Girl In The Blue Coat | Teen Ink

Girl In The Blue Coat

February 5, 2019
By DolphinGirl1 GOLD, Sussex, Wisconsin
DolphinGirl1 GOLD, Sussex, Wisconsin
13 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Imagine a teenage girl with little or no food or clothes during a bitter cold winter. That is what Hanneke Bakker’s life was like every day; a fight to even survive in her job as a black market worker. She had to take care of her parents who were unable to find jobs anywhere in Nazi occupied Amsterdam. Throughout the book, Hanneke encountered many dangerous and scary situations.  Hanneke knew if she got caught as a black market worker the consequence was to be shot. She did the same thing every time she was stopped; she would lie, flirt, and get away as fast as she could riding an old bike. Through her black market work, the girl who Hanneke went to find was named Mirjam Roodveldt, who stayed alive by running from her first hiding place when she heard gunshots. Mirjam was full of ideas about what she would do after the war now that all the rest of her family was dead because of the Nazi supporters or NSB.

Hanneke was a black marker worker because she wanted to afford things she needed to survive that were in decent condition. She wanted to buy food, clothes, and equipment to repair her bike when it broke because it was really old. Black market work was illegal, but it was an efficient way to get expensive or scarce goods at lower prices and better quality; for example, real coffee or tea was extremely hard or impossible to get unless you got it through the black market. When people asked Hanneke why she was a black market worker, she replied, “ Survival first. That’s my war motto” (Hesse, 2017, pg. 25). Hanneke thought of her job as a small act of rebellion against the Nazi’s, but every once in a while she was questioned. Hanneke was willing to be in danger to preserve herself in the midst of a war.

Hanneke would use her extra money to help her parents. When she had finished buying her own food and clothes, Hanneke would use the rest on her parents to purchase sausage, potatoes and parsnips. She helped her parents survive by buying them the necessary things to survive, because they didn't have jobs and couldn’t afford what they needed. “If Papa and Mama left the house more, they would probably start to question what exactly it is that I do to bring home so much food” (Hesse, 2017, pg. 31). She tried to keep her job a secret because her job could get them all deported or killed. Every time she was stopped by a soldier she lied and ran away to protect her family. She was demonstrating self preservation by taking care of herself and her parents.

In order to keep herself alive, Hanneke would lie to soldiers and her family and friends to stay undercover. For example, a soldier stopped her on her way home because she was carrying a lot of packages, mostly for other clients from the black market. It was almost 12:15 p.m., the time when she needed to be home for lunch. “I was mostly telling the truth about the packages… But underneath the potatoes are four coupons’ worth of sausages, bought with a dead man’s rations” (Hesse, 2017, pg. 8). She lied to her mother about what she had been doing, and after lunch returned to Mrs. Janssen’s house to ask her about the day when Mirjam ran away from  Mrs. Janssen’s. She lied about what was in her packages to get out of dangerous situations, stating that some of them needed to be delivered. She lied in order to keep her and her family alive.

Hanneke was asked to find a Jewish girl named Mirjam, who was in hiding because she was in danger. The rest of Mirjam’s family died because the original hiding place was raided by Nazi soldiers and they were shot because her dad tried to fight. Mirjam alone survived because she was in the furniture store bathroom and the soldiers didn’t find her. Mirjam ran when she heard the gunshots.When Mrs. Janssen told Hanneke how Mirjam came to her, she said, “Mirjam had just gone into (the bathroom) to get ready for bed when the Nazis came, and she ran out the front door (of the furniture store) when she heard the gunshots, to the closest safe place she could think of “ (Hesse, 2017, pg. 22). She ran away from her second hiding place to find her boyfriend because she was desperate to flee Amsterdam. She thought she would live if she got far away from Amsterdam.

Mirjam was motivated to survive because she wanted to have children when the war was over. Hanneke felt bad for her because she had simple wishes which were taken away from Mirjam because of the Nazis. Mina, Mirjam’s friend, told Hanneke that Mirjam wanted a simple life and had simple wishes. Hanneke sadly admitted to herself afterward, “I know what it’s like, to have modest, simple wishes, and then have even those taken away from you” (Hesse, 2017  , pg.114). She wanted to live because she wanted to have a child in the future. Mirjam’s desire to complete this goal kept her going and not to just give up on life.

In the book, “Girl in the Blue Coat” Mirjam and Hanneke learned to preserve themselves even if it meant that others would die. Hanneke tried to preserve herself by lying to soldiers, protecting herself to stay alive for her parents. She did this by working in the black market illegally. Mirjam hid and ran away to a different place when she heard gunshots. Her dreams of the future helped her to get through the war. Both girls engaged in these dangerous behaviors because they wanted to live and survive World War II.

The author's comments:


Hesse, M. (2017). Girl in the blue coat. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

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