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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
War Without Friends
by Evert Hartman
Age Range: 12+
Set in occupied Holland, War Without Friends covers the years April 1942 – September 1944. It is the story of 15-year-old Arnold who is torn between his longing for a normal existence, his father’s fanaticism and his own awakening conscience. Arnold’s father is a member of the Dutch National Socialist Party (NSB) and Arnold attends the Jeugstorm – the youth organisation of the NSB. He is ostracised, bullied and beaten up by his classmates but the teachers won't do much about it.
“Your family will curse you, your friends will avoid you, your colleagues will pretend you don’t exist”, said the spokesman for the Dutch National Socialist Party. “But you must be ready to sacrifice everything for the Fatherland.” Arnold’s father has told him that he must make sacrifices for the Movement, for the Fatherland, and the Führer so it shouldn’t matter that he is suspected of being a Nazi informant. But somehow it does.
This is an unusual book because it is seen from Arnold’s perspective. Although everything he stands for is abhorrent, the author paints a sympathetic character – a victim of a different kind caught between two opposing worlds. Eventually Arnold finds the courage to renounce all the indoctrination and bullying of his father and stand up for himself.