Thursday 11 June 2020

Beyond Belief

Beyond Belief by Dee White (Omnibus Books from Scholastic Australia) PB RRP ISBN 9781760662516

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The title of this novel for readers aged 8 to 12 years is appropriate given that is was inspired by the true story of Muslims who saved the lives of Jewish children in the Second World War. (There is a Quran saying, ‘Allah says to save one man’s life is to save the whole of mankind’.)

In 1942, in the Grand Mosque in Paris, 11-year-old Ruben is hiding from the Nazis, taken there by his parents who are desperately trying to find his older sister, Rosa. Ruben is passing himself off as a Muslim named Abdul Azim, son of the mosque’s Iman as he waits for ‘the Fox’ to help him travel to Spain to be reunited with his family. When the Nazis come to the mosque, Ruben is taken to hide in tunnels behind a bookshelf. Nazis come a second time and take Amar, another Jew, also in hiding, as she has blonde hair.

Next time there is danger in the mosque, Ruben, with other younger children, Momo and Hana, escape with adults Evette and Fida (who say they are working for the Fox), by walking for hours through underground sewers. They then hide in barrels on board a barge and finish up in the water. Next, they travel in a tank under a truck and are transported to a farm where a blind man, Gerard, takes them in. There they are reunited with Amar who has been rescued from the Nazis.

When Ruben is reunited in the south of France with his (wounded) sister, Rosa tells him their parents are dead, gunned down by German soldiers. It is then that Ruben also learns the true (and surprising) identity of the infamous Fox.

Beyond Belief is an exciting adventure with many twists and turns, based on true events, that offers much drama, fear, and bravery on behalf of all the adults involved in protecting the Jewish children. The children themselves show great fortitude, too, dealing with subterfuge, danger, hunger, and pain. Muslim or Jew, all are heroes who work ‘beyond (religious) belief’ to escape the German enemy.

Author Dee White not only travelled to France on a Vic Arts grant from Creative Victoria to research this story, but had assistance too from Jewish holocaust survivors, The Jewish Holocaust Centre, a Melbourne librarian, and a Muslim reader to ensure accuracy in her book. 

This well-written and fast-paced novel is a part of the ‘Heroes of the Holocaust’ series for children.

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