`The Mastmakers’ Daughters

mastmaker 5e.inddThe original version is written in Dutch, by the same author, as: “De Mastmakersdochters”. The Mastmakers’ Daughters are cousins. They have the same name:  Rennie de Vries. Our main character grows up above her father’s mastmaker shop in a small seaport on the former Zuiderzee. Her three year younger cousin, born in 1904, grows up in Germany where her father started a mastmaker branch of the two century old family business. The German mastmaker family moved back to Holland in 1925. Rennie joins Hitler’s Nazi party. Our Rennie ends up in the 2nd World War Resistance. The young mother is arrested by the Germans. The story follows her through Dutch prisons and concentration camps Vught and Ravensbrück until the interception by the 12th infantry regiment of the 4th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army on her Death March out of Dachau.  The author managed to reconstruct one of the first complete accounts of the 200 Dutch women of the “AGFA-Kommando”. Van Ommen has used the, often very moving and personal, stories of a number of other prisoners of Rennie’s group. These courageous women survived the horrors by standing together. They prayed, sang, cried and laughed together. Rennie remembers their secret religious exercises with Corrie and Betsie ten Boom.  Van Ommen discovered a number of misconceptions and some shocking facts about the heroes and villains in the Resistance. He corrects a number of erroneous facts in Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place”. This book also follows the Nazi Rennie after she flees Holland when the Third Reich begins to collapse. This book is not the standard war story in that it also covers the enemy within and the suffering of the Germans. Rennie’s husband kept a diary from the time of his arrest until Rennie’s safe return. Dick van Ommen was arrested by the same team leaders of the SS who four months later arrested the Frank family. He received one of the first issues of the “Diary of Anne Frank” from Otto Frank. Before Rennie could be repatriated, after the war’s end, she worked briefly for the American War Press contingent near Munich. The author, her son, was able to track down several of these men in the United States and there are names and photographs of them among the many illustrations of this book and on the slide show on this web site.

The alphabetical index contains nearly 350 names making it a very useful tool for historians of this period and geography. If you are related to a Frisian, a political prisoner, a German war criminal, Dutch resistance member or traitor you’ll most likely find your family name in the book.

The book’s first part is based on Rennie’s memoirs. It is a very personal account of her growing up in a small seaport, when the fishing and commercial fleet moved by sail and muscle, before running water and electricity; before the Zuiderzee was turned from a saltwater sea into a freshwater lake and the consequences this brought to the mastmaker and his customers. Her father was the fourth generation mastmaker of the family business that celebrated it’s bi-centennial in 2002. Rennie embraced the emancipation and was one of the founding members of the Dutch equivalent of our YWCA. This is a testimony of how an ordinary housewife and her comrades were capable of performing extraordinary acts of heroism.  But most of all, this is Rennie’s affirmation of her gratitude to be a child of God.

The Author: Jack van Ommen, Dutch-American, is the son of Rennie de Vries-van Ommen. He was eight when the war ended, when he was nineteen he immigrated to the United States. In 2005 he left California on a solo sailing voyage on his 30 foot sloop “Fleetwood”. He has crossed every ocean, visited sixty countries and six continents. On March 31st., 2017, he completed his circumnavigation, one month after his 80th birthday. His articles appear regularly in U.S. and Dutch papers and magazines. You can follow his adventure on his regular blog posts at: www.cometosea.us .

To keep the cost down, the Amazon 284 pages print version is only* available in Black and White photos and illustrations. On the Amazon page you will be able to read the book’s first three chapters. The E-book at Kindle is in color. To see the color illustrations  plus additional pictures of this story, go to the You Tube slide show.

Details for purchase and delivery:
Amazon: E-book/Kindle: $9.50 Paperback $19.50 plus shipping/tax
LuLu : E-book/Epub: $ 7.50 Paperback $ 16.50 And the print COLOR pictures version $25.00

Canada: plus shipping/tax. Subject to Currency fluctuation
Amazon: E-book/Kindle: Can$ 9.99 Paperback Can$ 26.00
LuLu: E-book/ Epub: Can$ 10.00 Paperback Can$ 25.00

Holland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy. (Just go to Amazon in your country and search for the book title): Kindle : € 9,50 Print: € 16,50 including shipping plus VAT/BTW
Holland: A print color version is available from the Dutch publisher €23,00

United Kingdom:
Amazon: Kindle: £ 7,50 Print £ 15,50

Voor de web site van het originele boek De Mastmakersdochters bezoek: www.DeMastmakersDochters.nl

Reviews from Readers on Amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars A very special biography, October 7, 2013
By – Marck Clouse
This review is from: The Mastmakers’ Daughters (Paperback)

The Mastmakers’ Daughters is a very special biography of the cultural structure and lifestyles of the Dutch people before and during WWII. At least that’s the part of the book that captivated me. Also the book is assembled from the diaries and writings of Jack’s mother, but also from other sources and Jack cleverly presents the information as if it’s his mothers 1st person account. So Jack is really kind of a ghost writer of sorts. It’s common to read historical accounts for grand events, but this is mostly the story of everyday people following their hearts to provide some compassion to buffer profound and psychopathic brutality. There are so many ways to learn from this book.

4.0 out of 5 stars A well done view of inside Holland and Germany during WWII., June 21, 2013
By -Roger Rue
This review is from: The Mastmakers’ Daughters (Paperback)

The author is a friend of mine, so I may be a bit biased, but this book gets right into personalities and the environment of European thoughts and moods. We Americans should take a lesson of pure optimism from the characters in the book

And on Amazon Kindle:
5.0 out of 5 stars Too good to pass up, December 20, 2013
By Susan Jachimec
This review is from: The Mastmakers’ Daughters (Kindle Edition)

Amazing look at the life of a Dutch mother and resistance fighter during WW II, told by her and the son who was left behind as a young child when she was arrested and shipped to a German concentration camp. Lots of details,photos and history from this era, but also of the preceding generations invovled in the the earlier boat building industries. The author keeps the story alive with his ongoing link to his own round the world sailing experiences.

5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely read this book January 9, 2014

By Roberta

I know that Jack van Ommen initially composed this book for the benefit of his children and grandchildren so that they would better appreciate their family history. I’m glad he decided to publish it for a larger audience. We can all benefit from the memoirs of Rennie de Vries. She is our eyewitness to past events that have shaped all our families’ and our own lives. She is an inspiration, a model of dignity, courage and compassion in good times and bad.
This is a compelling story for anyone to enjoy and savour, and I would especially recommend that teachers and students of history read “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”. It provides a real and personal account of significant events rarely available to us in the present.