Summary: Living in the Netherlands during World War II, Janke and her community face a five year-long Nazi occupation. Working to protect the Jews divers being hidden by the Dutch, Janke is part of the resistance movement against the Nazis, trying her best to help her country survive until the Allies come and liberate them. She and her best friend Alie practice their dancing on a regular basis, preparing themselves for the day when the Nazis will be gone and the celebration that will follow. But after Janke meets Helmut, a reluctant Nazi soldier, previously clear lines become blurred, and their relationship changes Janke’s perspective and life forever.
Number of Pages: 246
Age Range: 15-17
Review: With Janke’s experience of being shunned for loving Helmut, attema’s title begs the question, “When will the war really be over?” The physical expulsion of the Nazis from the Netherlands is just physical as the after effects of war last a life time. attema stunningly develops the black and white attitudes of an occupied country, while telling the story of a sixteen year-old girl named Janke whose view turns from black and white to grey when she meets and falls in love with Helmut, a Nazi soldier.
It’s not an easy choice. Janke knows what she has lived through, and all of the people that have been lost at the hands of the Nazis. As a resistance fighter herself, she is confident in her cause, going on missions to protect others from the Nazis whenever she can. All Nazis are evil until she meets Helmut, and an instant attraction forces her to reconsider. In the beginning, she fights being drawn to him, because even the attraction feels like a betrayal to her country.
I loved it because though it strongly reminded me of The Hunger Journeys by Maggie de Vries (published after attema’s book), I was left stunned. Yes, attema sets things up so it seems Janke and Helmut will have a happy life in Canada, but after such a strong reaction from her family, I’m not sure their life together would end up being happier in Canada or not. Was the stigma toward Germans and former Nazi soldiers any less in Canada? Would Helmut have been prosecuted for his actions during the war?
It’s a compelling story, and another book that challenges preconceived ideas about historical events with real characters. Recommended for mid to older teen readers.
“Her hands clasped together on the table. ‘The woman who owns the store had heard what happened.’ She stood up, her hands balled into fists. ‘They have no hearts!’ Her voice rose. ‘They think they kill with God on their side!’ Her fist hit the table as she collapsed back onto the chair. Dishes and teacups clattered, tea sloshed into the saucers.” – Aunt Anna from When the War is Over by martha attema, page 13
“‘Why do you do it?’ Janke couldn’t resist the Question.
‘It happened gradually. Somebody asked me to give someone a message and, before I knew it, I was deeply involved.’ She shrugged her shoulders. ‘At first it was like a game. I liked it when we outsmarted those stinking Nazis. Now it’s much more dangerous. A few times I’ve been lucky. But what else can I do? I’m used to it now. I need to feel the danger. It’s like a drug. When the adrenaline rushes through my weins, I feel high. I’m addicted to danger.’ Celia laughed, but it didn’t sound like laughter.” – Celia from When the War is Over by martha attema, page 160
“When Father and Jan left, Mother cried with long sobs. Janke felt helpless. She wanted to go to her mother, but something held her back. Instead of crying, her mother should’ve been grateful for the fact that Father and Jan were both still alive. She should have been proud of them, proud that they were going to fight for the liberation of their country. She would never understand her mother’s actions.” – Janke from When the War is Over by martha attema, page 202
“Janke stood facing her friend. Should she be ashamed of being alive? Should she be ashamed of what she had shared that night with Helmut? A deep feeling settled in her heart. She would never be ashamed of their love. She was no whore. Janke realized she could never share her experience with Alie. She didn’t want to. In those two nights, Janke and Helmut had soared beyond this world, beyond these people so full of hate, including her best friend. She turned away from Alie and started to run. She never looked back at Alie or the hotel.” – Janke from When the War is Over by martha attema, page 232