Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Historical Note: Teenage Spies!

When the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940, they announced that the Dutch had meekly accepted their fate, and life went on quietly. But under the surface, civilians rose up to fight for freedom with everything they had. Very few had any military or espionage training, but they became one of the most effective Resistances during the Second World War. Corrie Ten Boom may be the best known of these resistance fighters, but stories like hers are found everywhere; they only need to be told.

I stumbled across such a story a year ago, when I picked up an obscure book about WWII which included a diary kept by a teenage boy who fought in the Resistance. Together with four of his schoolfriends, he founded a secret group called SS5 to fight back against the Germans. With no adult support whatsoever, the five young people (Jan, Piet, Charlotte, Hendrik, and Jos) struck back at the German overlords.

At first it was small things, clever ways for civilians to show support for the exiled Dutch government; switching street signs so German convoys ended up in canals; carrying messages from forbidden radios.

Then a local farmer, who also happened to be a major part of the Resistance, recruited them. Overnight, they started smuggling food, exploding German warehouses, and convoying Jews and others at risk to safety. Charlotte went to work at the Nazi headquarters, spying for the entire Resistance. They weren't allowed to tell their parents, and they were responsible for the lives of thousands of people. Every day they expected betrayal; they could trust no one.

The journal is painful reading, as you sense the pain of these five young people, who end up losing friends and family. They are constantly placed in horrible moral quandries, as they have to choose between equally ghastly possibilites. Yet, it's incredibly powerful as the children mature and gradually understand what's really important in life.

My current WIP is the novelization of Jan' diary. I'm honored and a more than a little afraid to tell this story. It's by far the most difficult I've ever done: not only because it's true, but because the emotions and conflicts are overwhelming. But as usual, the lure of a challenge is proving too strong! I only hope the novel holds the qualities of the diary itself!


Kelsey said...

Aaahhh this post is so exciting!

Moral quandaries are the best. ;)

I've read a bunch of true kids-involved-in-resistance stories, but haven't found one better than this yet!

Nina Hansen said...

Wow, you're kidding, it's really exciting? And here I was worried it turned out formal and boring. ;)

Thanks for the comment and I sure hope I live up to expectations with this story!!!!

Arwen Leia said...

Fear not. You shall do it justice :).

hmh said...

Wow. Now that is a story worth telling. Have fun...and success!
By the way, do you remember the name of the book you found the journal in?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to take a look at this story. Do you know who the author is? I'm having trouble finding it.

Hannah said...

Whooo! (BTW, the SS5 cover's really cool.) It wasn't formal and boring at all! It was Nina-ish.

Elisabeth said...

Your story sounds absolutely fascinating. I don't know if I'd be brave enough to venture an adaptation of a true story like that - at least in novel form. I hope I get to read yours someday!

Aisley Crosse said...

I really love the stories that come from war time, and the human spirit that is embedded in those stories. What is the book called?

Nina Hansen said...

Wow, thanks everyone for the support! It's really exciting to see the interest people are showing in this story!

The book I found the partial diary in is called 'Through The Eyes of Innocents". As far as I know, the full diary is only contained in one book...unfortunately, I don't have the name right off! But if you'd like to contact me with contact info for you, I'd be happy to send you the title when I find it!

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