A Family Secret

A Family Secret


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While searching his grandmother's attic for likely items to sell at a yard sale, Jeroen finds a photo album that brings back hard memories for his grandmother, Helena. Helena tells Jeroen for the first time about her experiences during the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, and mourns the loss of her Jewish best friend, Esther. Helena believes that her own father, a policeman and Nazi sympathizer, delivered Esther to the Nazis and that she died in a concentration camp. But after hearing her story, Jeroen makes a discovery and Helena realizes that her father kept an important secret from her.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374422653
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Pages: 64
Sales rank: 474,072
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

ERIC HEUVEL is one of the top graphic artists in the Netherlands. He concentrates on writing and illustrating educational graphic novels—three of which, including A Family Secret and The Search, have won the Dutch Comics Association's category award. He lives in Zaandam.

Reading Group Guide

1. Helena's narrative begins with the meeting of her

new neighbor Esther, a Jewish girl from Germany

who gives a brief history of the Nazi rise to power.

What was Kristallnacht? How did it affect the average

German? How was it portrayed outside of Germany?

Find newspaper accounts of that time using


2. The Nazis needed collaborators to carry out their

goals. What would have influenced someone to become

a Nazi collaborator? What factors would have

encouraged someone to join the Resistance?

3. After the Nazi takeover of Holland, there were

deep divisions in Helena's family regarding resistance

and collaboration. What was Helena's father's

decision, as depicted on page 16? Would you have

been supportive of such a decision?

4. What actions did the Dutch people take to resist

the Nazi occupation? What was the price of resistance

during the war? Was it worth the risk? Imagine

your school principal has just established a new policy

that everyone must attend Saturday morning

classes. Discuss with your classmates the likelihood

of everyone going along with it. Break into groups

to determine the actions to take.

5. The Nazis abolished some human rights in every

place they conquered. Which rights would it be

hardest for you to lose? To which losses could you

readily adapt? Consider the right to go to school, to

see a doctor, to use public transportation, and to go

to the movies. List your most important human


6. Why did Helena prefer being at Esther's house to

being at her own (p. 21)?

7. Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor marked a turning

point in the war. How was this news received by

the Dutch? Were Europeans aware of the German

plan to exterminate the Jews? How do we know

what they knew and when they knew it? Create a

time line of World War II events.

8. The Nazis carefully organized razzias, in which

Jews were rounded up and taken away to concentration

camps. How would you react to seeing

neighbors suddenly taken away by government

agents? Could this happen today?

9. After the long and very cold Hunger Winter of

1944-45, Amsterdam was finally liberated, but the

transition back to normalcy wasn't completely

smooth. What do you think about the way collaborators

were dealt with? What happened to Helena's

father? What was the price of collaboration?

10. Were you surprised at Jeroen's interest in his

grandmother's history? Interview the oldest members

of your family to learn the stories of their past.

What about your own experiences do you hope to

pass on to your future children and grandchildren?

Customer Reviews

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A Family Secret 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Eurekas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing job of covering a huge, complicated and emotionally charged topic in a small space. The grandson of a Dutch survivor of WW II, talks with his grandmother and learns about her life and that of her Jewish friend Esther right before, during and just after the German occupation.
julieaduncan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Family Secret begins when a contemporary Dutch boy discovers his grandmother's scrapbook in her attic. She begins to tell him about her life as a teenager during the days of World War II. Her best friend Esther was Jewish and escaped from Germany. The Nazis then took Amsterdam and eventually removed Esther's family. The grandmother's family is scarred and torn apart as well during these sad times. Her father, a policeman, felt he had to join the Nazis or lose his job thus causing many fights between her parents each night. One brother adored the party and soon joined and died as a soldier. The other brother delivered newspapers for the Resistance. They read letters from their Aunt living in the Dutch East Indies and discover her family was placed in prisoner camps by the Japanese. The book holds your attention all the way to the surprise ending.This book weighs heavily on my heart. I have always sympathized with the Jews, but I never realized how much everyone else suffered too. Men were forced to join the army and the women and children suffered from starvation as the rations just were not enough. This book covers the heartache that so many people felt all over the world as a result of the Nazi regime. What isn't said, but what you can tell from the pictures, is that even after the joyful liberation of each place it was a long, long time of reconstruction and recovery. It might be difficult because most of this generation has passed on, but I think it would be wonderful for a class to invite as a speaker someone who was old enough to remember some of life during WWII. After reading this book, I think the children would have a lot of questions for the speaker. I would also like to see them create maps showing the different areas occupied by the Allied Nations versus the Axis Nations during various points of the war. This would help them understand how far reaching this war really was.
CarmellaLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personal Response: This historically accurate graphic novel tells of the family choices that had to be made during the World War II. A great story with trials but a happy ending.Curricular or Programming connection: Holocaust , World War II historical events and family struggles.