Liefde in oorlogstijd
Memories of love
Each new generation sees a war differently, discovering ever more new stories. This applies even to the Second World War, about which we seem to know practically everything. Steffie van den Oord (b. 1970) focuses on love in the years 1940-45 in her book Love in Wartime, a moving piece of oral history.
Van den Oord’s eighteen stories of love – epic, fatal, fleeting, unhappy and everlasting, set against a treacherous wartime background – are based on a combination of extensive research and in-depth interviews. The storytellers are now in their eighties and nineties. Some find the memories of their teens and twenties so painful that they have never spoken about them before; others beam and glow with pleasure, briefly falling in love all over again.
The author records their memories in monologues as beautiful as they are tragic, full of strange and shocking twists and turns. From these candid outpourings and confessions a picture emerges of ‘the war’ as human drama, leaving no life untouched. The stories in Love in Wartime demonstrate that powerful emotions can drown out all else, that love can give us the strength to survive the most unimaginable horrors.
Van den Oord meets people who fell in love after being thrown together in extraordinary circumstances, or were separated by tragic events. Annie from Rotterdam, aged sixteen, makes love to a sailor from the German navy; forced labourer Ben kisses his first man in a shelter during an air raid; Riek will never see her Canadian again. Young people fall in love in hiding, their world not much larger than a closet.
At times Love in Wartime seems almost too beautiful, at times too terrible; it is heartrending throughout, especially when telling of love that began in the camps and has endured to this day: Mau and Rina marry in the transit camp Westerbork, on the night before their transport to Auschwitz where they will lose everything except faith in their love; Louis survives Auschwitz partly through his love for Hannelore, then finds her after the war, pregnant by a German camp official, the man who saved her from deportation.
Steffie van den Oord’s book is a marvellously rich addition to the literature of the Second World War.