Jan de Groot was a child in the Hague during the war, where he lived a comfortable life with his doting parents and brother. This is the true story told by a man remembering his boyhood during the war and discussing both his privileged life and his deprivations. De Groot’s life was full of friends, expensive toys and childhood delights, even up to 1943, and he delves into his rich memory to relate his experiences.
Certainly, there are moments of interest. His parents’ home was a safe house for Jews trying to escape Europe and de Groot quickly became a keeper of very important secrets. However, when secrets were betrayed by one of their house guests, his father was arrested and whisked away to a concentration camp, where he perished in the aftermath of the war.
De Groot was able to return home after the war, where he was reunited with his brothers. Before he learned of his father’s death, his biggest complaint was that the Germans had confiscated his beloved sailboat. “I couldn’t imagine life without it,” he writes.
A Boy in War is intended for children ages 10 and up and perhaps the many stories of sailing, playing marbles and mechano will appeal to children. The storyline, however, moves extremely slowly and with little reference to what was happening to the Jews during the Holocaust. De Groot’s position as a privileged and protected child during the war is highlighted. Seen through his eyes during this time of sheer devastation and death, it is a perspective on the war we don’t often get to learn about. Ages 10 – 14.