It’s 1938! Austria is annexed by the German government. In September 1939, Poland is attacked by the Germans. Two days later, France and England declared war!
Strawberries and rhubarb
My grandfather just celebrated his 90th birthday and is enjoying his days by reading the paper, drinking some whisky and getting entertained by the family. Besides that, he doesn’t do much anymore. When I was little, he loved to go to France with my grandmother and took us to Belgium, to museums and the Zoo. They also had a great garden, where they cultivated blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and tomatoes. Good old times! I wondered: how did his own childhood look like? I decided to visit him and ask him about his younger years and the difficult times during the second world war.
Outside, it’s grey and it rains a little. Sometimes, there is a loud bang outside from fireworks, letting us know that we’ll celebrate a new year (2012) tonight. Together with one of my best friends, I Chu and I are sitting in the conservatory together with my grandfather. With caution and hesitantly, I ask him if he wants to tell something about his past.
Cycling to bombed Rotterdam
“When the war started, I was a student of the Dutch high school in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch), also my hometown.We followed the developments of Germany via newspapers and radio.”
“Despite the fact that Rotterdam had surrendered itself, the city centre of Rotterdam was erazed anyway by German bombs (14 May 1940). It turned out that there was a miscommunication. More than 800 people died. One month later, we cycled from ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Rotterdam, being disaster tourists (*laughing*). It was not dangerous at that time, because it was in the early days of the German occupation. The real suppression started later.”
“We didn’t know yet what war was”
“In ‘s-Hertogenbosch, we could see the German soldiers enter the city through the windows of our house. At the same time, we could see the Dutch soldiers leaving the city via another bridge. I still remember very well that in May 1940, before ‘s-Hertogenbosch was taken, my brother and I were once standing outside around anti-aircraft artillery, while the Dutch soldiers were shooting at German aircrafts. It was crazy of course, but we wanted to see it (*chuckles*). We didn’t know yet what war was, at that moment. If the Germans had shot back then, we would have died probably.”
“One year later, all young men were summoned to go to Germany, to work in their factories…”