The Cut Out Girl

A Story of War and Family, Lost and Found
Narrated by: Bart van Es
Length: 8 hrs and 44 mins
Categories: History, Military
4.5 out of 5 stars (38 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Costa Book of the Year Award winner.

The extraordinary true story of a young Jewish girl in Holland during World War II who hides from the Nazis in the homes of an underground network of foster families, one of them the author's grandparents

Bart van Es left Holland for England many years ago, but one story from his Dutch childhood never left him. It was a mystery of sorts: A young Jewish girl named Lientje had been taken in during the war by relatives and hidden from the Nazis, handed over by her parents, who understood the danger they were in all too well. The girl had been raised by her foster family as one of their own, but then, well after the war, there was a falling out, and they were no longer in touch. What was the girl's side of the story, Bart wondered? What really happened during the war and after?

So began an investigation that would consume Bart van Es's life and change it. After some sleuthing, he learned that Lientje was now in her 80s and living in Amsterdam. Somewhat reluctantly, she agreed to meet him, and eventually they struck up a remarkable friendship, even a partnership. The Cut Out Girl braids together a powerful recreation of that intensely harrowing childhood story of Lientje's with the present-day account of Bart's efforts to piece that story together, including bringing some old ghosts back into the light. 

It is a story rich with contradictions. There is great bravery and generosity - first Lientje's parents, giving up their beloved daughter, and then the Dutch families who face great danger from the Nazi occupation for taking Lientje and other Jewish children in. And there are more mundane sacrifices a family under brutal occupation must make to provide for even the family they already have. But tidy Holland also must face a darker truth, namely that it was more cooperative in rounding up its Jews for the Nazis than any other Western European country; that is part of Lientje's story, too. Her time in hiding was made much more terrifying by the energetic efforts of the local Dutch authorities, zealous accomplices in the mission of sending every Jew, man, woman, and child, East to their extermination. And Lientje was not always particularly well treated, and sometimes, Bart learned, she was very badly treated indeed. 

The Cut Out Girl is an astonishment, a deeply moving reckoning with a young girl's struggle for survival during war; a story about the powerful love of foster families but also the powerful challenges, and about the ways our most painful experiences define us but also can be redefined, on a more honest level, even many years after the fact. A triumph of subtlety, decency, and unflinching observation, The Cut Out Girl is a triumphant marriage of many keys of writing, ultimately blending them into an extraordinary new harmony and a deeper truth.

©2018 Bart van Es (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Superb. This is a necessary book - painful, harrowing, tragic, but also uplifting.” (The Times, U.K.)    

“Deeply moving.... Writes with an almost Sebaldian simplicity and understatement.” (The Guardian)

The Cut Out Girl is a reminder of the extraordinary richness of archives and the treasures released by scholarly research.” (TLS)

“A nuanced, moving, and unusual ‘hidden child’ account.” (Publishers Weekly)

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The personal becomes a broader narrative

The drape of human behavior is lifted in small and powerful ways to expose what lives are- the impact of the most base as well as the brave and willing to rearrange lives to save others, sometimes not even understanding why. Survival happens in the clouded or invisible moments, and the collective of them
Are exposed when the true evil comes to light, and is, for so time vanquished. Bravery,flaws, caring, fear, individuality and collective relationships, sometimes undefined, allow people to find what essence is in the face of the unthinkable

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a powerful & unique work on the Holocaust

This is a unique work on the Holocaust that does not feature (at least not directly) the concentration camps themselves. Unusually, it focuses on the Netherlands, and unusually, it is about the hiding of jewish children in the Netherlands, by non-jews, during the harsh German occupation, while their parents are "away," most of whom seem not to have survived (75%-80% of the Netherlands jews did not survive). Interestingly, the books is about PTSD, without making any mention of it, the damage done to the author's aunt from losing her parents, being shuffled around for years, sometimes with quite un-loving (but protective) families. The books is narrated by the author.