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Open Features: Holland InThe War Years - 2

Aloysius Joosten was nine years old when the Germans invaded Holland in World War Two. He still has vivid memories of those times.

This is the second article in a five-part series.


As the war on the eastern front and in the west progressed the first major setbacks for the Germans were felt especially on the Russian front. There was a shortage of workers in the factories as well as on the farms. As a result all males over the age of eighteen were conscripted to work in Germany.

Peet, one of my elder brothers, was included in this group. He had to work in a factory in Berlin, close to the airport Tempelhof. This caused a lot of anxiety for my parents. An airport or any factory nearby was liable to be bombed at any time. Much time was spent in shelters from the constant bombing, but eventually Peet came home on leave for a week.

He then returned to Berlin, or so we children thought. In actual fact he went to Kalkwijk near Sappemeer to help my uncle Doris on his farm. He “vanished” according to the Germans, did not exist any more, and no one enquired after him. Only afterwards, we discovered the reason for this. Whilst on leave, the factory had been bombed and the Germans had assumed that he was dead. Not being in Berlin at that time ensured that he survived the war.

However, others working for the Germans were not so fortunate.


One summer evening we were hanging out with a group at our church. With us was Fritz Schoemaker. He was supposed to be working in Germany but had not reported back. He was a conscientious objector and was in hiding.

A man arrived on a bicycle. He wore a long coat. Fritz made negative comments about the occupiers and traitors. Shortly afterwards the man got back on to his bicycle and rode away.

“Did you not notice the brown shirt under his coat?” someone commented. What Fritz did not realize was that he wore the uniform of a German soldier and was a traitor. After a lot of arguing about this we went home.

The following morning as I was on my way home from church I came across a group of men from the German army. Leading them was the man on the bicycle we had encountered the previous day. They stopped on the bridge and after a discussion turned left down a sandy road. I knew that 500 meters further along Fritz lived with his parents. There was not time to warn him.

After about ten minutes the group cycled back escorting Fritz. He was sent to a labour camp but survived and returned home at the end of the war.

Sometimes whole streets were cordoned off and searches made for Jews or radios. The latter all had to be handed in at the beginning of the war. It was forbidden to have a radio at home. Not everyone complied. In secret we listened to the English Channel and to Radio Orange which was strictly forbidden. If caught, the offender was sent to a camp and his chances of returning alive were slim.


We knew a small girl with red hair, the original colour of which was black. She was Jewish. She had been adopted and was actually in hiding. We whispered when we spoke about her. Fortunately, no one betrayed her and she survived. Had someone done so then both she and the family with whom she was staying would have been rounded up, sent to a concentration camp, and would never have been seen again!

People lived in constant dread and tension. At that age we felt the same but for us it was more of a fearful sensation.

©Aloysius Joosten 2013


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