At once a memoir and a social history of a time, The Occupied Garden by sisters Kristen den Hartog and Tracy Kasaboski is the story of a market gardener and his fiercely devout wife, raising their young family in Holland during the Nazi occupation. Pieced together by the couple’s granddaughters, who combed through historical research, family lore, and insights from a neighbour’s wartime diary, the book chronicles Cor and Gerrit den Hartog’s mounting challenges as heat, food, and light slowly disappeared, and their close-knit neighbourhood changed before their eyes.
A Jewish friend vanished, and German soldiers moved in across the street; trains shunted past Gerrit’s garden, loaded with food and supplies and bound for Germany. As Cor and Gerrit’s own story unfolds, so too do the many compelling historical events neatly incorporated into the narrative: the near-assassinations of Hitler, the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, the invasion of Poland, the London bombings, Kristallnacht and the Nazi genocides, Queen Wilhelmina’s Radio Oranje talks, and the US entrance into the war.
Set against the backdrop of a terrorized nation, the couple’s struggle creates a meaningful context for the atrocities of World War Two, while at the same time exploring the bonds and strains that exist among families of any era.