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A family’s testament of endurance in occupied Amsterdam

27th January 2021

War and Love by Melanie Martin – a family’s testament of endurance in occupied Amsterdam.

A family's testament of endurance in occupied Netherlands

I read this book over two days and on the third day booked a trip to Amsterdam so that I could retrace the places mentioned” (Tim R, Amazon reviewer)

The author has gone to extraordinary lengths to research and compile her family history during the WW2 occupation of Amsterdam. She offers a short foreward and guide to her family members, listing their place within the family. The fuller visual family tree is listed at the back. As the book progresses the people find their own voices and narratives and family relationships become clear.

WW2: She charts the personal effect the restrictions had on various family members and their own experiences of living in a besieged city, how normal life still happened – Kitty and Maurice got married in January 1941, right down to recording Kitty’s memory of catching the hem of her dress on her heel (that signifies bad luck in Holland). In February the Germans descended on a Jewish market and took many boys in their early twenties who were transferred to Mauthausen. From that point on, the fate of those people taken away became acutely known and then became a reality for the author’s own family. By 1942 special groups had already been formed to search out Jews for transportation, as it was correctly surmised there were many still in hiding. And of course one can reference Anne Frank and her memoirs The Diary of a Young Girl.

By April 1941 every Dutch person had to carry personal ID, a new feature imposed on a people who had never previously had to do that.

Tootje (the author’s mother) was taken to Westerbork. She spent 4 1/2 months there and the author records that right into late old age, the memories of that time remained scored into her consciousness.  The author details the nature of the camps to which so many were transported, including, of course, her own family members. Liesje (the author’s aunt and to whom the book is dedicated) ended up in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Nico (Liesje’s husband) was forced to play music as the prisoners were forced to march to and from work. Little details like that make the whole narrative very personal.

The author has clearly carried out extensive and painstaking research with passion and dedication. She shares the details of her discoveries and also includes transcripts of conversations and first person points of view which make this such a personal record of her family. There are also plenty of photos from the time, both of family members and get-togethers and more general, which add even more dimension to the narrative.

At the end of the book, she has a roll call for the 41 family members who lost their lives as prisoners, which of course is a very sobering way to end.

This is a pertinent reminder of the evils in the world, and this collection of experience and memory will be a wonderful record for the family to have in their possession for generations to come.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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