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

Nazi Germany surrenders

Hitler had always told the German people that no one could cross the Siegfried line and take the "Fatherland". It had taken years to build this concrete fortification and just 10 days for the American troops to break through it. For miles around the German border line you could see those concrete pyramid-looking pillars four feet high standing four in a row. Tanks could not cross those obstacles. Their tracks would get stuck between those concrete pillars. But the American army had large bulldozers with scoops which would just cover those concrete pillars with sand, and it became a bridge for the tanks to cross. As more and more towns were liberated and the American troops had moved far into Germany they freed many prisoners in work and concentration camps. The Northern part of Holland was still at war with the Germans. Many of the Dutch people who were freed from the German work and concentration camps were not able to go home yet as many of their towns weren't liberated yet. Many of those people spent their time in our town. People took them in their houses until they were able to go home. We had two men in our house and they were so sick that they had no control over their bowel movements. They suffered so much in the German working camps and were totally neglected in getting their proper meals that their stomachs could not take the food my mother prepared. They were so dehydrated that it took a little while to adjust to normal eating habits. I remember how embarrassed they were when they messed up the floors in our house because they had no control over their bowel movements.

Victory in Europe

When the Northern part of Holland was liberated by the English and Canadian troops and they were strong enough to travel, they all went home. Not long after that my father came back from the war. He had spent more than two years working for the German army in the southern part of France.

We knew that the war was coming to an end. Convoy after convoy of American troops was going into Germany. With no more American soldiers around it started to change our life style. In some ways we were spoiled by having those American soldiers around for so many weeks. With the American troops around there was always some money to make here and there. You could always sell something to somebody for black market prices. I was about twelve years old and always had a pocket full of money.

For days we could hear troop movements, especially those heavy tanks were very noisy. As big as they were they had to move very carefully through our narrow streets to avoid hitting one of the houses. We kids watched them go by, but whenever the convoy just had to stop for a moment we would be all over the soldiers and beg them for chocolate, cigarettes or whatever they gave us. It was about the last American chocolate bar we would see for a long time.

During their stay in our town many soldiers had made close friends with people they had lived with. Some soldiers had married our women and became stationed in Germany as occupational troops until the war was over. On their weekend furlough they came back from Germany and spent their time with families in our town. Whenever we noticed their jeeps parked on the side of the road we couldn't stay away from them. We had such an admiration for Americans and what they had done for us. At that time in my mind I thought every American was rich. We had seen so much misery over the years that with all the overabundances the American troops brought along, it was not understandable for us to visualize that Americans could have poverty in their country.

On May the 7th, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally to General Eisenhower. For us the war had ended and with it all the comforts of those American soldiers who had stayed in our town for so many weeks came also to an end. For me it was not easy to see all those soldiers gone. It had become part of my life. I ate with them, was driven around in all of their war vehicles, sat with them in their foxholes and trenches when they were firing at the German fighter planes. Most of the soldiers treated me like I was one of their own. Some acted like they were my father. I saw things the soldiers did which I should never have seen at my age. But I was too young to understand everything in this mixed up world. At that time I didn't think anything about it. I was always treated well. The American soldier had in some ways changed a little of my life style. Whatever had a touch of American ways had become part of my life.

CONTINUED: Life after World War II
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index