Monday, January 4, 2010

Surviving Nazi-occupied Holland During WWII

My parents recently shared with me a fascinating photo of my Grandpa Heuvel (shown standing third from left) taken during World War II. A native of Rotterdam, Holland, Grandpa (1914-2003) served in the Dutch Air Force before and during the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. Growing up, he told me about his and my grandmother's challenging experiences during this period. For instance, during the initial invasion, Grandpa was reassigned to the Dutch infantry forces (since the Air Force was quickly decimated by the Luftwaffe) and ordered to defend a bridge. However, after seeing a Nazi panzer division on the horizon coming toward him across the river, he decided that the bridge was not worth dying for and quickly left the scene!

To avoid being shipped to labor camps in Germany, Grandpa later joined the Rotterdam Fire Department (he is shown in dress uniform with his firefighter colleagues in this photo). He therefore, spent the bulk of the war fighting fires created by Allied and German bombing.

At one point, he was rounded up with other Dutch civilians and ordered to board a train for Germany (to undoubtedly end up in a labor camp). However, a sympathetic German guard allowed him to return home to presumably get a sandwich. Grandpa then went into hiding until things cooled down. The war was brutal for my grandparents and other Dutch civilians. With little food available, they faced starvation as they struggled to find food for their young children (my aunts and uncles). For the rest of their lives, my grandparents could not stand eating sweet potatoes because it reminded them of the rotten potatoes they were forced to eat in wartime Holland.

I was also told growing up that my Grandma Heuvel helped a downed British fighter pilot escape Nazi capture by dressing him up in women's clothes and smuggling him the the Allied underground. Fortunately, my grandparents survived the war and lived to immigrate to the United States and start a new life. In the future, I look forward to hearing more family stories about their wartime experiences.

4 comments:

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  2. Hi Sean, Nice to meet you. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish my family would have shared with me any information about growing up in Holland during this era. I have SO many questions. I would love to hear more as you discover it. The unspoken unhealed darkness that was the undercurrent in our lives as children of the second generation. I don't think they are considered Holocaust Survivors if they were not at the camps. At least that is what my research thus far has suggested. But all the subliminal after effects still exist. My mom was born in Rotterdam, NL on 6/26/1929. She was the youngest of the second family created by my grandfather. In his first family he had 6 children, and in his second he had 5. So essentially, my mom was the youngest of 11 kids. She grew up in Holland and survived the holocaust (January 30, 1933 to May 8, 1945) as a 16 year old teenage girl. Because her mother could (eventually) not take adequate care of them, and her father abandoned them, she lived in foster homes, separated from all her siblings. My father was born on 1/10/1929, and lived in Waalre, NB. He was the 10th child out of 12. Neither of my parents were able to show affection. Nor could they speak about their lives growing up. They immigrated to the US in 1950. I was born in the US in 1953, but went back and forth to Holland a couple of times until we finally settled in Sacramento in 1963.

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  3. Wengerocracy is a form of government where the people watch the ruler entirely amongst their reign. Wengerocracy prevents the leader of a country from covering up unlawful behavior going on.

    Over 100 million lives died in the 20th century alone because of leaders of numerous countries covering up unlawful behavior.

    Why aren't holocaust survivors writing books on the importance of instating wengerocracy in Germany? Why aren't holocaust survivors writing books on the importance of instating wengerocracy in Sudan? Prevent the next genocide.

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  4. was it very very dangerous to try to escape

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