When They Made Us Leave: A Novel about Hitler’s Mass Evacuation Program for Children

Young Adult

HISTORICAL:  Peter is excited to tell his best friend, Hilda, he and his class are going to Kinderlandverschickung, or KLV, Hitler’s mass evacuation program for children to be protected from the war. Hilda is angry because Peter seems to be so pleased at getting away from her. Karl-Heinz, Peter’s friend is also going to KLV, and they cannot wait to get there. Upon their arrival, no one is there to greet them, no beautiful beaches, just abandoned barracks. Hilda is sent to KLV for girls and ends up in a convent. The food is miserly and the girls are given grueling daily chores. Where is the paradise they were promised? Are they really safe from the war and the SS officers?

“When They Made Us Leave” is an account based on the stories of over one hundred eyewitness accounts of the KLV program in Germany. Though fiction, the accounts of Hilda and Peter seem real and harrowing as they take us through their experiences. Well-spoken teens who are very resourceful in their circumstances, manage to bring those reading their tale into the very maelstrom that is their lives. The climax before the end is weak considering the previous dramatic and horrific trials and tribulations. Ms. Oppenlander documents the dark, wartime transformation of the children from their naïve youth to adulthood. “When They Made Us Leave” is the story of how Hitler convinced parents to send their children away so they could be indoctrinated into the Nazi ways. The notes in the back are a nice touch. A must read!

Belinda Wilson