E/96: Fate Undecided

The son of a diamond merchant in Antwerp’s famous diamond exchange, Paul-Henri Rips was ten years old when the Nazis invaded Belgium in May 1940 and ended what he calls his “golden childhood” forever. Vividly told from a child’s perspective, this fascinating account explores the diverse inhabitants of Belgium and France during the Nazi occupation and the experiences of one family against the backdrop of large-scale events. Guided throughout by his father’s words of wisdom – “A klapt vargayt, a wort bestayt” (A blow will go away again, but a word lasts forever) and “Sei a mensch” (Be a decent human being) – Rips conveys his unwavering belief in the importance of holding on to one’s own humanity in the face of unfathomable inhumanity.

Introduction by Mark Webber and Naomi Azrieli

At a Glance
Belgium; France
Deportations and roundups
Hidden child
Internment and transit camps
Wartime documents
Arrived in Canada in 1997

160 pages, including index

2009 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal

Recommended Ages

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Photo of Paul-Henri Rips

About the author

Paul-Henri Rips was born in 1929 in Antwerp, Belgium. He left Antwerp in 1950 and moved to the Belgian Congo and then to South Africa, where he married his wife, Lily. In 1997, the couple immigrated to Toronto to join their children and grandchildren. Paul-Henri Rips passed away in 2023.

“Don’t move. Don’t open the door.” My knees had turned to jelly and I was trembling uncontrollably…. Sina grabbed her raincoat and declared, “I’m leaving. They’ll be back and I don’t want to end up in a camp.”