- Posted June 7, 2014 by
Mount Burrell NSW, Australia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your World War II memorabilia
War torn but a Loving and Caring Father & Mother
1941: My Father was a 14 year young boy in a city in the heart of the Netherlands when his father send him away " Boy go and look for work on a farm in the North” he told ‘Dirk’. "Soon we may run out of food and the Germans will arrest you to work for them". So young Dirk left his father’s home and walked, begged , borrowed food and after days walking and asking during a 200 km journey he eventually found work on a traditional farm in the forest region in the South of Friesland, one of the Northern Farming provinces. He was more or less adopted as a son , that way the Germans would not take him to a slave camp as farm sons were considered more useful for food production. Young Dirk worked hard and got used to farm life, but being a healthy young fellow he could not keep his eyes of the farmers daughter. The two fell in love and must have enjoyed their days. But both being also young and innocent they not only worked but also played. One day they found a strange metal thing , thew it over and ... the thing exploded in front of young Dirk ... the hand grenade killed his love instantly. Dirk survived with some scrapnel in his leg. The tragedy remained a secret which Dirk carried with him all his live, he told me a few years before he passed away at the age of 87 years. But the story does not stop here:
Dirk could not stay on the farm , the Germans were alerted and never would believe that one of their men had lost the grenade. Dirk had to flee and was quickly sent away , torn in agony he ran , hid under bushes, slept in ditches alongside of the road. But eventually was arrested and taken to a Camp in Amersfoort , only miles from his father’s house ... Weeks later he was placed on a transport to Germany, by then he was about 15 or 16 years and considered good labor. The train travelled to the far North , somewhere near Delfzijl Dirk and an other boy escaped from the train. Again on the run. Eventually he found work again on a farm, now near Staphorst a very religious community. There he was again ‘adopted’ as a son and worked on the farm. He got involved in some resistance work and lived there with the large family as one of them. He later described the family as his real brothers and sisters. It was there where he learned te values of Christianity and he became a practising Protestant.
The war ended and Dirk went back to his fathers home and completed a study as electrician. He never lost contact with the farmers family near Staphorst. During a trip to Switserland , organised by the church , he met Alida , a lovely young blackhaired girl from Arnheim in the Netherlands. "At the foot of the Jungfrau mountain in Grindelwald Switerland" he often joked, "I took the hand of my Jungfrau ( Virgin )" and he married her. Alida had not come trough the war unscathed either, she lived with her family in Arnhein ( yes the city from “Bridge too Far” , not far from that bridge , actually very close. The family was kicked out of their lavish home to make place for German soldiers. The family was left to their own searching for food and shelter and found their way a little North where they were accepted in a foresters home. Alida later became sewing teacher.
In the early ’50s Dirk and Alida married , not long after I was born. Followed by a brother and sister. We were raised on Christian principles, but not overly rigid. But what stood out in our childhood was respect for others , for everything , for everyone. The war however was never far away. Often we heard snippets of stories to such an extent that we sometimes said “ not again about the war , that is so long ago”. Did we know ...... ! Later when times became better we travelled , holiday to Belgium and ... to Germany ! Never ever my parents uttered one word of anger towards the Germans in our presence. They learned us respect without discrimination of anyone. When I was stationed as a conscript Dutch Airforce officer in Germany my father was proud but quiet. He never told us his real feelings ... fear and anger perhaps ? But said we did well, my brother became conscript army officer.
Now I ‘m almost 60 and realize how close the war always has been for my parents , like yesterday. As said, a few years before he died he told me his war story. And suddenly a few facts of our life fell in place: Every year around the beginning of June dad would go to the North of the country. ‘To the Wouden in Friesland ( The Frysian Forests ) he would say. he never took anyone with him. ‘Why do you go alone dad?’ ... ‘Oh I have to go alone to visit an old friend’. He said so in a manner we knew not to ask further. All we knew that every year he would go on that same mission to that mysterious old friend. When he told me his war story he said little about where exactly he went, but he once took my sister ‘casually’ to a small church there. We think his lovely war-time girlfriend is buried there. We assume he must have placed flowers on her garve every year as long he could make the journey, because when he told me the story it came out in snippets between floods of tears. Never before I had seen my father cry , I was then about 54 and he 80 or so. I then also realised that the strange wound in his leg was the result of that tragic accident in 1943. As a kid I once asked what the dark spots under his skin wre : “ Just some metal from a accident”... “why don’t you go to the docters and have it removed ?” ... “No... !’” . I knew better as not to talk about it again. But then in that emotional talk with dad some years ago I knew: “ In his leg he carried to metal from that explosion that killed his lovely girl, a cruel souvenir he must have cherished perhaps!?”.
How easy would it have been to turn the Germans against us , to talk us into hatred and anger. My parents never did so , they raised us on a basis of love and forgiveness, on a basis of respect and joy. Once I learned about what my dad had experienced as a young boy I realised what a formidable man he was. A humble electrician with a dark secret who raised us with love and respect. Who loved his wife like no one else could have done , but never forgot his war-time love and paid her the honours once a year.
We do not know if our mother knew the story, she passed away in ’93 after a long suffering of MS. We know that hardly anyone knew dad's story because when I broke the news during his funeral an a story like this , a lesson of respect and forgiveness, everyone was in surprise or shock. Most elders in the family had passed way already. So I had little feedback.
I live in Australia now and some how feel I should do more with dads story , as it is such a powerful story of forgiveness. If I can raise the money I will travel to the Netherlands and research for that church and perhaps find the grave of that girl to place last flower. Maybe the church concierge is still alive and may remember that man that always came with some flowers in June. I’m sure dad brought her flowers because he always gave my mother flowers and placed a fresh rose next to het photo-portrait as long as he lived. Rest in Peace mom and Dad... you are my heroes !!!