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The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland 1944-1945 Paperback – November 1, 1998
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From the Back Cover
That last winter of the war, with its severe food and fuel shortages, was a terrible one for the Dutch people, who also suffered from episodes of Nazi terrorism. In some provinces there was nothing to eat but tulip bulbs and sugar beets, and eighteen thousand Dutch civilians actually starved to death. Henri van der Zee, who was ten years old that winter, remembers what happened to his people.
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Top Customer Reviews
University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1982.
This book is written in understated prose. Atrocities, shootings, retaliation arrests and slow starvation are all described in a matter-of-fact, quiet writing. The author, Henri A. van der Zee, was a Dutch boy of eleven years during much of the events recorded here. As brief as it is, the book is a fairly complete documentation of the struggle of the Dutch nation in the last winter of World War II. In September 1944, the great airborne assault, "Market Garden", failed at the last bridge before Germany. Hopes of the Dutch for a quick and easy liberation were dashed. The Dutch hopes were replaced by the despair of drawn-out starvation, mainly due to the inhumane actions and inactions of the German occupiers.
Since the author, Henri A. van der Zee, actually lived through this "hunger winter", the book is filled with his personal reflections. But these personal reflections are interspersed through a substantially complete history of the times. The author describes attempts to cook both sugar beets and tulip bulbs to make these "vegetables" palatable to the starving Dutch children. He also describes their taste. The author spends a substantial portion of the book on the Dutch royal family, and how they tried, as best they could, to alleviate the suffering of their Dutch people. Queen Wilhelmina is the central character in that "governmental" aspect of the period, with good mention of the Dutch Prime Minister, Peter S. Gerbrandy. Winston Churchill called Gerbrandy, "Mr. Cherry Brandy", (p.35).Read more ›
The author lived through the experience, so his observations carry weight. The activities of all segments of Dutch society, from home grown Nazis to the Royal family, are found in these pages. And one can imagine the thrill at the end when victory was certain. No attempt is made to make heroes of the entire country. Many acted out of pure cowardice, greed or stupidity. I was impressed by how open the writer was on these matters.
I would have preferred a bit more 'hunger' from the book though. Who starved and why? What areas of the country were worst affected? Van Der Zee gives us an interesting history of Holland in the last year of the war, but the famine gets somewhat short billing. Still an all around good work on a subject rarely explored in English.