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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Dancing on the Bridge of Avignon
by Ida Vos
Age Range: 12+
Set in Rijswijk, Holland, 1942 under the Nazi occupation, ten-year-old Rosa de Jong lives with her parents and younger sister Silvie. As the Nazis impose anti-Jewish regulations and the deportations begin, Rosa’s refuge is to curl up in a chair lost in daydreams of how life used to be. Together with her sister they memorize the dates of all the Nazi restrictions and constantly quiz each other about them because they are so afraid they might accidentally forget and sit on a park bench, enter a library, or go swimming.
Rosa is a talented violinist and although she can no longer go to school she still has her violin lessons with old Mr Goldstein. She tries to lead a ‘normal’ life, surrounded by loving family and friends; playing her violin and to have hope despite the fact that she now shakes whenever the doorbell rings.
Rosa's uncle Sander appears to offer the family a solution when he tells them that he has saved the life of a German officer, and in gratitude he has been granted papers for a ‘safe passage’ to Vichy France for himself and nine other people. The girls excitedly begin to learn French words and songs while their father recognizes that the plan is almost certainly a fantasy. In a stark, shattering conclusion, the family are arrested during the next round up of the Jews. It is Rosa’s violin that carries her through the story, and in the end it saves her life.
As with other Ida Vos stories, this is also told in the present tense from the point of view of a child. Although the author’s own wartime experiences provided much of the background, the story is not inspired by actual fact, but by a rumour. The ‘Weinreb list’, as it became known, was a rumoured list of people who were to be provided with papers that allowed them to leave Holland for the South of France. It was never clear whether the list was genuine or not.