Solly and his father visited Sugihara at the consulate. They found him phoning the Russians asking for visas to allow Jews to cross the border. In summer 1940, the Soviets formally annexed Lithuania. The Jews were desperate to get exit visas to leave the country, and in July Sugihara was awakened by a crowd of hundreds of Jewish refugees standing outside the consulate. Sugihara wired Japan three times asking for permission to issue transit visas for the Jews. (A transit visa would allow the Jews to travel through Japan on their way to somewhere else.) Three times he was told not to issue visas unless they also had visas to go to another country. Sugihara was in a difficult situation: if he issued the visas, he could be fired and disgraced; if he didn’t, the Jews would die. He and Yukiko agreed that they needed to follow their consciences even though they knew it would cost him his position, and the two went to work. From July 31 to September 4, Sugihara began writing visas by hand at a rate of 300 per day. He did not even stop for meals – he ate sandwiches that Yukiko left for him by his desk. He even made arrangements for the Soviets to transport the Jewish refugees via the Trans-Siberian Railroad (albeit at five times the normal price). The refugees began to arrive by the thousands begging for visas. When some began to scale the walls of the consulate, Sugihara came out and promised them he would not abandon them. And he didn’t. When he was forced to leave Kaunas before the consulate was closed, Sugihara spent the entire night before writing visas. Eyewitnesses said that he continued to write them on the train, tossing them out of the windows as he completed them. In the end, he simply signed and sealed blank visas to be filled in later. As he was on the verge of departing, he said, “Please forgive me. I cannot write any more. I wish you the best.” He bowed deeply to the crowds, and someone called, “Sugihara, we’ll never forget you. I’ll surely see you again.” No one knows exactly how many visas Sugihara wrote. Not all were used; some people waited until it was too late to leave. Others were for heads of households, so several people would travel under a single visa. The most commonly accepted number is that 6,000-10,000 Jews escaped the Holocaust because of Sugihara’s actions. Today, somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 people are descendants of the Jews saved by Sugihara. Many of the refugees joined the Russian Jewish community in Kobe, Japan; others got transit visas organized by the Polish ambassador in Tokyo to a wide range of third countries, including to a Jewish community in Shanghai, China. The Nazis wanted the Japanese to kill or send back the Jews, but the Japanese ignored their allies. Ironically, Nazi propaganda worked against them here: the Japanese had heard from the Nazis that the Jews were very good with business and finance, and so they thought that having them would be an asset to Japan. The Jews for their part also played up Nazi racism against Asians, which also made the Japanese less inclined to listen to Germany about exterminating the Jews. Sugihara paid a price for his actions. He was posted to a variety of Eastern European posts during the war and was captured and imprisoned with his family by the Russians for eighteen months. They were released in 1946 and returned to Japan via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In 1947, the Foreign Ministry asked for his resignation, ostensibly because of post-war downsizing, though some sources have claimed that the Foreign Ministry told them he was forced out because of “that incident” in Lithuania. He lost his youngest son that same year. Sugihara took a number of menial jobs to support his family. He even resorted to selling light bulbs door to door. Eventually, he was able to use his command of Russian to land a position as an export manager for a Japanese firm in Moscow. He lived there sixteen years, only visiting his family in Japan once or twice a year during that period. He eventually retired to his home in Japan. After the war, many of the “Sugihara Survivors” tried to locate him, but no one in the Japanese government or the Foreign Ministry seemed to remember him. Finally, in 1968, Joshua Nishri, economic attaché from Israel to Japan and one of the survivors, managed to track him down. All this time Sugihara had no idea whether his actions had saved anyone, and he was surprised and gratified to discover that they had: he felt that if he had saved even one life all his sacrifices would have been worth it. The following year, he and his family were invited to Israel, and in 1985, Israel named Sugihara one of the Righteous Among the Nations, the highest honor Israel can grant. Sugihara was too ill to attend the ceremony, so Yukiko and their sons accepted the award on his behalf. The family was granted perpetual Israeli citizenship, and one of the sons would eventually graduate from Hebrew University, speaking Hebrew fluently. Sugihara died the following year. The people of his community in Japan had no idea of what he had done until a delegation from Israel arrived for his funeral. Sugihara’s actions were clearly inspired by his faith. As he told his wife, it was more important for him to obey God than his government. His decision to aid the refugees was particularly influenced by his reading of the book of Lamentations in the Bible. He was a man of remarkable compassion, humility, courage, and faithfulness in carrying out the work that God had uniquely placed him to do....

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Great Dictator

Drama / War / Black and White 1940 / 125 minutes Rating: 8/10 Long before Hitler adopted it, Charlie Chaplin made the "toothbrush mustache" famous. Once Hitler adopted it, you might wonder why Chaplin still kept it. Might this 1940 film be the answer? Chaplin had been planning to take on Hitler even before World War II began, and his mustache helped him manage a fantastic impersonation of history's most infamous dictator. Chaplin plays two parts here, the hero and the villain. Adenoid Hynkel, the "Phooey" of Tomainia, a satiric take on Adolph Hitler, the Führer of Nazi Germany, The Jewish barber who fights for Tomainia during the First World War, and then loses his memory for the next 20 years When the barber leaves the hospital to finally return home, he opens up his barbershop, not knowing two decades have passed. He also doesn't understand why a man is painting the word "Jew" on his shop window, and goes outside to stop him. The barber was a soldier just yesterday in his own mind, so he won't stand for this! But two stormtroopers against one barber isn't a fair fight. Thankfully, the fight stops underneath the heroine's apartment window, allowing the beautiful Hannah to make good use of her frying pan, applying a solid "bong" to each stormtrooper's head. This being a Chaplin film, the poor barber gets a misaimed blow too, resulting in a hopscotching staggered dance up and down the street. From the moment we see Chaplin playing both parts, we know that the barber is going to save the day by replacing the "great dictator." But what a ride it is, getting there! Hitler isn't Chaplin's only target either. Benzino Napaloni, the Diggaditchie of Bacteria (think Benito Mussolini, il Duce of Italy), comes by for a visit, and the two compete to see who can be the more self-important. That this comic takedown came out right when Hitler seemed to be unstoppable says something about Chaplin's bravery and his outrage. He wanted the world to know who Hitler really was, even if he needed to use a fictional country, title, and name to do so. It might be worth noting that while Chaplin is best known for his silent films, this is a "talkie." Cautions The only caution would be the topic matter: war and the murderous megalomaniac who started it. But this is also black and white, and satire rather than drama, so some of the most shocking material has been muted by the format. Still, this could be a bit much for the very young. However, if kids know anything at all about the Holocaust, they'll likely be old enough to see The Great Dictator. Conclusion My daughters aren't the target demographic for a 1940s black and white World War II film that stars a talking 1930s silent film star. I was so sure they wouldn't be up for this one that, instead of trying to foist it on them for a family movie night, I decided to watch it on my own while they were busy with friends. But a few minutes in our youngest, 9, wandered by, sat down, and never left. The other two and my wife showed up midway, and after a bit of recap to clue them in, they all enjoyed the second half. So, a good film for the whole family? Maybe... if they're an adventurous bunch. My youngest told me that it helped a lot that I was there to explain some the World War II references being made. She already knew about the Holocaust, so she wasn't surprised that the Jews were mistreated, but to see it, even in this muted manner, did get her indignant. It's one thing to hear about people being picked on and singled out for persecution, and quite another to see even a bit of it. Overall, I would give this two very enthusiastic thumbs up! The film is available in both clear high resolution, and also in a variety of cheap knock-offs, so be sure to get the good one. There's even a colorized version that looks intriguing. Most libraries will have a version on DVD, and you should be able to rent it from places like Amazon. Check out the trailer below. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

I survived the Nazi invasion, 1944

by Lauren Tarshis art by Alvaro Sarraseca 2021 / 158 pages Max and Zena are two Polish Jewish children who, at the time our story begins, have survived for almost five years living under Nazi rule. After Hitler's German troops conquered Poland, their mistreatment of the Jewish population started immediately. Jews were spat on, their synagogues burnt down, and their businesses destroyed. In the town of Esties, as happened elsewhere, Jews were forced to all move to the same small neighborhood, which was then walled off with barbwire so the Jews could never leave. With no employment, food was hard to come by, so when Max and Zena come across a raspberry bush just on the other side of the fence, Max decides to risk it. He slips through the wires to grab some berries. They both get caught. To save his sister, Max attacks the Nazi guard, whose gun goes off in the struggle, the bullet hitting the soldier in the knee. There's nothing to be done but to run, so off they both go into the woods. During the first long night in the woods, Max does some remembering, and we're given the siblings' backstory, how their aunt had warned them not to move into the ghetto, and how their papa had argued it was best just to go along with whatever the Nazis ordered. Their aunt soon disappeared. To America? That's what Max hopes. When the Nazis then take away Papa and the other men – to where no one is sure – Max and Zena are left to fend for themselves. Flashback complete, we see the two escapees stumble across a farmer. Will he help or turn them in? Thankfully he is a friendly sort, and after misdirecting the Nazi searchers, the farmer introduces them to the Polish underground. These are Polanders who have never stopped fighting the Nazis, and who have a safe place to hide in the woods. The siblings are delighted to discover that one of the underground fighters is their very own aunt! CAUTION When the Nazi soldier is shot in the knee, there is some blood shown, but not in much detail. A little more gory is a two-page recounting of a story that Max's father used to tell him about how David fought Goliath. We see rock-to-face with some blood spattering, but fortunately, the giant's beheading is dealt with just outside of frame (David is described and depicted as a boy, maybe of 10 or 12, and there is good reason to think he was an older teen instead). The scene is echoed some pages later when Max has to resort to hurling a rock to stop two Nazis about to shoot his sister. Again, we see rock-to-face, some small blood smattering, and, maybe more disturbing, a frame of the soldier, seemingly dead, staring up blankly. A gunfight follows, concluding with Max realizing that the Nazi trying to kill them is just a boy only a little older than himself. He realizes this just as his friend Martin fires and kills the young soldier. That's the most devastating scene in the story, made so not because of the blood spattering, but because we learn that Hitler was turning near-children into murderers. CONCLUSION This is a really well-done graphic novel, recounting a part of the war that our Canadian-Dutch heritage children might not be that familiar with: the Polish Jew's perspective. I'd recommend it for 12 and up, but add that many younger kids would be able to handle it too. There are plans in place for at least eleven books in the I Survived... graphic novel series. So far, I've read nine and quite enjoyed seven of them, though I don't think the others are as significant as I Survived the Nazi Invasion. The seven recommended ones are, in historical order: I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871 – This is a bit of American history famous enough that many a Canadian has heard of it. A city full of quickly built wooden buildings goes through a heat wave, and while their fire department is impressive, one night they just can't keep up, and a one-mile by four-mile length of the city goes up in flames. This comic has it all, with the brave young lead willing to stand up to bullies and risk it all to save the girl. I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 – Our guides are a pair of young siblings, including a rascal of a boy who manages to discover every last one of the Titanic's rooms, ladders, and passageways. While two-thirds of the passengers and crew lost their lives, everyone we're introduced to in this story makes it out, which makes it a relatively tame account of this tragedy. I Survived the Nazi invasion, 1944 – as reviewed above. I Survived the Battle of D-Day, 1944 – If you were to buy only one of the two 1944 World War II stories, it should be the one above, but D-Day is good too. Paul Corbet is a French kid whose village has been under Nazi rule for years now. His dad was party of the army, but in a German camp now, his best friend Gerard, a Jewish boy, was taken away with his whole family, and his favorite teacher was shot right before his eyes. And now a US paratrooper needs his help. Where can Paul hide him? The author throws in a messenger pigeon that won't carry messages (but will fight Nazis) for some comic relief, and tamps down on the tension by keeping it largely gore-free (even when people are shot). So, not one for the under 10 set, but over should be able to handle it. I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967 – This is the story of what led to two fatal grizzly bear attacks occurring on the very same night in the US National Park system. Melody Vega and her little brother are visiting their grandpa at his cabin in Glacier National Park – their mom recently died, and their dad thinks it's important for them to head out to their traditional summer vacation spot even without her. But when a grizzly follows the girl right back to her cabin and tries to break down the door, Melody and her mom's best friend start investigating why the bears in the park are acting so strange. This isn't a Christian book, but the moral is that humans have to take better care of God's creation – Christian kids should recognize the stewardship implications. People were dumping their garbage where bears could get it, which made for great shows for the tourists ("Come to the back of our inn and see the bears up close as they eat") but which got the grizzlies dangerously familiar with people. It also harmed the bears physically, from the glass and trash they ingested along with the food scraps. There is some minor nonsensical environmentalism along with the stewardship message: kids are told they can protect wildlife by not buying single-serving bags of chips. It's quite the leap to go from showing the danger of feeding bears our garbage to saying that we're hurting them when we buy a big cookie wrapped in plastic. No, not if we throw the wrapper in the garbage. But this departure only amounts to a few sentences in the whole 150+ page book. I Survived Hurricane Katrina, 2005 – Barry Tucker's family tried to obey the mandatory evacuation order. But when all the roads leaving New Orleans were backed up for miles with wall-to-wall cars, and then his little sister got really sick in the car, they decided to turn back. They were going to tough it out at home, like they had for many a storm before. The difference this time was that a levee – one of the huge walls holding the stormwater back – completely crumbled, and suddenly the city, and Barry's street, were underwater. Even the attic wasn't high enough! Things get more dramatic when Barry gets separated from his family, falling into the flowing water. Then his resourcefulness and bravery are on full display, as he not only saves himself but saves a dog that he used to be terrified of. There is a happy ending for all at the end when Barry reunites with his family. The history here isn't as relevant to non-Americans, but this is a good story. One caution, or at least a point worth discussing with kids, would be the superhero character that Barry created with a friend, and how that fictional superhero serves as a source of hope for him and his sister. This is what unbelievers accuse Christians of doing – placing our hope in a fictional god just to make ourselves feel better. Here, Barry is actually doing so. I Survived the Attacks of Sept. 11, 2011 – 11-year-old Lucas loves football, but football may not love Lucas. When his parents tell Lucas that his third concussion in two years means he has to stop playing, he skips school. He has to go talk to his Uncle Ben, the guy who got him interested in football in the first place. Both Uncle Benny and Lucas's dad are New York firefighters, and Lucas is desperately hoping his uncle can get his dad to change his mind. But as he's talking with his uncle, we see the first plane hit one of the city's Twin Towers. Lucas has to stay behind as Uncle Benny and all the other firefighters head out to help. Author Lauren Tarshis initially considered having Uncle Benny be one of the victims but realized that would be too much for her young readers. So, all the main figures do make it out alive, but many of their friends don't. I thought this would be a heavy book for my kids. It wasn't, or at least not any more so than the others. I get it now – I lived through this and they didn't. It's just more history for them. I wasn't impressed with I Survived the Shark Attacks of 1916, where the new kid in town pranks his friends by spreading ketchup on the dock only to see a real shark swim up the river. Of course, now no one will believe him, and he ends up paying for his prank with a piece of his calf the shark bites off. That makes this unnecessarily grim. After all, why do kids need to learn about this particular shark attack? They can learn not to cry wolf without the panel-by-panel depiction of a shark attack. To be clear, it isn't super gory, but as there is no particular reason to get it, I'd argue there's also no particular reason to overlook any gore. I Survived the American Revolution 1776 struck me as too simplistic, with the main Loyalist shown as a bully and vicious slave-owner, while the boy revolutionary is brave and anti-slavery. Maybe its my Canadian roots showing, but, really? Additionally, the Lord's Name is taken in vain once. So, a couple to give a miss, but overall, quite a series. I'm looking forward to the tenth book, scheduled for Summer 2024, called I Survived the Destruction Of Pompeii....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The White Rose Resists: a novel of the German students who defied Hitler

by Amanda Barratt 2020 / 320 pages In Amanda Barratt’s novel The White Rose Resists, a candle is being lit in the midst of the Nazi darkness that has cast its shadow upon the world. The White Rose was a group of five college students and a professor operating in Munich, Germany. Their goal was to combat the Nazi propaganda that was blinding the German people. The White Rose accomplished this by printing and distributing leaflets, giving a voice to the truth. Their leaflets detailed and denounced the atrocities that were being committed against the Jews across Europe. The group called for the students of Germany to rise up against Hitler. I really enjoyed this novel. Barrett does a terrific job bringing this historic resistance group to life. She was able to blend fact with fiction to create a cohesive narrative of what this group may have experienced. This Christian author weaves in a message on God’s sovereignty. Members of the White Rose grapple with their faith and ultimately come to the knowledge that God’s will must be done. They place their trust and hope in Him to give them the strength they need to pass through their trials and tribulations. When darkness has seemed to triumph, God, in his sovereignty, begins lighting candles so that the darkness will not overcome the light. The White Rose was one of many candles that God used to bring down Hitler and his Nazi regime. This book is a great read for teenager and adult alike. The only criticism I have to offer is that the author blended several German words into the narrative. Initially, this was quite distracting but improved as the novel progressed....

Amazing stories from times past

Rev. Alfred Sadd (1909-1942): a great man, and a faint shadow

The December 8, 1942 issue of The Times, the British daily newspaper based in London, published a small but complimentary obituary/article on the death of a Reverend Alfred Sadd. So who was this Reverend Alfred Sadd? All about the ocean First seeing the light of day in Maldon, located in southeastern England, on November the 7th, 1909, Alfred was born into a wealthy timber and boat building family – a family which was blessed with eight children. His father, Henry Sadd, died while the boy was young and he was raised by his mother with helpful support from other family members. The Sadd household belonged to the Congregational Church ­– at that time a Protestant church in the Calvinist tradition tracing its roots to the Puritans. (Today, sadly, the Congregationalist Church is no longer doctrinally sound.) Young Alfred enjoyed sailing and became a member of the Sea Scouts – part of the Scout movement which placed great emphasis on boating activities. Alfred knew every nook and cranny of the River Blackwater, a river close to his Maldon, Essex home. The young boy, who loved nature, collected oysters, fished and sailed around Northey Island watching the numerous birds who made their home in the area. At the age of fourteen, Alfred was sent to the Leys School in Cambridge. Boarding there, the teenager probably had a Mr. Balgarnie as master when he was a student. Mr. Balgarnie happened to be the inspiration for the teacher in James Hilton's classic book Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Not a natural academic, Alfred developed into a jack-of-all-trades, a person skilled at many jobs. He built houses, continued to be active in the Sea Scouts, repaired boats and also acquired a degree in physiology. Nevertheless, Alfred, good-natured and interested in everything and all those around him, eventually came to the conviction that he was meant to study theology in Cambridge. Becoming a missionary Perhaps because his heart was so set on serving God and, consequently, others, Alfred Sadd joined the London Missionary Society. (Eric Liddell – 1924 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter race – had also served as an LMS missionary and was sent to China by the Society.) In the mid 1930s, Alfred was commissioned by the Society to go to Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, in the central Pacific Ocean. The station there was one of the most isolated stations of the LMS occupied by British missionaries. Alfred had no serious objections to going to such an outpost. He loved the sea and thought to import his scouting knowledge to the area, using it alongside his evangelical outreach. His standard form of introduction was saying: "Hello, I'm Sadd. But not really." Tarawa, the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, was one of 32 atolls that formed the island nation. An archipelago of atolls on the western side of Kiribati, it was divided into North Tarawa and South Tarawa. Home as it was to an array of flora and fauna, including a wealth of marine life, Alfred loved it. The seas around Tarawa teemed with tropical fish, shellfish, and sharks. Plant life in the area included coconut palms, banana trees, and papaya trees. And Alfred’s work in this lovely place was blessed as he preached and lived alongside the islanders. Dedicated, Alfred loved his surroundings and his work. Coming home on a six-month furlough in 1938, he enthusiastically regaled his family with numerous stories of the people to whom he ministered, as well as the beautiful island on which they lived. Staying put When the Second World War began, Pastor Alfred Sadd was initially in a quandary. Should he evacuate, as the Europeans on the island were urged to do, and return home? But then what would happen to his beloved congregation? The Japanese, a grave danger especially after their attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, did not seem to be on the prowl in his immediate Tarawa neighborhood. A number of weeks passed after the Pearl Harbor attack and nothing much seemed to change on the islands. Without question Alfred had come to the conclusion that he would stay. Consequently, he wrote home: "God has something bigger ... He intends me to do." Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tarawa was subject to a bombing raid. Concerned for the people in his church on the island of Tarawa, Alfred prayed much. It was now February of 1942. Even at this time, however, no Japanese soldiers had showed up on the shore and again he felt that he and his flock were relatively safe. Six months after the Pearl Harbor raid, however, the Japanese did set foot on the island. They arrived violently and frightened both parishioners and non-parishioners with their long bayonets. When Alfred came alongside the harassed islanders, riding his bicycle and smiling encouragement, the Japanese soldiers spread a Union Jack in front of him and ordered him to drive his bicycle over it. When he refused, they confiscated the bicycle and he was taken to a commanding officer. Agreeably he strode in front of his captors, walking ahead of them in such large strides towards this commanding officer, that he left them behind. It annoyed the soldiers fearfully. The officer in charge again ordered Alfred to walk on the British flag. He smiled, approached it, but instead of walking on it, he turned to the right. There was another order, and this time when he came to the flag, he turned to the left. Once more, infuriated by his insubordination, the officer told him to stomp on the flag. Instead, Alfred Sadd picked up the ensign, gathered it in his arms and kissed it. The result of this patriotic outburst was that the British pastor was sent, along with nearly two dozen other island prisoners, to work in hard labor. Seventeen of these men were soldiers, or coastwatchers, men who had been designated to monitor Japanese advances. Most of them came from New Zealand. Five of them, like Alfred Sadd, were civilians. Standing in the way After Afred had worked in hard labor for a number of days, there was an American air raid. This air raid motivated the Japanese to come to the decision to execute all prisoners. Many of the condemned prisoners were very not very old, barely out of school. They were afraid, uncertain and heavy-hearted. Alfred felt great compassion for these young men. As they stood in a row, waiting to be beheaded, he stepped to the front of the line. Courageously, he stood before them and spoke to them, cheering them on with words of faith. Perhaps at this point he remembered what he had written to his family at home not too long before this time: "God has something bigger ... He intends me to do." In any case, when he had finished speaking to the prisoners, he remained at the head of the line, almost as if shielding them as long as he could from the terrible fate that the Japanese had in mind. He thought more of their fears than his own. Alfred, consequently, was the first to be beheaded. It was October the 15th of 1942. Another Shield Easter is a commemorative time – a time when we remember the death, resurrection and, a little later, the ascension of our Lord. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with eleven of His disciples just prior to being arrested, He was also concerned for their safety. They did not have any clear idea of the great plan of salvation. They were not even faintly aware of what God intended to do and they were opposed to the unfolding of events. Peter even took out a sword to stop the arrest. Jesus did not praise Peter for taking out his sword. Rather, He told Peter to put away the sword in order to protect him as much as to protect those who came to arrest Him. Mark well the words of John 18:4-9. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So He asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He. So, if you seek Me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that He had spoken: “Of those whom you gave Me I have lost not one.” Twice Jesus proclaimed that He is the great I AM. He had come for this specific hour and would let nothing stand in the way of His purpose which was and is the salvation of His people. Much as Alfred Sadd's courage and love for his fellowmen is to be lauded, it is but a faint shadow compared to the courage and love Jesus showed for His elect. Praised be His name!...

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

Unbroken: A World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand 2010, 497 pages One of the least amazing things about Louis Zamperini is that he took up skateboarding in his eighties. But it shows the determination that had him competing as a 5,000-meter runner at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It also reveals the attitude that led the young Louis to steal a Nazi banner when the Games concluded. These two qualities would be vital to him when, during World War II, his plane crashed and Louis found himself on a tiny raft in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean. His chances of being found by searchers were remote, but if the small craft continued to drift west there was a chance it might make it to land – islands occupied by brutal Japanese forces. The redemption mentioned in the subtitle is true redemption. Louis starts the story as a thief and a punk. As an airman in World War II he bunks in a cabin plastered with pornography. Many of the Japanese soldiers he meets are sadistic and perverse. So we see evidence of the Fall in this book (described with restraint). But the most amazing thing Louis is able to do is something he knows comes from completely outside his own abilities. God enables Louis to repent and forgive. This ranks in my top three best biographies I’ve read - it is an amazing story told by an equally amazing storyteller. Laura Hillenbrand is half the age of her subject but the level of detail in her research makes it seem like she must have grown up with him, and tailed behind him wherever he went. And at the same time, she never lets the detail overwhelm the story; this is a large book, but a very fast-paced one. One caution: the author quotes at least a couple of her subjects taking God's name in vain. I don't know if the author is Christian, so she might not have understood that this level of detailed recollection was unnecessary and undesirable. As for who should read this book, in addition to recommending this to adults – though it is all done with restraint, there is too much brutality and horror here for teens – interested in World War II, this is also a very good book for anyone wondering how the US could possibly have dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan, targeting and killing over 150,000 civilians (this is the most conservative estimate). While neither the author nor Louis argues explicitly for the morality of dropping the bomb, Louis's experiences make it clear that when it came to Japan, there was little difference between the military and the civilian population – rather than surrender Japan was readying its civilian population to fight on, seemingly to the last man and woman. Reading about Japanese brutality, and their thoughts on the disgrace of surrender, gave me a perspective on the atomic bomb I had never before had. It certainly makes the decision much more understandable. Afterward, I still questioned why they couldn't have first demonstrated the power of the bomb on something other than a city, but, as National Review contributor Victor Davis Hanson explains here, there were only two bombs available, and the Americans were worried that the destruction of just one city would not be enough to induce Japan to surrender. And it seems they were right to worry. Unbroken doesn't end the debate, but it does give insight into the way both the Americans and Japanese were thinking at the time. But that is a long aside - the book is about an amazing man, saved by an awesome God. Highly recommended!...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Snow Treasure

by Marie McSwigan 1942 / 196 pages In 1940, shortly after the Germans invaded Norway, a Norwegian freighter arrived in the US city of Baltimore carrying $9 million worth of gold bullion. This cargo has been smuggled out of the country to keep it from the Nazis, and as a news account from the time noted, children on their sleds had been used to slip it past the invaders. Snow Treasure, published two years later, expands on those scant details to give young readers a story that should be understood as much more fiction than fact: 12-year-old Peter Lundstrom, and all the other children are made-up characters, as are all the events and details. But what's true about this tale, and the reason it is worth reading is the bravery of not just the children, but the parents too in putting their children at risk to keep this wealth out of the hands of men who would use it only for evil. It's this celebration of courage and conviction that's likely kept this continuously in print since it was first published 80 years ago! (It was awarded the Young Reader's Choice Award back in 1945 when winning it meant something.) There are no cautions to offer. While there is peril, no one dies or even gets shot at. Snow Treasure will be best enjoyed by children in Grades 2 and 3, and might be a quick fun read for those even a little older. Over the decades it has been published with all sorts of covers, both terrible and terrific, so be sure to get a good one....

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

The New Has Come

by Christine Farenhorst 2022 / 262 pages I've seen another reviewer suggest that this might be Christine Farenhorst's best book yet, and I think I might agree. Linnet is a five-year-old Dutch girl who, we discover, knows absolutely nothing about God. Her ignorance is so profound that when the Nazis invade, and an occupying soldier tells little Linnet about the wonderful family that "God has given" him, she wonders, Who is this God he is talking about? and Is God German For our own children, who may take always knowing God for granted, it will be eye-opening to follow what it's like, and how wonderful it is, for someone to be introduced to God for the first time. Linnet has the same wonderings any kid might have, but her wartime experiences also have her asking deeper questions, including a child's version of "God are you really there?" I had to figure to what age category to share this review, and picked "Children's Fiction," but The New Has Come is that rare sort that has appeal for all ages. The World War II setting and charming protagonist will grab your children; moms and dads will appreciate Linnet's questions and the opportunities they present to talk about God with our kids, and grandparents will get more than a little misty-eyed at just how beautifully this tale is told. I could not recommend it more highly! Christine Farenhorst is a columnist for Reformed Perspective. so if you don't already know her writing you can get a good taste of her writings by looking at her many articles posted on the website. And for a taste of the book itself, you can find the first chapter at the Amazon.ca listing here. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

The Corrie ten Boom Story

Animated / Biography / Drama 2013 / 34 minutes Rating: 7/10 What's an appropriate age to expose our children to the truth about Nazis, concentration camps and dead numbered in the millions? Those are horrible truths, but ones that can't be avoided if we are to have the next generation remember the self-sacrificial love, bravery, and faithfulness of the many millions who rose up to fight this evil. The Corrie ten Boom Story might be a good way to begin. The film's producers suggest that it is appropriate for children as young as 8, but I read one review from a mother who watched it with her three-and-a-half year old (she pointed out to her little boy that the Ten Booms were Christ-imitators, offering up their lives to save the Jews). I don't know if I would go quite that young – I haven't shown this to my four-year-old yet – but the filmmakers have done a remarkable job of presenting a muted, yet still accurate account of the horrors of World War II. The Ten Boom family ran a watchmaking business in the Netherlands, and when the Germans invaded and started rounding up Jews, the Ten Booms began hiding Jews. It was a courageous yet simple decision for them – they knew this was what God wanted them to do. They helped many but were eventually betrayed and sent to concentration camps. Here the same love for God that had them hiding Jews helped Corrie endure the loss of her father and sister – she trusted that God knew what was best. After the war, she traveled extensively telling the story of God's faithfulness in all her trials. At one speech she met a former captor, a man who had viciously beaten her. He was asking Corrie to forgive him. What would have been too much to ask of anyone, Corrie was able to do with God's enabling strength – she gave the man the forgiveness he was seeking. Cautions The only caution I can add (other than to be cautious about age-appropriateness) is that other episodes of this series often feature animations of Jesus, which may violate the Second Commandment, and one of these depictions is shown in a promotional clip that automatically plays just after the film ends. Conclusion Corrie ten Boom will be a familiar name to many. Her biography, The Hiding Place, is quite famous, as is a 1975 film by the same name, and I believe there is also a play that many Christian schools have performed. What sets this animated account apart is that it makes her story understandable and accessible to a much younger age group. I would highly recommend it for any school-age children, but it must be watched with adult supervision, so mom or dad can talk with any child who gets confused or worried. Now you can watch it online for free, below. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

We Hereby Refuse: Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

by Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura 2021 / 160 pages After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, tens of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent were rounded up and placed in detention camps around the US. They lost their jobs, their businesses, and even their homes, not because of any crimes committed, but simply for their ethnic roots. This same indignity wasn't forced on German or Italian Americans, even though Germany and Italy were at war with the US. Just Japanese Americans. And despite the obvious discrimination against them, the vast majority went without protest, believing that quiet acceptance was a way of showing their loyalty and patriotism. What the graphic novel We Hereby Refuse recounts are the stories of Japanese Americans who did protest, in very different ways. One protester was an otherwise quiet young lady. Mitsuye Endo was a 21-year-old typist who lost her job when she was ordered to report to the internment camp. A lawyer asked her to sue the government for causing her job loss. He recruited her because she seemed the ideal candidate at a time when everyone was scared of Japan: she did not speak Japanese and didn't follow a Japanese religion like Buddhism or Shinto. She even had a brother serving in the US army. And she had also done everything the government had ordered her to. She was quiet and still she stood up, her case eventually going all the way to the Supreme Court, where she won. Another story shared is that of Jim Akutso, who repeatedly tried to sign up for the Army but was refused because of flat feet. After he was imprisoned in a detention camp he was found out he'd been drafted, but now he refused. His reasoning was that if his country wasn't willing to let him live freely, then he wasn't going to fight to protest the freedoms he didn't even have. His refusal was condemned by many other Japanese Americans, who thought his actions cast them all in a bad light. He was convicted of draft-dodging, and moved from the camp to a regular prison, and given a sentence that extend past the end of the war. Cautions I'm not familiar with the history here, so I can't really assess how fair the presentation is. I suspect that certain historical figures, particularly the Japanese Americans who acted as go-betweens for the prisoners and the US government, might dispute the way they are portrayed. However, the broad overview seems to be reliably done. I don't generally recommend books that take God's name in vain, but I'm making an exception here because this is not simply entertainment but educational, sharing an event that needs to be more widely known. For Christian parents or librarians who might like to strike a line through it, the abuse occurs just once, on page 128. Another caution concerns age-appropriateness. Near the end of the book, an older woman kills herself in despair. She's shown beginning to wrap a lamp cord around her neck, and while it doesn't get more graphic than that, the act itself isn't something young children need to read about. I'll also note that I've seen the authors making appearances on podcasts sharing their personal pronouns, so I rather suspect their politics and worldview do not line up with my own. But that difference wasn't evident in the book itself. Conclusion This was compelling, but I didn't find it an easy read. Some of that was due to my unfamiliarity with Japanese names, which had me confusing different characters so that I'd have to flip back and forth to keep things straight. But I was happy to keep flipping because it's a story worth knowing. We Hereby Refuse is a reminder that the government is powerful, and with power comes the need to use that power with great restraint. What happens when it doesn't act with restraint? We get victims by the thousands and tens of thousands, as happened here. Another lesson? The need for brave individuals to challenge government abuses, in the hopes of reducing the number of victims. This would be a great purchase for Christian schools, and for parents to buy and read with their children. The serious subject matter means this is probably for 14 and up. The 4-minute video below, offering some local news coverage, gives a good overview of the book. ...

Book Reviews, Children’s picture books

Nicky & Vera: a Quiet Hero of the Holocaust...

by Peter Sís 2021 / 64 pages Nicholas Winston never set out to be a hero but he also knew what needed to be done. When the Germans were taking over Czechoslovakia in chunks, before World War II has officially begun, Jews in the country were trying to get their children out. Winston knew how to get this done, pushing the paperwork, bribing the right people, and arranging for families in England where the children could stay. He ended up saving 669 children, most, or all of whom, were Jewish, and he didn't have to brave bullets to do it. That is the important lesson of this book: that there are quiet ways to do vital work. It was quiet work, but no less life-saving than what Allied soldiers did fighting to end the Nazi reign. And in its quiet manner, Winston's actions were more like the important work we are called to do today – our fights are not in the trenches, but writing our MPs, or making donations to the right organizations. We can, for example, save lives by donating to pregnancy crisis centers, and do so at no risk to ourselves. But we need to be persistent, seizing opportunities when they come, creating them when they don't, and working around obstacles as they appear. Winston was not Christian so far as I can tell (it doesn't come up in the book), but his example is still one we can benefit from. This would be a great picture book for a school library, to be pulled out and showcased around Remembrance Day each year....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Journey Through the Night

by Anne De Vries 372 pages / 1951 (English version reissued 2001) Christian writers these days, they just don’t know subtlety. They write miraculous stories where the miraculous occur with a regularity that robs it of all wonder. And instead of pitting the Christian character against worldly temptations, they have the hero wrestling actual demons, or even Satan himself. But back when I was a kid, authors like Piet Prins wrote stories that could have actually happened in the real world. Though no actual demons made an appearance in their books, the demonic presence was felt in a much more powerful way, through the actions of human underlings. In Anne De Vries' Journey Through the Night we meet John De Boer, a Dutch boy soon to become a man... if only he survives the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. When the Germans first took over, the De Boer family weren't actively trying to resist. However, as German persecution increases, John and his father are compelled by their conscience into helping Jews and others wanted by the authorities. Our heroes enter into their work for the Dutch underground in an almost grudging manner, but they do the work because they know it is what God wants them to do. When I first read this as a child I wondered why they weren’t eager to jump into the work, into the adventure! I read this part of the book quite differently as an adult, wondering whether I would have had the same courage. That is one of the strengths of this book, I think. It tells a story about the bravery of our fathers, and grandfathers, as they fought against an evil that we too might face one day. Of course, it won’t be the Nazis in our case, but it seems likely we will be similarly tested in one way or another. We can draw courage reading about how God was with his people in this war, whether they were caught by the Nazis, or survived until the Liberation. This story is particularly compelling for teenagers since it focuses on the life of sixteen-year-old John, and his adventures among older soldiers and underground members. But I also know a number of adults who have reread this story and enjoyed it immensely, so I would recommend it for anyone 10 years old and up. As C.S. Lewis said, if a children’s book isn’t worth rereading as an adult, it isn’t much of a book at all. Older folks might remember that Journey Through the Night was originally a four-book series. This new version includes all four books in one pretty sturdy soft-covered edition. Kids probably aren’t going to ask for these books themselves so maybe parents and grandparents out there should consider giving this one as a gift. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be asked to read it out loud to your little descendants. Journey Through the Night really is children's fiction at its very best. Canadians and Americans can buy a copy at Inheritance Publications....

Remembrance Day

Operation Manna

When two enemies collaborate for the common good, could it be anything less than a miracle? **** You can download or listen to the podcast version (6 minutes) here. It was a bad time to be Dutch. The winter of 1944-1945 was a particularly difficult one. Not only were there the usual difficulties of occupation that the Dutch had grown used to during the war, but food was in short supply. The northwestern Netherlands, especially the provinces of North and South Holland, were under siege by Allied forces. My grandmother told me that her family had nothing to eat for six months but turnips, morning, noon and night. After that experience, she didn’t eat another turnip for the next 60 years until the day of her death. My grandmother, however, was one of the lucky ones. Many were reduced to eating tulip bulbs, and 20,000 people died during the months that are known as the Hunger Winter. The situation became desperate enough that the German forces occupying the Netherlands went looking for help. Since they couldn’t supply the food, they needed someone who could. Operation Bad Penny The Dutch resistance sent a message to the Canadian army claiming that German commander, General Blaskowitz, wished to talk about the desperate situation. That’s the kind of message that seems like an obvious trap. The enemy wants to talk to us face to face? What could go wrong? But intelligence operatives Major Ken Cottam and Captain Farley Mowat decided it was worth the risk. On April 26, 1945, the two of them, along with Mowat’s aide, Sergeant “Doc” MacDonald headed off for the German-occupied region of the Netherlands in a risky and perhaps foolish mission. Somehow they got through. The men had a large white flag flying from their jeep, and along with that and the Major’s knowledge of German, a lot of bravado, and a very vague invitation to talk to the General about food supplies, they were allowed through and even escorted to the German headquarters. By the 27th, the men sent a message back to their own headquarters that they had negotiated a truce to allow the Allies to drop food to the Dutch civilians. By April 29, the first plane was loaded with food and ready to test the Germans’ goodwill. The Lancaster bomber took off with a crew of 7, five of them Canadians, and a lot of food where normally the plane would carry bombs. The Germans hadn’t officially agreed to a ceasefire at this point, so this mission was dubbed Operation Bad Penny. While a bad penny is an object that you don’t want, according to the saying it’s also one that keeps coming back. The plane flew very low to the ground, at about 50 feet, since the food was not parachuted but dropped in large gunnysacks. As the bomber climbed back into the air, the message “mission accomplished” was sent out.  Faust too... With this success behind them, the effort to drop food began in earnest. It was dubbed “Operation Manna” in reference to the Biblical story where God sends the Israelites food that literally falls from heaven. Flight after flight, in fact 3,298 of them, dropped food to the desperate Dutch.  Because the planes were insufficient, they were supplemented by convoys of military trucks that the Germans also let through in what was labeled Operation Faust. Faust is a character in literature who made a deal with the devil to get what he needed. The flights kept coming in very low in order to prevent damage to the food being dropped, so low in fact that one pilot described waving up to Dutch civilians on the balcony of a windmill. In total, Operation Manna dropped 6,680 Imperial tons of food. The related American Operation Chowhound dropped a further 4,000 tons. It was one of the most incredible operations in military history, for one military called on its enemy for assistance in helping the civilian population. Two mortal enemies laid aside weapons to feed the hungry population, dropping manna from heaven, as it were. Conclusion As for Captain Mowat, one of the intelligence agents who helped make Operation Manna possible, he went on to lead a remarkable and often exciting life. He became one of Canada’s best-known authors, with books like Never Cry Wolf, The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, and Owls in the Family. But the fighting he’d seen in the Second World War seemed to have scarred him, and he spent much of his life tilting at windmills, “in search of something to give him hope in mankind.” He said of his experiences in the war that “It made me consider that perhaps we weren’t the greatest form of life on Earth, not the absolute work of God, but perhaps some kind of cosmic joke, and a rather devilish one at that.” And maybe he has a point. In this broken and fallen world, man’s inhumanity and his capacity to hurt his fellow humans can be staggering. But what Mowat didn’t see and we shouldn’t lose sight of, is that in that misery we aren’t alone. There is hope, there are miracles, and, sometimes, there’s even food falling from heaven. This article is taken from an episode of James Dykstra’s History.icu podcast, where history is never boring. You can check out other episodes at History.icu or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts. To dig deeper... History-April 27 1945: The crazy trio who helped a starving war-torn Holland" NewsHolland Operations Manna and Chowhound Operation Manna | Ina Farley Mowatt, OC, 12 May 1921–6 May 2014. Life of a warrior and death of an icon Canada’s Liberation of the Netherlands: The Hunger Winter! Article Stories of Remembrance: Farley Mowat Operation ‘Manna’...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Canada at War: a graphic history of World War II

by Paul Keery, illustrated by Michael Wyatt 176 pages, 2012 Halfway through Canada at War, I realized it was filling in an odd gap in my education. I had read about the Dutch experience of World War II in great kids’ books like Anne de Vries’ Journey through the Night and Piet Prins’ Scout series, and a love of classic war films like Casablanca and Twelve O’Clock High had given me a good sampling of the American perspective. But I don’t know if I've ever seen the war through Canadian eyes. Canada at War is a “graphic history” – otherwise known as a comic – but it would be a mistake to dismiss this as fluffy kids’ stuff. It is weighty and well-researched and would be best understood as an illustrated history textbook. It includes chapters on: Canada before the war Canada’s early defeats defending Hong Kong from the Japanese and attacking German-held Dieppe, France The creation and impact of Canada’s Air Force The Canadian Navy’s seemingly impossible task of protecting the Atlantic supply chain from U-boat attacks The costly lessons our Army learned in Sicily and Italy The joint invasion of Europe The Canadian role in the liberation of the Netherlands and the final defeat of Germany Author Paul Keery, and illustrator Michael Wyatt do a masterful job of explaining, in just 176 pages, how Canada went from having next to no military to, in the space of just five years, becoming the third most powerful fighting force in the world. And they give readers a good understanding of just how much we owe the 1 million men who served. Cumulatively the pictures are worth many thousands of words. Descriptions can’t quite convey the information available in a picture of a sailor waste deep in water on a leaky Corvette assigned to protect otherwise defenseless supply ships on their way to Britain. There is also a lot packed into a single frame, when we see a bomber pilot relaxing at his home base, happy to have survived another bombing run, but knowing that he has only a 1 in 4 chance of living through to the end of his tour. The style of the visuals is also striking: it’s a mix of quite realistic computer animation and solid simple lines. Illustrator Michael Wyatt shows us action and lots of it, including planes being blown apart and submarines being sunk. However, Wyatt uses great restraint, showing the results of war – the blood, death, and destruction – without dwelling on the gory detail. This bloody detail is most often muted, either by being obscured (oftentimes by making use of silhouette images) or by being skipped right over. For example, in one exchange we see a soldier with blood on his face, but only learn how it happened from the caption. But as should be expected in a “graphic history” of World War II, there are a few “graphic” frames. That said, Canada at War is intended for a young adult readership, and these pictures are unlikely to shock them. I've included a few of these frames immediately below this review so that parents can evaluate the visuals for themselves. This is an impactful book that will give this generation a far better understanding of what their grandparents and great-grandparents endured to give them the Canada they see today. ...

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Chasing Shadows

432 pages / 2021 by Lynn Austin Chasing Shadows takes place in WWII Holland and is a novel about choices and consequences. Miriam, a Jewish girl and musician, and her professor father, flee Germany to the safety of Holland. Lena, a farmer’s wife, struggles with her faith when her husband Pieter and daughter Ans work for the Underground and when her son is forced into a work camp. She learns that the enemy of faith is not doubt, but fear. Interestingly, the book dwells at some length on the time leading up to the Nazi invasion of Holland and how the Dutch were convinced that, because they declared themselves to be a neutral nation, they would be safe. After the invasion, life went on as normal for the most part, until Hitler started persecuting the Jews. Initially, Ans is not very serious about her faith and falls in love with an unbelieving police officer who starts to work for the Nazis and ends up joining the NSB – the Dutch Nazis. In contrast, Ans becomes involved with the Resistance movement, helping to find places for the Jews to hide who became known as the “Shadow People.” Ans' faith grows as she works in the Resistance movement and this brings conflict between her and her collaborating husband. So many of the Dutch people who helped the Jews were Christians. Their faith was often sorely tested and questions such as, “Are we allowed to lie?” are discussed. Ans' Opa is a minister. When the Nazis come to the village on a Sunday morning to execute someone in retaliation for the destruction of a train nearby, they walk into the church, interrupt the preaching, and demand someone volunteer to die.  Opa steps off the pulpit, takes off his stole and hands it to Lena his daughter and walks out with the Nazis – a shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. This is one of the better Christian novels that I've read and would be an excellent choice for any church or school library. You can watch Lynn Austin talk about Chasing Shadows below and you can read the first chapter here. ...

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