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Open Features: Holland In The War Years - 3

...During the winter everyone gathered in the living room. There was only one lamp on the table so all activity centred around it. Those who had to study did so by lamplight...

Aloysius Joosten continues his account of what life was like in Holland during the German occupation.

We stayed at Hoofdkanaal W.Z. 53 in Emmercompascuum.
The house had a large open loft. There were three double beds to accommodate six people. The room was right under the roof tiles. In summer it was warm to hot. In winter the snow blew in through the tiles right on to the beds.

Downstairs we had a kitchen, which could only be used during the summer, since we could only cook on the cooking range. In the winter the kitchen was too cold. During the winter the cooking range was put in the living room where it was used for heating and cooking. The room had no airvents. Double glass was unheard of and even if this had been available no one would have been able to afford it.

During the winter everyone gathered in the living room. There was only one lamp on the table so all activity centred around it. Those who had to study did so by lamplight. However, when there were visitors this was not an ideal situation. Just as well there was no TV.

Everything happened in that room, everyone knew exactly what was being discussed. Such was life.

We were poor, but then, so was everyone else, we knew no better.

It was 1944 and we were in the fourth year of the German occupation. The war had lasted a lot longer than expected.
Shortages increased, particularly the basic needs.

The western portion of the country was most affected. Many people lived in the big cities. Impending famine loomed. The winter of 1944 was known later as the “Hunger Winter”. As many children as possible were temporarily evacuated to the country where they could be fed and accommodated.

One evening, Mr Hoge, one of the committee members, arrived at our house to enquire whether we could take in an evacuee. Actually, we already had a full house but, yes, if my parents were willing, we would be prepared to take in an extra person. So we were put on the reserve list even though there was no extra bed!

A few weeks later we heard the news that a bus with children was on it’s way from the west to the café “Abeln” which was in the centre of the village. That was just what we needed, variety and excitement.

Priority was given to people who had offered to take in an evacuee and the father or mother would pick them up at the café and take them home. With a bunch of friends we also went to the café but, of course, we were not allowed inside.

Every time we saw a child being taken home, I thought. What a pity there is no one here for us. We had not been notified. There was silence, everyone had left. I decided to go inside. The committee was still sitting around a large table.

I stepped forward: “I’ve come to fetch the evacuee. My mother could not make it.” They looked through the list. “Yes, you are right.” There was one youngster who had not been picked up His name was Jopie Ros and he was from Amsterdam. He carried a small case in which were all his belongings. So I took him home with me. I simply explained that he was the evacuee that had been sent to live with us.

This caused some confusion as there was no bed for him. Where could he sleep? Eventually a cot was found and placed in my parent’s bedroom. That’s how it went during the war. Solutions were found for all problems, sometimes strange, with little comment. Jopie soon felt at home. He was neat and tidy. Children from the city were actually more educated than we were.

After two days we had a visit from aunt Sien Feijen. She had heard about Jopie, was impressed, and decided to take him home to move in with her. She had more room and could well afford it.

However, my mother objected..

“No way, Sein,” she said “The boy feels at home here so let’s leave it at that.

We were thrilled to hear this.

Jopie had a good voice and had sung in the choir at Amsterdam. He went with us to church and joined the choir.

©Aloysius Joosten 2013

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