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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Collegial Writing, September 27, 2010
This review is from: The Occupied Garden: A Family Memoir of War-Torn Holland (Hardcover)
"The Occupied Garden" by Kirsten Den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski
Subtitled: "A Family Memoir Of War-torn Holland"
St. Martin's Press, New York 2008

Two granddaughters, decades after the events, worked together to write the history of their grandparents, Gerrit and Cor den Hartog, and the impact of the War. The two writers, working together, were able to capture a more personal history of the effects of the Second World War on a small Dutch family, their forbears.

The story begins with the young Gerrit "flirting" with Cor as he flashes by in his expensive ice skates. He had special skates, long metal blades that locked on to black boots, "... fancier than the wooden tie-on kind". Cor was beautiful and her heavy blue coat "... was lovely with her eyes - blue like cornflowers". That was 1927. The book ends, decades later, with the two writers, the granddaughter s of Gerrit and Cor, looking for a stick, or something, to scrape the moss from the in-ground markers on the graves of Gerrit and Cor.

There is a brief chapter dealing with the combat experiences of Gerrit in the May 1940 debacle when the Dutch Army was routed by superior German forces and by confusion on the part of the Dutch command. Gerrit related how two Dutch forces were firing on each other until a bugle call identified one group as Dutch (and not German). At the nation's surrender, the Dutch gave up their weapons, which was greatly regretted in 1944.

The two writers were fairly even-handed in their descriptions of the German occupation and of the Allied bombing. The bombing went astray and critically wounded two den Hartog boys. Some of the book deals with their later rehabilitation in both the United Kingdom and in Canada.

Towards the end, the gardener, Gerrit, hands out a single potato, one by one, to Dutch citizens who were standing in a long line. The book documents the absolute insensitivity of the German occupiers to the cruelty of permitting young children and women to slowly, slowly, slowly starve to death. This heartlessness should be of no surprise to any student of World War II history, who would know that the overall policy of the German nation was to starve prisoners in concentration camps... places whose names have become curses. After September 1994, those occupied areas of The Netherlands, the Northern provinces, were transformed in all but name into an extra large concentration camp. German troops would jump out of a truck, grab Dutch men, shoot them dead and leave their bodies in a heap on a street corner. Fear was everywhere. People starved on the available rations. As the winter of 1944-1945 progressed, things got worse and the Germans under Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart, (1892-1946), still did nothing to help. The neutral Swedes offered to send shiploads of food to occupied Netherlands and the Reichskommissar delayed and delayed. How many people died due to this sin of omission?

For a more scholarly work, you can see "The Dutch Under German Occupation, 1940-1945" by Werner Warmbrunn, Stanford University Press, 1963. Or, take a look at: "The Hunger Winter" by Henri A. van der Zee. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1982.
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