Through the fictional narratives of Ana, Oskar, Roger and Renata–whose stories are based on real people–author Jennifer Rosner brings to light the largely unknown history of children concealed and stolen during WWII. What began as a heroic effort to hide Jewish children in convents, monasteries and Christian families to protect them from Hitler’s annihilation campaign, became a battle for these childrens’ souls and lives after the war when the Catholic Church or host families refused to allow the children to return to their surviving biological families. Other children who epitomized the so-called Aryan ideal were stolen from nations such as Poland to further the Nazi’s “Germanization” campaign, adopted into German families, and often never told of their origins.
In Israel in 1968, Ana, Oskar, Roger and Renata’s lives converge in Jerusalem’s Old City at the site of the Western Wall. Now adults, they continue to struggle with “religious confusion,” who they really are, and questions about the nature of family and belonging. As Roger so poignantly considers after he meets some of his surviving relatives and begins to build a life in Israel, “But will he ever feel grounded in this life, will he ever feel he truly belongs?”
Rosner’s poignant, heartbreaking and at times hopeful novel for adults clearly attests to the lifelong consequences for children who are kidnapped in times of war, a practice that tragically still occurs today. (Flatiron Books)