The Big War: A Pocket Full of Seeds by Marilyn Sachs
As Nicole Nieman walks home for lunch, her thoughts are with her friend Francoise, who had fled during the night for fear of being picked up by the Nazi soldiers rounding up Jews. Nicole enters her home to find it empty, a cut-glass pitcher broken on the floor, and her parents' room ransacked. A neighbor fearfully approaches.
"Nicole," said Mme. Barras, "you have to get away. You can't stay here. They were looking for you, too. How lucky you were that you were not home. But go now! Don't stay! They are coming back!"
At first the Niemans believe that the Germans, who occupy all but the southern part of France, will not come to Aix-le-Bains, in theory under the control of the Italian forces after the invasion of France. Nevertheless, a steady stream of Jewish refugees passes through on the way to the Swiss border, and her parents and other members of the Resistance give them temporary shelter in their homes. But when the Italians surrender to the American forces, the Nazis move ever closer and their arrest of French Jews escalates, even in Aix-le-Bains. Now Mama and Papa and little Jacqueline have been taken and Nicole is on her own.
Grabbing her bike, Nicole rides into the countryside to ask for help with a family who had cared for her when her parents were working abroad, but although her French friends kindly give her food and temporary refuge, all are too afraid of the Germans to let her stay. With no place left to turn, under cover of night Nicole goes back to her school to sleep fitfully in the entryway. Amazingly, the Headmistress Mme. LeGrand, a suspected German sympathizer, takes her in and hides her among her boarding school students with falsified papers. Grateful, but still in despair, Nicole is moved to turn herself in to the Germans in the hope of being reunited with her parents. Then a woman released by the Nazis gives her a message from her mother:
"Your mother said that she loves you very much and has faith that you will always do the right thing."
"She said that?"
"Yes, and there was one more thing.... That you must not get caught. She said that whatever suffering lies ahead for them, she and your father could bear up as long as they knew you were safe. She said knowing that you were safe would keep them going, and that they would come back to you as soon as they could."
Marilyn Sachs' A Pocket Full of Seeds offers a snapshot of one Jewish family and their struggle to remain free as the tide of war turns. Many are taken and some are lost, but hope, like a pocket full of seeds in winter, lives within those who survive.