About The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage

“You can’t let people be treated in an inhuman way around you.... Otherwise you start to become inhuman.”

So declares rescuer Hetty Voûte in The Heart Has Reasons, a book that provides an in-depth look into the hearts and minds of the Holocaust rescuers and explores the meaning that their lives and deeds have for us today.

Individually or in small “humanitarian cells,” the ten Dutch people profiled in The Heart Has Reasons saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of Holland. How did they do what they did—and why did they risk everything to do it?

Although the details of their extraordinary rescue activities vary greatly, the rescuers’ integrity does not. Thus these narratives provide not only a window on the past but a vision for the future. Framed by Klempner’s own quest for meaning, the words of the rescuers resonate across generations, providing timeless insight into how people of conscience can navigate ethically in an increasingly complex world.

About Author Mark Klempner

Mark Klempner is a folklorist, historian, and social commentator. The son of an immigrant who barely escaped the Holocaust, Klempner spent nearly a decade talking with and getting to know the Dutch rescuers in order to write The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage. Klempner grew up in New York, and attended Cornell University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1997, and winning a J. William Fulbright Fellowship. In 2000, he received an M.A. in folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Klempner’s articles have appeared internationally in professional publications such as the Oral History Reader, as well as in the Christian Science Monitor, Baltimore Sun, and other mainstream newspapers and periodicals. He has also been featured as a radio commentator on Morning Edition, and has been interviewed on NPR, and other broadcast media. Online, Klempner is a blogger for The Huffington Post and has contributed to Alternet.org and CommonDreams.org.

Click to read a newspaper article about Mark Klempner entitled Tales of Courage Changed His Life: Klempner's Meetings With Holocaust Rescuers.


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The Heart Has Reasons Blog: News About The Heart Has Reasons

Mark Klempner Addresses Members of Congress and Their Staffs

On April 18, Mark addressed members of Congress and their Staffs.

The text of the talk Mark gave to Congress is available here.

A webcast of his speech at the Library of Congress is available as a streaming video.

Comments from Young Readers

Though written primarily for adults, The Heart Has Reasons has been a bestseller in the Kindle Store in the category of Holocaust books for children. This may be due in part to Lois Lowry’s generous statement in support of the book.

Mark Klempner has started to hear from some of these young readers, such as a ten-year-old girl in Riverdale, Bronx who sent him the following email:

“My class is currently learning about World War 2 and we had to pick a book to read, about anything in World War 2. I wanted to choose something about the Holocaust because it interests me As I was reading your book, I kept thinking, 'Wow what a great story! I can't believe that actually happened!' Those stories were so amazing. I was so inspired by them, especially Hetty’s, Clara's, and Ted's. It would make the world a better place if there were more people like them. I love to write, and my dream is to write books when I am older. I'm so happy I chose to read your book and not another book.”

The Heart Has Reasons Inspires Prize-Winning Essay

The Anti-Defamation League and the Carl Frohm Foundation recently sponsored an essay contest for high school students about Holocaust rescuers that drew more than five hundred entries. The winning entry in the early grades category (9th and 10th) was entitled “Rut Matthijsen” and was inspired by one of the rescuers featured in The Heart Has Reasons. In the essay, the young author summarizes the Rut's story as told in the book and explains what it has meant to her personally. Here are a few highlights: “Rut Matthijsen's story fascinated me beyond measure and has made a big impact on my life. He was an ordinary person who became an extraordinary person because he acted in accordance with his own belief system while living in an immoral society....

“When I first came to my high school I heard about an organization called Angel For a Day. This is an opportunity for high school students to take part in helping out the less fortunate kids of Omaha, Nebraska. I joined this club excited to help out the young kids.... “Learning about what Rut did with the young Jewish children inspires me tremendously to continue making a difference in these kids' lives. The looks on their innocent faces when we work with them is one of the greatest feelings I can encounter. I could only imagine the faces of the Jewish children after Rut saved hundreds of their lives. The things Rut did for these kids only increases my determination to help out other kids in the world. I hope someday I can change lives of hundreds just like Rut Matthijsen did.”

She ends with a quote from Charles DuBois:

“The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

Mark Klempner Shares Another Response From A “Hidden Child”

My correspondence with the Cohen family continued this month when I heard from Shimon Cohen's younger sister:

“I too was one of the hidden children. Last summer Shimon and Fien gave me your book for my 70th birthday. I put it aside assuming it was another dry history lesson from those terrible years. I just couldn't get myself to read it, until Shimon called me last month and asked me if I had read it. After I confessed to him that I hadn�t, he assured me that this was a totally different book than he had [first] expected, and he urged me to read it too. Which I did, and I couldn't put it down . . . It is masterfully crafted, articulate, but, above all, so sensitively and perceptively written, and still a scholarly work!!!”

Thanks for all those exclamation points, Sophia, and for your lovely message. As I told Shimron, such emails really keep me going. And, as I've said many times, I am honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to convey the stories and wisdom of the rescuers.

Mark Klempner Shares Some Responses to The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage

Yesterday I received this wonderful email from a survivor named Shimon Cohen:

“I read your book The Heart has Reasons, and hasten me to compliment you on a solid piece of research. Both my wife and I are so-called child survivors of the Holocaust in Holland and we can vouch for the accuracy of your stories. At least two of the rescuers you interviewed, Hetty Voute and Rut Matthijsen, were actively involved in the rescue of us and our siblings, and thanks to them, their comrades (some of whom were executed or perished in concentration camps) and the people who risked their lives to house us, we are here today.”

He goes on to call the book a “masterpiece,” and a “pearl,” and then his wife Fien chimes in with “Yes, research, accuracy, depth is important, but the sensitivity of your approach is what makes your book so special.”

Well, you can imagine how this letter made my day.

I want to thank everyone who has written; your letters keep me going as I strive to make daily progress on my next book.

More about that another time.

Holocaust Rescuers Give The Heart Has Reasons Two Thumbs Up.

Mark Klempner writes: “My most important readers are the rescuers themselves. They entrusted me with their stories, as well as their deepest insights and convictions, and were counting on me to get it right. I am therefore pleased and relieved to report that they have had a very positive response to the book. Piet Meerburg could hardly contain his enthusiasm over the phone, calling it a masterpiece, and Kees Veentra described it as first-rate. Considering that Piet has a whole book shelf of Holocaust literature, and that Kees was a bookseller for forty years, I was especially touched by their assessments. Rut Matthijsen and Gisela Sohnlein also wrote with positive comments, and have ordered multiple copies for their children. The only rescuer I have not heard from is Clara Dijkstra, whose command of English is not sufficient to enable her to read it. A publisher in Amsterdam is currently considering a Dutch edition, so perhaps I will eventually be able to send her a copy in her native language.”

January 2013: The Heart Has Reasons Hits #1 in Kindle Edition

The Heart Has Reasons is currently the bestselling children's book about the Holocaust at Amazon's Kindle Store. It also holds the #3 spot in the category of children's history books.

Though we celebrate this milestone, we would like to point out that The Heart Has Reasons is not a book intended for elementary school children but rather is appropriate for middle school and high school readers. Generally speaking, any reader who was able to read The Diary of Anne Frank would be able to read The Heart Has Reasons. Of course, it also has many readers at the college level, and, in fact, is being used as a textbook at the university level.

It is an interesting that the simple language of the rescuers, quoted extensively by Klempner to the point that the rescuer's words comprise most of the text, makes the book extremely accessible to children. As a general rule, if a child is mature enough to read The Diary of Anne Frank, he or she is old enough to read The Heart Has Reasons.

May 2006: The Heart Has Reasons: Holocaust Rescuers and Their Stories of Courage a Bestseller

Christian Century Magazine has named The Heart Has Reasons a bestseller among books published by religious presses. They also indicate that it is currently the Pilgrim Press' #1 book. The Pilgrim Press, by the way, is descended from the original Pilgrim Press of the 17th century, and, as such, has the distinction of being the oldest press in the United States.