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Growing Up In Occupied Holland 1940-1945


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#1 Bart

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 07:04 AM

Inspired by Morgy’s story, I’ll start with a new topic in this forum today. It is the personal story of my father, who was only 11 years old when Holland was overrun by the Germans and 16 years when the Allies liberated his home-town in 1945.

Posted Image Tegelen, his hometown
It’s a very personal story, about his common familylife, in his common Dutch town (that in the last war-months would lay in the middle of the Maas-frontline), in a far-from-common episode in history.

He wrote these ‘memoires’ last year. For me and my brother. But he doesn’t mind it when I “publish” the interesting parts of his story here… on WBG.

I hope you don't mind either!

I am translating the first episode now. Premiere: second half of this week.

Edited by Bart, 03 July 2003 - 04:21 AM.


#2 Morgy

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 07:43 AM

I got you PM Bart. Thanks for you appreciation and for reading my work.
I'm really looking forward your Dad's story. You know I like this kind of account.

Good on you !

I will be waiting for your posts. Still thanks for reading mine.

All the best,

Morgy :D

#3 Verzijl

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 09:28 AM

Bart if you need any help at all with the translation don't be afraid to send a PM/E-mail my way. I assume these memoires are a lot of work to translate so if I can do anything don't hasitate to ask.

#4 VAT69

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 02:14 PM

Same here, Bart! Would be happy to help out.

Looking forward to the story of your father.

Mark

#5 teepeg

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Posted 30 June 2003 - 03:07 PM

Thanks guys!

I'll first make a selection (not everything is that interesting... after all... it's NOT a veterans story of course) and if it's too much for me to translate... I will most certainly contact you both!

I'll be in touch!!!

Bart

Bart.
It does not have to be a Vets story to keep us interested in your posts. The tales of your Father from the age of 11 to 16 living through these years of War, will keep us pinned to your posts. Ready and waiting.

Best regards,
Tee.

#6 Bart

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Posted 02 July 2003 - 04:02 PM

This is the first part of my fathers story. He was only 11 years old when Nazi-Germany attacked the Low Countries and France. My father lived in the Dutch village of Tegelen, just south of the city Venlo and only 4 km's from the German-Dutch border. This is his story...



By Piet Houx

Part 1

The day war broke out

On the last day before the German surpise attack, on May the 9th 1940, my uncle and aunt celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. The whole family was there. It was a big celebration and my many uncles, aunts, cousins and myself had an excellent time. It was already late in the evening, and dark, when we were picked up by a cab-driver from our own town to drive us all back home. Me, my parents, my younger brother Wim and my two younger sisters Marie-Jose and Ghislaine. We didn't own a car in those days.

Driving home, we were regulary stopped by Dutch soldiers. They were controlling the roads and we had to show them some ID. I found this very strange, it never happened before.

Much later than planned, we arrived. At about 23.00 hours. We went to bed and fell asleep. But not for long. Almost exactly at midnight, the sound of explosions gave us all a shock. It was the end of a silent night. We heard the smashing and loud sounds of detonations... with rather long intervals.

My father jumped out of his bed, rushed to the frontdoor and went outside to see what was going on. He wasn't the only one. Our neighbours and other people of our village were also on the streets. Everyone was confused. And trying to find out where the sounds of those explosions were coming from and what the hell was going on. Nobody knew. After one hour, the silence returned. Very suddenly. And everyone went back into their homes... trying to sleep again.

We were later told that the nightly explosions were coming from the "Kaldenkerkerweg" (road leading to Kaldenkirchen, Germany). The Dutch army had been trying to block this road by blasting trees... in an attempt to delay the German advance.

Posted Image
A Dutch soldier climbs into a tree with a pull-rope for the explosives.

At 04.00 o'clock in the early next morning, our dreams were disturbed for a second time. We heard planes flying over the village. And we also heard gunfire, coming from the boards of the Maas river, at just 2,5 km's from our home.

We all jumped out of bed, because this time we felt that there was something terrible about to happen. Once again, my father went outside. I stood beside him when two Dutch soldiers approached. My father asked them what was going on. But they couldn't answer him. They said they were scouts, on their way to the German border trying to find out if German soldiers crossed the border. Most probably, those two poor guys were about to become the first Dutch POW's soon after.

We didn't see them return.

Instead, we saw the first two German soldiers approaching from the same direction where the two Dutch soldiers had gone 30 minutes earlier.

It was Friday, the 10th of May. A beautiful, sunny morning. It didn't take long before everyone was on the streets again. But this time, everyone stayed close to their homes, not knowing what was going on. I stood with my friends close to the wall of the house. It gave me a feeling of (false) security. I thought that the bullets couldn't hit me with a wall in my back. Not that I actually saw any fighting, but I heard the sounds of heavy fighting nearby at the Maas river and that was frightening enough for me.

A little while later, we saw a German motorcycle combination with three soldiers and a machine-gun on it. They drove several times from the villageborders to the church, and back again. They were probably on a reconnaisance mission too.

We would soon see more Germans. That afternoon, the "Muntstraat" (streetname) was filled with all kinds of German vehicals and horses. Germans were collecting water for their horses and went from door to door. I think they were just "common" farmer folks, because the Germans used to recruit them to take care of the horses.

The shooting near the Maas-river didn't stop before 16.00 h. in the afternoon. This proves that the Dutch didn't give up without a fight! Some German soldiers told us later that they admired the Dutch fighting spirit. As a direct result of their bravery, the Dutch POW's were handled with respect.

The story of one particular Dutch soldier would soon become famous. His name was Wiarda. Surrounded by the Germans and with all his buddies killed, he went on fighting all alone in his casemate in Blerick (neighbourtown of Tegelen). All day long, till the very last bullet. He surrendered in the late afternoon.

To be continued...


Photos used: http://www.leger1939-1940.nl/

Edited by Bart, 04 July 2003 - 06:23 AM.


#7 Kiwiwriter

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 08:29 AM

Great stuff. Your family should consider themselves veterans. Anyone who went through the ordeal of occupation is a combat veteran.

the Dutch did fight hard, despite shortages of modern weapons and ammunition, poor communications, and paratroopers in the rear. The Germans had a lot of trouble taking the Nijmegen Bridge from the south end. So did the Americans and British four years later.

I'm looking forward to more memories.

#8 McIntee

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 10:02 AM

Great stuff Bart! I'm already looking forward to the next "chapter". It also reminds me that I should resume my story about Bjřrn West :D

I'll get to it!

John

#9 Bart

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 02:39 PM

I'll continue with...

Part 1

The day war broke out (2)


The evening of that first day of war: the streets of my village were filled with German cars, horses and soldiers. And after the sun went down, long columns of German trucks, loaded with more soldiers and arms, drove into our village. I had never seen so many trucks. I watched how the column passed us. For at least two hours in a row, like there was no end to it. Even today, when I think back of it, I can still remember the terrible smell of dieselgasses that filled the streets.

That night, my father told us to sleep in the kitchen. It was situated at the other side of the house. He thought it would be safer to sleep in this far end of the house, because the main road in front of the house was still dangrous as Dutch and British planes sometimes attacked German positions (and colonnes).

This was very naive of course.
We actually believed that our pilots were able to fire precise on the spot without hitting us... the harmless. Obviously, we weren't used to war, yet. But we learned fast from our German "teachers". With raw voices they shouted all night long: "Lichten aus!!!" (Lights off!!!").

Sleeping was difficult that night. I heard some far-away planes, but the nearby fighting seemed to have stopped. Holland was in war, and we survived the first day of the German occupation.

The next day, saturday May 11, the Germans were collecting buckets of water for their horses again. We watched them with curiousity. Suddenly, some Germans walked in a straight line towards our house. My father had a little car / coachwork-factory in those days and the soldiers wanted him to repair some cartwheels.

My father went into the house, locked the doors and refused to open them again. He said that it wasn't allowed to work on saturdays in Holland! That pissed off the Germans: "Ach wass, scheisse" (So f*ck*ng what!) they replied, "In Deutschland wird immer gearbeitet" (in Germany we work all the time!). My father was forced to open the doors. But he refused to repair the wheels, they had to do that by themselves.

Strange but true, the atmosphere of that sunny morning was rather kind-hearted. The Germans repairing the wheels in their shirt-leeves, curious Dutch folks looking from a distance to the soldiers and German carts and vehicules and excited children running around everywhere.

But around 16.00 h in the afternoon we were alarmed again. German transportplanes flew over the houses, at a hight of no more than 150 ft. The noise was terrifying. The planes were so close, that we could easily see the pilots! The Germans didn't understand all the excitement. "In Germany we are used to it", they told us like a bunch of wise-guys.

In those first days of war, my father, my little brother and me went out to visit a lot of relatives in other villages. Just to check if everybody was still allright. Fortunallly, they all were.

Posted Image
Near the city of Roermond, close to the Maas-river, I remember jumping into an empty casemate. I was impressed to see the fresh bullet-holes and some blood-splatters on the concrete.

To be continued...

Next time: Part 2 "HKP Werkstatte"

Photos used: http://www.leger1939-1940.nl/

Edited by Bart, 26 August 2003 - 01:47 AM.


#10 Kiwiwriter

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 03:21 PM

I'll continue with...

Part 1

The day war broke out (2)

The evening of that first day of war: the streets of my village were filled with German cars, horses and soldiers. And after the sun went down, long colonnes of German trucks, loaded with more soldiers and arms, drove into our village. I had never seen so many trucks. I watched how the colonne passed us. For at least two hours in a row, like there was no end to it. Even today, when I think back of it, I can still remember the terrible smell of dieselgasses that filled the streets.
"

Nobody really had. At that time, European freight was moved by canal and rail. Long-range trucking was a subject that the Americans pioneered with their vast distances, and mastered, with assembly-line produced deuce-and-a-half ton trucks.

European armies for the most part had to call up civillian trucks to move armies, including the British, and these were not configured for long use, so they fell apart. The German Opel was pretty reliable, and the Wehrmacht didn't have to call them up from civilian firms, but 90 percent of the Wehrmacht was horsedrawn for the duration.

Re-enactors and collectors tend to have surplus American vehicles because they were built to survive heavy use and had easily replaced, standardized parts that came properly packed and weatherproofed. Try to find a pre-war British army vehicle today, like a Rolls-Royce 1910 armored car. Forget it. All torchedat Dunkirk.

#11 hwhap

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Posted 03 July 2003 - 06:06 PM

Hi Bart & Morgy,

I am enjoying both of your accounts of your parents', or grandparents' experiences under German occupation. The idea of being under occupation by a foreign army is so far removed from our own life experience, living here in Canada, that it is good to be reminded of what it is like for the ordinary civilian. It's not something you see depicted much on TV or in movies.

Vee

Edited by hwhap, 03 July 2003 - 06:08 PM.


#12 Bart

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Posted 04 July 2003 - 02:56 AM

The idea of being under occupation by a foreign army is so far removed from our own life experience, living here in Canada, that it is good to be reminded of what it is like for the ordinary civilian.


Hi Vee,

As a product of 1972, the idea of being under occupation is just as strange for me as it must be for you. Thank God, I don't know what war is. Perhaps that's one of the main reasons that my father wrote it all down for us.

What I like most, reading his story, is the fact that my father probably had the "perfect" age for wartime (if there is such a thing as a perfect age). Think of it: too young to be a soldier, old and strong enough to survive periods of hunger and fear and... most important... he was at the age that war seemed to be a "big and exciting adventure".

In the last years of the war, both my father as my grandfather often had to hide for the Germans, searching and arresting Dutch men for forced labour duty in Germany. And just weeks before the liberation their house was hit by a British granate and burned down completely, while they were sitting in the cellar.

Those experiences didn't affect him at all in later life. Fortunally, he never suffered from war-trauma's or nightmares. I think it's all because he had the perfect age and therefore the flexibility to pick up his normal life as if nothing bad happened.

Of course, it wasn't just the perfect age. If he had been a Jewish boy for instance, age wouldn't have mattered at all. War had been hell for him then. He is fully aware of that.

Thanks for the compliments, Vee. Part 2 is coming up soon!

Edited by Bart, 04 July 2003 - 04:18 AM.


#13 P.W.G.

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Posted 05 July 2003 - 03:14 AM

Hi Bart,

Compliments for your story! Keep up the good work!

#14 Bart

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Posted 05 July 2003 - 10:04 AM

I'll continue with...

Part 2 "HKP Werkstatte"

There are different ways to look at things but the fact remains that during the complete (German) occupation of the Netherlands, it was impossible to escape from the " dirigiste approach".

In other words: Dutch civilians, public services, companies... everyone and everything was in one way or the other forced to work for the Germans (when told to).

This situation wasn't different in my hometown Tegelen. Although reluctant, most local companies had to sell their products to Germans and German army too.

Like I told you before, my father had a little factory in those days. A coach-work factory. And the German Wehrmacht (thank god it was the Wehrmacht, we never had something to do with Gestapo or SS) was interested in his business. Because they were looking for factories who could repair their armycarts and -trucks.

When the Germans said to my father that they wanted to do business with him, my father simply refused.

Unfortunatelly, refusing was not an option.
He was given the choice: don't refuse to repair German trucks and carts anymore OR leave your house and factory and take your family someplace else. And if you decide to leave, keep in mind that we'll find a "Verwalter" (= a German or a pro-German Dutchman) to take your place.

Given this "choice", my father finally agreed to work not only for Dutch clients, but for the Germans too. From that day on, his factory was a "HKP-Werkstatte" (= Heeres Krafwagen Park = Army Car-repair Station).

Looking back at it... we think it was a wise decision after all. Two examples:

1) Being a "HKP-Werkstatte", the factory was supplied with more and better (raw) materials then it normally would have been given. In those days, everything - from food to building materials - was rationed. It was almost impossible to buy anything without coupons. My father didn't want the Germans to benefit from his supplies, so he always used the good materials for his Dutch clients and the third-rate materials for the Wehrmacht.

2) But the main advantage was that my father could hire much more employees then he actually needed. Dutch boys and men who otherwise would have been brought to Germany to work in the German arms-industry. That was forced labour... the Germans called it "Arbeitseinsatz". My father managed to 'free' several local and Dutch men and boys from this "Arbeitseinsatz" by offering them a job in his factory.

Posted Image "Overtime for the... Wehrmacht"

Now and then, German inspectors came to the factory to check the place out and to check if everyone was at work. We always knew when they were coming, because we were warned by... it's unbelievable but true... German soldiers who were lower in rank than the inspectors ánd responsible for the Dutch citizens "well behaviour"!!!! They phoned us in advance. I think those 'low-ranks' just wanted everything to be in order. If things weren't o.k.... they certainly would get problems too when their superiors returned from the inspection.

Seconds after such a warning, I jumped on my bike and raced as fast as I could to our "employees" to tell them that they had to come to the factory a.s.a.p. When the inspectors arrived, those men were sawing and and sand-papering as if they hadn't done anything else all day.

To be continued...

Illustration: http://www.digidome....s_1940-1945.htm

Edited by Bart, 07 July 2003 - 03:58 AM.


#15 homefront41

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Posted 05 July 2003 - 10:54 AM

Bart,

We are grateful to your father for chronicling war experiences for you and to you for publishing it here. This is exactly what I'd hoped this thread would become.

I think you are right about your father being at a "right" age to have weathered the occupation and be in the best position to resume life afterward. Young people of that age have a sense of immortality about them that isn't tempered by practical reality until later. I would imagine, though, that it took a wiley young fellow to live like he must have and survived with body, mind and spirit intact.

Thanks for your efforts. BK




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