Sunday, February 8, 2015

WW2 | Intro. Boissevains in the Dutch Resistance (Book Draft) Why This Book?

What was it like to live in a country occupied by Hitler?

What was it like to fight back against the Nazis?

These questions are hard-wired into my head.

As a pre-teen in Montreal in the late 1940s, I heard my mother, Hilda van Stockum Marlin (1908-2006) and grandmother, Olga Emily Boissevain van Stockum (1886-1949) talk for hours about the tragedies of their Dutch relatives - those who died in World War II and those who survived only to envy the dead.

When they didn't want me to understand, they talked about in Dutch. But the pain in their voices etched an even deeper track in my head because I couldn't understand what the words meant. Dozens of relatives and friends died during the war. My grandmother lost both of her sons, my mother lost both of her brothers.
  • Willem van Stockum (1910-1944) was the pilot of an RAF bomber shot down during the week of D-Day, and was buried in France. 
  • Jan van Stockum (1913-1947) contracted tuberculosis in a Dutch hospital during the occupation and died in Heiloo, Netherlands.
I gradually figured it out and was haunted by my inability to help - although now I see I had some value just being there, a stand-in for the two sons, the two brothers, who were gone.

Years later, my mother wrote two books about the Dutch Occupation, fictionalized and targeted to a young adult age group. The books were based on facts she learned through letters from her relatives in Holland and from personal recollections.

The Dutch Occupation

In the 1930s, Hitler came to power in Germany. Despite Holland's neutrality in World War I and its wish to be neutral in World War II, he invaded Holland in 1940 with no warning. The tiny Dutch army, and private citizens, fought furiously. They are credited with shooting down 500 German planes during the opening days of the war - a relative writes that this number is probably understated.

But the Queen left Holland for England on May 13 (Friedhoff, 27) and when the Nazis obliterated central Rotterdam the next day with bombs (Friedhoff, 29-30), and threatened to follow up with Utrecht, the Queen capitulated on May 15. Only Zeeland held out until it, too, was bombed.

The Boissevain and van Hall Families

The Boissevains and their friends early on decided to be unwelcome to a "Deutschland Über Alles" in their midst. As the Nazi Occupation of Holland continued, an increasing number of family members joined the Resistance and many paid for their involvement with their lives or the lives of their parents, siblings and children. They were subject to betrayal and execution - weekly, daily, hourly. The leaders within the Boissevain family were from all age groups, women as well as men, old as well as young.

At the start, however, there was a period of "Phony Peace" (Friedhoff, 60) for a few weeks before  Hitler's representative in Holland, Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart, began showing his hand. During this time some members of the extended family made mistakes, some fatal. For example, for tax-allocation purposes there were lists of residents by religion that in retrospect should have immediately been burned as the Nazis invaded. The SS seized these lists as soon as they could, a terrible blow for Jews in Holland because all of these addresses were systematically visited. Later,  the SS followed up with razzia roundups, neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house, so the lists only hastened the assembly of their deadly database.

From June 24 on, Seyss-Inquart proceeded to take away the rights of the occupied, one by one. With each new crackdown, the Resistance became more stubborn.

My mother told me of a Family Legend that Hitler said near the end of the war that "he should have exterminated all the Boissevains at the start of the Occupation of Holland". While when I first heard the story I was sure it was apocryphal, now I am now so sure. We know that Joseph Goebbels in his Diaries wrote confidently on September 8, 1943 that "Seyss-Inquart is a master in the art of alternating gingerbread with whippings" (Lochner). But later Goebbels admits:
The Führer expects the Anglo-American invasion attempt to come in the Netherlands. We are weakest there, and the population would be most inclined to give the necessary local support to such an undertaking. As everyone knows, the Dutch are the most insolent and obstreperous people in the entire world. (Lochner, 434.)
In the chapters that follow are prominent examples (parenthetical numbers preceded by NP are references to pages in the Nederland's Patriciaat 1988) of the people in the Boissevain and van Hall families who gave or risked their lives in pursuit of maximum insolence to Herr Hitler. The first chapter sets the stage on the close connections among the Boissevains and the van Halls and the clusters of houses in which they lived.

Sources for this Chapter

de Jong, Louis, The Netherlands and Nazi Germany, Erasmus Lectures, 1988 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press).

Friedhoff, Herman, Requiem for the Resistance (1988)

Lochner, ed., Joseph Goebbels Diaries.

Nederland's Patriciaat 1988

Other Chapters

The outline of the book with links to other chapters is here.

No comments:

Post a Comment