The Quest for Jan van Boeckel

Researching Haarlem 1935 -1945

The quest for Jan van Boeckel
Lange Veerstraat, Haarlem

This is an episode of the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria

As the story of Jan is anchored in Haarlem, I travelled to that city near the dunes several times in 2016. Now that I am writing, I find that words come to me as I wander through landscapes and cityscapes. This drives me back to Haarlem again and again. I walk the streets and nature trails, visit buildings and speak to people who can explain more about Haarlem in the thirties and during the war. I learned to really know and feel the Dunes and the Grote Markt, The Heilig Hart Church, the Triniteitslyceum, the Wouwermanstraat, the Kleverpark, Café Brinkman, Kraantje Lek, de Zijlweg, to name but a few places.

The Quest for Jan van Boeckel
Café Kraantje Lek

In October I was convinced that I had found out all I could about wartime Haarlem and the fate of a young man who, after years of adapting to the whims of the German oppressor, decided he did not want to conform anymore. It is fascinating how fragments of information keep revealing themselves as I continue on my Quest. All will be divulged in the novel The Quest for Jan van Boeckel, now it suffices to say that I have been swept from one surprise to the next.

The Quest for Jan van Boeckel
At Dieverbrug searching for information on the Dutch Labour Service (the Nederlandse Arbeidsdienst NAD) camp Geeuwenbrug.

Take the past two weeks, for example. I went on a frosty, eight hour Sunday journey to Diever, a place in the middle of nowhere, to speak to an elderly stranger. That week I also met (for the first time!) some wonderful members of my family and gained incredible insights in Amstelveen; I requested to see music scores in Arnhem and had them played for me on the piano; I exchanged maps in Haarlem; and I had a fascinating introduction into wartime jazz in Doorn.

And, oh, there is much more but I now have to return to the gargantuan task I have taken upon myself: writing  Jan van Boeckel’s story.

This is an episode of the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria

8 thoughts on “Researching Haarlem 1935 -1945

      1. Yes and I have seen the Hart museum twice and the cemeteries and the John Frost bridge. I just love to be in the area and to see the Kröller-Müller museum. I wrote a post on “Operation Market Garden” as one of my first. I can find it if you would like to see it

        Liked by 2 people

  1. Hi Wendy, I enjoy following your discoveries. As I made mine and added them to the book, I found that while this process brought me much understanding of my father, other characters, and the times, it also led to a greater understanding of myself.

    Now I’m involved in hybrid-publishing the book 3000 miles away, (Seattle-west coast, (I’m east coast).this means i’m paying for it, but the local publisher/marketer liked the story enough to choose it. (Did you know that 2500 books a week are now published?) This has been an interesting learning experience, but also frustrating. I paid in advance which means the publisher can put my project at the end of the line. Also stressful. I am healthy at 83, my husband less so at 85, so we’d like to get it done.

    A new experience that does bring understanding!

    Now I’ll ask if this long email reply is a real email as compared to the usual comment at the end of the blog? Guess I’ll see after I send it. If so, can you create a personal email list from your standard blog responses?


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Paula, that sounds like quite a frustrating experience. Hope the book does get published soon! Sounds like you put a lot of yourself into it, I know what that feels like!


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