Milton woman preserves stories in book: Author tells of ‘Hunger Winter’ during WWII

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Stacy Vogel
Saturday, January 26, 2008
— Elisabeth “Bep” de Graaff is a storyteller.

Every photo, every item in her home has a story attached to it. And that story relates to another story, and another.

But de Graaff never expected to be a writer.

She told her stories about living in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II so often that a woman at her church, Carol Aiken, told her she should write them down.

Aiken asked her so often if she’d started a book yet that one day de Graaff wrote the first page so she could answer “yes” the next time Aiken asked.

It took de Graaff two years to put her memories of the war years on paper. The result is “The Girl From Rotterdam,” a slim book of history and remembrance.

“I was amazed at myself, at how much I remembered,” de Graaff said.

Indeed, at 80 years old, the Milton resident has lost little memory of the hardships and small pleasures she experienced during World War II. She names the month the Nazis invaded Holland—May 1940—without hesitation.

“They flattened Rotterdam,” she said.

In the book, de Graaff tells of being sent to a farm at age 15 for protection, hiding three Jews in the attic to save them from the Holocaust and enduring the “Hunger Winter” of 1944-45, when Holland suffered a terrible famine.

The book also tells of everyday events in the life of a teenage girl. De Graaff describes her school, her friends and her first love—“a very charming young man,” she said.

The book reads exactly as de Graaff talks, in simple sentences full of action and description.

“People tell me when they first start reading my book, they can’t stop,” she said.

She hopes the people of Holland read her book because the Dutch are always looking for stories of the Hunger Winter, she said.

De Graaff also hopes people are inspired by the faith she shows in her book. She learned about miracles during the war, she said, and endured many trials afterward through her faith in God.

“Many people don’t believe in miracles anymore,” she said. “This book is full of miracles.”

“The Girl From Rotterdam,” by Elisabeth de Graaff, is available at Amazon and should be available soon at Books & Brew, 613 W. Madison Ave., Milton. It can also be ordered from Bookworld, 2451 Milton Ave., Janesville. The cover price is $9.95.

Books and Brew has organized a book signing with de Graaff from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23. Books will be available for purchase then.

Last updated: 12:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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