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(Review) Things We Couldn't Say by Diet Eman with James Schaap

Publisher and Publication Date: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Paperback edition 1999.
Genre: Biography, World War II, Holocaust, Netherlands.
Pages: 400.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Excellent.


I had been a subscriber to Discipleship Journal Magazine for many years. I had saved a page from a past issue of the magazine with information about this book. Several years passed. Recently, I came across the torn out page in my file cabinet. I decided to stop procrastinating and order the book through Amazon.
Diet Eman's biography is the story of her resistance work during World War II. It is a Christian testimony. Most of the Holocaust stories I've read are not Christian testimonies. They are testimonies of survival, but Diet Eman never fails to proclaim that her faith abided in Jesus Christ.

When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Diet and her family lived in The Hague, Netherlands. Her father owned an interior decorating business. When the story begins Diet is 17. Her parents have taken in a boarder named, Hein Sietsma. He is from Friesland, a province in northwest Netherlands. Diet is employed at a bank. She'd wanted to attend the university but was unable to afford the cost. The year is 1937.
The Dutch people believed their country was secure from an invasion by Hitler. They didn't want to believe Nazi Germany would invade their country. They believed the assurances from Hitler, but later learned he had lied. On May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. The war lasted five days until the Dutch military surrendered. In the beginning, the Dutch people believed the war would not last long. Meanwhile, Diet and many other Dutch people wanted to do something to help the Jewish people by resisting Nazi Germany's restrictions.
Things We Couldn't Say is part resistance work and part love story.
On second thought, Things We Couldn't Say is a great love story of two people who loved each other, loved their country, and loved Jesus Christ.

Today is the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. My dad was in the invasion. He landed on Omaha Beach. I don't know what time of the day he landed. The first night he spent the night in a garage just inland from the beach. He felt blessed to be alive and blessed to have a dry place to sleep. The invasion changed the course of history for those in Europe who suffered at the hands of Nazi Germany. In Things We Couldn't Say, Diet Eman learned of the invasion afterwards. It gave her hope.

Several reasons I loved this story!

  • I am thankful Eman wrote her story. It shares with the world her love and dedication to her homeland. It shares of the endurance and perseverance over great obstacles. It shares her love of family. It shares her love to the church. It shares her love of the Jewish people. And it shares her love to her special man.
  • Eman's story is emotional.
  • It is a story I became engrossed in immediately.
  • I understood in a greater context what the Dutch people lived through during World War II. I've read only a couple of stories of Dutch Jews. This is the second story I've read of Dutch Gentile/Christians.
  • I learned of the specific work of the resistance.
  • I learned Eman knew Corrie ten Boom.
  • Love letters are included in the story. They add intimacy, realness, and emotion.
  • Eman's feelings throughout the war are a theme. She is transparent about periods of time when she was depressed and filled with despair. She shares about periods of time when she felt hopeful.
  • The book concludes with an afterwards about the characters.




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