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Author: Fernande K. Davis
Publisher: Beach Lloyd Publishers
Author: Fernande K. Davis
Publisher:Beach Lloyd Publishers
Memoirs written against a particular historical backdrop can make that history come alive in clarifying and startling ways. Girl in the Belgian Resistance is a marvelous example. Fernande Keufgens was 16 years old when her native Belgium was invaded by Nazi Germany in May of 1940. Fernande’s father, a veteran of the first world war, was quite prescient: not only did he foresee the Nazi invasion of Belgium but he also assumed – correctly, as it turned out – that the Nazis would force occupation teenagers to work in German munitions factories.
Since the Keufgens lived in a village very close to the Belgian-German border, he sent Fernande to live and work at a private home in Andenne, a Belgian town further away from Germany, in January of 1940, months before the invasion.
Fernande traveled back to Montzen Gare after the invasion, desperate to learn how her family had fared but she eventually returned to Andenne. However, her father’s prediction – and Nazi occupation officials – finally caught up with her: she was ordered to report back to the Montzen Gare train station or her father would be arrested.
She appeared on the designated day and signed in at the train station in order to prevent her father’s imprisonment, but rather than work in a factory which kept the Nazi war machine supplied, she jumped the train and immediately joined a resistance group with whom she stayed and worked for the duration of the war.
Davis has a very concise writing style which simultaneously manages to include loads of near-cinematic details. For instance, she clearly depicts the angst involved in pre-invasion rumors in just a few clipped sentences: “People were nervous and fearful. Talk of war was everywhere. Would there be another war? Would German invade us again? Would our army be able to stop them?”
In the next paragraph she describes the invasion with equal clarity and concision: “Sirens screamed through the dawn of our peaceful Andenne. We ran out into the garden and street to stare up at the sky. We saw what we thought was a squadron of the Belgian Air Force approaching, only to be horrorstruck at the sight of swastikas on the tails of the planes.”
The book contains many photographs and not only includes Davis’s experiences but also that of her family back home, a choice that just occasionally causes a slightly confusing time-line. But this is a very minor problem: in the main“Girl in the Belgian Resistance” paints a very clear picture of one aspect of Nazi-occupied Belgium and is an excellent WWII-era memoir.