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War Memories from Holland

June 11, 2018 June2018 No Comments

by Toni Pyl

Part 4

The War became grim now, we didn’t talk to the Germans anymore and teased the Dutch Nazi children who had joined the ‘Hitler Jugend’ (Hitler Youth). They wore beautiful uniforms and we were secretly jealous of them!

In a war anything can happen. One morning we found a yellow card in the letter box saying ‘This area has to be evacuated in 24 hours”. These Germans were always in a hurry but there must have been a lot of complaints because next we were given three days to look for another house. The City Council had given us a list of addresses so my mother, sister and I went house hunting in a village on the other side of Den Haag called Wassenaar.

To make room for us seaside dwellers, the old folks who lived alone were ordered to go and live with families that had spare rooms in the East of Holland.

We picked a nice house and asked the person who lived there if we could have a look inside. She was understandably very grumpy and declared she didn’t have time. However, she became friendlier when she learnt we had received a notice just like she had. Eventually we were shown around (she didn’t own the house) and as it was to our liking, we shifted a few days later.

Our grandparents came to live with us and they took the ground floor, which had two big rooms and the kitchen. We lived in the bedrooms upstairs and the bathroom was transformed into a kitchen.

Life was rather quiet in the beginning. I remember much more war commotion but unlike our old village we could still walk in the sandhills nearby which were alot wider and covered in tall trees. The area had been made into a park which I often explored as I became interested nature study. Soon I became a member of a national nature study club. It was the only youth club operating apart from ‘Hitler Jugend’. The monthly newsletter was not allowed to be published because the organisation refused to become a member of the ‘German Culture Chamber’.

Inside a garage we would have lectures on some aspect of nature while war raged outside. Meetings, lectures and camps were held almost right up until the end of the war. The camps especially were a highlight in an otherwise dreary existence.

I also had a lovely holiday with people we had known from the old village. They had moved to the East to a summerhouse in a small village called Giethoorn known as Dutch Venice because everything there was transported by boat.  The ‘main street’ was a narrow path running along the side of the main canal. Nestled amongst the trees on the shores of a lake, the farmhouses were old and built in a certain style. The people spoke a dialect and had different customs to the city dwellers – who they looked down their noses at.

The baker always announced his presence with the sound of a big bell and every morning and evening the milking boat belonging to one of our favourite farmers came by. Sometimes at night we children were allowed to go with him to help with the milking. The pasture was across the lake and the boat would either be sailed or rowed over depending on the wind direction. The nine cows were milked by hand while we sat on three-legged stools with a bucket between our legs.

There were three children, the wife was a pianist and the husband a journalist who went to the Barber everyday – not for a shave or haircut but to listen to the forbidden radio transmissions from London.


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