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When We Were Shadows

Second Story Press | Holocaust Remembrance Series for Young Readers

Walter is a young child when his parents decide to leave their home in Germany and start a new life in the Netherlands. As Jews, they know they are not safe under the Nazi regime. From one day to the next, Walter's world goes from safe and predictable to full of uncertainty. Walter is at first too young to appreciate the danger that he is in, and everything seems like a great adventure. But as the years pass and the war progresses, his family is forced to move again and again, from city to countryside to, eventually, a hidden village deep in the Dutch woods.

As the danger of being discovered increases, they are forced to rely on strangers for their safety. Walter’s eyes are opened to the threat that surrounds them every day, and to the network of people who are risking their lives to help them stay hidden. Told through a combination of narrative and Walter’s letters to his grandmother and, later, his granddaughter, the novel shines a light on a little-known part of WWII history and the heroes of the Dutch resistance—without whose protection, Walter, his family, and hundreds of others would not have survived. The book ends with a photograph of the author and the real-life Walter, on whose experiences this book is based.


... a perfect choice for school libraries... When We Were Shadows will inform readers, young and old, on the journey of a young boy during the Holocaust, but ultimately it will inspire all to discover how the human spirit can triumph over evil. Highly recommended.


Janet Wees has been writing since she was nine years old. A retired teacher, she spends her time writing children’s picture books, reading, walking, writing letters, cycling, and traveling. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

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