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1 9 4 0 - 1 9 4 5 : my "WAR" years


Early in the morning on Christmas, 1939, my sister Carla, just three years old, overturned our Christmas tree. Since my parents were still in bed, I swept together all the shards of the broken decorations with my hands. Not very smart, and it took my Uncle Arie Neefjes hours to remove every little fragment with tweezers.
In May 1940, Arie was one of the first Dutch soldiers to die in the German invasion.
The Dutch word for being killed in a war was 'sneuvelen', and it was the first time I heard it. Another new word was 'postumus', applied to the birth of his daughter Hanneke, after his death.


The Dutch considered it most unfair that the Germans were not stopped by our "Water Linie" (Zone of Inundation), and that their planes dropped bombs beyond - destroying Rotterdam and its harbors.

In retrospect, and disregarding for the moment the loss of human lives, the destruction of Rotterdam's harbors cleared the path to its post-war growth to become the World's largest harbor: EUROPORT
Expecting the Germans to be absolute horrors, I was surprised to see my first German soldier smilingly and efficiently directing traffic at the beginning of the Amstelveense Weg, when my mother peddled her bike with Carla up front and me on the backseat to visit her parents - our Opa and Oma - in Amstelveen.
I also remember how indignant Opa was when we told him that this first German soldier appeared sympathetic. Of course, he was right in that many German soldiers proved to be less sympathetic during the remainder of the war, and some absolutely atrocious. Nevertheless, we received help from several German soldiers, without having to feel like collaborators.

1940

My father and I
in the annual
school photo

Note my favorite
luminescent airplane

In the first few days of WW2, my father helped pick up several members of Mussert's NSB - admirers of Hitler.
Later he became 'Blokhoofd', civilian head of emergency services for our block.
As a teacher, he was somewhat 'protected' and did not get deported to Germany.
He got caught once in Friesland for leaving too late when men from Holland had been ordered to leave within 3 days ...and upon hearing that he was a schoolmaster, the Gestapo officer punished him by letting him stand in a corner with his hands on his head for five hours ...


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