Five Years Under the Swastika, Through a Child's Eye - REVIEWS
In this book Frits Forrer, member of our Hollandclub, has given a nostalgic and thoroughly unconventional look at WAR, through the eyes of children. Not the politically correct view mind you, of war as the endless horror that it can be, but a refreshing alternate truth that reminds us of childrens' tendency to find even difficult times exciting and memorable.
Frits' characters are not so innocent that they cannot fear or hurt. But they also are not so terrified and cynical that they not cannot see the humor, and even the fun, in their situation.
An unusual coming of age story to be sure, but one that reminds us of the resiliency of youth and mankind in general. A series of childish adventures and luck gives us a generation who understands that life is constructed of many things, not all pleasant, but all excitingly useful if only we have the spirit to take them in stride.
So, if you want to never be able to look at war in quite the same way again, open this book and get to reading. I assure you that you will be the better for it.
…“hope that this different look at the war and occupation will appeal to many people.”
Queen Beatrix of Holland
War! The horrors of war!
Being bombed is devastating! Ask the people of New York.
Being strafed and rocketed is awful! Ask the people of Afghanistan .
Living with it every day, day after day?
Ask Frits Forrer.
Who? Frits Forrer?
Yes! He's a resident of Gulf Breeze and just released a new book "Five Years Under the Swastika, Through a Child's Eye"
In occupied Holland, during World War II, bombing by the British became a nightly routine. Strafing and bombing by the American Fighters-Bombers was a daily occurrence, as long as the sun was out.
The only reprieve they had was "bad weather!"
How did they cope? How safe was it, huddled together in the bathroom under the stairs?
Did their nerves get frazzled? How did they react with all their windows blew out from nearby concussions?
For the old folks, the parents, it was a hair raising experience! For the boys? More excitement than they could bargain for! The kids thought it was a blast!
That's what Frits' book is all about. War and occupation, seen through a child's eyes."
In a small town in Eastern Holland, his family was occupied by the Germans before they knew there was a war on. Frits tells about life with the occupation forces, the bombings, the arrests, the hardships and how they coped and stayed together as a close-knit family.
Because his family owned a Hotel-Cafe-Restaurant, they had soldiers in the house from the first day of the war, May 10, 1940 , until the Germans threw them out in February of '45. The result was that they were allowed to keep the radio and had numerous propaganda magazines in the house, keeping them up to date with the events of the world.
There are a few sad chapters, but most of the book is upbeat and funny, because that's what the kids made it. Exciting and funny. It's reminiscent of "Stand by Me" and "Home Alone."
It's a different way of looking at war. It's not another "Anne Frank." She was locked away in an attic and eventually perished tragically. No, these Dutch boys were foot loose and fancy-free and made the most of the circumstances. The slogan "Stealing from the Germans is only taking back what they stole in the first place," gave the boys an awful lot of leeway and they accumulated weapons and ammo that would have scared a grownup.
Even though bombs fell as close as 50 yards from their house, the boys were fascinated by the fighters barreling down, shooting at anything that moved.
Frits was so excited about P-51 dive bombers that he vowed to become a Fighter-Pilot and he did! Graduated in the Aviation-Cadet-Class of 53F and earned his silver wings on the Shooting-Star-Jet.
The book is easy to read and historically correct as well as educational.
The Gulf Breeze News
… “An enthusiastic overview of our town under German occupation during WWII.”
Commotion in the middle of the night! No "FLIEGER ALARM." No sounds of airplanes anywhere, yet loud commands, hysterical screaming! A child crying, no, not crying, worse: screeching like a hurt bird! Doors slamming, more loud voices! Car doors opening , then slamming shut, it’s pandemonium out there!
Frits is out of his window onto the roof of the EETZAAL. (dining room) It is foggy and cold as hell out there Mama and Papa’s heads are sticking out the window of Kamer VII, the room next to Frits’.
"What’s going on out there?" That’s Papa.
"Get inside, you’ll catch cold out there!" That’s Mama.
He can now make out two trucks backed up to the row of little houses on the EELINKSTRAAT. He can see the little slits of light in the "blackout" type of headlights.
"It’s the WOHLSTEINS!" he hollers back at his folks. "Papa, they’re arresting the WOHLSTEINS !"
More doors slam, more screams, more male voices cursing, then grinding gears and they’re gone.
"Papa, Papa, they took the WOHLSTEINS, Papa, do something! Aren’t you gonna do anything, Papa? You gotta do something, Papa!"
"Come inside!" It’s Mama, whose face appears in Frits’ window. "Come downstairs!" She’s in her housecoat hanging out of the Kamer VI window. "Come in here NOW!"
Frits crawls back in, dispirited. Mama wraps him in a blanket and dries his feet.
"Boy, you’re crazy going out there in your pajamas. You’ll catch cold again and you’ll be down again with the jaundice and you know..."
Frits doesn’t hear a word she’s saying. He shivers terribly, but it’s probably not from the cold.
As Mama goes on, even saying things like: "Go to bed!", he just keeps walking, moving slowly down the stair, across the cold granite hall floor into the kitchen . He seats himself next to the big pot stove that’s in place again for the winter, but is as cold as he is now, since the fire went out long ago.
Papa has preceded him down and is warming up milk on the electric stove. Mama and Joop file into the kitchen too and Mama begins again: "You should..!"
"Oh hush!" Papa interrupts softly but sternly. Mama gets cups down from the cupboard and pours cocoa mix into each bottom, waiting for the milk to get warm.
"Why Papa, why? What have they done? And that little girl, the granddaughter? What’s her name? They hurt her Papa! Why? Why? What has she done?"
Papa stirs the chocolate milk. "Come sit at the table." Frits turns. Mama and Joop are deadly quiet.
"Drink your cocoa. Watch it! It’s hot. Wait, wait, I’ll add a little cold milk. Here you go, stir it. There you go! OK! OK!"
"Why Papa, why? I know what you’re gonna say: They’re Jews, right? But what did they do? They’re not rich Jews that ruin the world and all that garbage. They’re working people. He’s been working at the County Water Department for as long as we’ve known him. He goes to work on his bike at 4 in the morning, EVERY MORNING! I know Papa, he’s not rich, I know! Why then Papa, why? I know they’ll never come back, they’re gonna kill’em, I know they’re gonna kill’em!"
Tears are running down his cheeks and Mama’s not doing much better. Joop is staring in his chocolate milk as if there’s something fascinating in it.
"Drink your cocoa Frits. Here dry your tears. There’s nothing I can say, Goddamnit!" The last word shoots out with such a vengeance that all three look up at him, startled.
"Sit down Herman, drink your cocoa too." She’s worried that his ulcer will flare up. "Why don’t we al drink up-up-up and go to bed? It’s too cold here! Take your cocoa if it’s too hot and let’s go. Come boys!"
They rise. Frits is still crying uncontrollably.
"Come in bed with us."
For the first time in years he’s in bed between his father and his mother, his skinny body shaking with the sobs that won't stop. Finally, with his head against his fathers chest, he falls asleep, blissfully!
The WOHLSTEINS were the first.