A Book Memorial for a Lost Family Member
The Quest for Jan van Boeckel
During the first years of blogging, I came upon Mogromo’s Blog. The blog site was illustrated with the most fascinating photos that supported the mysterious disappearance of a dear family member during the last year of the war. The Dutch writer behind that blog was discreet about who he or she was and drew my attention to the purpose of the blog describing the Quest for Jan van Boeckel. Like the author, I grew up in the shadow of WWII having parents whose lives were heavily influenced by having their youth strained by the German occupiers. We in Denmark were not suffering so much as the Dutch people did.
Cover photo for the book on Jan’s last year of life. He had his 22nd birthday shortly before his death.
A book has come out as a result of the author Wendy van Eijnatten’s efforts through some years having searched intensively for traces of her uncle Jan who never came back to his family after the liberation. Uncle Jan was an older brother of Wendy’s mother. He was the sixth child of thirteen in this close-knit Dutch family. The loss of him never coming back from his confinement by the Nazis left a space in the whole family. His mother and his many siblings spent years in research and Wendy took up the baton many years later to find that Jan probably died on a death march to Dachau from a concentration camp in Saal near the Czech border. That last place was hell on earth guarded by the worst scumbags. The SS had delegated the dirty jobs to criminals so they could live a more comfortable life behind the scenes. You sense how in the end everything went from an organised terror regime to total chaos as the Western Allied were closing in on the Nazis.
Photos from the blog Mogromo belong to author Wendy van Eijnatten.
In her book, we follow Jan in his hiding from the Nazis, the harsh life in the cold forest with fellow young resist fighters until their sudden and brutal capture on a hot day in June in 1944. Reading about it, you feel the cold, the hunger and thirst and the dirt and insecurity of what the next moment would bring along. His last year in different prisons and concentration camps ended just before the liberation. Jan wanted to join the British Royal Airforce but was never able to escape Europe to get there. His older brother Gerhard was a pilot in the far East and was shot down by the Japanese.
The last year of the war was extremely difficult for the Dutch population. Wendy describes in great details the hunger the Boeckel family endured while they never gave up but found ways to survive by sending the children out to friendly farmers for their survival. Before that, they had all taken part in the hunt for food and wood for heating. The Nazi occupiers made the population starve on purpose.
To lift the spirit for themselves and those around them both Jan on his journey to becoming a resistant fighter and his family talked about literature, sang choirs and exercised gymnastics.
The author herself keeps in the background in the book, but once in a while, she describes the two years of a challenging hunt for documenting Jan’s last year of his life. She succeeded in finding two living witnesses who know Jan in that critical time. Theo with whom Jan ran away with to become freedoms fighters and Jacob who sat with him on his last transport on their Death March.
In my opinion, they were a family of great character and good morals to be admired for posterity. The book is well written and so exciting that you read the 416 pages in a few days. The cover photo is descriptive for the content of a story hidden in forests and uncertainties.
To get hold of the book “Lost The Quest for Jan van Boeckel”, you can contact the author on her blog.