A Boy in War

Jan de Groot
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

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.

Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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