A Street In Arnhem : The Agony of Occupation and Liberation
Robert Kershaw follows up his best-selling account of the Battle of Arnhem from German eyes - It Never Snows in September - to focus on the experiences the Dutch civilians and British and German soldiers in one street fighting to survive at the heart of one of the most intense battles of World War 2. A Street in Arnhem tells the story of the battle of Arnhem in September 1944 from the perspective of what could be seen or heard from the Utrechtseweg, a road that runs seven kilometres from the Arnhem railway station west to Oosterbeek. This stretch of road saw virtually every major event during the fighting for Arnhem during Operation Market-Garden in September 1944.
The story is about the disintegration of a wealthy Dutch suburb caught up unexpectedly in the war it had escaped for so long. The war had thus far been kind to Oosterbeek and its swift liberation on 17th September suggested they might well escape the abject misery inflicted on so many other unfortunate European communities. The book charts the steady destruction of a well established and exclusive rural community, where wealthy Dutch holiday makers had relaxed enjoying its rural delights before the war.
It was a popular hotel destination. The destruction of this pretty village is charted through the eyes of British, Polish and German soldiers fighting amid its confused and horrified Dutch inhabitants. It portrays a collage of human experiences, sights, sounds, visceral fears and emotion as ordinary people seek to cope when their street is so suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed in a savage battle, in which the heaviest weapons of the day were employed.
Robert Kershaw's new research reveals the extent to which most people in this battle, whether soldiers or civilians, saw only what was immediately happening to them. They had virtually no idea of what was going on around them. It offers a unique picture of a stable community coping with a disaster progressing through joy, shock, horror, resignation and then despair as their lives are irrevocably ruined by the conflagration bursting over them.
Many original Dutch, German and English accounts have been unearthed through interviews, diary accounts and letters. Post combat reports have been discovered charting the same incidents from both sides as well giving the Dutch civilian perspective. The story is told as a docudrama following the fortunes of a number of British, Polish, German and Dutch characters, within a gripping narrative format.
This tale will resonate with any reader. Holland had not witnessed conflict since the Napoleonic wars. What happens when your street, where you have lived for generations is suddenly overwhelmed by conflict? A Street in Arnhem tells that story and provides some of the answers.