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world war 2 ration stamps

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
--Yeats

Millions dead, madness spearheaded by madmen democratically elected to kill and rape and conquer, humans reduced to numbers in a balance.

The second world war lies far closer than any moral being could want. I was born 1989; in my childhood neighbourhood in North Holland, old men who lived that war still despised one another, fighting it well into the twenty-first century by slitting tires and shouting over hedges.

It is difficult to fathom the horror of it all, but it was made clear to me, by these old men telling me stories of either their struggle against the oppressor or their collaborations with them, that it was waged on every plane, by tanks, by words, by thoughts - and thoughts leave the battlefield less lightly even than tanks.

My grandmother Tiny (pictured to the right) was twelve years old when the nazis occupied her country, and seventeen when they were defeated. During those dark days of occupation, ration stamps were issued to the Dutch people, and Tiny kept a ledger that she steadily filled up with any remaining stamps she could find. I never knew my grandmother but years after that war, she told my mother that she did it because otherwise, people would never believe that it all truly happened - that without some tangible artefact of the days of hunger and injustice, we would look back at that nightmare as just that, a mere bad dream.

Below you'll find that ledger. It is a thing I dread to take out of the cupboard and leaf through, because it does confirm, once again to the subconscious, what my grandmother wished it would: it all happened, every last pitch black second of it. Every damned stamp and clipping is a million starved and murdered souls crying out, and it is a cry that is felt to the bone.