Section Six of Six
I don't remember the actual day the war ended. But I vividly remember
when American B-17s started flying over, very low, dropping crates of canned
goods, sometimes in fields, sometimes in streets, but without parachutes.
They just dropped them. And the English prepared special low fat, high
nutrition cookies for us. We had to be very careful what type of food we
started to eat. Our bodies couldn't tolerate too much fat, sugar or anything
heavy. Thus, American soldiers were warned not to give chocolate, or candy,
to children. It could cause them to get deathly ill or even die.
Distribution of the cookies was a problem so they were loaded in trucks
and sprayed on the streets with mechanisms for spraying salt. People were
so malnourished and ill that every second was a survival second.
On my own body I counted over 100 ulcerated sores. Also, almost everyone
was covered with lice, so the Americans set up special DDT stations in
the streets. I shall never forget going through one of those.
Such great numbers of people died that mass graves were established.
There may have been some funerals, but basically people were just "placed."
They were carried to the graves in rouwwagen, black wagons with
four corner posts, pulled by one or two horses. Coffins were unavailable
so bodies were wrapped in black blankets. One time I saw a wagon in which
one of the blankets had come open and a man's head just dropped out.
Leen arrived home first, probably a month after the war was over. He
came in an American truck and wore an American uniform. About a week later,
my dad and Jan arrived together in a Canadian truck with Canadian soldiers,
wearing Canadian uniforms. The whole truck was piled with food. They unloaded
"tons" of it into our house. I don't know how long my father
and brother had served with the Canadians, probably about eight or nine
months, but when the war was over they came home and brought that truck
with people and food.
Reflections On War
It seems to me that the most lasting impressions in life are those you
receive as a young child. They stick with you. And strange as it is, the
older I get, the closer I feel to the war years.
I will give you a few examples of how I am still affected by my wartime
experiences. On holidays, where fireworks are set off, I experience a very
strange feeling, an emotional trauma deep within where people are ripped
apart by explosions and blood is flying in all directions. Other people
respond in pleasure and enjoy the scenario. I don't enjoy it at all.
Then there is the sight of a gun or rifle. Many people in the United
States are very possessive of their firearms and many collect them as a
hobby. To me, that is totally foreign. Every time I see a gun or
rifle, it strikes terror in me because of what I've seen them do. My experiences
as a young child have never left me, such as that of walking with the young
girl who was shot right through the shoulder, the time the Germans blew
out the woman's brains in front of my grandmother's house and on and on.
These were daily occurrences.
Another example is when I see animals that have been shot in hunting
season, hanging down, blood dripping. To me, an irrational transformation
from animal to human being occurs and I feel almost as deeply touched as
when I saw corpses lying in the streets, or people being shot or mutilated.
I always have that association. I simply can't understand how people can
"enjoy the hunt," how it's possible.
Every time I hear a plane, any kind of plane, I instinctively look up.
You simply could not take for granted that any aircraft, be it American,
British or German did not spell impending disaster, just like the English
fighter pilot over Amsterdam who emptied his guns on the crowd in the cul
de sac and shot an untold number of civilians. To me, the sound of an airplane
means bombs, bullets and destruction. Whenever a plane comes over I just
have to look. Not that I'm actually afraid. It's an impulse I can't seem
So, in general, the war is still always with me. It was embedded deep
within and it will stay that way forever, I suppose.
Thus, my statement is that anything, anybody can do to prevent the leaders
of our governments from escalating disagreements that would result in a
major assault must be done. We must do whatever we can. I speak through
music and words to persons in the U.S. and Europe, whenever possible. I
have no other means. That's what I've been doing in Missoula, Montana with
the International Choral Festival, and when I go to Europe I speak of peace.
In some ways, I think it helps.
I also want to say how grateful I am to the United States for its contribution
to European liberation. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. I would have been
long since dead. The Germans planned to overtake Russia and then transport
us to work in the Russian quick silver (mercury) mines. There, death was
certain, if not from the work itself, certainly from mercury poisoning
and lung disease. Every Dutchman was to have been relocated so the Germans
could move into Holland. Again, I am very grateful to the United States.