Wartime Journals

I love reading survival stories from World War II in Europe. It intrigues me how people can come out of horrific situations and “live to tell about it”. The oppression and suffering that millions faced have been passed down to people of my generation who hear these stories orally, or through books.

Many books have been written about WWII experiences, and whenever I see a new one at my library, I always take it out and read that too. No too stories are exactly alike, and the resilience and creativity of the human spirit to survive is an amazing thing. That anything good can come out of these terrible situations is for me a compelling reason for the existence of God.

It is also interesting that there are still “new” stories being published about wartime experiences. Even though the war ended over 50 years ago, people today still find an interest in old papers and photographs. Many old stories that are newly published are based on people’s journals of their experiences. Some journals were kept during the war, which is truly remarkable given the threat of punishment if these were found, and also the scarcity of writing materials. Other journals were recorded later on, as a memorial to things that happened that should never be forgotten.

I think writers- journalers- have courage to be able to make their thoughts and impressions tangible through the written word. I thank these people for revealing to us a world I never would have known about.

I think also of my great-grandfather , Arie Jacob Holleman (1863-1950), who wrote a journal during the last year of the war. Although I cannot read it since it is entirely in Dutch, it is a very special thing to see his handwriting, knowing that he felt compelled enough to write it all down. My father has orally translated some of it for me so that I can understand, and we are working on having the entire thing translated and put into writing. (I did plug it into Google translator to get the gist of what he was writing about, but there are some big glitches that don’t make sense).

Arie Jacob wrote about the price of food and about bodies in the street. He wrote about the church and the liberation. He wrote about hiding his pocket-watch for fear of theft from the Germans. He was 82 years old when Holland was liberated.

Little did my great grandfather know that one day his great granddaughter would blog about his journal! And I thank him for it.

For all you writers out there- published or private- never forget the influence that your words can have.

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