The Heart Has Reasons: Dutch Rescuers of Jewish Children during the Holocaust

By Rogan, Kevin | Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, Spring-Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

The Heart Has Reasons: Dutch Rescuers of Jewish Children during the Holocaust


Rogan, Kevin, Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore


The Heart Has Reasons: Dutch Rescuers of Jewish Children during the Holocaust by Mark Klempner. New York: Night Stand Press, 2012. 225 pages, foreword, map, 46 black-and-white photographs, update, acknowledgments, notes. $18, trade paperback.

The Holocaust left an indelible imprint on Mark Klempner's family, and has always maintained a presence in his own life. His maternal grandfather left Hungary in 1936, only to later have his parents and 10 brothers murdered by the Nazis. His father escaped Poland at the age of 11 on the last boat to leave the country in 1939. And as a boy, Klempner himself can recall looking through timeworn photo albums with his father's mother. He describes one such incident in the introduction to The Heart Has Reasons: "[She] once sat me on her lap and, turning the pages of photo albums from the old country, showed me wedding pictures, sepia-toned young couples, smiling women, and plump children in their little white shoes. 'Hitler took them all,' she said" (v).

Even so, the Holocaust was never spoken of in Klempner's home. This silence lent it a distinct presence (like the proverbial elephant in the room), but also kept it frustratingly just beyond his reach. It was only natural, then, that Klempner would try to find some way to personally connect with the Holocaust. His opportunity came when he received a grant in college from the Cornell Institute for European Studies. For his project he chose to interview Dutch men and women who risked their lives to save Jewish children during the Holocaust. This research grew into The Heart Has Reasons, and the book itself is a treasure. It captures and preserves rich stories of heroism that would otherwise be lost to the march of time, and at the same time provides readers with a powerful source of inspiration by demonstrating that goodness can thrive even amidst the most evil circumstances.

The Heart Has Reasons profiles 10 rescuers with whom Klempner met, and the book's greatest strength is that--in true folk spirit--it allows each rescuer to tell his or her own story. Klempner doesn't filter or paraphrase anyone, and there's no reason he should want to. After all, these are feisty, colorful individuals who defied Nazi brutality to save the lives of Jewish children. …

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