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Woodslane Catalogues

A Boyhood Under Nazi Occupation

The Personal Story of Jan Duijvestein
The power of these first-hand and well-illustrated recollections about a boyhood in occupied Holland lies in their extraordinary ordinariness. / As the fourth child of a large Catholic family in The Hague, Jan was spared the horrors of true persecution by the Nazis. Yet his detailed memories of deprivation and dread vividly conjure up the harshness of Dutch life under Hitler's cruel rule. / Young Jan was roughly Anne Frank's age during the war. Published here for the first time, his wartime memories preserve yet another child witness to adult injustice. Touching and surprisingly witty, his stories demonstrate how danger and domesticity go hand-in-hand during wartime. / Jan was fortunate to survive the war. Born in 1931, he only died in 2019. / As a boy, he was able to slip past the Nazi occupiers unnoticed and unharmed, often running errands for adults who dare not show themselves, joining a hidden resistance. This is how Jan comes into brief contact with some of the war's heroes and villains. By chance, his after-school job as an apprentice-baker placed him at the side of a prominent member of the Resistance--while a random schoolyard spat with a bully brings him to the headmaster's office to face the boy's Nazi father, the Dutch leader of Germany's largest counter-intelligence programme. / For students of this important moment in history, each nail-biting recollection introduces features of the occupation with a disarming matter-of-factness: food coupons, bombardments, people forced to go into hiding, the constant search for food, the lack of electric light, curfews, coats sewn from blankets, and secret radio programs.
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