Things We Couldn’t Say (by Diet Eman, with James Schaap) = 4/5
Eman’s autobiography recounts her personal experiences as a member of the Dutch Resistance movement during WWII and a concentration camp prisoner during the Holocaust. Through a combination of modern era recollections and contemporary diary entries and letters from WWII, Eman describes the factors that led her to hide and save Jews from invading Germans after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. She talks about everyday life, her love for her fiance, Hein Sietsma, and planning their marriage, as well as her work bicycling and walking all over the country to bring ration cards and money to hidden Jews. Although Eman was forced to assume several different false identities after the Gestapo learned of her actions, she persisted. This autobiography also also describes her life in prison and a concentration camp after she was caught, as well as some of Sietsma’s own experiences.
I added this book to my reading list because I wanted to learn more about the people who stood up against injustice during WWII and how they resisted the restrictions and violations of basic human rights the Nazis imposed upon the lands they controlled. I’ve read autobiographies and stories about individuals rounded up and put in concentration camps under the Nazis, but I really haven’t otherwise read about the everyday citizens who realized what was going on around them, desired to stop it, and fought in their own ways to help those who needed them. The terror, the hope, and the persistence Eman and the rest of the Dutch Resistance evidenced even when they risked imprisonment, death, and persecution while saving the lives of hundreds of Jews is truly inspirational.
TL;DR: Things We Couldn’t say provides a glimpse into the lives of Dutch Resistance members during WWII, reveals individual motivations for fighting back against the Nazi reign, and underscores the importance of both hope and the knowledge that there are many, many creative ways to stand up to injustice.
Review originally written 15 March 2017.