Book Reviews

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen | Book Review

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen | Book Review Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen
Genres: Biography, History, Non-Fiction
Original Publication Date: 2019
Source: I purchased this book
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four-half-stars

Dutch Girl: Several biographies have chronicled her stardom, but none has covered Audrey Hepburn’s intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. Audrey Hepburn’s war included participation in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor’s assistant during the “Bridge Too Far” battle of Arnhem, the brutal execution of her uncle, and the ordeal of the Hunger Winter of 1944. Audrey’s own reminiscences, new interviews with people who knew her in the war, wartime diaries, and research in classified Dutch archives shed light on the riveting, untold story of Audrey Hepburn under fire in World War II.

Audrey Hepburn Was A Dutch Girl

Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II Is The Story of Hepburn’s family during World War II.

Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium. Her father, Joseph Ruston-Hepburn was British.

Her mother, Baroness van Heemstra, was Dutch. Audrey was considered a British citizen because of her father.

Audrey spent parts of her childhood in Belgium, England, and the Netherlands.

Audrey Hepburn grew up in a very distinguished family. The van Heemstra family was part of the Dutch nobility on her mother’s side.

They were devoted to helping their fellow citizens. They believed that was their responsibility.

Her Parents Were Nazi Sympathizers

Her parents admired Adolf Hitler. Because of their social prominence, they had easy access to him.

It was well known that her father was a Nazi sympathizer, but new information has shown that her mother had idolized Hitler, too.

Audrey’s mother, Baroness van Heemstra, met Hitler, and he held her hand. She believed in him, Her friends believed in him. She was also fluent in German.

Baroness Ella van Heemstra stood in the office of Adolph Hitler and offered her hand to the most famous man in the world, the man whose name was on simply everyone’s lips. Hitler’s deep blue eyes bored through her, such was their power.

When Hitler came into power the German economy was a wreck.

Despite having some Jewish friends, she pushed those thoughts aside and admired him for rescuing the German economy:

Dear God, how heady these times were, Germany reborn and lighting the way for all of Europe after the devastation of the worldwide Great Depression.

She was sure that fascism was the answer. She participated in fascist activities in Berlin, and later had a Nazi officer boyfriend in the Netherlands.

She went to praise him in National Socialist newsletters. This would come back to haunt her.

Moving Back to the Netherlands

Audrey was going to school and studying ballet in England when the war broke out, but her mother brought her back to the Netherlands because she was sure that Hitler would never invade that country!

She was wrong. The Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg on May 10, 1940.

Audrey’s uncle and another relative were executed by the Nazis. Baroness van Heemstra was shocked to realize the depths of Nazi depravity. She finally started to realize that the Nazis were evil.

Audrey’s family relocated to Arnhem and eventually nearby Velp. The population suffered through terrible bombing raids and the control of the area by the Nazis.

The last winter of the war was spent mostly in the basement of their house, trying to avoid being killed by bombs. There was very little food.

It was the winter of the Dutch famine of 1944–1945, thousands of Dutch citizens died during that time.

Final Analysis

This book is a fascinating look at Audrey Hepburn’s childhood, five years of which were spent in a country under Nazi occupation.

She was very happy studying dance but her lessons were finally curtailed by the war. She suffered from edema and malnutrition due to the lack of proper food.

It discusses whether Audrey actually participated in the Resistance (in some ways she did), and also explains how the war permanently changed Audrey’s view on things.

She saw Jews being taken away to concentration camps. She saw German soldiers everywhere. She saw many deaths and children losing their parents.

The suffering she saw later led to her great work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

This is a terrific book, especially if you like Audrey Hepburn and are interested in World War II.

Audrey in Her First Film Role

After the war, Audrey resumed her dance lessons. She was determined to be a great dancer, but she had started too late and had her dance training interrupted by the war.

Audrey Hepburn made her film debut in a short film called “Dutch in Seven Lessons.”

Further Reading and Viewing

Here is a look at the writing of this book by the author, Robert Matzen:

Check out my other reviews regarding Audrey Hepburn:

Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson | Book Review

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart | Book Review

Please read my other posts:

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell (2019) | Book Review

I Stand With Evan Gershkovich

Chocolates For Breakfast by Pamela Moore | Book Review

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller | Book Review

State of the Blog Address 2024

World Press Freedom Day 2024

Heronfield by Dorothy Balchin | Book Review

Marie: A True Story by Peter Maas | Book Review

Democracy Dies in Darkness

How the Good Guys Finally Won: Notes From An Impeachment Summer by Jimmy Breslin | Book Review

#FreePress

All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein | Book Review

World Press Freedom Day 2018

and some other book reviews:

Tisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness

Diary of a Mad Housewife by Sue Kaufman.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

and check out my other blog:

March For Our Lives in Morristown!

The Haunted Deserted Village of Feltville and the Enchanted Forest 2023 | Berkeley Heights, New Jersey

Delicious Orchards 2023 | Colts Neck, New Jersey

First Presbyterian Church of Oxford at Hazen and the Spooky Graveyard 2023 | Belvidere, New Jersey

The Historic Cooper Gristmill | Chester Township, New Jersey

The Little Red Schoolhouse | Florham Park, New Jersey

Clara Barton Schoolhouse | Bordentown, New Jersey

Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Is About To Be Torn Down 2015 | Morris Plains, New Jersey

Thank you for reading The Literary Lioness!

About Robert Matzen

Robert Matzen is the author of eight books, including the bestsellers Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe and Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, which won the 2015 ‘Biography of the Year, Benjamin Franklin Award and earned praise from the Smithsonian Institution.

I love books, writing, film, and television.

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