"After five years minus five days, the war was over, at least in Western Europe, and we were free."

In this descriptive and engaging memoir, Johan Zwaan details a Dutch boyhood during the globe’s most trying period: World War II. These sentimentally toned narratives lead readers through the streets of Gorinchem (Gorkum for short) and Dutch history, as well as the city’s ever-changing societal landscape that shifts under the occupancy of German armed forces. With a clarity that only experience can provide, the recollections in this book transport readers into homes destroyed by enemy forces, into Jewish families ruined and ended by undeniable evil and greed, and into one family’s survival that forever cemented their bonds. The author also examines his father’s heroic role in protecting Gorkum’s Jewish citizens through his Dutch Resistance connections and personal endeavors as a doctor. His father’s opposition to the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis knew no bounds, not even with multiple arrests and a barely mentioned three-month stint in a concentration camp.

This book becomes a must-read for those seeking inspirational narratives, especially during these catastrophic times, about good triumphing evil. In many of the recollections, subtle humor makes readers feel as though they are a member of the Zwaan family through a humor-as-coping-mechanism dynamic, particularly when the author recalls events such as his friends’ childhood stunts of stealing eggs from German soldiers, two Ukrainians smashing a horse cart through a window by which the family sits, and the author embarking on a variety of in-house science experiments after the war that spawns an in-church prank during catechism. Ultimately, these writings leave readers with a clearer understanding of daily life during World War II, which makes this book a distinctive, informative text about the importance of family, duty, and sacrifice that can benefit all who read it in these moments of societal questioning.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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