The Boy Behind the Door

David Tabatsky

Amsterdam Publishers, The Netherlands 2022

ISBN 9789493276321

Another book about the holocaust? Yes, so as not to let the horrors fade away, “The Boy Behind the Door,” offers us a true account of how Salomon Kool survived the holocaust. But Kool didn’t plan to write about his experience as Jewish boy in Amsterdam when the Nazis arrived. It wasn’t until 1970 when he related his story to friends, who convinced him to speak with David Tabatsky, the author of this book.

The most haunting stories about war are those told by children …

Kool turned 13 a day before his Bar Mitzvah, May 5, 1940, when Hitler’s army moved over the Dutch border and marched across the Waal River toward Amsterdam. Within months, restrictions were imposed on Jewish people. The worst, Kool tells us, was the loss of the sun: “Jews were barred from the sunny side of the street. I hated this law so badly. How could any dare to control the sun.”

But when his next birthday rolled around, even more than the worst began to happen to Kool. His father was seized by the Germans, along with two brothers and a sister. Then, when as his mother and aunt were taken, he hid in a closet as his mother ordered, and then watched out the window as they were arrested, now realizing he was left alone.

Author Tabatsky captures the horror and dread Kool experiences as he desperately searches the city for a friend or relative to give him shelter, and hiding, even removing the sewn-star from his clothes. On his 16th birthday, May 4, 1943, the Germans found Kool, and told him he would be inducted into the military. But while under interrogation, he meets Walter Süskind, a member of the Jewish Council who’d rescued hundreds of Jewish children and provided them with new identities as he did for Kool. He’s also aided by the underground resistance who shifted him to different locations.

Kool died in 2011, years before his story was published. Kool described himself as a boy who “missed his family terribly, who was angry about what he couldn’t understand.” The most haunting stories about war are those told by children who experience helplessness as sole survivors.