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Jan Cremer's 'De Hunnen' trilogy

Discussion in 'History of Holland and Belgium during World War I' started by MichaelBully, Apr 30, 2017.

  1. MichaelBully

    MichaelBully Active Member

    Nov 4, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Brighton, UK
    Greetings, I was wondering if any Dutch speakers here have read writer and artist Jan Cremer's auto-biographical and part fictionalised trilogy 'De Hunnen' (1984) ?

    Born in Enschede, The Netherlands, near the German border in 1940. Jan Cremer's father was Dutch, and died in 1942, so was raised largely by his Hungarian mother who had only settled in the Netherlands in 1939 and spoke little Dutch. Jan Cremer went on to become a juvenile delinquent,a controversial artist, writer of best selling and widely translated 'Ik Jan Cremer' (1964), with a sequel in 1968, which was less successful though still translated. In the 1970's he carried on his painting and photography, also established himself as a travel writer, but his readership became more confined to Dutch language publications.

    In 1984 'De Hunnen' was published. Jan Cremer depicted the lives of his parents and his own upbringing in Enschede during World War 2 up until the early 1950's, with sections that followed the lives of his mother's family in Hungary. The trilogy was quite an indictment of the Dutch people during the occupation with Cremer claiming that he and his mother were subject to hostility and victimisation from the Dutch, as they were counted as Hungarians and therefore outsiders.The brutal treatment of alleged collaborators immediately after the War ended is highlighted in 'De Hunnen' -Jan Cremer spent his fifth birthday in prison with his mother, who had been arrested by the Dutch Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten , getting her jaw damaged in the process. The allied bombing of Enschede is also covered.

    One criticism of 'De Hunnen' is that whilst focusing on uncomfortable issues such as native Dutch hatred of foreigners,false allegations caused by grudges,the cynical exploitation in wartime of the vulnerable, there isn't enough about the courage that people showed during occupation.

    I am not sure if 'De Hunnen' was ever translated into other languages and never became the international success that it was intended to be. It's possible that by now its impact would be diminished by Paul Van Hoeven's film 'Black Book' (2006) which also covers the less palatable aspects of the occupation. But personally I think that it's a shame that 'De Hunnen' didn't get more international attention.

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