During the war, it was very difficult to get food in Den Bosch. I remember one time in October, when volunteers were asked to go to Cuijk to pick up vegetables and potatoes for the hospital. I signed myself in, together with two others. We received our papers from the commander and left by foot, with only a hand trailer. We crossed the Maas river, where we saw Dutch people digging trenches under supervision of the Germans. A bit further, we passed a German kitchen car. They were very decent to us and gave us stew, filled with meat. We ate like we had never eaten before. We continued our journey and knocked on the doors of farmers, asking them to donate food for the hospital. With a trailer packed with vegetables, we returned to Den Bosch.
Food as compensation
A few weeks later, we saw English airplanes flying to Arnhem (operation Market Garden). It was a great view. The Germans responded by shooting V1 and V2 bombs to England and Antwerp from the Maas. Den Bosch was still German at that time. A few weeks later, we heard the news that the English allies were only ten kilometres away. Meanwhile, we were still in need of food. After our first food mission for the hospital, my nephew and I came back several times to the farmers, but then for ourselves. Many farmers were members of the NSB, and those farmers also knew that the English soldiers were approaching rapidly. By giving us food, they showed regret and tried to compensate for their wrongful support to the Germans.
Hiding for raids
Many Dutch people had joined the SS and fought together with the Germans. Luckily, the people who were close to us, did not join the SS. My parents also refused. Therefore, my father had to close down his psychiatric practice and remove his sign from the wall. It was a very strange time. We also had to hide ourselves several times for the Germans raids. During those raids, they checked out everyone’s papers, and you never knew what they were up to. I was hiding in at my parents friend’s place outside of Den Bosch, together with my two younger brothers. The friend was a representative of the alcoholic drink Vermouth. Every afternoon, we had a drink, and the food there was delicious. We had a good time.
Turkey dinner after liberation
My father’s birthday was on 23th October. As a birthday gift, he always received a turkey from the mental hospital he worked for. The turkey was placed on the kitchen stove in our house, when the liberation started. It was 1944, and Den Bosch was surrounded by English allies. Our shelter was filled with German soldiers. After half an hour, they moved further to the other side of the bridge. They blew up the bridge with bombs. When the English soldiers arrived, German tanks started shooting grenades, while driving back and forth between the houses. The English did the same from the Visstraat, where we lived. We experienced the fighting right in our house. The English soldiers were fighting from our house and the bank below. It was really no fun at all. At one point, we decided to go upstairs to the English soldiers, to watch this happening. Of course, my parents disagreed but they had no say in this. We saw everything and heard the bullets whistle above our heads. But I was not afraid! Once the fight became too heavy, we went back to the shelter. Our house was shattered by grenades and the train station burned down. When the fighting stopped after two days, there was a lot of damage, but the turkey was still on the stove, in one piece. That night, we had a delicious turkey dinner. Our damaged carpet was repaired, and now my son Peter Kortenhorst still has this carpet in his living room.
Hunger and Freedom
When the Germans pulled back to the other side of the Maas, Den Bosch was liberated. In our street, there was an English tank with a splitted gun. First I thought: “those Germans have good skills, by shooting this sharp.” But then I was told that the English soldiers blew up the gun themselves with a hand grenade, when the Germans almost conquered back a part of the city. On 27 October 1944, Den Bosch was free. But a very cold winter followed, with an enormous food shortage: the hunger winter. This Germans started the hunger winter as a revenge, by blocking the food transport to the West of Holland for six weeks. Twenty thousand Dutch died of hunger and cold, just a few months before “the national freedom day“, 5th May. A day we still celebrate every year!
Editing by: I Chu Chao
Pictures via: saak.nl