Parallels in History

This summer, I read a book by Titia Bozuwa titled Defiance. The novel, set in occupied Holland in World War II revolves around the experiences of eight medical students. As the Nazis start filling up trains with Jews, the band of eight young men and women pledge to rescue some families. There are close calls as they try to get food and hiding places for Jewish children.

Their lives change drastically over the next few years. The Germans close the universities to try to suppress resistance among the young people. Their education is put on hold, romances disrupted, and families separated as the war progresses. The group of eight refuse to sign the declaration of loyalty to the occupying German government.

They try to keep in touch as their lives go in different directions. One is sent to work in German factories and another gets help from the underground to try to get to England to fight the war from there.

It’s a gripping story that keeps up the suspense throughout. Much of the events in the Netherlands during the war years is little known by the average American. Reading about the way the Nazis controlled the population and the privations suffered by the citizens was an intense reading experience. The story wraps up with the Hunger Winter of 1945 and finally the liberation of the Netherlands.

The parallels to disturbing situations in modern times are quite concerning. We are not in a world war and there are no gas chambers, but various religions and ethnicities are being singled out for abuse. Children were separated from their parents and put into child prisons along our borders. Some 500 of these children have still not been restored to their parents despite a court order for it to happen.

While reading Defiance, I couldn’t help but compare some situations with current events. With a person in power who shows dictatorial tendencies, the recent events are alarming and citizens must not be complacent. Voters must take a role in influencing our legislators and the administration away from fascist kinds of activity.

Defiance is a thought-provoking book that I highly recommend for WWII buffs, but also for anyone interested in history, anyone worried about the current political climate in the U.S. or someone just wanting a good story to read of human determination and courage.

Meet the Author

Titia Bozuwa grew up in the Netherlands, experiencing first-hand what Nazi occupation was like. She was just a child but one with a remarkable memory. She shared her childhood in the memoir, In the Shadow of the Cathedral: Growing Up in Holland During WWII.  Now, she has written this fictional account that covers a wider range of what that time was like.


Could the U.S. Have Its Own Auschwitz?

I wrote this essay a year and a half ago. It is even more pertinent today, with 500 children still separated from their parents and warehoused in child prisons right here in the United States.

Could the U.S. Have Its Own Auschwitz?

Today, January 27, 2017, is the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Many years ago I worked with a retired military man who had been present at the liberation of one of the Nazi death camps. The horror of what he saw there stayed with him all his life.

The systematic isolating, transporting, and extermination of millions of people is something we must never forget and never allow to happen again. Although it happened decades ago and across the ocean, such horrors could happen again. It could even happen here in our own country.

pixabay concentration camp
Sculpture depicting the horrors of a concentration camp.

“NO,” you might shout out! Citizens of this country would never be capable of such cruelty to people of a certain religion or certain background. We would never allow our leaders or our military to create camps where people starved to death.

I’m sorry to tell you that it can happen in this country and in fact, it has happened. During the Civil War, a prison for captured Union soldiers was established in Andersonville, Georgia. Circumstances contributed to a holocaust situation there.

guard tower andersonville
A guard tower at the reconstructed prison in Andersonville, Georgia.

More and more prisoners poured into a stockade that was inadequate for the 45,000 men that languished there during its 14 months of operation. With disruption to supply lines, there was inadequate food. At the same time, the inept or uncaring administration provided no shelter, little medical care, and no abatement of unsanitary conditions.

Around 14,000 formerly robust soldiers died of starvation or illness from the horrible conditions. The survivors were like skeletons with lifelong health problems. My great-great grandfather was a survivor of Andersonville.

The camp commander was tried and hung for war crimes, but the fact remains that under certain circumstances a holocaust can happen in the United States. We can’t let such a thing happen.

We must be alert to any efforts to intern a population. As a caring people, we must personally take steps to prevent mistreatment and abuse of human rights. We cannot turn our heads like the people did in Germany or like those who in the 1860s who knew of Andersonville but did not intervene.