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THE OCCUPIED GARDEN by Kristen den Hartog


A Family Memoir of War-Torn Holland

by Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski

Pub Date: April 28th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-56157-4
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Canadian novelist den Hartog (Origin of Haloes, 2005, etc.) and her older sister Kasaboski re-create the Nazi occupation of their grandparents’ homeland.

The authors alternate their personal history of grandparents Cor (short for Cornelia) and Gerrit den Hartog, who lived in a small farming town outside of The Hague, with events in the life of the royal Dutch family. They focus specifically on Queen Wilhelmina, who fled to London when the Nazis invaded on May 13, 1940, and subsequently broadcast in exile over Radio Oranje. Gerrit and Cor operated a garden in Leidschendam and were raising their growing family when the Nazis arrived, an invasion that was mild at first but grew more stringent as the Dutch proved increasingly intransigent in the face of crackdown. Gerrit, a veteran in his 30s, was mobilized for a hasty, ill-prepared resistance by the Dutch army—though after the devastating German bombardment of Rotterdam, the country, at Wilhelmina’s command, surrendered. The authors’ alternating micro/macro viewpoint is thoroughly effective in portraying an entire country in the throes of war. Rationing, round-ups of Jews, arbitrary raids for available men and labor, bombings and random acts of violence by Nazi soldiers became the norm. The authors depict the infamous collaboration of the treasonous socialist Anton Mussert, as well as countless heroic moments by local people who harbored Jews and other refugees. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina sent heartening missives from exile, while her daughter, Juliana, who eventually took over the throne, and granddaughters were safely ensconced in Ottawa, Canada.

A full-bodied, moving story of a battered populace that refused to be annihilated.