Catch The Last Train to London

P.D. Workman

April 13, 2021

I just finished The Last Train to London. It’s a pretty heart-wrenching book, as you’ll probably guess when you read the description below. It is a fictionalization of Truus Wijsmuller‘s (Tante Truus’s) efforts to smuggle Jewish children out of Germany and Austria during WWII. Truus and those she worked with are credited with helping to save more than 10,000 children, and she was an amazing woman. The Last Train to London a slow build, with no graphic violence and while it is tense, you are not usually on the edge of your seat. But I will tell you, the scenes of the parents saying goodbye to their children as they were put on the train, knowing that they would quite likely never see them again had me pretty choked up.

She turned the ruby to catch the light, saying, “They’re more precious than anything, children.”

Meg Waite Clayton, The Last Train to London

In 1936, the Nazi are little more than loud, brutish bores to fifteen-year old Stephan Neuman, the son of a wealthy and influential Jewish family and budding playwright whose playground extends from Vienna’s streets to its intricate underground tunnels. Stephan’s best friend and companion is the brilliant Žofie-Helene, a Christian girl whose mother edits a progressive, anti-Nazi newspaper. But the two adolescents’ carefree innocence is shattered when the Nazis’ take control.

There is hope in the darkness, though. Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance, risks her life smuggling Jewish children out of Nazi Germany to the nations that will take them. It is a mission that becomes even more dangerous after the Anschluss—Hitler’s annexation of Austria—as, across Europe, countries close their borders to the growing number of refugees desperate to escape.

Tante Truus, as she is known, is determined to save as many children as she can. After Britain passes a measure to take in at-risk child refugees from the German Reich, she dares to approach Adolf Eichmann, the man who would later help devise the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” in a race against time to bring children like Stephan, his young brother Walter, and Žofie-Helene on a perilous journey to an uncertain future abroad.


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