Review: From the Children’s Home to the Gas Chamber by Reinier Heinsman

Posted May 6, 2021 by Stephanie in History, Nonfiction, Reviews / 8 Comments

Title: From the Children’s Home to the Gas Chamber: And how some avoided their fate
Author: Reinier Heinsman
Publication: March 30th 2021
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Find it on: Amazon | Book Depository
Rating: 5/5

Appeared in the USA Today, Daily Mail, New York Post, Montreal Gazette and Jerusalem Post – Contains more than 50 testimonies.

When the Nazis raided a Belgian orphanage on October 30, 1942, it was unthinkable that the arrested Jewish children, soon to be deported, would still be alive more than 78 years later. They lost their parents and siblings to the death camps, but when it was time for these orphans to be deported, fate intervened. In early 2021, they finally reunited and told their story.

Just 13 of the 39 Jewish children of the Antwerp orphanage Meisjeshuis survived the Second World War. While all Jewish children above the age of five were sent from the children’s home to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, almost all Jewish children below the age of five avoided their fate. 10 of the Jewish children were rescued and hospitalized under false pretenses. They went into hiding among the dying patients, but even in the hospital the Nazis found and arrested many of them.

In this book, the author and the surviving orphans finally uncover a history that remained hidden for almost 80 years. Other Jewish orphans, all connected to Belgium and who survived in all kinds of ways, also tell their story. This book contains a total of more than 50 testimonies.

When I found out about this book where the readers are told about the Jewish children from an orphanage in Antwerp (Belgium) who survived the Second World War I knew I had to read it. Being from Antwerp myself and knowing various streets that were mentioned made it all the more palpable and poignant to me. But I’m also sure that people from all over the world would be absolutely amazed by this book. The photos and testimonies were incredible to look at and read. They made this a most exceptional read.

Reading about World War Two and the Holocaust, especially, is never easy. I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of people with saying this. It was a pretty rough read that made me emotional but I’m so glad I had a chance to learn about these survivors. In some way it was very humbling.

Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen near Antwerp is mentioned a lot in this book because it was where people were being transported to concentration camps. Now it’s a Holocaust memorial, museum and documentation centre. I’ve actually been to the museum last year so that made this book even more thought-provoking and absorbing to read. I would highly recommend it to visit if you’re ever in Belgium.

From the Children’s Home to the Gas Chamber: And how some avoided their fate by Reinier Heinsman was beyond heartbreaking, gripping and inspiring. I flew through it in no time and the emotional impact it made on me was immense. This is a book everyone should read at least once in their lifetime.

About the author

Reinier Heinsman (1996, Apeldoorn) is a law student and author from the Netherlands who traced, interviewed and reunited the Jewish orphans from Belgium. Earlier he wrote Rumoer aan de Kaap (2015) and Vergeten is het grootste verlies (2020) in Dutch.

Goodreads | Amazon




8 responses to “Review: From the Children’s Home to the Gas Chamber by Reinier Heinsman

  1. verushka

    My god, this book — this reality that they lived through. Some days, seeing what’s happening in the world, especially with refugee children I wonder if the human race will ever learn from the past.

  2. I remember you talking about this book earlier. I had figure it would be harrowing but also, hopefully, inspiring. Glad it turned out to match expectations. And the author is so young — impressive!

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