Sleuthing Around

I’ve been Sleuthing Around lately. You might say snooping, ferreting, digging. My days are spent with my head in a book, a movie, some old documents, letters. But it’s not as dreary as it sounds. It’s kind of Sherlock-Holmes-ish. I always did love a good mystery. And I’ve got my own private mystery to solve.

Book Sleuthing Around

A large part of what I’m learning is coming from an ever-growing stack of books on the Low Countries and WWII.

  • A Bridge Too Far: by Cornelius Ryan (The classic history of one of the greatest battles in WWII. The battle for the bridge at Arnhem, the Netherlands)
  • Barbed Wire: A Political History by Olivier Razac (Interesting where you find information! This small beauty of a book has a chapter on barbed wire use in concentration camps under Nazi Germany.)
  • Soldier of Orange by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema (First hand account of life in Occupied Holland, the resistance movement, and the Government-in-Exile in London.) I learned a lot from it about Queen Wilhelmina.
  • Operation Chowhound: The Most Risky, Glorious U.S. Bomber Mission of WWII by Stephen Dando-Collins (A wealth of information about the food drops in the Netherlands, when thousands of Dutch were starving to death, in the last months of the war.)
  • The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland, 1944 – 1945, by Henri A. Van Der Zee 
  • The Dutch Under German Occupation, 1940 – 1945, by Werner Warmbrunn
  • Railways in the Netherlands: A Brief History, 1834 – 1994, by Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr. (How the great railway strike affected both the Netherlands and Germany in WWII.)


Picture Books & Photo Sleuthing Around 

When I tire of reading books (Yes. I do get tired of reading!) I turn to picture books & photos. It’s surprising the little things you can pull out of them.

I was writing about the Dutch penchant for eating peppermint candy during sermons when they are in church. And I started thinking, well, maybe, I’m exaggerating. Maybe it’s a Kandel family thing and not a Dutch thing. I had a vague memory of a picture in a book and went searching.

There’s a really great Dutch artist (Very much in the line of American artist Norman Rockwell) named Rien Poortvliet. He did dozens of fabulous books depicting everyday Dutch life. I got out Te Hooio en te Gras (The Hay and the Grass: A book about farmers and farms and a little more)

Te Hooi en te gras, Snooping Around, Jill Kandel, Writing Between Cultures

And there it was! I found it. King Peppermints in the upper right hand of the page.

King Peppermints, Writing Between Cultures, Snooping Around

Rien painted two full pages of Dutch men and women sitting in church: the high pulpit, taking up the collection, nodding off and Passing the Peppermints! Hooray. I’m not crazy after all. Although the Dutch just might be, really. One and the same they open up their King Peppermints and pass them down the pew, person to person, and eat their candy during the sermon. Nobody can tell me why. It’s just one of those strange cultural occurrences that make life go round.

Family Paraphernalia Sleuthing Around

Snooping Around, Dutch, Jill Kandel, Writing Between Cultures

My sleuthing about has also led me to a stash of old stuff from my husband’s childhood. His comic books and  children’s books that have been stuffed in boxes for years. It’s rather quaint and cute. And sometimes funny.

My best find? I came across the little books he had to fill in for his Boy Scout Club.

He was in De Nederlandse Padvinders (The Dutch Pathfinders)I found several cards full of tasks that had to be completed. You know: start a fire, use a compass, knot tying, know your birds and trees. That sort of thing. But then! Oh my goodness.

Snooping Around, Nederlandse. Jill Kandel, So Many Africas

 There’s a whole section that blows my mind. 

  • Polishing Copper
  • Peeling Potatoes
  • Shining your Shoes

Are you kidding me? How Dutch can you get? My husband is the best polisher, peeler, shiner I have ever met. He shines his shoes every day before going to work. He hates how I peel potatoes: you take off too much skin! And, well, I don’t own any copper, but I’m sure if I did, he’d polish it before I would. So, yup, the Sleuth struck gold. Or copper as the case may be. Now when my hubby goes to get the polish, I’ll just smile, and envision him as a little Dutch boy getting his badge, checking off his list on the way to Boy Scout victory.

Right now my sleuthing and writing stand at 239 pages completed. (57,360 words) I think Sherlock would be proud of me.

As Archibald Hill said, “The investigation of the world – mental and material – in which we live, is not a dull and spiritless affair: rather is it a voyage of adventure of the human mind, a holiday for reckless and imaginative souls.”

Happy voyages to you and your reckless, imaginative souls! 

(Let me know if you have a favorite WWII book, movie, or web link that has a connection to the Dutch? I’d love to hear about it!)


Jill Kandel
  • Tim Van Hal
    Posted at 12:47h, 12 July Reply

    Thanks for your post. We had a friend from Canada that emigrated from Holland right after WWII. She told a lot of stories, and dad could talk Dutch to her. The Nazis too over their house for their officers and the family moved to the barn.

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 20:29h, 14 July Reply

      Interesting! There are so many stories from that time. A lot of Dutch emigrated to Canada and to New Zealand and Australia. Life was very difficult in the late 40s and early 50s in the Netherlands.

  • Marjorie Witt
    Posted at 21:11h, 12 July Reply

    My dad was a preacher. I always sat in the back row of the Methodist Church with Mom. She passed around Certs about the time the sermon began. Interesting. I thought maybe it was a Scandinavian thing.

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 20:30h, 14 July Reply

      I’ve never heard of it outside of the Netherlands. Not for a whole congregation anyway!

  • Karen Miedrich-Luo
    Posted at 21:31h, 12 July Reply

    Love hearing about this, Sherlock! Fascinating and inspiring me to get out and start sleuthing. I can only think of the Hiding Place.

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 10:13h, 13 July Reply

      Hi Karen, thank you! I’m so curious what you will find! Studying the history of Holland has helped me understand so much of my ‘other half.’ It’s been good.

  • Elisa Anderson
    Posted at 23:37h, 12 July Reply

    I love your post Jill, It is very fascinating. Love that part about Hans old “boy scout books” Thank you for sharing.

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 10:14h, 13 July Reply

      Thanks, Elisa. Kind of crazy the things it takes us thirty years to figure out. But it’s good.

  • Jan VanKooten
    Posted at 01:07h, 15 July Reply

    Oh, Jill — the business about the mints being passed during the sermon struck such a chord with me. When I married Gerry, I knew nothing about this practice, but found every Reformed church I attended knew and indulged this cultural idiosyncrasy. Can’t say I minded … it was interesting, tasty and diverting. So cool to hear how another non-Dutchie saw and experienced the passing of the mints.

    • Jill Kandel
      Posted at 21:18h, 16 July Reply

      That’s really funny, Jan! Now I’m curious. It is Dutch or is it Dutch Reformed?? I’ll have to do some sleuthing. 🙂

Post A Comment