Winter in Wartime

In Nazi-occupied Holland, the business of surviving took so much time that many children were left to their own devices.  Fifteen-year-old Michiel would rather be in school, but it was too dangerous to cross the river, between the Nazi soldiers looking for strong men and boys to send back to Germany to work in the factories and the Allied planes patrolling the skies, roads and rivers of Holland.

So Michiel does his best to add to the family food coffers, raising rabbits, bartering with farmers and helping travelers on the road, earning a quite a few guilders.  The Nazis arrest his friend, Dirk, after an attempted raid on the local ration office.  Michiel learns that his friend was hiding a British pilot – and is determined to help.

Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw was originally written in Dutch, and the writing in the English translation feels somewhat stilted.  But Michiel’s story is so fascinating that most readers won’t notice it.

This book gives great insight into life in Holland the final winter of Nazi occupation – its horrors, betrayals, and difficulties.  It also highlights the courage of the ordinary Dutch to continue despite the occupation and to fight the Nazis in their own way.  It also illustrates how several seemingly insignificant actions lead to horrible consequences.

Highly recommended for children 12 and up.

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