Hi Kristin and welcome to HJ! We’re so excited to chat with you about your new release, The Winter Orphans!
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Based on real people and events of World War II, The Winter Orphans tells the story of a hundred Jewish refugee children who escaped from Austria and Germany, and the women who fought to save their lives.
Ella Rosenthal fled her home in Germany on the eve of war, promising her parents that she would take care of her precocious little sister, Hanni. Three years later, the girls shelter in a Swiss Red Cross children’s colony in the foothills of southern France.
The colony is managed by Rösli Näf, a stubborn Swiss nurse who vows to do whatever is necessary to keep the children under her care safe. Rösli is joined in this fight by Anne-Marie Piguet, whose expertise in the wilderness becomes indispensable as the danger heightens in France, and the children must consider escaping over mountainous borders.
Readers can expect a poignant story about people who lived courageously in the face of staggering risk, choosing to do what was morally right against all odds. Though this is a book that may inspire tears, it is ultimately hopeful because it’s about resilience, bravery, and light shining through the darkness.
Please share your favorite line(s) or quote from this book:
“Follow your conscience and forget the rules. In France, your conscience may require much of you, but it’s the only guide you can trust.” – Rösli Näf, advising Anne-Marie Piguet.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- This book is based on a true story, and it revolves around numerous real-life heroes.
- The main setting of this novel, Château de la Hille, is now a bed and breakfast, so it is possible to vacation there.
- There are several walks and organized hikes traversing the same routes the characters in this book used to escape wartime France.
- Though this book is quite poignant, it also contains a heartfelt and uplifting love story.
What first attracts your Hero to the Heroine and vice versa?
The characters in this book share essential values and worldviews. The two characters who fall in love experience the same great challenges in their young lives, and are bonded together through shared hope for their future.
Did any scene have you blushing, crying or laughing while writing it? And Why?
I definitely cried while writing certain scenes, and even now I cry when reading them! There are some very moving moments in this book because it recounts true events involving children during World War II and their struggle to survive. However, it’s also a book that will make you cheer, because it’s about people doing what’s morally right and prevailing against all odds.
Readers should read this book….
I began drafting this book during the early days of the pandemic, which was a challenging time to do just about anything! However, when I look back I realize that this story sustained me through those first uncertain months. This is a story about people who prevail in the darkest of times, fighting both to survive and to save lives. Because the real people who inspired this story are so incredible, I found it to be both compelling and affirming. I hope readers will be similarly captivated, and that they will come away with a sense of hope.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have in the works?
My next novel is about a remarkable group of Scottish women who created and staffed frontline hospitals in World War One. Brave and unconventional, they forged new paths amid daunting odds, changing society’s perceptions of women’s capabilities along the way. Currently, it’s scheduled to release in fall of 2023.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: 1 Physical book THE WINTER ORPHANS by Kristin Beck
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: – The Winter Orphans features numerous heroes from various walks of life and backgrounds. What characteristics do they have in common? What do you think gives them the courage to act amid overwhelming danger?
Excerpt from The Winter Orphans:
Château de la Hille, southern France August 1942
Rösli stood upright, a hammock of green beans weighting her apron, and filled her lungs with bright morning air. She’d been
working in the garden since breakfast, but now she paused, stretching her lower back and assessing the tidy patch of vegetables painstakingly maintained in the château’s shadow. Nearby, a handful of little girls and boys crouched in the speckled shade of trellises, snapping beans off vines and chatting as they filled baskets. Despite this rain-less summer, the garden thrived. Rösli smiled. Nothing satisfied her more than watching the children wade among its loamy, leafy rows.
So much had changed in just one year.
She squinted in the sunlight, thinking of the day she’d arrived in France, newly appointed by the Swiss Red Cross to take over this colony of one hundred refugee children. That first afternoon, she’d faced a wary, wide-eyed crowd, fearing she wasn’t up to the task. It was difficult, at first, to tell the boys from the girls: their heads were shorn, and from the general odor of kerosene, Rösli knew they’d suffered one lice infestation after another. They were thin as saplings,
with open, weeping boils on their arms and legs. What had they been through? Could Rösli restore them to some level of well-being? Misgivings murmured, but she’d silenced them and gripped hands with the few adult caretakers, organizing a mental task list. She’d said she would manage this refugee colony, and so she would.
“Where is your garden?” she’d demanded following introductions, glancing at the building behind them. At the time, the group lived in an old granary barn. They’d left Germany and Austria after Kristallnacht, propelled into Belgium by their desperate parents, and had been fleeing invasions ever since. Eventually they’d washed up in France, sleeping on hay and eating cornmeal and rotten potatoes until one of the adults contacted the Red Cross for support. The colony came under Swiss care, and Rösli found herself standing before them. “Our garden?” The adults had swapped glances, thrown off by
“Yes,” she’d said, frustration slipping into her voice. “Where is it?” She’d known, instantly, what was wrong with the children’s skin: a diet lacking in green vegetables. When it became apparent that no garden existed, Rösli had cast about that desolate barnyard, seeking someone to reprimand, and then she’d sighed. She would have to change everything. The children had blinked up at their new directrice from the Swiss Red Cross, stunned, and she had merely turned and gone looking for a hoe.
Rösli shook away her memories of the previous summer, letting her gaze rise to the derelict castle they now called home. La Hille rested like an old gentleman in the sun, sand-colored and guarded by medieval towers on each of its four corners. The Red Cross had rented it shortly after discovering the children struggling in their granary barn, and Rösli recruited the teenagers to make the neglected château habitable. They’d tilled the earth within the stone- walled courtyard, piling compost into muddy furrows and planting
seeds. With hammers and donated wood, they’d built benches and tables, arranging them alongside the garden for summer meals, and moving them into a dining hall with parquet floors and a fireplace when the weather turned. Upstairs, each child slept in a real cot with bedding shipped over from Switzerland. They’d transformed La Hille in a single season, and within its ancient walls the children thrived.
Beyond the castle, rumpled green foothills rolled all the way south to the Pyrénées. Mist rose from their crevices, evaporating into a peerless blue sky. Somewhere in the forest, the voices of a dozen boys rebounded now and again as they tramped down to the river to bathe. Rösli pinched back a smile. Everyone called those boys les Moyens, the Middles, and they were as noisy and dirty as bear cubs no matter how often she sent them off to collect wood and swim.
The younger children, les Petits, flocked around Rösli in the courtyard. Most were still finishing morning chores, plucking weeds and filling baskets as they’d been asked to. A few played, and again Rösli suppressed a smile. The warm breeze loosened wisps of hair from her bun, tickling her face. She combed the blond strands back with her soil-stained fingers, watching the two youngest children race through tall grass just outside the garden walls. Little Hanni chased and Antoinette ran, passing the open gates. Seed heads whipped their knees as they darted back and forth, then Hanni caught Antoinette and they fell together, bare feet in the air, laughter rising toward the sun.
“Du bist so langsam,” Hanni exclaimed, pushing up onto her elbows, her dark eyes lively as she teased her friend.
Rösli glanced toward the sun, already high overhead and growing hotter. It would soon be time for lunch. They had to finish the work.
“Children!” she called, waving a hand toward those who’d strayed from their chores. “Come and finish your jobs, please. Free time isn’t until afternoon.”
But Hanni and Antoinette continued to giggle in the grass, knees up, sun on their faces, and Rösli frowned. As much as she wanted to, she couldn’t let them skip their chores. What would happen if other children followed suit, questioning their schedule, shirking responsibilities? If everyone didn’t chip in, the community would fall apart, descending into disorder, like it obviously had in that foul granary barn.
She called out again, louder this time. “Hanni! Antoinette!” Clutching the green beans in her apron, she made her way through the courtyard gates, striding into the tall grass beyond. She sensed a pair of dark eyes, the same limitless brown as Hanni’s, following her from a bench in the shadow of the château. She hadn’t noticed Ella there earlier, patching faded clothes with a needle and thread, her ever-present sketchbook by her hip. But the girl was like that; she often drifted from the other teenagers, settling on the fringes with a solitary chore, her eyes on her sister.
“Hanni and Antoinette,” Rösli said as her shadow fell over them. “If you don’t come back to the garden, I’ll have to double your chores tomorrow.”
Antoinette scrambled to her feet, but Hanni gazed up from the grass, her eyes round and dark as chestnuts. She shook her head, chopped hair swinging. “No, Mademoiselle Näf. I want to finish our game.”
No? Irritation pinched inside Rösli’s chest, but she made an ef- fort to remain patient. It wasn’t her strong suit. “Don’t be stubborn, Hanni. Now, go and finish in the garden.”
“I don’t want to,” Hanni countered. Antoinette looked at the grass between her toes, taking a cautious step back, but Hanni held Rösli’s stare. She was so tiny in her Red Cross dress, the cotton sleeves
hanging like bells over her skinny, sunbrowned arms. But there was something fierce in her eyes.
Rösli puffed air from her lips, exasperated. “If you don’t hustle into the garden, you’ll scrub pots for Frau Schlesinger after lunch. And after dinner, too—”
Rösli spun around to find Ella striding over, her narrow shoulders back, glaring. Rösli wanted to sigh, but she held it in. Showing frustration would get her nowhere with les Grands, the teenagers. She’d yet to figure out what would inspire their allegiance, however. There were over forty at the château, and most of them chafed at her, just as her peers had when she was an adolescent herself. It stung, but she’d never let them know it.
“Yes, Hanni’s seven,” Rösli repeated when Ella stepped into the space between her and the little girls. “And she needs to do her share. We all must do our part to keep our community strong.”
Ella’s jaw hardened. “Our community.” She said the word with derision, as if community were a myth nobody believed in anymore. A breeze whipped up, blowing Ella’s bobbed hair into her face. She swiped it away, maintaining her glare, and Rösli straightened in defense. With her freckle-dusted cheekbones and wide brown eyes, Ella looked so much like her younger sister—but their personalities couldn’t be more different. Ella, pretty and slight for a seventeen- year-old, was normally quiet, even compliant, while Hanni seemed driven by spirit alone.
“All you care about is this garden, this place.” Ella gestured to- ward the château. “It’s all rules and chores—”
“How do you think food appears on your plate every day?” “You should care about us,” Ella persisted, color flushing her
cheeks as her voice climbed. “Hanni and I haven’t had a letter from our parents all summer. We don’t even know what’s happened to them, if they’re still in Germany, or . . .” She glanced at her sister as
if momentarily sorry, and Hanni’s unblinking gaze dropped to the grass. But Ella went on, undeterred. “Let her play. The world’s collapsing, Mademoiselle Näf. Germany will soon control all of Eu- rope. I’m sure of it now. Where will we go? Nobody wants us. Not Germany, not France. We have nobody.”
“You have me—”
“Don’t you see that our hearts are breaking?” Ella’s voice cracked and she looked Rösli right in the eyes, searchingly. “You know nothing about what kids actually need.”
Rösli froze as if she’d been slapped. Doubt welled in her chest while she fought back a rise of questions. She wasn’t good with feelings, it was true. But how could anyone tend invisible, broken hearts? That puzzle was beyond her. So she checked the long rows of beds each morning, ensuring they were made. She checked that the rooms were tidy, that the children had completed their tasks, that they met expectations. Was Ella right? Had Rösli gone about this all wrong? She’d drawn on her experience as a nurse, working in places more challenging even than wartime France. Rules had worked when she served a hospital in Africa, hadn’t they? And they had worked here. The children were no longer malnourished. They were no longer list- less. They had schedules, chores, lessons, and food from their own gardens at every meal. And yet, the teenagers despised her.
“That’s enough,” Rösli declared, squaring her shoulders. Doubt and anger would serve nobody. “If your sister or anyone else doesn’t contribute, they will face consequences. That’s the rule, and I don’t want it questioned.” She tried to erase the unease from her face. She didn’t need to be liked here. In all her thirty-one years she’d never been liked much, anywhere. Respect was far more potent. “Do you understand me?”
Ella blinked the shine from her eyes, but she didn’t move a muscle. Rösli stood her ground, too, still clutching the hammock of green beans in her apron. Despite the way she’d hardened her rhetoric,
she felt momentarily awkward; too tall, all elbows and shoulders and flyaway hair. A familiar sensation washed over her—that she was missing something, that invisible something that hung in the air between people.
A noise echoed faintly over the trees, halting whatever Ella might have said. The girl’s frown softened as she cocked her head, listening. The anger fell away from her eyes, replaced with a question.
Rösli held her breath, trying to make out the sound. Yes. It was an engine, still far away. She gripped the bundle of green beans with one hand and used the other to loosen the apron’s knot at the small of her back. “Here,” she said breathlessly, lifting the apron over her head and handing the bundle of beans to the girl. “Take these to Frau Schlesinger in the kitchen. I’ll intercept whoever’s coming.” Rösli pivoted without waiting for a response, glancing at the rest of the children in the courtyard. They’d all stilled instinctively, listening to the sound of the distant engine. “Children,” she called out, “go inside, please. Wash up and help Frau Schlesinger prepare for lunch.”
She didn’t have to say more. The children stood, dusting their knees and hoisting vegetables in their dresses and baskets. They clumped from the garden in their wooden clogs and bare feet, moving toward the heavy doors of the medieval building that had become their home. Rösli exhaled. They were used to following orders, mostly.
She set off for the narrow dirt road leading away from the château. She trotted briskly, stretching her long gait, until she was around a curve and could only see La Hille between gaps in the trees. The sound of the engine grew, ricocheting off distant hills and stone canyons and close banks of trees as it neared.
Rösli waited in the road at the hem of the property, branches whispering overhead, her heart accelerating. There wasn’t anything to fear, really. What could anyone want with a derelict castle full of
refugee children, after all? And it could be a friend in the car. Mau- rice Dubois, perhaps, who ran several children’s homes like La Hille for the Swiss Red Cross. She warmed at the thought of him, a charismatic man who sometimes drove down from his office in Toulouse, visiting them in the wilds like a benevolent godfather.
But as the vehicle rounded a bend in the road, the knot in her stomach tightened. It was as she suspected. A police car bumped toward her, grinding to a stop where she blocked its way, hands on her hips, buffeted by a wave of dust as the engine died out.
Lieutenant Danielle stepped from the car, and Rösli remained planted where she was.
“Mademoiselle Näf, isn’t that a strange place to stand—the middle of the road?”
“Directrice Näf, please. What’s strange is that you continue to visit without an invitation,” she countered, pursing her lips. She kept her hands on her hips as the gendarme approached. He was a head shorter than her, and he looked up with what she felt was an irredeemably unlikable face. He had big, pale eyes with dark pouches under them, as if instead of sleeping he drank every night away. A thin mustache crawled across his lip like a centipede.
“Police don’t need invitations, mademoiselle. Why don’t we go on up to La Hille to discuss the reason for my visit, oui? You might offer me something to drink. Some of that Swiss food and a little hospitality.”
“Whatever food we have is for the children,” Rösli said. “Not for well-fed gendarmes.”
“Ah. While our own French children go hungry? I simply can- not understand why you Swiss would rather help foreign Jews than the many French children whose fathers—”
“We help plenty of French children, too, and you know it. The Swiss Red Cross—”
“The Swiss Red Cross is operating on our soil, mademoiselle.
As I see it, that compels you to comply with our ordinances.” “I’ve complied with every ordinance.”
“Très bien!” Without breaking eye contact, he smiled and un- tucked a pad of paper from under his armpit. “Then you won’t mind providing an updated list. Once again, s’ il vous plaît. Name all foreign Jews over the age of sixteen residing in your residence, and I’ll confirm the accuracy of my list, oui?” He smiled with false cheer, as if he were the teacher and she were his student.
Rösli’s heart beat harder. Last winter, the Vichy government had demanded that all foreign Jews register with their regional prefects or face penalties. Rösli had lain awake for three nights trying to chart the best course for her colony. Why did the French government want to conduct such a census? And what were the penalties for evading it? Many foreign Jews were already living in internment centers in France. She’d thought of these forlorn camps and turned over in bed, chewing on her thumbnail until it bled. Surely they wouldn’t target parentless children for internment? Surely children protected by the Swiss Red Cross were safe? Would the Swiss be allowed to remain in France, scooping up children in need, if they didn’t follow the rules? In the end, she’d decided it was better to obey the law and avoid whatever punishment awaited those who escaped the census.
But now, with Lieutenant Danielle standing before her yet again, she feared that she’d erred. Ever since she’d registered the names of over one hundred foreign Jews, this despicable man had surprised them with visits and lists, demanding an accurate accounting of the oldest children. And with the news from Paris, the sight of Lieutenant Danielle’s simpering face made her all the more furious. Men like him, gendarmes, had done the Germans’ bidding in the occupied zone, even arresting Jews in Paris only a month ago.
Rösli and her staff had heard reports of deportations on the BBC, listening to their old, finicky radio tucked in one of La Hille’s towers, utterly stunned.
“Nothing has changed,” she said, staring down her nose at him. They were in unoccupied France, after all, not Paris. French law still existed here, and it still protected Jewish children until they turned eighteen. The gendarmes in the Vichy-controlled south might take roll for the Germans, but that was all they could do.
“None of the teenagers has had a birthday this summer? You’ve had no new arrivals this year?” He blinked his overlarge eyes. “I find that hard to believe. I heard talk in the village that a mother wandered through just last week, looking for a place to leave her teenage children. And it’s rumored that your older boys are hiring out on farms. A Werner something or other? We can’t have foreigners scattering around the countryside with no record of their whereabouts—”
“No,” she interrupted, batting down a surge of anger. “There’s not been a single change.” She lied without flinching. “Now, Lieu- tenant Danielle, I need to go. We’ve had an outbreak of lice at the château, which is why I came down here to greet you. If you’d like to avoid catching it, I recommend turning around.”
The short gendarme stared up for a weighted moment, study- ing her.
“I have it myself,” she added, narrowing her eyes. “It’s itchy as hell.”
Lieutenant Danielle hesitated, then shook his head. Tucking the pad of paper back under his arm, he retreated to his car. “I’ll be back soon,” he called, stepping into the driver’s seat without further comment.
Rösli stood in the road until he’d backed up and turned around. She stared at the silhouette of his capped head through the rear window as the gears caught and the car rumbled off in a cloud of
dust. Just before he disappeared down the road, a hand lifted from the steering wheel to the nape of his neck, scratching furiously.
Rösli smirked. Then she turned back to Château de la Hille, and the children waiting for her within its thick stone walls, no doubt ready for lunch.
Two nights later, Rösli lay awake, plagued by questions she couldn’t answer. Why did the gendarmes want an accurate list of her
teenagers? She thought of the appalling news from Paris, but shook her head on her pillow. Nothing like that could happen here, not in the free zone. She’d tried to say as much to les Grands, but their apprehension only grew as summer waned. All day they’d whispered among themselves, ceasing when she neared. She sensed their disdain, shimmering up like heat over the summer hills. If only she knew how to speak to them.
Rösli rolled over in bed, staring through the tall panes of glass separating her from the wilds of the Ariège. How could she reassure her teenagers, and guide them, when they barely tolerated her? Or did she misunderstand? Was she imagining that the girls swapped looks when she walked into a room? She sighed. It was all so familiar, this sense of not fitting in, of not knowing the customs of even her own people. It had always been that way, ever since she was a girl herself. It was as if Rösli were forever on the inside, gazing out. A memory rose in the darkness. She saw a leaded-glass window from her own childhood, framed by blue Swiss mountains. She saw herself standing before it, her gangly frame clothed in a dress that hung a bit too short over her lengthening legs, exposing her knees. An apron bunched around her waist, soiled by the duster she’d placed on a shelf, silently, afraid someone might catch her sneaking up to this library in a house she cleaned with her mother. It had become her routine, a stolen hour she treasured week after week. The book in Rösli’s hands was edged with gold leaf, and it told stories of jungles
and faraway seas and scalded deserts. It sent her heart thumping against her breastbone while she ignored the room’s dust, standing by the window, imagining a different life.
Then, one afternoon the family came home early. Rösli’s mother was downstairs, finishing the heavy scrubbing on her hands and cracked, dry knees. Sometimes she asked what took so long upstairs, but she never pursued it beyond a flare of frustration. When Rösli glanced out the window and spotted the family coming down the garden path, she froze. The parents walked with their daughter be- tween them, and the girl wore a dress the exact color of the sky. Her father bent to kiss her forehead. Rösli stared through the leaded panes, her breath shallowing. She recognized the girl. Eva. Just a week before at school, Rösli had tried to join a table of girls during lunch. Only, the moment she’d sat, the rest of them had stood, re- coiling from Rösli and hurrying off to another table. Eva, in the same lovely blue dress, had glanced back and caught Rösli’s welling gaze. And she’d laughed.
Rösli stared down at the book, noticing, for the first time, the dirtiness of her fingers on its white pages. Her shoulders suddenly seemed too wide, her bones too heavy, her elbows like knots hanging at her aproned waist. She couldn’t be more unlike Eva, who never sat alone, watching everyone flow past her like water around a stone. She saw Eva’s mother giggle and was certain that this was a woman who never shouted, never criticized her swan of a child, and never cried over her soup pot while her husband stayed out late.
Rösli had closed the book, its stories vanishing. Her cheeks burned. She slid it back onto the shelf and picked up her duster, leaving the library. Yearning burned in her soul like a lit coal. She couldn’t be like the girls who avoided her, beautiful, adored, and at ease in the world. Her mother hollered up the stairs, and a decision found Rösli, sudden and potent.
Someday, she would escape this life.
She’d descended the stairs, thinking. Could she work in secret and save money, hiding it under her mattress? Yes, and when she had enough, she would go. She would find a way to be independent, and she’d seek out the places she’d read about in Eva’s gilded books, places where she no longer had to be the cleaning woman’s daughter.
And that’s what she’d done.
Now, she stared at the stars through the château’s window for another long moment, letting the memory fade. Rösli had escaped her upbringing, yes. Yet no matter where she went, no matter how hard she worked to change her circumstances, what she couldn’t es- cape was herself. She closed her eyes and forced memories of her childhood, and the long road that brought her here, to evaporate.
When Rösli awoke, the room was still dark. She blinked at the cavernous ceiling, disoriented. What time was it? She pushed up onto her elbow, glancing toward the open window. The sky was the cobalt of dawn, but the moon still hung heavy over the foothills, not yet defeated. It must be earliest morning.
“Mademoiselle Näf!” someone whispered through her office door, which adjoined her small bedroom. Three sharp knocks sounded, chased with a voice that edged out of a whisper. “Please wake up!” Like a remembered dream, Rösli realized what had woken her: someone was calling her name.
“Just a moment,” she whispered back, swinging her feet to the cool stone floor. Padding to the armoire, she swung a tattered robe over her shoulders and slipped into her office. She glanced at the letter on her desk, half-finished, asking charities in Switzerland to send warm clothing donations as soon as possible. Summer was waning. She opened the heavy door, her thoughts split between the day’s looming tasks and concern for who was knocking so early, and why.
Hans, one of les Grands, stood in the hallway looking small.
Even in the faint moonlight she sensed terror in his eyes.
“What in heaven’s name are you doing awake?” she whispered, but he was already ducking past her, heading to the window in the bedroom.
“I got up to use the outhouse, but I heard a noise.” Panic fractured his whisper as he sidled up to the tall window, careful to stay out of view, beckoning her to follow. “Mademoiselle Näf, look. The gendarmes are here.”
Her heart stopped. She stepped behind him, peering out. “Mein Gott.” Her pulse surged, flushing her limbs with skittering fear. Down below, figures drifted around the property like ghosts in the darkness. One detached from the pool of shadow under a tree, ambling across the lawn before settling in another shadow. Waiting. Others moved in sync, lining up, their approach as silent and synchronized as wolves stalking prey.
“Mein Gott,” she whispered again, breath shaking. What could she do? She glanced around the room, taking in the spill of moonlight, the rumpled bed, her tidy office, the long hallway beyond. Understanding took hold of her: there was nowhere to go. The police in this remote corner of Vichy France had surrounded her château full of sleeping children, and it was far too late to hide them.
“They can’t do this,” she sputtered. “They aren’t allowed.”
She pinned her eyes shut for a swaying second, seeing her own pen moving on paper, registering names. Nausea bloomed in her gut. They were here because she’d made a horrific, shameful mistake.
The gendarmes knew about this château full of refugees, thanks to her. And they could only have come for one purpose.
Excerpted from THE WINTER ORPHANS by Kristin Beck, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2022
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
In a remote corner of France, Jewish refugee Ella Rosenthal has finally found a safe haven. It has been three years since she and her little sister, Hanni, left their parents to flee Nazi Germany, and they have been pursued and adrift in the chaos of war ever since. Now, they shelter among one hundred other young refugees in a derelict castle overseen by the Swiss Red Cross.
Swiss volunteers Rösli Näf and Anne-Marie Piguet uphold a common mission: to protect children in peril. Rösli, a stubborn and resourceful nurse, directs the colony of Château de la Hille and has created a thriving community against all odds. Anne-Marie, raised by Swiss foresters, becomes both caretaker and friend to the children, and she vows to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.
However, when Germany invades southern France, safeguarding Jewish refugees becomes impossible. Château de la Hille faces unrelenting danger, and Rösli and Anne-Marie realize that the only way to protect the eldest of their charges is to smuggle them out of France. Relying on Rösli’s fierce will and Anne-Marie’s knowledge of secret mountain paths, they plot escape routes through vast Nazi-occupied territory to the distant border. Amid staggering risk, Ella and Hanni embark on a journey that, if successful, could change the course of their lives and grant them a future.
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Meet the Author:
Kristin Beck has been captivated by the often unsung roles of women in history ever since growing up hearing her grandmother’s stories about her time as a WW II army nurse. A former teacher, she holds a BA in English from the University of Washington and a Master’s in Teaching from Western Washington University. Kristin lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two children.
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