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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

The Nazis take control of Holland

All the things we needed in our workshop were smuggled in from Belgium. There was nothing in the Dutch stores, as the Germans took that all away. The Salesian Fathers would see to it whatever we needed in our workshop would be smuggled in. the Salesian Fathers had very close connections with the Dutch underground freedom fighters and the know-how to cross secretly into Belgium. You never knew who a freedom fighter was. It could be any man walking on the street. It was a very secret organization. Most of them were ordinary people who loved their Queen Wilhelmina and their country. Most of them worked during the day and at night risked their lives against the German army. All of those freedom fighters were aware that if they were caught by the Germans it would be most likely the end of their lives. They were either shot or sent to the concentration camps. Either way, most people who were caught were never seen again.

The freedom fighters had special border routes worked out to cross into Belgium and escape the German army patrol. It was a dangerous job as most of the time you had to travel at night. There were many minefields all along the border. The Boy Scout uniforms and all the other things we needed in our workshop came from England and were smuggled into Belgium, then into Holland. Many of those Salesian Fathers risked their lives for us. Some of those priests were caught and died in concentration camps. The Salesian Fathers hated the Nazis.

Antoon Adriaan Mussert
Antoon Adriaan Mussert
giving a Nazi salute

Before World War II in Europe had ever started, there was always talk that Holland would be left alone as a neutral country like Spain and Switzerland, but that never happened. Holland could have survived a seven-year German war in Europe without importing any food. The Dutch warehouses were loaded with food supplies. The first thing the Germans did when they occupied Holland was rationing all of the food supplies in the stores. Whenever you went grocery shopping there was only a certain amount of food you could get with rationing stamps. When the German army moved into Holland, they also brought along a lot of German citizens who worked for the German government and lived among the Dutch people. Besides that, we had a lot of Dutch people who were sympathetic to the Germans. They were the Dutch turncoats. Most of those people came from very low income families and joined the German system for a better living. Some of the well educated ones who joined believed in the German socialistic system. Some of the Dutch people joined an organization which was called the N.S.B. (Netherlands Socialistic Union). The leader of the Dutch N.S.B. was Antoon Mussert. He started his party in the year of 1933. During the German occupation of Holland there were about 80,000 Dutch N.S.B. members. That was about 1% of the total Dutch population. When the Germans invaded Holland there were about 8,700,000 people in the country.

The N.S.B. were the Dutch spies for the Germans. Most of them didn't like our Queen Wilhelmina and everything that was involved with royalty in the Dutch palace. When the war started, Queen Wilhelmina had one daughter, Princess Juliana, who was married to Prince Bernard. They had two small Princesses named Beatrice and Irene. All of them were able to escape the German invasion on a boat to England. From there they went to Canada and lived in Ottawa during the wartime.

The N.S.B. was fiercely hated by the Dutch people. They lived among us and we had to be very careful about what we said or did against the Germans. The N.S.B. members were treated as first class citizens. When the N.S.B. people went to the grocery store, they could buy and get everything they wanted. As for the local Dutch people, they had to stand in line for hours for just a few things.

In May 1942, Hitler sent his Gestapo chief, Heinrich Himmler, to the Netherlands. The "friendly" Germans executed ninety-six Dutchmen, re-arrested all former Dutch officers and cadets, and seized 460 prominent Netherlanders as hostages. Indications were that a puppet Nazi administration would be established in Holland, headed by Antoon Mussert, chief of the Netherlands Nazi Party and would-be "Little Fuehrer". Mussert, the fifty-year-old son of a village schoolmaster, and himself an engineer, had gained notoriety by marrying an aunt eighteen years his senior. The Dutch patriots, who considered Mussert as their country's arch-Quisling, learned that as a reward for his aid to the invaders he had been appointed by Chancellor Hitler as the "leader of the Dutch people". Mussert set up a "Secretariat of State" and soon thereafter appointed his "personal Cabinet". A well-organized underground known as "The Black Hand" had pledged to wipe out the entire Mussert "government". Lieutenant General Hendrik Alexander Seyffardt, a lone traitor among the Dutch generals, who had just been appointed by Mussert to raise a Dutch army for service on the Russian front, was shot. Dr. H. Raydon, Nazi sponsored Propaganda Minister, and his wife were killed. Mussert's Secretary for Social Affairs, C. van Ravenzwaai, was assassinated. The name of the fourth victim was not known, but it was reported that he had been nominated for Attorney General.

In the face of so much opposition, Mussert himself was forced to declare that "between the N.S.B. (his own Nazi party) and the Dutch people lies a deep chasm which drives me to despair". This earned him the nickname "Lord Despair". In many N.S.B. families, the husbands and sons joined the German army and fought along on the frontlines. On their German uniforms, embroidered, was the name of the Netherlands.

All the German warfare expanded to so many different countries it was very noticeable that many items on the market became very short in supply. There were certain items you just couldn't get anymore. We lived five minutes from the German border and little by little we could see the German army take all kinds of material out of Holland. Most of the transporting was done during the night. During the night the trucks were not as easy to spot by the allied planes, and made it much safer for the German convoys to travel. All of the German troop movements were always done at night. The Dutch wouldn't cooperate with the Germans and they punished the Dutch by stealing all their food and slowly starving them to death.

All the underground coal miners in Limburg did everything to sabotage the coal production. The Germans needed the coal badly for their war production, but the coal production from the Dutch coal mines wasn't as much as they had planned. Many miners would unnecessarily call in sick for work. Others would cause self-inflicted accidents as they were working underground on a coal strip, for instance, they would use a hydraulic pick hammer which the miner was using for loosening the coal, and would stick it in his foot. This way he could stay home for several weeks with pay for a self-inflicted accident which the Germans didn't know about. The job in the coal mines was very unhealthy and dangerous. There were two floors where the miners worked. An elevator took some miners to the 15000 feet underground floor and the others to 24000 feet. My father hated the coal mines and always found a way to stay home. He was always able to get a lot of sick leave. All the food supplies in the stores dwindled to empty shelves because the Germans were taking all the food for themselves, as they needed everything to feed their own people. Because of the food shortage, many of the coal miners didn't go to work. It was like a small strike organized among the coal miners. The N.S.B. tipped off the Germans that many coal miners stayed home for no reason. One night, the Nazi S.S. raided our town. The S.S. in the German army was called Schutzstaffel, a unit of Nazis created to serve as bodyguards to Hitler and later expanded to take charge of intelligence, central security, policing action, and extermination of undesirables. Several coal miners who were the organizers of that little strike were executed. In the beginning of the war we didn't know what kind of soldiers the S.S. were. They had different uniforms than the rest of the German army. Whenever the Germans were short of laborers they would raid villages of towns in occupied countries and take any available man to Germany to work in their war factories. Most of the German men had to join the army. The night when they raided our town they knocked on every door and went inside the houses looking for available men. The men were put on trucks and sent to Germany. My father was taken to the southern part of France.

CONTINUED: Persecution of Jews and food shortages
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

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- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
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