If you were approached to do the right thing during a treacherous time and asked to hide two Jewish girls from the Nazis – knowing full well that if they were discovered, you would be shot – would you be able to do it?
The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss is the true story of two families in Holland who did exactly that during the Second World War.
Johanna – called “Annie” as a child – was blessed by having a savvy father who didn’t buy the lies the Nazis were telling Dutch Jewish families when they promised to deport them to “work camps.” Her dad had the good sense to ignore the lines he was being fed and arranged for the whole family to go into hiding. Her dad was hidden in one location, her sister Rachel in another. Annie and her sister Sini were fortunate to be hidden together, first with a family named Hannink, and later with a farmer, Johan Oosterveld, and his wife, Dietje, and mother. The girls called his mother “Opoe,” which means “grandmother.”
I don’t want to say too much more because I have no wish to spoil the story for anyone who reads the book, except what a great book it is! The Oostervelds are so unpretentious they’re funny, which would make a phenomenal character study for a movie. They also, at times ingeniously, took action to save the lives of the two sisters. As of the writing of this blog, all three were still alive!
Hollywood: you are missing out on a phenomenal story by not making a television movie, or better yet, a feature film, from this book. I heartily suggest that you contact Johanna Reiss about the rights at www.johannareiss.com.
Here’s Johan, Dientje and Opoe: