We Escaped: A Family's Flight from Holland during World War Two

by Alexander H. ter Weele

Book cover image

"We Escaped" is a great adventure story, the true narrative of a family that is part of the rapidly fading Greatest Generation, and an important reminder of the history and horror that was World War II.

We Escaped plunges the reader into the extraordinary World War II escapades of an ordinary couple and their children as they first escape from Nazi-occupied Holland; and then deal with the war years by leavening danger and stress with the joy and love of every-day family life. It is the song and dance of the Sound of Music seasoned with the terror of guns and blood.

The story begins in the Netherlands, a peaceful nation protected by a treaty of neutrality and kinship with Hitler's Germany. The calm is shattered by the cacophony and confusion of battle as, under the guns of panzers, German troops overrun Holland's lines.

The ter Weele family's subsequent exodus from their home is told from the points of view of the father, Lieutenant Carl ter Weele, a Dutch reservist called up to defend the Grebbeberg; his wife Margery, an American citizen raised in Boston, who delivers her third child in a hospital not far from the Grebbeberg as war threatens; their oldest son, six-year-old Jan, whose dark eyes and hair lead Nazis to suspect he is Jewish; and their second son, Alex, a blond and fair-skinned imp, who at the age of two charms a German border guard into allowing the family to cross into Switzerland.

Within weeks of German's conquest of Holland, the family has to flee the dragnet of the Gestapo, which is arresting all Dutch military officers. As far as Carl can see, the only way out is through Germany, and from there it's a tortuous and terrifying journey through Switzerland, Vichy France, Spain, and Portugal, with the Gestapo a threat at every turn.

We Escaped is frightening and captivating—frightening for the terror of war that engulfs an otherwise ordinary family; captivating for the day-to-day antics of children loved by parents who protect them. Anyone who picks up this book will laugh with Jan, Alex, and their two little sisters, at their exuberance, imagination, and fondness for one another even as war explodes around them. They will applaud the two parents who undertook a perilous journey behind enemy lines to save themselves and their children. And they may wonder if they would have dared to take such risks, if they would have had the will and grit to survive.

About the Author »

Author insight

The video below was produced for a history class when they had reached the topic of WWII. The video story line captures much of his book, "We Escaped."

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Book Details

Hardcover Edition

  • 292 pages
  • Publisher: Piscataqua Press
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1939739802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939739803
  • Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches