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Between Two Homelands

Between Two Homelands: Letters across the Borders of Nazi Germany

Edited by Hedda Kalshoven
Translated from the Dutch by Hester Velmans
from the German by Peter Fritzsche
Preface by Peter Fritzsche
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Between Two Homelands
    Book Description:

    In 1920, at the age of thirteen, Irmgard Gebensleben first traveled from Germany to the Netherlands on a "war-children transport." She would later marry a Dutch man and live and raise her family there while keeping close to her German family and friends through the frequent exchange of letters. Yet during this period geography was not all that separated them. Increasing divergence in political opinions and eventual war between their countries meant their correspondence contained not only family news but personal perspectives on the individual, local, and national choices that would result in the most destructive war in history. This important collection, first assembled by Irmgard Gebensleben’s daughter Hedda Kalshoven, gives voice to ordinary Germans in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich and in the occupied Netherlands. The correspondence between Irmgard, her friends, and four generations of her family delve into their most intimate and candid thoughts and feelings about the rise of National Socialism. The responses to the German invasion and occupation of the Netherlands expose the deeply divided loyalties of the family and reveal their attempts to bridge them. Of particular value to historians, the letters evoke the beliefs of the family members and their understanding of the dramatic events happening around them. This first English translation of Ik denk zoveel aan jullie: Een briefwisseling tussen nederland en duitsland 1920-1949 has been edited, abridged, and annotated by Peter Fritzsche with the assent and collaboration of Hedda Kalshoven. After the book's original publication the diary of Irmgard's brother and loyal Wehrmacht soldier, Eberhard, was discovered and edited by Kalshoven. Fritzsche has drawn on this additional source in annotating the translation.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09617-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxii)
    Peter Fritzsche
    (pp. xxiii-xxxii)

    On 11 June 1920, a thirteen-year-old girl arrived in the Netherlands on a “war-children transport” ferrying German children to the Netherlands to recuperate from World War I. She got off the train in Utrecht, anxious to see where she would wind up. She suffered from homesickness the first few days, but soon began feeling at home with the family that had taken her in. Her foster parents did their best to make the stay of this girl from Braunschweig into an experience she would never forget. In spite of the contrast with her own home in Germany, or, rather, perhaps...

    (pp. xxxiii-xxxvi)
  6. TO HOLLAND (1920–1929)
    (pp. 1-15)

    A large number of Germans opposed the parliamentary democracy of the Weimar Republic, holding it responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I (the “stab-in-the-back legend”). This sense of illegitimacy, deep mistrust of Germany’s new Social Democratic rulers, and general resentments against the Treaty of Versailles created conditions in which right-wing nationalism found growing support among all social classes. The Treaty of Versailles dictated limits on the size of the military and required the payment of reparations for the destruction that German armies had caused in northern France and Belgium, and the treaty also sought the extradition of German war...

  7. THE PARENTS (1929–1937)
    (pp. 16-119)

    The stock market crash in New York on 24 October 1929 aggravated the already difficult economic conditions prevailing in many European countries. Unemployment, especially in winter, rose steadily so that by 1932 nearly six million Germans were without work. Falling tax revenues and rising social welfare expenses burdened governments; after 1930, no workable parliamentary coalition could be formed in the Reichstag, and the Weimar Republic became more authoritarian under Chancellors Brüning, Papen, and finally Schleicher, who were propped up by the executive powers of the presidency, held since 1925 by Paul von Hindenburg, the former Chief of the General Staff...

  8. THE GRANDMOTHER (1938–1940)
    (pp. 120-147)

    After Hitler and local National Socialists precipitated a serious political crisis in Vienna, German troops marched unopposed into Austria on 12 March 1938 in what is known as the “Anschluss,” or annexation. Thousands of Austrian Jews now joined German Jews in the flow of refugees to Holland and elsewhere. As a consequence, Holland fortified its borders and made entry into the country even more difficult.

    In May 1938, Eberhard was named Assessor and began to apply for various positions. As part of the process, he applied for membership in the NSDAP. In the meantime, he looked for tenants for his...

  9. THE BROTHER (1940–1944)
    (pp. 148-214)

    The so-called Grebbelinie, one of the Dutch lines of defense, crossed through Amersfoort. The planned attack on the city on 13 May 1940 was ultimately deflected to the south, where fewer tracts of land had been flooded and the artillery fire was less intense. On 14 May, German bombers destroyed most of Rotterdam’s downtown, killing some eight hundred to nine hundred people. A day later, the Dutch army surrendered.

    By June 1940, rationing had been imposed for staples such as bread, flour, coffee, tea, and various textile goods. At the same time, the Germans began sending huge amounts of fruits...

  10. THE OTHERS (1945–1949)
    (pp. 215-234)

    On 5 September 1944, “Dolle Dinsdag” or “Crazy Tuesday,” thousands of Dutch Nazis and collaborators fled to the eastern part of the Netherlands as rumors that Allied troops had crossed the border spread. The Allies did indeed liberate the southern parts of the Netherlands, but after their assault on Arnhem failed at the end of September, the situation in those parts of the country still occupied by the Germans deteriorated rapidly. To support the Allied attack on Arnhem, Dutch railway workers called a general strike on 17 September. Amersfoort was the only city in the Netherlands where the Germans threatened...

    (pp. 235-236)
    (pp. 237-243)
  13. MAPS
    (pp. 244-248)
    (pp. 249-250)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 251-254)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-260)