Life in Holland During the Nazi Occupation of the Second World War
In May of 1940, Holland was invaded and occupied by the German army. Life was never easy during the Nazi regime. Travel was strictly controlled and a curfew was imposed on the towns. Arbitrary arrest was a constant threat for the people, as was forced labour. All attempts by the Nazis and their collaborators in the Dutch Nazi Party to 'pacify, ' or 'nazify', the people were failures, thanks largely to Dutch social cohesion, and an active underground press. The Mollens, a family of nine, lived in Arnhem, where the father owned a garage and was employed by the authorities to service their vehicles. The Mollens had to cooperate, perforce, but swore never to collaborate with the occupying forces. Survival hinged on a battle of wits with the Germans-and our family usually came out on top. Their most harrowing experience was witnessing the brutal arrest of their Jewish neighbours. All changed after the failure of the battle of Arnhem in September 1944. The entire civilian population of the city and surrounding towns were driven out of their homes at a few hours' notice, and left to find shelter on their own, taking only what they could carry. After three days of walking, the Mollen family found a farmer who allowed them to stay in his empty barn; this was their new 'home' for the last eight months of the war. The Barn narrates the ordeals of the Mollen family during the invasion and occupation of the Netherlands. Mere survival during this time became increasingly difficult, notably during the winter of 1944-1945, which became known as the "Hunger Winter." As food and fuel became more and more scarce, the Mollen family survived on turnips, beets and acorns. They had kept their secret radio, which was hooked up to a Gestapo power line. It afforded them vital information from the BBC about the military situation, which enabled them to taunt the Germans, albeit at risk to their lives. Living through this ordeal called for great ingenuity and humour. We follow the two youngest Mollens who carried out a daring plan to 'liberate' some of their country's stolen coal from a moving train at night; and how the youngest Mollen girl had to have an abscessed tooth extracted without freezing. Written from interviews with members of the Mollen family, the author brings both personal and historical events to the reader in part memoir and part narrative styles. The scenes of their liberation and of the post-liberation events are of an interest equal to their wartime survival, as is their eventual return home to an empty shell of a house.