Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Call Me Mom

This memoir contains two stories for me - how I acquired the work and the tale it tells.

On December 4, 2010 I attended a St. Nicholas Day celebration in the City. St. Nicholas Day is the traditional day of celebration and gift-giving during Holland's Christmas season. It was at this celebration that I met Fred van Zuiden.

van Zuiden, the author of Call Me Mom: A Dutch Boy's WWII Survival Story, had scheduled a book signing during the City's annual celebration. When I met him I was intrigued by his past experience as a Jewish boy in Holland during World War II. He seemed like a charming man, he signed the book, and we said goodbye. van Zuiden is the first (of now many) Jewish Holocaust survivors that I have had the pleasure of meeting. I know I will never forget him and his story.

The signed copy.

Call me Mom provides an account of van Zuiden's experiences from 1942 to May 14, 1945. Throughout these years he hid from persecution with the help of many Dutch families. In his work, van Zuiden describes his experiences of hiding in locations ranging from a chicken coop, well-off Dutch homes, and a mental institute. Above all, the kindness of many Hollanders assisting Jewish individuals resonates within his work. The memoir's title - Call Me Mom - reflects van Zuiden's experience of becoming almost-immediately incorporated into the Dutch families that helped hide him during the war.

War torn Holland, fragmented families, and the quest for survival are also vividly portrayed within the memoir's pages. The bravery of Canadian and British Allied troops during Holland's fight for liberation and Hollanders who chose to join the resistance or hide Jewish individuals from persecution are contrasted to those who reported their neighbors to Nazi officials.

van Zuiden's work is poignant, emotional, powerful, and yet simple. His memoir is written almost as if he were speaking directly to you. Many times while I was reading his work, I pictured sitting with the man I had met months before as he recounted his tale.

I would recommend that anyone interested in Holocaust memoirs, and Holland during the Second World War in general, should read this work. Call Me Mom is a testament to both the horrors and beauty of humanity during crises.

Bibliographical Reference:
van Zuiden, Fred. Call Me Mom: A Dutch Boy's WWII Survival Story. Calgary: G.B. Batteries, Ltd., 2010.

If you wish to obtain a copy of van Zuiden's work, please visit this link. This website contains useful information for tracking down the source.

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