To Giselle Roeder and Afiena Kamminga, war is not something that happens on a far-off battlefield. To them, war happens at home.
Roeder grew up in Germany during the Nazi regime and subsequent Soviet occupation, while Kamminga was born in the Netherlands as the war was coming to an end.
In observance of Remembrance Day, the pair of local writers will be reading from books they have written about civilian life during the Second World War.
Roeder’s book, 2014’s We Don’t Talk About That, is a memoir recalling her life in Nazi Germany before fleeing to West Germany and eventually Canada.
Kamminga was too young to remember the Nazi occupation. Her new book, The Storks Came Back, is fiction but has a basis in the wartime recollections of her husband, who grew up in Denmark in the 1940s. She said both books complement each other as they view the war from different angles.
“The Second World War has so many aspects and here in Canada it’s often, of course, seen as something overseas but in our background it’s right on your doorstep,” she said.
Both writers describe the experiences of those displaced by war, in Roeder’s case from a first-person perspective as incoming soldiers evicted her family from their home. Kamminga said her husband described the confusion of seeing both Nazi soldiers and German refugees in Denmark.
“You can really see that we are all people and we’re all caught in it,” Kamminga said.
“Because even the Danes, who really, really didn’t like Germans very much, they ended up feeling so sorry for these people coming from Germany.”
The authors said that the stories they tell in their books are still relevant more than 70 years later. Roeder said she sees similarities between the rise of Adolf Hitler and contemporary belligerent heads of state.
“It is very scary because when you follow Hitler’s development and Hitler’s rise, it’s the very same thing. It’s just happening all over and people are blind. They don’t see it because they haven’t lived through the time,” she said.
“When this North Korean thing happened I just got the shivers and I thought, ‘Oh my God, they look so perfect when they march and when they line up every inch is just like the SS.’”
“This is scary because it happens again and again and again,” Kamminga added.
“And big world leaders, they fairly easily say, ‘Let’s go to war with these people, they have aggravated us long enough’ … but the people who really live through it, the regular people, get it on their doorstep.”
WHAT’S ON … Writers Afiena Kamminga and Giselle Roeder will read from their Second World War books The Storks Came Back and We Don’t Talk About That at Nanaimo Harbourfront Library on Friday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.