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Rotterdam, Zuid Holland, Netherlands
Trouwfotograaf Zwijndrecht Zuid Holland, Portretfotograaf , Product Fotograaf, Zwangerschapsfotograaf. Betaalbare fotoshoots. met eigen studio.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014



Written words prior to my grandmother's death.
A story of her experiences during world war II. 
as written by:

commonly known as Oma (our grandmother.)


The following account is concerning the war years 1940-1945 as experienced by my family and I.
Let me begin by naming May 10, 1940. It was to be a special day in my life, namely my wedding day. Dark clouds were forming over Europe, but being young all I could see was sunshine. What could be more important than my wedding day? What did it matter that Poland had been overrun by the Germans? Holland surely would be infallible. Had not Hitler assured Queen Wilhelmina that he would not overrun Holland? However Hitler’s words seemed to have been idle ones, full of empty promises. During the eve of May 10 and all that night, the German army entered Holland by air, by train and by foot. The fighting lasted exactly five days. The Dutch had fought like lions, but they were no match for the well-trained Germans. Queen Wilhelmina and the cabinet fled to England. The war was over for Holland, or so it seemed. Holland had become part of Germany.

As the five days of war were utter chaos for everyone in Holland, we were married on May 15 rather than May 10. As our house was ready and being young, we decided we might as well be married. We didn’t really think that the war was going to last five years.I remember so well the text from the Bible that the minister used, Psalm 121: 1-2.
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
This text proved to be a real comfort during our life, but especially during the years 1940-1945.
We had barely settled in our new home, in a new neighbourhood, when we were visited by the police of that area He was working for the German government, but he was not part of their organized parties. He informed us that soon the Germans were going to hold a hunt for all Jews in Holland. He also explained to us there was a great need for a network of underground workers to go against all German action, especially where the Jews were concerned. He then said that since we were new in the neighbourhood nobody would know who our relatives were. Consequently, anybody could come to or go at our home without arousing too much suspicion.

Then what he was saying to us became perfectly clear; he wanted us to use our house as a, if I may use term, guesthouse. It was to be a guesthouse for Jews on their way to freedom and underground workers on their way to a mission of mercy.
You know, being young was a blessing in disguise. We did not have a clue what dangers lay ahead of us. We immediately agreed with the policeman’s proposals.
Soon the reality of war hit home. We could not leave the house after 8 p.m. Our food was rationed, clothes were only available at certain times. But again, we were blessed. We lived on the farm and were able to grow our own food, and I soon learned how to spin and make some of my own yarns. However, I did have many problems keeping my food supply up to the desired level, for soon the beginning of the stream of guests had arrived. The first small group of Jews had arrived at our home. The rich Jews had left Holland for England or the United States. The poorer ones did not have that chance and they had to go in hiding wherever possible.

Hitler ordered all Jews to wear the Star of David on their clothes, so they could be identified at once. Many of the men and teenage boys were picked up by the Germans so they could work in their factories and on their farms. As many of the Jews were business people who were used to using their head rather than their hands, many found this manual labour impossible. Also, the starvation diets did not help the Jewish men and many died or became terribly ill.
Close to our home was one of these German work camps. Once every two weeks, the Jews could be visited by their wives or girlfriends. These visits were heavily supervised the Germans and it was almost impossible to send a secret message anywhere.

A group of neighbours and myself decided to form a committee in order that we could cook a good meal, or as good a meal as possible, under the circumstances for these poor Jews. As the work camp bordered our farm, it was not totally impossible to get some nourishing food to these poor men. One of the committee was caught by a Dutchman turned traitor with two pails of food, and she was ordered to throw it away. She cried, she begged, but to no avail – the man made her destroy the food. It was hard for us to grasp that a fellow countryman could sink to the level of traitor. The above incident opened our eyes and helped us immediately to make a decision concerning our husbands and young sons. We sent them into hiding. We knew there were very few people we could trust.
In late 1940, Hitler ordered that all Jews were to be taken to camp Westerbork or Auschwitz or other termination camps. Many Jews realized the end of their lives had come, and I don’t think that I’ll ever forget the terror on the faces of these poor people.

We were able to help a few Jews at the time escape, but the quantity we helped was only a drop in the bucket, millions died. After the war, I only saw two Jews whom we helped; we never heard what happened to the others. We hoped and prayed for the best. In the meantime the net of underground workers grew. The many incidents of sabotage angered the Germans greatly and they ordered that all men and boys to help them in the war effort. If the men did not want to help, they were also sent to the extermination camps from which few returned. For many men the only solution was to help the German war effort during the day, and then sabotage the same at night.

A war breaks people and it helps others to amass great wealth. I am ashamed to say that many of my fellow countrymen became rich through the black market. In this case, it was selling food at unbelievably high prices. Many people in the city had exhausted their food supplies, and they had to go to country for their staples, such as bread and milk and meat. Many farmers saw their chance to get rich and sold their milk, for example, for $100 Dutch guilders per gallon. However, for every person who sold on the black market, there were 20 people who would not partake of such dealings and they helped their fellow man from the city as much as possible. One thing a war makes very clear to us is that we are our brother’s keepers. Many farmers had as many as 20 people from the city in their home whom they fed. The acts of sabotage by the underground left the Germans and Dutch traitors, known as the N.S.B, thirsting for revenge. If an underground worker was caught, he was tortured mercilessly until he named his co-workers. Many died, however, with sealed lips.
One thing that was strictly forbidden was the listening to the Voice of America. Many Dutch people, however, listened and were cheered up by the reports that the U.S. and Canada had entered the war and were gaining territory from the Germans. Every night, the sound of overheard planes flying to Germany could be heard. The Allies were trying to reach Germany in order to bomb their factories in which war equipment was made.

The Germans were so enraged by the acts of the Allies and the reports over the Voice of America that anyone caught listening to his radio was doomed to die.
The underground was plagued by many setbacks, but their network grew and the acts of sabotage went on. Many of the men of the underground were ham operators and possessed their own transmitters. Many men received and sent coded messages to their fellow workers, by way of these transmitters. Consequently, when an office where the ration coupons were available was not very heavily guarded, one operator let another know, and then a group of underground workers would hold up one of these offices, and take off with the coupons and distribute them to the needy.
In the fall of 1944, we in the north received news that the south of Holland, France and Belgium had been freed by the Allies. The reports we received were vague, as none of the civilians whom we met had witnessed the actual battle, but we soon came to know that thousands of Americans and Canadians had lost their lives in Holland.

We are deeply indebted to these men and we will never be able to pay that debt. How can someone who has died be repaid? The south of Holland was now free, but the worst part of the war was to come from the north of Holland, the part that borders on Germany. The part in which we lived.
The Germans were retreating and they took everything with them that was in their path. Food, clothing, bicycles, wagons and the odd car. As we lived on the farm, we were able to butcher during the night and then hide the meat, and the same with other food we had. The people in the northern cities were not quite so lucky. The stores were empty, there was no milk, no bread and there was no clothing available. Many dressed in rags. Many of the inhabitants of the northern cities left them to go to the surrounding countryside to get food, many riding bicycles without tires.

Many people did not survive the last half-year of the war. People were crying to heaven for help. “Dear God, has thou forsaken us.” But deliverance would not come for another six months.
The retreating Germans took many young Dutch men, married and unmarried, with them leaving the women with tasks almost unbelievable to perform. Many a pregnant women had to leave the city, go for miles sometimes as many as 20 miles on a bicycle without tires to get food for her family of six or more children at home.

By this time our home had been filled by women whose husbands were working for the underground. Very often these women had to get messages to their husbands in the midst of the night. I often went with these women, not because I’m such an heroine, but because I could not stand the suspense of waiting to see if these women would make it home again and if they were caught that they would not tell everything they knew to their capturers.

We learned, however, to lift our eyes unto the hills and to pray for help. We knew that God would help and many of us got through the war strictly because we had faith. Sometimes, or maybe I should say many times, we felt like giving up. But then we returned to the text: “We will lift up our eyes unto the hills” and we went on with renewed strength.
The war was a time of great tragedy, but every so often tragedy breeds comedy. Many comical incidents happened during the war. They were not intentional of course, but nevertheless very amusing, especially when they were recalled after the war was over.

The Germans were holding one of the great hunts for underground workers, and my neighbour and I decided to warn our husbands who were in hiding. As we went through the darkness to the place of hiding, my heart was beating in my throat. I thought that the sound could be heard half a mile away. I did not want my neighbour to know that I was desperately afraid, because she seemed to be so brave. The minute we were home again she gave a heavy sigh of relief, and she told me that she would not have gone except that because I was so brave that she felt she could not let me go alone. The funny part was that I felt the same way.

Another time, my husband got a message that a farmer in the area had an excess of oats that could be milled and made into porridge. He left by bicycle in the middle of the night to get the oats. As the night was pitch black, my husband could not see the road very well and on the way back he drove into a deep ditch full of water. As oats expand greatly when water is added you should have seen what happened to our bag of oats. It had expanded to three times its size.

I think the funniest incident happened to our neighbour. She was a very shy girl who usually became tongue tied when someone spoke to her. One night, she was sitting at home with her husband having supper, when there was a knock at the door. Luckily her husband hid and she went to the door. One of the soldiers said to her “we have come to get your husband as we have heard that he is home”. The women let out a wail and started screaming. She screamed, “You’ve come to tell me that my husband has been killed. Please tell me the truth. I can’t stand the way you are trying to fool me.” The soldiers were so perplexed by the women’s outburst that they tried to soothe her and they left, but not until they had assured the women that they would notify her the minute her husband showed up. Here is clearly a case where one bright moment saved a life. After the war, the woman herself admitted that she doesn’t know why, but a moment that could have turned in a tragedy was turned into one of the most humorous moments of the war.

There are many more humorous moments which I could relate, but as many of you here were directly involved in the war, I am sure you could add a long list of incidents to mine. One day stands out in my mind, the day of April 10th 1945. The French were dropping paratroops over the northern part of Holland. The citizens of the north were told not to get involved with this war effort or it would be extremely dangerous. Many people threw caution to the wind. They went out, put the Dutch flag out and in general were ready to be freed.

This was especially true of the people in the town of Spier, ¼ mile from our house. They did not for a moment think that the Germans would take counteraction. As the Germans were still in command in our area they rounded up nearly all the citizens of the little town, Spier, and told them to assemble in the German bunkers. At night time they told all the women and girls to go home and prepare a meal and bring it back to their men folk. When the women returned they found the bunkers empty, but the nearby forest had become the last resting place for their husbands, sons and sweethearts.

The next day, April 11th, the allied tanks arrived in our part of the country. Tears were flowing freely. Men, women and children all cried like babies. Is it any wonder after five years of pent up emotions.
We thank God and our liberators for our freedom. Many of my fellow Canadians, as I have adopted this country as my new homeland, have paid a dear price for our freedom.


We have visited the huge cemeteries where the Canadians have been buried. The graves have been taken care of with great love and emotion. Words cannot express the deep gratitude we feel towards the men who liberated what was then our homeland and where my life had its beginning.

Stratford Ont Canada - House on Embro Rd.
Stratford Ont Canada. The Farm in later years.

 Many of the young people here do not have an inkling as to the suffering of the Canadian parents, women and children who suffered when they lost a loved one in a foreign country. I feel that they only way we can show our gratitude is to be good citizens. To be ready to help when one of our fellow Canadian stretches out a hand for help. Please people tonight let us say that the only thing Dutch about us is our background but that now that we are citizens of this great country which gave so much, unselfishly, in time of need, we pledge our undying loyalty. We know what it is like to live under foreign suppression as it was in the year 1940-1945. Never must we let a country that gave so unselfishly down. May our help come from Him, the Lord our God, when we lift our eyes unto hills. With Gods help we must go forward and if the need arise, defend our new homeland, unselfishly.

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