The History Place - Personal Histories

A Boy's Life in Holland

Labor Conscription

Section Five of Six

During 1943, 1944, and 1945, when Dutch men walked outside into the streets, they were often captured, not just by Germans, but also by people who were authorized to find them. Once captured, they would be put into trucks and they would be gone! Every time a man showed his face on the street, he could be captured by anyone because we didn't know who was "pro" or "anti." Often the men managed to escape and return home, just to be captured again.

My father was taken several times. During transport he usually seemed to get away. It was sort of a cycle -- being captured, escaping, and being captured again. The Germans didn't want to kill the men. They needed them to work in the factories. They simply didn't have enough of their own people to work anymore. All of their own men were on the battlefield and someone had to make the German military machinery work or do whatever was needed.

On one particular occasion the Germans shut off all of the streets and they captured all of the men. They went into the houses (some people lay in bed and had green cards, often fake, that they had T.B. or something so the Germans didn't touch them!) but they dragged all of the other men out, put them in truck convoys, and then into ryn aak which were big ships. Then they transported them up to Germany to work.

Both my father and brother Jan were captured. At the time, my mom wasn't home. When she returned, she was just furious. She took me by the arm, dragged me through the hall and out to the street where, on each corner, the Germans had put machine gun nests. Standing in front of us was an SS man, rifle in hand. My mother and I walked by him and he said, "You can't go that way." She told him to "shove off," and we walked through. He fired at her and the bullet went right over her head and hit a mirror on the other side of the street (what we call a spionnetje, a small mirror on the second or third floor that we often looked into to see the opposite side of the street). She turned around and said, in German, "You missed, stupid." And we walked on. He was totally, totally disarmed. That's how much anger she had in her.

We got as far as the ships but the German guard, a man with whom we felt we could talk because he was older and friendly, stopped us and said, "Lady, I can't help you. It would cost me my life." We knew he really couldn't, so we gave up and went away.

Somehow, my dad escaped, he got out of it, but my brother didn't. So after dad returned, he went back out and got my brother out of a camp in Germany.

Again, my brother and father were captured. It was a constant story. This time they were on a railroad that went over a bridge near the city Groningen. Dad knew the train had to slow down and showed Jan how to jump from it into the water below. Dad jumped but my brother chickened, so again my father had to go in and get him out of there.

Jan started to work at the ship docks, rebuilding ships related to German use. On his feet, he (as did most everyone by now) wore slats of wood fastened with straps much like sandals. He found a pair of German boots that fit and stole them. The Germans caught him and he had to spend six weeks in a concentration camp.

Later, after my dad had come back, the poor man got so sick he could hardly talk. This occurred near the end of the war. In desperation, we took him to a German centrum where men were collected with the idea of feeding them and making them able to work. Then, he was sent off to Germany once more. However, he escaped some way and joined the Canadian Army, as did my brother Jan who had again been picked up.

I don't know exactly how my father did all of that, but he did. The Germans never really managed to keep him very long. He was just like that, really clever and nervy, even though his command of the German language was practically zilch. In normal life, he was quite a gentle man with a soft-spoken voice and he was emotional. Certainly you never would have expected any kind of courage like he portrayed in the war.

My other brother Leen was taken earlier, in 1943. We didn't know where he was until a letter arrived toward the end of the war that he was in France. He had been captured by the Germans and worked in France but had escaped to a monastery where he was hidden in a cellar where he helped make wine or something like that. Sometime during that period he got the opportunity to join the American Army. From the few things he once told me years later (when he had had a little bit to drink at a party) he must have been on the front lines which were very, very ferocious. He had even shaken hands with General Eisenhower because of his bravery.

I remember Leen's letter because it had been treated with a certain color to find out if there were any hidden messages in it. All letters that we received had colors on them. I don't know how it was done, but they had been opened, of course.

Copyright © 1997 by Lucien Hut All Rights Reserved
Excerpted from "No Longer Silent" - World-Wide Memories of the Children of World War II.

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