Catharina: Black and White and Very Little Gray

By George Frederick Brauer, Jr.

Friesen Press, 2022

ISBN 978-1-03-913928-2 (paperback)

We all have stories to tell, but some stories are more dramatic than others. Catharina: Black and White and Very Little Gray is the memoir of Catharina Brauer, a woman in her nineties who lives in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Her early life was in her native Holland during the tragic period of World War II.

Picture a girl of about 10 years old sitting on a bench in the center of town. Perhaps she is resting in the midst of a walk to visit a friend or waiting for a parent. You would probably not suspect she was part of the Dutch resistance effort against the Nazi occupiers. But she was. She took her doll, picture book and dog to sit on a bench outside the German commandant’s office. She would eavesdrop then return home with critical information for her father to share with his fellow resistance members.

This boldness characterizes Catharina throughout the dramatic events of her childhood and early adulthood. She eventually came to Baltimore where, after a tumultuous first marriage, she married the love of her life Fred Brauer. They later raised their son Freddy in Anne Arundel County; Freddy is the author of this compilation of memoirs. Catharina devoted herself to her husband and son and made a welcoming home for friends and family. She is a woman of strong opinions and advice such as: Be true to yourself; Be open and accepting to life’s experiences. She also has tips for campers, hikers and cyclists, activities she pursued with her family and friends into her 90s. 

Those of you from the Baltimore area will find references to long gone restaurants and stores. Enjoy her description of her first encounter with blue crabs and Old Bay. Photos of areas in and near Maryland from the past fifty years as well as family photos are found in the sixty pages of photographs. 

Although the book could have used closer editing in places, it provides a window to a personal view of Holland during the war years and life in Maryland from the 1950s to the present. And by reading it, you will meet the charming, resilient Catharina Brauer.

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