I have just finished reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows. It is a series of warm, funny, and beautiful letters that describe the lives of the people of Guernsey during World War II. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands, a British Crown dependency that was occupied by the Germans from 1940 to 1945. With only one day’s notice, many of the islanders sent their children to England for protection. For five years the Germans did not permit any communications to or from the island. Food was scarce, and punishment was common and erratic.
This book is full of stories of human kindness in the face of oppression, of people finding joy in the smallest of wonders. How a little spirit and daring can take a handful of strangers, books, and potatoes and turn it into the formidable Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
”To tell the truth, as long as the Occupation was to last, I met more than one nice German soldier. You would, you know, seeing some of them as much as every day for five years. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of them – stuck here knowing their families at home were being bombed to pieces. Didn’t matter then who started it in the first place. Not to me anyway.
Why there’d be soldiers on guard in the back of potato lorries going to the army’s mess hall – children would follow them, hoping potatoes would fall off into the street. Soldiers would look straight ahead, grim-like, and then flick potatoes off the pile – on purpose. They did the same with lumps of coal – my, those were precious when we didn’t have enough fuel left.”
War threatens to rip the humanity from people, to turn them into beasts. Often fueled by religion, it divides the world into “them” and “us”, and declares that we must destroy the enemy at any cost. Today marks the 91st anniversary since the armistice for the cessation of hostilities was signed between the Allies and Germany. Here’s to hoping that some day the human race has enough reason, compassion, and understanding to end all hostilities across the globe.
Photo from Spacmonster
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