How One Family Saved Many From the Nazis
Groundwood Books
ISBN-13: 978-0-88899-791-3


A book about bravery in a difficult time.

BRAVE DEEDS How One Family Saved Many From the Nazis, features Frans and Mies Braal. During the last year of World War II the Nazis no longer allowed transportation of food and fuel in Holland. The result was the Dutch Hunger Winter. Many people died of exposure and starvation. During this difficult time, Frans and Mies hid twenty-six people in a vacation home on the island of Voorne. The group included Jews, a downed Canadian airman, starving children and others hiding from the Nazis.


BRAVE DEEDS became a 2009 Silver Birch Award Honour Book, a 2010 Golden Oak Award Honour Book and was also nominated for the Chocolate Lily Award. Previously, it became the 2009 Silver Birch Award Honour Book and was chosen by Resource Links as one of the best books of nonfiction for young people written in Canada in 2008.

BRAVE DEEDS was chosen by Bank Street College, (New York) as one of the best children's books of the year.



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Philip Pochailo, a Canadian Airman whose plane had been shot down, hid at the Braals' for seven months during a very dangerous time.

The Braals moved from their cozy home in town to a children's camp out in the country. The children's camp was on the island of Voorne.


Once they had a lot of room with dorms, and they realized that the Nazis could only execute them once for hiding people, they took in a lot of others who were hiding from the Nazis.

Peter Oppenheimer was a thirteen-year-old Jew who stayed with the Braals until the end of the war.  This is one of the few pictures taken of Peter during the war years.  Dutch Jews were also persecuted by the Nazis.  Peter's father was sent to a concentration camp.

Mies Braal made sure special occasions were celebrated and everyone took part in traditional Dutch activities such as dances and songs. They led a dangerous life, but they cared more about keeping everyone safe than about their own well being.

The children's camp had wonderful opportunities for the thirteen children to play, explore and have fun when the Nazis weren't around.

The Braals put on skits at times.










Frans and Mies survived this dangerous time and immigrated to the USA in 1957. Eventually, in 1969, they moved to the West Kootenays in British Columbia and built a house in the mountains. This is where Ann met Mies, who was her neighbour. Ann visited every week and she and Mies talked to each other in Dutch. By this time Frans was in a seniors' home with dementia.

The story came out little by little and finally, after getting permission from Mies, Ann wrote BRAVE DEEDS.

The book was Published by Groundwood Books in 2008, has become a 2009 Silver Birch Award Honour Book, and was chosen by Resource Links as "one of the best books of nonfiction for young people" written in Canada in 2008.  Have a look at what reviewers said about BRAVE DEEDS

Listen to a 12min CBC interview with North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

For many more picture of the Braals and the other people at the summer camp and the whole story of how Frans and Mies hid, fed and cared for these people during an extremely cold and dangerous winter read BRAVE DEEDS, How One Family Saved Many From the Nazis.



Ann has many additional stories, pictures, a tape with snippets of Mies Braal telling her story, and Dutch keepsakes from the war to show to audiences when she does her school or library visits. (See "Presentations")


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If you have already read this incredible story you may wonder how to make poffert. Here is the recipe for Dutch poffert, (from Ann's mother's very old Dutch cookbook) to eat while you read another good book, like one of the ones from the suggested reading list in the back of BRAVE DEEDS.


"Poffert is een oud gerecht dat niet te versmaden is"

Poffert, also called Jan in de Zak (Jan in the bag)
2½ cups (250grams) all purpose flour    1 egg
1 cup (¼ liter) warm milk    ½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons (15 grams) yeast    ½ cup (50 grams) raisins
½ cup (50 grams) currents  
In a bowl mix the salt with the flour. Make a hollow in the middle and break the eggs into it. Add half of the warm milk and the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon from the middle, gradually adding a little more flour into the dough. Bit by bit add the rest of the milk and continue stirring. Make a smooth dough. Cover and set to rise in a damp, warm place for one hour. (Behind the stove, out of reach of pets and small children, or on the laundry rack are ideal places.)

Knead in the raisins and currants.

Dampen a cotton or linen bag with warm water. (A tea towel with the corners tied together will work.) Sprinkle the bag lightly on the inside with flour. Add the ball of dough and close the bag at the top, leaving enough room for the poffert to rise.

Pour warm water into a large cooking pot. Place a plate upside-down on the bottom of the pot. Place the bag with dough on the plate, making sure the dough is covered with water. Add extra water because the dough will rise. Simmer for 1 to 1½ hours, until, when you poke a broom straw in, it comes out clean.

Cut the poffert in slices and eat with butter and warm syrup, or brown sugar.

Enjoy the poffert and the book. And if you have already read BRAVE DEEDS you know why this picture is at the end of this section.


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