Set in 1944 and 1945, Dutch ballet choreographer and author Rudi van Dantzig’s semi-autobiographical historical novel, For a Lost Soldier
(1986), tells the story of Nazi Germany's occupation of Amsterdam during World War II and a sexual relationship that forms between an 11-year-old boy based on van Dantzig and an adult solder in the First Canadian Army. Despite the inherently abusive nature of the relationship, van Dantzig frames it as loving and consensual, a depiction complicated by the fact that the story is autobiographical to a large extent. In 1992, For a Lost Soldier
was adapted into a Dutch film of the same name directed by Roeland Kerbosch and starring Jeroen Krabbe.
The year is 1944. Four years earlier, Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands even though the country had declared its neutrality in World War II. At first, Hitler wanted to incorporate the Netherlands into the Greater Germanic Reich as he considered its people a part of the Aryan race. But as the war intensified, the Nazis ramped up repression in the country, forcing all the Netherlands' economic production to go toward the war effort. After the Allied invasion in 1944, key supply routes are cut off to the Netherlands' cities, causing widespread starvation that kills up to 22,000 people.
With little food in the city, 11-year-old Jeroen Boman’s parents send him along with many other children in Amsterdam to the countryside where there is more food to be grown and hunted. Jeroen and his friend Jan Hogervorst go to stay with an eel fisher's family in a seaside village. Despite greater access to food, Jeroen is intensely homesick for his family and his home back in Amsterdam. One day, he and Jan walk to the ocean and see a downed American plane in the water. They attempt to swim to the plane, but the water is too full of eels. Jan also gets a deep cut on his leg.
Jeroen's life changes when the First Canadian army liberates the village. Shortly after the liberation, Walt Cook, a Canadian soldier in his early twenties, gives Jeroen a packet of chewing gum. A couple of days later, Walt flags Jeroen down on an empty street and gives him a ride. Hungry for affection of any kind, Jeroen relishes it when Walt puts his arm around him and proceeds to massage his neck. The next day, they meet again and, in a barn, Walt rapes him. The act is framed as sexual, but Jeroen, not understanding what is happening to him, believes that Walt is going to kill him. Over time, Jeroen begins to better understand their encounters and finds himself aroused by them.
Jeroen and Walt's relationship is also marked by more friendly, platonic aspects of companionship. Walt teaches Jeroen how to drive his jeep and how to clean guns. They are open about their companionship and affection for one another, although it is unclear if Jan or their foster parents are aware that the relationship is sexual in nature. One day, Walt puts his dog tag on a scarecrow outside, and the foster family poses next to it for a picture.
Days pass and Walt's regiment is ordered to move to a new Dutch village to liberate it. Despite their closeness, Walt leaves without saying goodbye to Jeroen. Jeroen isn't aware that the troops have moved on until his foster sisters tell him. Jeroen runs from house to house, looking for any soldiers still present, but everyone is gone. Even worse, when he returns home, he sees that his only photo of Walt has been destroyed. It was in the pocket of a shirt left out on a clothesline in the rain. Jeroen remembers the dog tag on the scarecrow outside with Walt's identification numbers on it. However, when he tries to retrieve the dog tag, Jeroen cuts his hand badly on some pigeon wire on the scarecrow. His foster father finds him bleeding and collapsed in tears. He brings Jeroen inside. A few months later, the war ends and Jeroen returns to Amsterdam.
Many years later, an adult Jeroen learns that a group of Canadian veterans will be paraded through the streets of Amsterdam. He watches them on television, knowing that it is extremely unlikely that any of them are Walt, and he is right. Nevertheless, he studies their faces to determine whether Walt could still be alive. The reader is left unknowing if they will ever meet again: "The idea that you might have died strikes me suddenly as absurd, unthinkable. You can't possibly have disappeared before we have looked each other in the eye just one more time, wondering together or perhaps smiling together as we reconsider our strange encounter."