"A rare historical treasure that tells the riveting story of a Dutch family's survival in World War
-Melanie Wiggins, author of Torpedoes in the
Gulf, Fatal Ascent, U-Boat Adventures, and They Made Their
In May 1940, fourteen-year-old Johanna de
Wilde was just like any other teenage girl in Nijmegen,
Holland, who loved boys and music, but when Hitler and his
German troops invaded her town during World War II, her life was changed forever.
As bombs exploded around her house, Johanna was encouraged by her father to document their large family's struggles to survive as they desperately searched for food; fearfully hid Jewish friends;
and bravely endured SS brutality, Gestapo searches, and resistance activities. Johanna shares how she was forced to write secretly and keep the pages of her diary well-hidden to avoid discovery by the Gestapo who would have surely shot her father and sent the rest of the family to concentration camps as punishment.
As her town became the focal point of the huge Allied invasion, Operation Market Garden,
Johanna provides an in-depth glimpse into how teenagers behaved during a traumatic time in history as they searched for excitement, danced and romanced, and played tricks on the enemy in order to offset hunger, earsplitting noise, and privation that persisted for five long years.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.42(d)|
About the Author
Netherlands and, after World War II, immigrated to the
United States. After attending several colleges, Wycoff became a ceramic expert and has lectured on antiques and the evolution of pottery. She currently lives in League
City, Texas, where she is a member of the Galveston
County Historical Commission.
Read an Excerpt
Dancing in Bomb Shelters: My Diary of Holland in World War II
By Johanna Wycoff
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Johanna Wycoff
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePart One Bombs and Bras
Monday, May 13, 1940
I will write down the crazy things that have happened in the last few days. On May 10, 1940, the long-expected war with Germany started, when the Germans invaded Holland. Around 4:00 am we were wakened by a tremendous noise. At first I thought we were hearing a weird thunderstorm, then Father came running up the stairs into our bedrooms and rushed us into our small vegetable cellar between the vats of sauerkraut, beans, potatoes, etc. There was little room for us all. It felt as if thousands of planes came roaring over, and we heard bombs fall. Minutes later there was a tremendous explosion (we found out later that the bridge at Brakkenstein Street had been blown up by the Dutch military); a moment afterward, another deafening explosion occurred, probably the Waal traffic bridge, which had the longest span in Europe. I don't know if they succeeded. They did it so the Germans could not move quickly through Holland's waterways.
Tuesday, May 21, 1940
The Germans emptied all the Dutch warehouses and stole everything. It's a good thing that the Dutch people have stashed away all kinds of imported foods like coffee, teas, rice, and oils, knowing that once the Germans invaded us, those goods would be impossible to find. Mother hired a welder, who made tin cans for these products to keep the mice out and to keep them fresh. Mother went today to our grocery store to see if there was anything left for her big family, but the enemy had also emptied our shops. They are now picking up the Dutch scientists and inventors and are shipping them to Berlin. Our Queen Wilhelmina was apparently tipped off about the invasion, because she is in London now with some of the main Dutch treasures, such as the golden coach and Rembrandt paintings. The most terrible thing that has happened so far is Germans shooting at the long lines of people fleeing the war scenes and killing innocent civilians at Breda and in Belgium. I hope God will let these murderers rot in hell.
Tuesday, May 28, 1940
Amid all this warfare, mother gave birth to her twelfth child at the age of forty-five. The baby was born in our house. I did not know Mother was expecting; no one had told me. Elly, the new baby, is beautiful.
We now know that at the Grebbeberg defensive line alone, eight thousand Dutch military died. Hitler wanted to go to England within a half-day of fighting in Holland. Instead, the Dutch fought for five days and nights. He then bombarded the port city of Rotterdam, and ten thousand innocent people died. Other cities were to follow. Our brave General Winkelman had to capitulate to save the civilians. Word is out that he died in a concentration camp or was murdered. Word is also out that our Marines are still fighting around Rotterdam, and the ones that ran out of artillery or ammunition are killing the Germans by hand. They won't give up.
Tuesday, August 25, 1942 [Two years later]
I am now sixteen years old. I started this at fourteen, but I can't find the rest of the missing diary pages. Maybe Mother threw them out in case the Gestapo should find them while looking for Jews hiding in our house. We have already had a house search. Today I have decided to restart this diary. I don't know how long it will last, but I will try. The important thing is to find a good hiding place for it. Paper can be like a friend you can trust. It has no tongue and will not talk.
Friday, September 4, 1942
Even though nothing big has happened, I feel like writing. It seems that all the schools in Nijmegen are occupied by German troops with their warfare equipment. I guess I should feel myself lucky that the nuns from the Johanna de l'Estonac High School are continuing my education. How I wish they could give me training in journalism, but because of this sick war, I'm told to study everything related to office work. It's more appropriate for the time we live in, I'm told. I hate this dumb war. Nutty adults like Hitler become power-happy, never thinking how young people feel-they don't count. Pigs! Anyway, my new course is called Dutch Trade Laws, Rights, and Correspondence. I really don't know if it's worth it to study during this idiot war. There is a great chance I can die any time, so why in the world am I wasting my time to even study? It makes no sense to me. Nobody can really study on an empty stomach. There is so little to eat. We are getting food coupons, but what good are the coupons if there is no food? We are now down to one slice of bread in the morning, two at night, and some fat-free, thinned porridge. There is no butter, oil, or fat left to cook with.
I went with Wim Bardolf to the movies. So much time is wasted getting through the German war propaganda before we see a movie. I don't understand why so many of my friends want to go steady. Nothing like this interests me at the moment. Maybe in eight years from now, if I'm still alive. I wish I had a nice dress appropriate for my age.
Old Saar Hendriks is such a sweet person. Today when I came in to the office, I found a beautiful impatiens plant on my desk. When I thanked her she said, "The plant is named after you. You are beautiful and impatient." I didn't know what to say.
I better lock all the doors tight. We are listening to Radio Holland from London, and if the Germans catch us listening to London, Father will be shot. We are supposed to bring the Germans all our radios. This is one of the many new rules. Every day they come up with another rule. Grada has hidden her radio in Opoe's [our grandmother's] house in Arnhem. Yesterday I hid this book behind the rice cans that mother had stashed away before the war started, but Wim was spying on me, and I don't know yet of another hiding place.
Saturday, September 5, 1942
Life is miserable. Every day the same things. People get shot resisting this regime, bombs and planes are falling, people dying, no food, no teenage clothing, no bras, no freedom. I can't always steal the old bras left in the linen closet from my older sisters. They are looking for the old stuff themselves now. I guess they don't realize that since the war started, I now need a bra.
Mien, Josie, and I are not talking to each other. We had a big argument about whose turn it was to make the coffee for Father and Mother when they returned from church. By the time they came home, none of us had set the table or had the coffee ready. They were mad at us and wondered why they had produced such lazy daughters. We were supposed to count eighteen coffee beans and put them through the coffee mill, which makes enough for their two cups. This drama will soon be over, since there is little coffee left from before the war. We will have to use the substitute brown beans, which they burn to look like coffee. This is another Nazi brainstorm like the phony tea tablets they dreamed up, due to lack of imports.
I feel depressed and empty. What a rotten time to be a teenager. I'm glad I have this book.
Sunday, September 13, 1942
Josie and I went to our Ping-Pong Club last night and had a great time. There was a Hawaiian-type group, sneakily singing American songs. The Germans won't allow us to sing or speak English in public. I wonder how long we will be able to meet in Hans Termeer's basement before someone squeals on us and the Gestapo drops in. We teach each other how to dance the blues and jazz, and we plan our tricks against the enemy. Thank God the entrance is behind Hans's house in this weird prostitutes' lane. The prostitutes won't squeal.
When we left the place, there was the meanest thunderstorm I have ever witnessed. Because of the blackout there were no lights, and we had to wait for the lightning before we could cross the street and find our way home, some thirty minutes later than usual and nervous about Mother worrying. Everyone is in a bad mood. People have no patience left, not only at home but everywhere. Too much war damage, and no one gets enough sleep. Most every night there are air raids, and we are sitting up for hours when all the Allied planes with their bombs come over to bomb Germany. We are always worrying where the planes that are shot will drop their bombs or explode. It's the same in the office of Willem Smit [transformer factory], where I work. So many people sleep in cellars; and when I look at them, they begin to look like cellar bugs.
Saturday, October 3, 1942
I have not written for a long time. I have so little time. I work nine hours a day, go to the cloister and study with Mère Josephine, come home, eat, study some more, and do my tap dance and ballet lessons. Thank God we are planning a "pretend" party with some of the boys. They are trying to find something to eat and drink, if they can get it on the black market. Josie will present her tap dancing and I will sing. It seems that Mientje has trouble with her kidneys and needs help. Hope it's nothing serious. No more time.
Sunday, November 15, 1942
The war situation is turning for the better. The Allied troops are winning in Africa. The better it goes for them, the worse it's going here. The Germans know we hate them, and the Gestapo is snooping more and more, and they listen everywhere for someone to say anything against them, whether it's in the churches, theaters, trams, trains, or workplaces. They are everywhere.
I'm happy that I know all the different dance steps. We practiced at the club, and I became a member of the St. Teresa organization. It costs me fifty cents per year. I think I can afford this. Have lots of studies.
Monday, November 23, 1942
Hitler is not happy with General Rommel. He was called back from Africa and is in Munich now. Stalingrad is freed from the Germans, and the Russians are winning on all fronts. Wonderful news!
In the office, Mr. Nolen gave me this amazing four-color pencil, one that I have never seen before. Elly wants the pencil and keeps bugging me. There is so little we can give her. She is a real war baby. She cries almost every night during the air raids. What is hilarious, we taught her tap dancing, and she can sing all the popular songs. I think we created some kind of little movie star.
My birthday is in two days, and I will be seventeen. I don't think there will be gifts. There is nothing to buy.
Sunday, November 29, 1942 Seventeen years old
Hello to me,
My birthday has passed, and, to my surprise, Father gave me a gold ring that he must have bought on the black market, and Mother gave me a purse. I got my first wartime lipstick and facial powder, and now I don't have to steal it from Rieky. I only wish I could get a bra, but that seems impossible.
It's getting worse for the German Reich. They are losing! Ha-ha.
I'm not going to the office today or the nun's cloister. I still have such a pain in my waist. No use seeing a doctor. They are too busy helping the wounded and dying. Pretty soon I do have to take my big exam.
Tuesday, December 15, 1942
Today is Rieky's birthday, and all I could give her were three apples. I went on my bike with the rotten tires to Ewijk with [brother-in-law] Frans. We had to pass over the canal, where the German guards stopped us and inspected our bags to see if we had any food in them. I guess they may be getting hungry themselves. These idiots.
Frans took some pots and pans with holes in them from the stupid farmers, with a promise to fix them in return for apples or a piece of bread, or whatever food they had. I hate the farmers as much as I hate the Germans. I find the farmers' wives worse than their men. Every time a farmer feels sorry for me and gives me a few things, his wife checks what he gave me and takes some back. I hope when the war is over we can get some revenge.
Mother has already traded most of the stuff from her linen armoire in exchange for food. Now they want jewelry, including wedding rings. The farmer's wife, with her daughter from Ewijk, comes to visit us with a loaf of bread and a piece of bacon, and Mother has to be nice to the woman and give her sheets, towels, or whatever she sees in the linen armoire. Then her stupid daughter, who has to be same age as me, sees my red necklace that Opoe gave me. I think they were garnets. I love that necklace because it came from Opoe. I told her, "No way." I wanted to keep it forever.
But the ugly, spoiled farmer's daughter told her mother to offer my mother more bread. I noticed that my mother's face was in a turmoil. She knew what the necklace meant to me, but she also saw that the bread would be some food for the eight of us. I figured if I had to give it up, it was best to bargain. I told the woman that I would not part with it for one loaf of bread. The idiot girl threw a tantrum, and the mother offered two small loaves, and I insisted on three loaves and a piece of bacon, as well. We need bacon to bake something, because there is no oil or butter. The idiot girl had it her way. The mother gave the three loaves and the bacon, and as I was looking at her, full of hatred, I'm sure, I gave her Opoe's necklace. When they left, I stopped her in the hall and told her that after the war, I personally would rip the necklace off her neck.
I cried in bed, thinking about all my Jewish friends who had disappeared and had lost everything, not just a sentimental necklace. I realized that not all farmers were bad. So many Jewish people were hidden at the farms, as well as others whom the Germans were looking for.
Thursday, December 17, 1942
I'm working the central telephone in the office. It's a responsible job, because the air raid people call the factories in advance and tell them that the planes from England are coming. I then have to set off the alarm in the plants so that everyone has time to run into the bomb cellars underneath the buildings. Many people run away from the plants; they feel the plants could be bombed.
To prevent the Germans from shipping Frans off to Germany to work in the labor camps, a doctor gave him a declaration that he has cancer.
Monday, December 21, 1942
It is 8:15 pm, and the family is gathered around the dining room table. There is no electricity, and Father has created kerosene lights with a little floating cotton thing. We have three of these little lights on the table. We heard that Dinie from next door has come down with a contagious disease, so we have to watch out. Since her father is still with the Police Department, we really don't know what his political views are.
We had a horrible time at the club last night. Many, many planes came over, and it seemed they were much lower than usual. Against all good sense, we all went outside to look, even though we were not allowed on the streets. The moon was full, and we could see hundreds of planes, in formations of five, passing by the moon. Soon the German planes started chasing and shooting them, hoping they would fall down in Holland with their bombs. We witnessed three planes falling with horrible explosions. We feel so bad when they fall. I know they have to fl y over to get to the German industrialized area, but I wish they would not come tonight, so we can sleep for once. When the Allied planes return, it's never as bad when they crash; they are empty, and some pilots parachute down. If the civilians get to the pilots before the Germans do, the pilots may be saved.
Excerpted from Dancing in Bomb Shelters: My Diary of Holland in World War II by Johanna Wycoff Copyright © 2010 by Johanna Wycoff. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Illustrations....................xi
Part One: Bombs and Bras....................1
Part Two: Hardships Intensify....................47
Part Three: Operation Market Garden....................89
Part Four: Liberation....................111
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Dancing in Bomb Shelters" gives you a unique window into the ravages of World War II, as seen through the eyes of a spirited, idealistic girl coming of age during the Nazi occupation and liberation of Holland. In the beginning, you feel a bit uncomfortable reading a girl's personal observations and thoughts. With every diary entry, you are drawn into her world. Becoming part of her family, like the allied soldiers they housed during the liberation. You begin to identify with her. Cheering her on and laughing in amazement while she and her friends play pranks on the German soldiers occupying her hometown. She was in many ways was a typical teenager who wanted to have fun, hang out with her friends, date boys, dance, listen to music and shop for clothes. However, her words poignantly illustrate that it was an everyday battle to stay alive, feed her family, hide Jewish friends, cope with the deaths of friends and family, endure the ever growing restrictions of the Nazis and avoid being thrown in the camps or shot. Her struggle to maintain any sense of hope in her everyday life under impossible conditions is inspiring. Her story speaks volumes to the creativity and elasticity of the human spirit.
Wow! This book is an amazing and detailed piece of history of a time that cannot be recaptured. A girl who wants to be a journalist faithfully records and interprets her everyday experiences at the German front in The Netherlands over 4 years. Included is invaluable detail about the events of the war as well as how it was to live as a young person during that frightening time. Sometimes humorous and other times devastatingly painful, the diary is a peek into her sorrows, secrets, loves and fears. I also found it interesting to see life from the perspective of an average person who is not one of the unfortunate victims of the Jewish holocaust. This is another side to the horrors of war not often exposed. Better than any history class, we learn the truth of how political decisions can destroy not only lives but precious possessions, governments, businesses, antiquities and livelihoods. But also we learn that despite all that, the human spirit, religion, hope, humor and love survive. This book is honest, real and very moving. I recommend it to everyone!