Robbie’s Inspiration – Book review: Over the Hedge by Paulette Mahurin

What Amazon says

Over the Hedge by [Paulette Mahurin]

During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children.

My review

I reviewed this book in my capacity as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. If you would like your book reviewed, you can contact Rosie Amber here: http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/.

When I saw the blurb of this book, I knew I had to read it. I am fascinated by books set during periods of war and am especially interested in how war impacts on the civilian populations in war torn countries.

Over the Hedge is a book that explores the horror of WWII and how the Nazi occupation impacted on the population of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It explores the psychology of various people and demonstrates how fear can tear societies apart and cause women fearing for the lives of their own children to perform the heinous act of handing Jewish relatives, including small babies, over to the Nazis, knowing they were destined for deportation to camps. I think this aspect of this book is closest to my heart as I consider the internal conflict of such women and wonder what I would do in a similar situation. I hope I would behave better than they did, but it eats at my mind.

The story centres around the true facts of a trio of members of the Dutch resistance who worked with other brave men and women to save 600 small children from the concentration camps. These three people from vastly different backgrounds were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, the principal of a Christian college.

Walter works for the Hollandsche Schouwburg deportation centre for Dutch Jews which is situated across the street from the daycare operated by Henriëtte. The Christian college is located next door to the day care. The Jewish families arriving at the deportation centre are separated from their children who are sent across the street to the day care for the night. Walter finds a way of altering the arrivals records of selected small children who are then smuggled ‘over the hedge’ to the college where they are taken, at great personal risk, by various students and other resistance members to Dutch families willing to care for these children. The author provides some details on a few of the children and the sad state they arrive in which makes the drama and emotion of the story much more intense.

One such child was Aviva, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who is deaf and mute. This is a short extract:
“”Aviva …,” Johan let out a chuckle, “laughed.”
“Laughed? But she’s mute-“
“Yes. She’s quite expressive with bodily motions. Silent laughter, a new one on me. Kaat too.”
“Well, that’s good, she’s adjusting, but … it seems unusual she didn’t act fearful.”
“The affectionate dedication of a good mother can do wonders,” said Johan. “The mother must have been an extraordinarily loving women.”

Walter is a scared, worn-out shell of a man, whose own wife and daughter are in hiding in a Dutch resistance member household. He has to deal with the Nazis who are fearful of their own positions and lives and take their anger out on the Jews in the deportation centre, and later anywhere they find hidden Jews. Despite his own personal fear, Walter manages to bring some comfort to the Jewish mothers and fathers in the centre and ask their permission to help their babies. Walter lives for the babies he is able to help save. The strain on him in his untenable position as part of the conduit between life and death for the deportees wears him down over the course of the book, but Walter shows extraordinary determination and tenacity in helping save the children.

Henriëtte is also an extraordinary woman, who does a lot to uplift the spirits of the Jewish workers at the daycare and also Walter. She is a woman of excellent insight and is able to judge character when Walter’s abilities falter. Her kind and loving nature made her story all the more sad and poignant.

Johan was a brave man, who put himself at risk to help save others. I think this is the height of bravery; to act when you are afraid and do what you believe to be right. Without all three of these dedicated and selfless people, the 600 children who were passed ‘over the fence’ would have died.

Aside from Johan, there were many other Dutch people who contributed to the rescue operation and their actions gave me some comfort that even in the most terrible situations, the good in many people still comes to the fore and all is not lost because of it.

This is a very compelling story and is one that everyone should read to ensure that mankind remembers and takes steps to ensure this history is never repeated. Congratulations to the author on an excellent and well researched book.

Purchase Over the Hedge

Amazon US

Paulette Mahurin Amazon Author Page

About Paulette Mahurin

Paulette Mahurin is an international best selling literary fiction and historical fiction novelist. She lives with her husband Terry and two dogs, Max and Bella, in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.

Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine. Her second novel, His Name Was Ben, originally written as an award winning short story while she was in college and later expanded into a novel, rose to bestseller lists its second week out. Her third novel, To Live Out Loud, won international critical acclaim and made it to multiple sites as favorite read book of 2015. Her fourth book, The Seven Year Dress, made it to the bestseller lists for literary fiction and historical fiction on Amazon U.S., Amazon U.K. and Amazon Australia. Her fifth book, The Day I Saw The Hummingbird, was released in 2017 to rave reviews. Her sixth book, A Different Kind of Angel, was released in the summer of 2018 also to rave reviews.

Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work with women with cancer, works in the Westminster Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue. Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs from kill shelters.

58 thoughts on “Robbie’s Inspiration – Book review: Over the Hedge by Paulette Mahurin

    1. Hi Kamal, thank you for your comment. War certainly rips societies apart, both on the battlefield and in the towns and cities. Even countries not directly under attack, like the USA, felt the effects of shortages and other problems.

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  1. Fear often leads us to do things we would not otherwise do. That’s why those in power so often use it to try to control any dissent. Anyone who worked to save lives in these circumstances showed great courage. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you have summed it up well, Darlene. I often wonder what I’d do in such a situation. It’s also difficult to put your own children in danger but I don’t think I would just hand people over to soldiers knowing they would be harmed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t remember where else I saw this book, but glad to see a review of it here, Robbie. Your reviews are exceptional and give great insight into the book. It sound like an excellent read. Congrats to Paulette on the accomplishment. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Robbie, I’m so glad I read your post. Things have been a little hectic at my end with family visiting. Hopefully,I can catch up on my reading after a week. Will add this to my TBR list.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. An excellent review, Robbie. I don’t enjoy reading about the Holocaust. As you say, you hope that in similar circumstances you’d do the right thing, but would we? If the price were the life of my child, I…don’t know what I’d do. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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