Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs,
and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson
In her latest middle-grade nonfiction title, Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark, award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson focuses on resistance activists in Nazi-occupied Denmark. She introduces us to a homegrown group of individuals that heroically fought against their occupiers. These Danish resistance operatives were audacious, honorable, resourceful, focused, loyal, and both fearless and terrified. In time, they became, as the book’s subtitle reveals, spies, saboteurs, and survivors. The story of how they persevered against all odds is inspirational.
One, Thomas Sneum, snooped out Germany’s secret new weapon, Freya Radar, an early warning system capable of tracking and spotting hostile ships and planes before they were able to strike. Sneum knew he had to warn the British and soon he was a spy. An amateur spy, at first. With a pal from his Danish Air Force days, he flew over enemy territory west to England in an ancient, damaged plane held together with hope, faith, and bravado. They carried extra fuel along with critical photos and film detailing how the Freya Radar operated. Film that Sneum shot at great personal risk. In a feat that involved superb balance, precision, and unprecedented courage on the wing of their shaky Hornet Moth, they refueled over the North Sea. Failure was not an option. The information they carried saved countless civilian and military lives.
Another courageous fighter, Niels Skov, was twenty-one years old when the occupation began. Not long after, while riding around Copenhagen on his bicycle, he searched for his own private way to combat the Germans. He found it with a screwdriver carved by his grandfather and a match. He punctured the fuel tank of a German vehicle with the screwdriver. Drop by drop, gas leaked out. Into the puddle of that leaked fuel, he dropped a lit match. This bold act turned Niels into a saboteur.
And then there were survivors like Herbert Pundik and his family. They survived because the Danes were unwilling collaborators for the Nazi’s death machine. Three and a half years into their occupation, a secret disclosure of Germany’s impending order to round up Danish Jews for deportation turned Denmark overnight into a nation of rescuers. Almost all Danish Jews, around 7,220 of them, were whisked to freedom in Sweden. Those who did not make it out in time, approximately 474 Jews, were not forgotten.
The Danes maintained a vigilant watch over their captured and deported. Humanitarian efforts by a collection of Danish and Swedish aid agencies, including the Danish Red Cross, successfully interceded to keep the Danish Jews together as families and in one camp, Theresienstadt, making it easier to assist them in the future. Later on these agencies, as well as individual Danes, sent the prisoners packages with food, clothing, and specially produced multivitamins developed to help the starving maintain their strength. These actions helped the Danish Jews survive and hold hope that “at home they were thinking of us and working for us.” What’s more, in an act of compassion that sent shivers up my spine, on April 15, 1945, almost a month before the German surrender, white buses bearing the Swedish Flag and the Red Cross insignia drove through Theresienstadt’s gates, liberating the Danish survivors and taking them home.
In occupied Denmark, during the darkest days of World War II, without a government-in-exile to coordinate and direct a resistance movement, a remarkable civilian corps of Danish spies, saboteurs, and survivors fought valiantly against Nazi Germany’s overwhelming military might and their terrifying social policies. And, it is in the telling of their stories, that Deborah Hopkinson helps us understand the war they fought, with courage and defiance, to restore freedom, justice, and civility to their homeland.
Courage and Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in World War II Denmark will make an excellent addition to any library or personal collection. Highly Recommended.
This review was based on an uncorrected ARC provided by the author.
Pulling together a book of this depth and scope required broad and deep research. Still, Deborah Hopkinson reminds us that Courage and Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs and Survivors in World War II Denmark is an introduction to even broader areas of study. To continue learning about the Resistance and Denmark during the war years, and many readers will undoubtedly be inspired to do so, there’s rich back matter that includes: a helpful guide to the Danish language with links to sites where you can hear its alphabet and vowels; a short bio on key people in the book with their dates of death and lifetime contributions; a selected chronology of important war-related events; a map of Denmark and surrounding countries; a selected bibliography that includes books of special interest to young readers; a listing of online resources and detailed chapter-by-chapter source notes.
Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 25, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0545592208 [use at beginning]
Deborah Hopkinson is the author of Titanic, Voices from the Disaster, which has received many awards including the Robert F. Sibert International Book Award Honor and the YALSA nonfiction award.
For other stops on the Courage and Defiance Blog Tour please check http://www.provatoevents.com/blog/courage_tour.html