The Bobcaygeon Local
February 6, 2012
By Lisa Dever
Mike Boysen had no idea that his wife Liesbeth was a writer and kept a journal until he found out that one of her stories was to be published. “She never told me,” he said recently, while discussing his wife’s hidden talent.
“The Dutch in Wartime: Survivors Remember” is a series of twelve books published by Mokeham Publishing Inc. from Penticton, British Columbia.
The series feature stories collected and published in separate volumes; each covers a specific theme or subject. The first volume, ’Invasion’, was published in June of 2011, the second, ‘Under Nazi Rule, was published later that same year. The third volume is ‘Witnessing the Holocaust’. A new volume appears every three to four months.
The book series evolved from a commemorative newspaper, ‘The Dutch in Wartime’. With so many readers submitting so many stories of their experiences before, during and after the war, publisher Tom Bijvoet realized there were far too many stories for the limited space of his newspaper. He also recognized the importance of documenting the stories before it was too late.
Liesbeth Boysen-van den Blink’s story is included in ‘Witnessing the Holocaust’. Following her mother’s death, Liesbeth was sent from her family home in Eindhoven to live with her grandparents in Den Briel. Her story is about a neighbourhood girlfriend who was one day forced to sew a gold star onto her coat and soon after was no longer allowed to go to school. Despite the threat of death, Liesbeth attempted to see and support her friend.
The book includes stories from fifteen other Dutch immigrants who survived the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands from 1940 to 1945. “These books contain important stories about the devastating effects of war and occupation on a civilian population,” said Bijvoet.
“Large-scale air raids in World War II, including the preliminary bombing during Operation Market Garden to aid the US 101st Airborne Division paratroopers in securing the bridges in and around the town on 18 September 1944, destroyed large parts of the city. The reconstruction that followed left very little historical remains and the post-war reconstruction period saw drastic renovation plans in high-rise style, some of which were implemented. At the time, there was little regard for historical heritage; in the 1960s, a new city hall was built and its neo-gothic predecessor (1867) demolished to make way for a planned arterial road that never materialised.”
When Liesbeth’s father remarried, Liesbeth returned to Eindhoven but she never forgot her friend Kitty. Liesbeth eventually met Mike, who lived down the road from her home; he lived at the south end of town, she at the north end. Before Mike left Eindhoven for Canada in 1951 he asked Liesbeth to marry him. She said no, but Mike knew the two would eventually marry.
Liesbeth arrived in Canada in 1953. They married, lived in Toronto and Montreal, where Mike worked for Bombardier. To be closer to their three children, the couple moved to Bobcaygeon in 2006. Liesbeth passed away in 2011, before her story was published.
“As time passes, many of the stories and memories of wartime are lost, as are the people who lived them. During WW2 almost 71% of the 140,000 Jewish population in Holland was killed. Just over 40,000 survived. These are the stories of those survivors.”
The “writers tell us how Dutch Jews were first isolated from society and then dragged from their homes or picked up off the streets and put on trains to the East to be murdered in Nazi death camps. We read first-hand accounts of neighbours, friends and family disappearing forever; of trying to survive by going ‘underground’ to hide from the Nazis; of betrayal and its dreadful consequences. We read the stark memories of life in Nazi concentration camps Vught, Theresienstadt and Neuengamme.”
Visit www.dutchinwar.com to order the book or for more information.