The theme of the IABA Europe Conference 2023 is ‘Life-Writing in Times of Crisis’ and we be held at the University of Warsaw in Poland. Our researcher Janna Aerts will present her research in a session about Wartime Diaries: “Societal, Personal and Literary Crises in Amsterdam And Brussels’ Occupation Diaries From the Second World War”.

Diaries are often considered to be a crisis genre in which people can write about the problems and worries they experience. In times of war and occupation, this aspect gains even more importance: diary writing often becomes an indispensable ritual of reflection, allowing the author to process this large-scale and impactful crisis in their life. Nevertheless, this paper will demonstrate how the authors of occupation diaries during the Second World War do not only reflect on the war crisis, but use the act of diary writing to cope with different types of hardships in their life. These crises can be categorised into three types: societal, personal and literary crises. It will examine three Brussels’ occupation diaries by Dutch-speaking authors (Ernest Claes, August Vermeylen and Jan Walravens) in comparison to one Amsterdam occupation diary (by Toby Vos). By examining the impact of the three types of crises on the occupation diaries, this paper will explore what role diary writing plays in the daily life of the diary authors and how it can serve as a tactic to deal with the different types of crises they experience.

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