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Memories of War


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As a sequel of my previously posted topic “A Reminder”:


Right now, we are 78 years away from the end of World War II. I think almost anyone on this site has this conflict somewhere in their family: Whether it is your grandfather/mother, your grand-grand father/mother or any acquaintance you know well. If one of these people ever talked about their memories of the War, I ask you, if you are willing, to share these here. No matter if he or she was a soldier- Allied or Axis -, a resistance fighter, a person in hiding or an ordinary citizen, which, after all, actually everyone was or used to be. It are those memories that are important and keep the War from not fading away and to stay close. Because we can never forget what had happened. Hope this thread keeps some memories alive. These are the stories of my family:



On 10 May 1940 the German army invaded the Netherlands. The country had very insufficient and outdated weapons, mostly aging from WW1 or earlier, in the mindset that the policy of neutrality will, just like it did in WW1, not allow foreign forces to invade. Next to this, the Dutch government trusted on the 'Waterline’: A line of defensive strongholds covered by areas that could be turned into water very quickly. When Germany attacked with a relatively very small legion, the Dutch government called for mandatory military duty: Every young man had to fight the foreign aggressor. Though they were in much bigger numbers, the army consisted of nothing else than unprofessional and inexperienced 'kids’. Among these farmerboys was my grand-grand father, together with his friends from his neighbourhood. When all of the Netherlands was lost, the Dutch Infantry, as well as my grand-grandfather, were still defending the Waterline, the border between rural Netherlands and the big cities of Holland. A few days later, on 14 May, Rotterdam was bombed to the ground and the Netherlands surrendered. The Dutch soldiers raised the white flag and left the bunkers with their hands in the air. Except one friend of my grand-grandfather, who forgot to not raise his hands and happened to walk right in front of him. He was merciless shot in his head, right in front of his eyes. My grand-grandfather’s friend was dead. An innocent rural boy who was thrown into this meaningless war was gone, and my grand-grandfather, as well as my grandfather kept in contact with his family the following 50 years.


The Netherlands became an SS-state, unique in its kind. This caused the Netherlands to have a much higher deportation rate of Jews than other by Germany occupied countries: 70% of the Dutch Jews were killed. This was the reason of the fierce Dutch resistance, which grew with years. Anyone knew a few people who were in the resistance, and so did both sides of my family. One time a resistance fighter had to redress in my grandfather's house. He left behind his resistance overall with orange shoulder strap in a hurry. Later, the Nazi’s did a house search, found nothing odd and left my family's house again. After this my grand-grandmother discovered the resistance overall under a chair, which they had forgot to hide. If the Germans had watched under that chair, I wouldn't exist.


Going to the West of the country, where my other side of family lived. While the Western cities were starving, they were farmers and had enough food to keep themselves alive. Though, there was a German camp permanently stationed on their land, and they had to give away all the food they didn't need to stay alive. So they started to hide food, for example in the baby crib of my grandfather. Up to today, he says that he has wide legs because of the cheese his parents hided between his legs. An uncle of him was a resistance fighter, and one day when he was chased by the enemy, grand-grandmother suddenly could rise up the heavy wooden bed, and the resistance uncle could lay underneath it, and pull himself up so his chasers wouldn't see him when searching the house. He survived, and my grand-grandmother could never rise that bed again out of heaviness. The adrenaline made her be able to do it once.


In 1944, after four harsh and grim years, Operation Market Garden started: Allied paratroopers were dropped in the air to conquer the bridges of the Great Rivers. My grandmother remembers that the entire sky was full of white/brownish parachutes, with people hanging underneath it. She had to stay indoors, though, out of safety. Although Operation Market Garden failed, the South of the Netherlands was liberated. The south is where there is fighted the hardest: If you walk around here with a metal detector there is a good change to find bullets. Regularly someone finds a grenade or artillery piece in his/her garden. My grandfather remembers Allied troops climbing over their fence, and a tank driving through their front garden. One person had hidden a group of crashed Allied pilots in his house. When he thought the Nazi's were gone and his village was liberated, he hung the coats of the pilots outside out of happiness. He was too early, a few Nazi's were still left behind, and he, as well as his family I believe, and the pilots, were all executed.


Meanwhile in the west of the country the Hunger winter had started: Humans eating everything- from flowers to pets -and endless exodus-like rows of refugees making their way out of the city, to farms which might have some food left. So my family was pretty lucky those days, having a farm, and they gave the food they were able to give away to starving people. Next to these, they had to feed the Jews who were hiding in their barn. One day, Allied planes dropped alot of paper letters, with the message that they had to evacuate the dikes: They were going to bomb the dikes. Broken dikes led to the fields of my family being flooded, in disadvantage of the Germans. Not much later, the entire Netherlands were liberated and the War came to an end….but not the hunger. This time it were Germans that were the victim of famine. My grand-grandfather who had hidden Jew the entire war now took in two German kids, because in their homeland there was not enough food. And it is this what I find so wonderful: While he was, of course, full of hatred towards the former enemy that led to hunger and pain, he now voluntary took care of German citizens. There was reconciliation

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