The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market Garden
War and Peace in My Backyard
by Kees Vanderheyden
“War and Peace in My Back Yard”, is a book by author Kees Vanderheyden from Canada.
Kees Vanderheyden lived in Oisterwijk during the Second World War and immigrated
to Canada in the 1950’s. After he read my website Kees send me the following two
stories of his memories of the war in Oisterwijk. In the first story he writes about
the glider crash in our village and his first encounter with the presence of death
inflicted by the war. The second story is about his first encounter with Russian
POW’s in our village and his secret Russian friend.
These two stories are surprisingly part of a very nice little book that the author
send me as a gift from Canada. In this book Kees Vanderheyden shares the memories
of his childhood in Oisterwijk during the summer of 1944, the war games he and his
friends then played and his experiences with both the occupying German army with
its soldiers billeted in his house, the Allied troops that stayed in our village
after our liberation and much much more.
“War and Peace in My Back Yard” gives a glimpse of the life of an 11 years old Dutch
boy living in occupied Oisterwijk near the end of the war and what his experiences
were when the war invaded his own backyard. I found “War and Peace in My Back Yard”
a very interesting read and therefore highly recommend this very nice book.
“War and Peace in My Back Yard” by Kees Vanderheyden can be ordered at;
By ex-general Roméo Dallaire, son of a Canadian soldier who participated in the liberation
“WAR AND PEACE IN MY BACKYARD”, brought me home, for my mother was a survivor of
the Second World War in Europe, more precisely Holland.
Those who lived through this long and murderous war of the twentieth century very
rarely talk about it. I always asked myself what the daily life was in a country
invaded and crushed under martial law. I often wondered if the children had the right
to laugh, play and dream in all innocence, or did the foreign and crushing military
occupation take this right away for ever?
I have found the answer to the question that intrigued me for 50 years. It is here,
so clear, simple, human and so innocent, in this marvellous book.
“WAR AND PEACE IN MY BACKYARD” is the expression of youth caught in a web of complex
and potentially deathly situations. But while one devours each page of this book
so full of emotions, one enters literally into the daily life of children looking
for joy, adventure and the maximum of innocence. The scenes chosen by the author
to introduce us to a childhood that was almost lost, are the more revealing that
they show us also the insight of the child.
I have, until today, met with more than 12000 children and adults in the province
of Quebec to talk about my war memories as a child. They have been touched and often
even transformed. The book is often used by teachers in the classroom to help kids
talk and think about war, peace, reconciliation, the role of the family and the resilience
By André Duchesne, L’hebdo L’œil Régional;
“This book is magic, written with great sensitivity and truthfulness. It offers no
moral conclusions or rosy lessons. From the first page to the last, it is filled
with lively and colorful anecdotes. Some are suspenseful, and many are very touching.”
By Voir magazine, book section;
“The stories touch us because they have the lightness of youth and at the same time
they don’t hide the historical truth that one dares not always tell as an adult.”
By Kees Vanderheyden;
Most people have a very limited idea about war. We all hear about battles, military
campaigns, soldiers dying. But we know too little about the life of ordinary citizens
during wartime and even less about the fate of children. Children’s points of view
about war are also very rare. This is particularly true about the worst of all wars:
World War Two.
In my book, “WAR AND PEACE IN MY BACKYARD”, I offer a rare view on war lived by a
child. For me as a child, war seemed sometimes like a frightening and fascinating
game played by adults. The trucks, the tanks, the airplanes, the dogfights, the strong
and fearless soldiers, the relative chaos, the trickery to deceive the enemy; they
all created a captivating world for the young naive boy. World War 2 brought all
this to my backyard in the lovely green Dutch village of Oisterwijk. A German General
and his staff occupied our house and so the war invaded my backyard.
Then came the Allies, the Scots and the Canadians, who finally brought the long awaited
liberation. But their arrival brought more death and suffering than celebration.
My memories show the long way from naive children games to tragedy. Finally came
the beginning of real peace and reconciliation, thanks to Traudi, a little German
girl. The book is a witness account by a 7-year-old boy at the outbreak of war and
an 11 year old, at the end. It is a story of hope.