As I remember the first couple years of the war (1940-1942), the Germans didn't interfere much in our lifestyle. We knew that the Germans were our rulers, but the life for us young people wasn't that unpleasant. But as the war kept going on, all of this started to change.
The Salesian Fathers (priests) kept us off the streets and busy with all of their boy's club programs. I was a member of their boy scout club, we had our uniforms, and were able to camp in our own tents on dairy farms just a few towns away from where we lived. But just going camping in another town away from home was a big vacation for us.
The Germans tried very hard to incorporate the Dutch people into their system. First they started to change our school system. A German officer became our new school principal. Whenever he came to inspect our school, he wore his neatly pressed officer's uniform with a black ribbon and a red swastika on his arm. Before he ever entered our school, we were already informed by our teachers about his visit, and what to do and what to say. Fortunately we didn't have any German kids in our school, as they had their own on the other side of town. All of our teachers were very strongly anti-German.
We kids had a dislike for the German army. The principal's office was right around the corner from our school. In front of this office was always a large German swastika flag on display. It was there every day, and we kids hated the looks of it. After classes we would go in front of it and spit on it. The Germans caught us many times, and treated us with a good bottom whipping. But this didn't stop us from doing it again.
All the youth organizations in Holland, as the one we had under the supervision of the Salesian Fathers, the Germans wanted to incorporate all of us into the principles of the Hitler Jugent (Hitler youngsters). Somehow, the Germans never succeeded in their plans. The Salesian Fathers had a way of brainwashing the German authorities. It might have been the black habit's the priests wore in those days, and the Germans showed some respect for that. The Germans left the Salesian Fathers alone in their plans. What the German Government had in mind was to move all of the Dutch population to some Eastern section of Europe.
In 1943, the German war was going on all over Europe and the combined allied forces started to put more pressure on the Germans by having daily raids on their main war equipment factories. The Dutch underground freedom fighters became better organized and did a lot of damage to the German war equipment in Holland. The Germans were getting very though with the Dutch population. Under the Nazi rule, all organs of public information in the Netherlands, such as the press section of the German Foreign Office and Propaganda Ministry set up headquarters in the country to direct the dissemination of news. Listening to foreign radio stations was forbidden. Gradually the Germans tightened their grip on the subjugated country.
The country, one of the richest in continental Europe, was thoroughly looted. The Dutch were deprived of their natural resources to such an extent that within one year of Nazi occupation not even cheese, of which the Dutch annually manufactured 124,000 tons, was available to the population. Vegetables became scarce in a country that was famed for its truck gardens. Factories specializing in the drying of vegetables worked night and day to ship their products to Germany. All cream, clothing, textile, and leather products were also sent to Germany. The Dutch people paid dearly, for Holland had to finance not only her own defeat and reconstruction, but also that part of German war production which had been transferred to her factories. The invaders took the bulk of the country's products without giving anything in return. Its treasury was compelled to pay the excess of Dutch exports to Germany over German exports to Holland. The Dutch debt increased at a rate of $80,000,000 a month.
German "honor" turned a land of good living conditions and comfortable habits into one of scarcity, slim rations, high prices, and suffering. As a consequence of their conduct and methods, the Dutch people took to sabotage despite harsh Nazi measures. Mysterious fires broke out in German controlled factories; explosions occurred in Nazi ammunition dumps. German military materials were damaged and telephone lines were cut. Resistance became more widespread and better organized. Wherever labor strikes broke out, mass arrests took place. Summary courts, empowered to impose death penalties for violation of special decrees issued by Dr. Seyss-Inquart who at that time was the highest civil power in the country. A minister of the German Reich, he ordered drastic restriction on the population and martial law was declared when tension reached the breaking point.
Even our Boy Scout organization was told that we couldn't wear our Dutch uniforms anymore. Only German uniforms were allowed. When we went camping we were not allowed to camp outside anymore. We could camp on some farm property but we had to sleep in the barn. We kids didn't mind that at all. It was a lot of fun sleeping in the barn on a pile of hay.
During the evenings, we were told to stay off the streets. Luckily the Salesian Fathers had a workshop where during the evening they taught us how to do all kinds of handicraft work. I made toys for my sisters for the Christmas time. There was a war going on and there were no toys to buy in any store. So we made our own toys, and by Christmas time we put them under the tree as Christmas presents. My sister was much younger than I and she didn't know that I made those presents.
Many of our evenings were interrupted by bomber fights in the air. The allied forces went with their B-24 liberator bombers on their way to Germany to bomb the war production factories. All those bombers flew over our town. The plane fights were always above Germany, but because we lived only five minutes away from the German border, we could watch those fights. The Germans used very sharp search lights, and it made the sky look like it was daylight. As kids we enjoyed watching those plane battles in the air. It was very dangerous to be outside and watch those planes shooting at each other. There were so many pieces of shrapnel flying through the air that it was very easy to get hit by one of them. We were so used to those plane battles that it didn't even frighten us. After it had calmed down, we just went back into the workshop and resumed with what we were doing.