Nine-year-old John Freund was a carefree Jewish boy growing up in Budejovice, a small Czech village where he and his brother Karel loved playing soccer, hockey, and ice-skating at the local arena. With the Nazi invasion in 1939, life changed drastically for John and his friends. Forbidden to go to school or even play on the street, they felt helpless against the new, confining laws. Allocated a small plot of land near the river as their only free play area, they created a community center out of an old shack where they could share their fears and concerns about their dark, changing world. In an act of defiance and bravery, the children decided to create a newspaper to show the community their adventurous and creative spirit. The magazine “Klepy,” which means gossip, began on August 30, 1940 and included simply written stories, editorials, poetry, and artwork. Continuing over the next two years, 22 issues of the magazine were created and shared by villagers young and old. Unfortunately, in April 1942, the thousand Jews of Budejovic received orders of deportation. Most of the Jews were sent to the concentration camp of Terezin and later on to Auschwitz. John was one of the few to survive. He made his way to Canada, where he often thought about his childhood friends. With determination and a lot of luck, he was able to locate an old friend, Irena, who had actually saved copies of “Klepy.” John decided to donate the papers to the Jewish Museum in Prague in the hope that other children would be able to see the newspapers and learn from their history.
The Underground Reporters chronicles the lives of John Freund and his young friends with humor, strength, and honesty. Interspersed with black and white photographs, stories, and artwork from the newspapers is a riveting story of hope and courage. Recommended for ages 9 – 14.