The streets in Amsterdam had missing teeth. Our Dutch friends told us that in these gaps had been houses that the Nazis tore down for firewood. After the war, the Dutch left the spaces empty, even though housing was sorely needed.
Maarten and Willem showed us where we could get a good meal cheap. They knew all the good bars, too. Willem was a big fellow, all arms and legs, who told wonderful stories about what it was like during the war. The Nazis thought everyone was a Jew, he said. Once he was being interrogated by a Nazi officer, and the officious German asked Willem if he were Jewish. “No, I’m Catholic,” Willem said. “Ah,” the German replied. “A Catholic Jew!”
Maarten was a short, stout, and friendly. He was on the outs with his wealthy family, and they paid him a pittance to stay out of their hair. He spent his days hanging out with his friends and drinking beer.
One night two American girls and I were at his tiny apartment. Willem was there, and I can’t remember who else, probably Katrina, a pretty blonde with hairy legs, who for some reason had taken a dislike to me.
Somebody was telling a story, and I idly picked up a book on the fireplace mantel. When I opened it, a six-pointed star fell out and fluttered to the floor. I picked it up and replaced it in the book. No one said a word. Finally, Maarten said the fabric emblem was something he had to wear during the war. I knew about the Star of David and the occupation, but the Dutch people knew it in their teeth and bones.
About the author
Jack Swenson's travels have taken him to Denmark, England, France, Germany, Holland, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. He also spent a week one night…Read the full bio
Issue 07 · November 2009
Table of contents
- From the editors
- This Map
- South Africa
- My Friends, the Bees
- Properties of Place
- A Song for Departures
- Senora Filo’s Washing Machine
- The Lean Season
- Two poems by MaryAnn Franta Moenck
- Allensworth, California
- At a Poetry Reading in the Swiss Alps, Joachim Sartorius Speaks of Tunis
- Any Ghost Town West of Omaha
- Touring Shenandoah with My Husband
- Postcard Prose
- Travel Notes