"A timely memoir of life under Nazi occupation vividly reminds us that most of the war's damage is collateral, most of the casualties are non-combatants, and most of their wounds are psychological.
A boy and his family learn to survive after German forces destroy and occupy Rotterdam. An uncle reveals traitorous Nazi ties that lead to a commission as Waffen SS officer and his sister takes up with a German soldier and defects to Germany. Meanwhile, teen-aged Jan Makkreel lives by his as he is drawn into an illegal transport of food, assisting Jews, and smuggling resistance information and false documents.
Jan is wrongly labeled a traitor at war's end. Charged with collaboration and betraying Jews, he is imprisoned with true Nazis where he comes of age in gritty prison situations that test him as a man. After eighteen months, the police clear him wrongdoing and release him into a society that receives him only as an ex-convict Jan Makkreel's account reveals how the burden of war and occupation leaves wounds and division that in some cases can be neither forgotten nor healed."
Jan Makkreel was born in 1926 in Rotterdam Holland and had a very happy childhood until war broke out and food became scarce. Jan had one older sister who went off to work with the Germans and two younger brothers, one who was born with downs syndrome who died at the age of two. Jan and his brother had to scramble for food of any kind during the war to keep his family fed while his Father worked. He also secretly helped the Jews in his neighborhood who were still hiding, which was very dangerous.
One day at the end of the war his Father was picked up by the police and Jan happened to be there so they took him as well and he and his Father spent over a year and a half in a prison camp not knowing what they had done wrong. Eventually, their turn had come to hear their list of crimes, and they were proved false and they were released but the damage had been done in the eyes of their friends. Jan could not return to school nor could he gain employment. In prison, the Canadians guarding him had been very kind so he decided to go to Canada where he and his brother began their own businesses. Over the years he opened a string of piano stores and tuned and restored pianos.
Jan married and had two daughters and settled into Canada permanently. His wife left him and he remarried a woman also with two daughters in 1980 and stayed married until his death in 2016 but the pain from his experience in prison camp never left him. He left behind two daughters, two stepdaughters, and twelve grandchildren who all miss him greatly. This book was his lifelong dream to tell his story.