The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Scribe has done readers a great service by reprinting the unjustly forgotten The Walls Came Tumbling Down, a thrilling memoir of a Dutch resistance fighter's journey home after the end of World War II. Henriette Roosenburg, nicknamed "Zip" for the frequency with which she once secretly criss-crossed Nazi-held borders, narrates the incredible events that follow her liberation from a German prison by the Soviet military with casual simplicity and a touch of humor. After liberation, Zip and a group of mostly female ex-prisoners decide to bypass the authorities and traverse the hundreds of miles separating them from their homes in the Netherlands. The long journey is related almost as an adventure story, with the daring Zip and her comrades making their way by plane, truck, boat and their own two feet through a chaotic, war-torn land.

One of the book's most surprising strengths is Zip's matter-of-fact descriptions of the horrors and absurdities of recently conquered Germany, from the houses around her prison that rapidly trade swastikas for red flags after the Red Army invades to the Soviet soldiers who sometimes present a threat of sexual violence, and other times seem almost childlike in their victorious glee. Without ever undercutting the danger they are in or the trauma of their past, Roosenburg presents an essentially optimistic narrative of physical survival as well as survival of the human spirit. The Walls Came Tumbling Down is a moving, often funny book, despite the circumstances, told by a brave and truly remarkable woman who deserves to be remembered. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader

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