By My Side

If you’re in love nothing else matters…

As the Second World War rages and with the Netherlands under German occupation, how long will Katrien and Jan be able to keep their meetings secret? Will the Nazis discover him? Will he still be by her side?

Sue Reid on the background to By My Side . . .

I visited Amsterdam a long time ago. I fell in love with the city – its beauty, tranquillity and its friendly people. Maybe that’s why I chose to set my love story there. Of course, when I visited it the country was at peace and in By My Side I was writing about a very different time – long ago, when it was occupied by a deadly enemy. I could  imagine just how awful that must have been. And what if you were young and in love, and had to keep your relationship secret . . . That’s what my heroine Katrien has to do. She longs to tell everyone about Jan. But she daren’t. For Jan is Jewish. And the Nazis have overrun the country. Only in her secret diary is it safe for her to confide the truth. And pray that one day the war will end and they can be together.

Does Katrien get her wish? Can she and Jan ever be together? I’ll leave it to you to find out . . .

Publisher: Scholastic
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1407138960
ISBN-13: 978-1407138961
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"The story was gripping and the relationship between the main characters very tender. It painted a clear picture of the demoralization of the Jewish community in Amsterdam by the occupiers. A very good read."
(from a fan's letter)


3 September 1942

It was late when the bell rang. Father walked downstairs to let the soldiers in before they broke the door down. Mother, Pieter and I remained upstairs.  I couldn’t bring myself to look at Mother. I felt awful – simply awful. It was because of me  Jan was here. Because of me soldiers were going to search our house. My fault that we were terrified half out of our wits.

Their voices carried up to me, as loud and insistent as the bell.

Sind sie Juedisch?

‘Nein,’ I heard Father say firmly.

The soldiers pounded up the steep narrow stairs to the first floor. ‘Any Jews here?’ a voice called up. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I recognized that voice at once. It was Kurt.  I stared at him as he climbed up to the landing, but he didn’t give even the tiniest hint that he’d ever seen me before.

Sind sie Juedisch? Are there any Jews here?’

Nein,’ we replied.

‘ID please.’ We gave him our ID cards and he quickly flicked through them, and handed them back.

The soldiers were about to climb up to the next floor when  to my surprise Kurt put up a hand. ‘Leave this to me,’ he said. ‘Wait for me downstairs.’

‘If anyone can find a Jew, Kurt will,’ one said laughing, as if it was a joke. At that moment I hated them, really really hated them.

The soldiers clattered back downstairs. Kurt slowly climbed the stairs to the next landing. Whatever checks he made, they were quick. Perhaps he knew where to look, all the tricks, all the vain attempts people made to conceal that someone was hiding in their home.

It was only when he was walking back downstairs to us that I noticed something I hadn’t before. The bookcase that concealed the opening to Jan’s hiding place wasn’t quite straight. Anyone taking a good look at it might wonder why and  investigate further – especially if they’d had a tip off that there might be Jews hiding in the house.

My heart began to pound. What would we do if Kurt noticed? I tried not to look at it. His eyes met mine. I knew then that he’d seen it. Knew what it concealed . . .