Sav­ing Han­no: The Sto­ry of a Refugee Dog

Miri­am Halahmy 

  • Review
By – July 8, 2019

Told from the per­spec­tive of Rudi, a Jew­ish nine-year-old boy liv­ing in Frank­furt, Ger­many, this is a Holo­caust sur­vival sto­ry with a twist; the pro­tag­o­nist has a dog and he wish­es to save the dog’s life along with his own.

It’s 1939 and Rudi’s par­ents make the painful deci­sion that in order to save the lives of Rudi and his sis­ter, they must send them to live with fam­i­lies in Eng­land where they will be safe from the Nazis. Rudi, though, is very wor­ried about his dog, Han­no. He is wor­ried about Han­no’s safe­ty and sur­vival just the way his par­ents are wor­ried about his. He knows he will not be able to take Han­no along with him when he departs for England.

Amaz­ing­ly, the fam­i­ly finds a non-Jew­ish man who is will­ing to help. This man vol­un­teers to take the dog to Eng­land for Rudi. After a six-month peri­od of quar­an­tine for the dog, Rudi will, he hopes, be able to reclaim Hanno.

Rudi is tak­en to live with a non-Jew­ish, child­less, lov­ing fam­i­ly in Lon­don, how­ev­er his fif­teen-year-old sis­ter does not fare quite as well. Although now safe from the Nazis, she has become a maid for the fam­i­ly who has agreed to take her in. The only com­fort is that she is housed close to Rudi so that on her days off they can see one anoth­er. Due to the kind­ness of the peo­ple he lives with, Rudi makes an excel­lent adjust­ment and, after the des­ig­nat­ed peri­od of time, Han­no is returned to him. Then Britain declares war on Ger­many. Every­one pre­pares for war and, and Rudi must prob­lem solve once again to make sure his dog stays safe and to pre­vent him from becom­ing euth­a­nized as were many pets of the time.

Read­ers will be exposed to the cru­el­ty of the Nazis and the depri­va­tions the Jews endured, but, although the story’s back­ground infor­ma­tion is fac­tu­al, there are no graph­ic scenes of vio­lence. They will admire Rudi’s loy­al­ty to his dog and his cre­ative efforts on the dog’s behalf. Chil­dren who are bond­ed to their pets, as well as oth­er sym­pa­thet­ic ani­mal lovers, will appre­ci­ate Rudi’s love of Han­no and the efforts he makes to save him, and will under­stand that war is a painful and com­pli­cat­ed time.

There is a use­ful append­ed author’s note which presents fur­ther back­ground about the time and place in which the sto­ry is set and puts the events of the sto­ry into his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, as well as giv­ing added infor­ma­tion about some of the actu­al events on which the sto­ry is based.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

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