Ben'S Story: Holocaust Letters With Selections From The Dutch Underground Press
- Publish Date: 2001-05-30
- Binding: Hardcover
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Ben Wessels and Kees W. Bolle were boyhood friends in the village of Oostvoorne, Holland, in the 1930s. Ten years later, Ben was struggling to survive in the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where he perished in 1945 along with fellow inmate Anne Frank and over a million Jews and other ethnic and religious minorities.
Decades later when he was visiting his friend Johan Schipper in Oostvoorne, Kees Bolle discovered a bundle of letters written by Ben. These letters documented in heartbreaking detail the terrifying journey of his family from an artificial ghetto cordoned off by the Germans in Amsterdam to the infamous transit camp at Westerbork and hence to Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and other horrific landmarks of the German final solution.
Juxtaposing Ben's letters with reports from the Dutch underground press, both of which appear in English for the first time, Bolle creates a unique portrait of the Netherlands during World War II, one very different from the romantic vision of the Resistance often portrayed in other accounts. Unlike Yugoslavia, for example, Holland had no mountains to provide shelter for small bands of heroic fighters. Flat and densely populated, Holland had but one means to contest the Nazi occupationthe freedom of thought and word expressed in underground papers such as Vrij Nederland ( The Free Netherlands ), Trouw, and Het Parool in spite of heavy penalties imposed by German authorities.
Bolle also includes reports from the underground press following the end of the war, with scenes of victory, celebration, and hope intermingled with concerns for the future of the Netherlands. On a tragic note, there is a final message to Johan Schipper confirming the death of Ben Wessels in Bergen-Belsen a month before the death camp was liberated by British troops in April 1945.