Cover image for When the soldiers were gone
When the soldiers were gone
Propp, Vera W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Putnam's, [1999]

Physical Description:
101 pages ; 22 cm
After the German occupation of the Netherlands, Benjamin leaves the Christian family with whom he had been living and reunites with his real parents who returned from hiding.
Reading Level:
540 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 3.5 2.0 27928.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.6 6 Quiz: 21251.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Kenmore Library X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



At first Henk didn't believe what his Papa was saying. That the two strangers standing in the front room are his real parents, and now that the war is over they have come to take him back. He is told his name isn't even Henk, it's really Benjamin, and he's Jewish. But all Henk can remember is living on the farm with Papa, Mama, Miep, and Pieter. How can he possibly be expected to leave them?

Set in Holland just after the end of World War II, this is the moving story of a young boy adapting to life after the war with a family he doesn't remember.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-9. The opening chapter is heartrending: an eight-year-old boy in Holland in 1945 is forced to leave the loving farm family that hid him during the war. He feels torn away from those he continues to call "Papa" and "Mama." He must go and live with strangers who tell him they are his parents. His name is Henk; why do these new people, David and Elsbet, insist on calling him Benjamin? Who is this baby, Carl, they call his brother? Based on a true story, this spare, beautiful, first novel captures the hidden survivor's trauma from the small child's bewildered point of view. Living in the city, he remembers the farm, the fun he had there, and also the terror as he hid absolutely still in a clothes hamper whenever the soldiers came looking for Jews. Elsbet shows him the shirt with a yellow star that he wore before he went to hide on the farm. He is glad to be able to go to school now in the city for the first time, and he makes friends there; he also encounters anti-Semitism, even after the Nazis are gone. Elsbet tells him how she and David survived in hiding and on the run, and he learns that Carl is really his cousin, whose parents died in the camps. Middle-grade readers will be swept up in Henk's personal story. They will also feel the sorrow and tenderness of the two groups of parents. The foster family cannot bear the parting. The Jewish parents speak softly to the child, leave him space, and try to bring him home. The violence is distanced but never sentimentalized, and, like Ida Vos' Hide and Seek (1991) and other stories of children who hid to survive, this is a dramatic story to introduce children to Holocaust history. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

A dramatic true event turns pallid in this unconvincing first novel set at the close of WWII. Living on a Dutch farm with Mama and Papa, Henk has rejoiced with them at the defeat of the "bad soldiers"‘but his whole world turns upside-down when "Mama and Papa" tell him that they are not in fact his parents. Henk's real name, which he has forgotten, is Benjamin, and his real father and mother are David and Elsbet, Jews who have survived the war in hiding. The boy's reunion with his parents and his transformation from Henk to Benjamin should be exciting subjects, but the characterizations are so pat as to flatten the material. In attempting to narrate from Henk/Benjamin's perspective, Propp relies on artificial-sounding interior monologues with lots of wide-eyed questions: "It wouldn't be proper to call [David and Elsbet] by their first names. What should I call them, he asked himself. How do I know they are really my parents as they say they are?" The dangers of the war, revealed in flashbacks and through Elsbet's conversations with her son, never take on immediacy. Middle-graders interested in a more authentic treatment of problems Dutch Jewish children faced in coming out of hiding after the war should see Ida Vos's novels Hide and Seek and Anna Is Still Here. Ages 10-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6‘An uncomplicated account of a boy's readjustment after World War II in Holland. Eight-year-old Henk is stunned when he discovers that the family he has been living with are not his blood relatives. After being reunited with his biological parents, who are Jewish, Henk learns that his name is really Benjamin Van Sorg and that he was sent to live with a Christian family during the war. As he slowly adjusts to his new life and identity, memories from his early childhood gradually return, including the yellow star on his coat and a frightening encounter with a Nazi soldier. At the end of the book, when he and his parents return to their house, the place seems familiar and welcoming, and he finally feels that he is home. Propp's use of simple language helps the story flow smoothly. The author creates and sustains a mood that coincides with the readjustment phase that takes place after a trauma. Historical facts are successfully integrated into the narrative, and Henk's first-person telling makes the effects of the war tangible to readers. When the Soldiers Were Gone rates highly among other stories about the period, such as Jane Yolen's more sophisticated The Devil's Arithmetic (Viking, 1988) and David Adler's Hilde & Eli (Holiday, 1994). A moving, well-written novel.‘Adrian Renee Stevens, Beaver Creek School, West Jefferson, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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