It is the year 1943. Denmark has surrendered to the Nazi forces a couple of years ago. For 10-year old Annemarie Johansen and her friend Ellen Rosen, life in Copenhagen is almost ‘normal’—food shortages, German soldiers in every street corner, school, homework and sports-- until just before the Jewish New year. Ellen is Jewish. When word goes around that the Jews of Denmark are to be ‘relocated’ (or in plain language, are to be sent to death camps by the Nazis), Annemarie’s family takes Ellen in as one of their own family. Ellen, like thousands of other Jews in Denmark, is to be secretly taken across to Sweden, and to safety. And little Annemarie finds that she has to go on a dangerous mission if she has to save her friend.
Copenhagen of 1943 comes alive on the pages of the book, through Annemarie’s eyes. We come to understand the reason for Denmark’s plight, the love of the people for their king, and the important role of the Resistance movement in rescuing thousands of people from cruel death. As the story unfolds, timid, ordinary people like Annemarie discover how little danger matters when it comes to protecting those we love.
Excerpt: Now she was ten, with long legs and no more silly dreams of pink- frosted cupcakes. And now she – and all the Danes – were to be bodyguard for Ellen, and Ellen’s parents, and all of Denmark’s Jews.
Would she die to protect them? Truly? Annemarie was honest enough to admit, there in the darkness, to herself, that she wasn’t.
For a moment she felt frightened. But she pulled the blanket up higher around her neck and relaxed. It was all imaginary, anyway – not real. It was only in the fairytales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another. Not in real-life Denmark…. She was glad to be an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage.
Author: Lois Lowry
First Published by: Dell Publishing (1989)