Today is a day of remembering the sacrifices thousands of soldiers made to protect the world from devastating atrocities. Some people have experienced terrible things in their lives as a result of War.

The 11th of November is the day that World War I ended. The loss of lives was tremendous. The suffering from young men was beyond what most people can tolerate. Unfortunately in the following decades more and more clashes occurred that then resulted in more and more wars. WW 2, Korea, Vietnam, the Balkan States, Suez Incidents, and now the Middle East is in flames with no end in sight.

I was born in 1937 in Utrecht in the Netherlands and I vividly remember what happened in my country between 1940 and 1945. Even though I was just a small child I still remember incidents that happened. The German soldiers coming into our home searching for men to bring to Germany to go to work camps (they called that razzias), I remember those men were lined up waiting to be put in trucks to be transported to Germany, the planes that flew over all the time, the blackouts and the lack of food.

I remember as a little girl, (maybe 4 or 5 years old) walking with my mother to my grandmothers home. We had to pass the police station and on top of the roof were machine guns installed. I sensed my mother’s nervousness just walking by that place. I also remember that my brother and our neighbour were hiding underneath the kitchen floor during the razzias. Other neighbours did not even bother hiding. They gave up and were picked up.

The worst time was the winter of 1944. The southern part of the Netherlands was liberated by the allied forces but they were stopped near Arnhem and could not make it over the rivers Maas and de Rijn. The Germans dug in and made life for the people in the North hell. No more food, no more electricity, no more fuel for the wood stoves or cole. It was horrid. Our street was lined with big chestnut trees. During that winter people would come out at night to cut off branches so they got some heat in their homes. In the end, all trees came down that way. Stores closed, no more merchandise to sell.

My parents were desperate. A program was established that children were transported out of the big cities to the farmers in the North. I was one of those kids. My Mom and Dad brought me one day to the centre of town were a whole lot of trucks were waiting to get us out of town. Either that or starve to death. I ended up with a family in Bergentheim in the Province of Overijssel. I cannot remember when that was. Probably around January in 1945. I believe this initiative was taken by the churches.

One day some people in the resistance were talking to a gipsy lady who could see into the future. They asked her; when will this war be over? That was in the Middachter Allee near Arnhem. She looked around and pointed at the trees lining the streets and told them that when the trees have the Maple Leaves on the branches the war would be over (trees were oak). May 1945 the Canadian soldiers came to liberate our country and on their way they left Maple Leaves wherever they went.

In the Netherlands, they remember the war and all the casualties on May 4th. That was the day that we were liberated. May 5th is a celebration of getting our freedom back. This is celebrated for the last 67 years by young and old. I don’t know if they still use this day as a statuary holiday but when I left in 1966 that certainly was the case.

And today we here nothing else than the threat of nuclear war with North Korea. I wonder after all the sufferings of the last few decades in the number of wars all over the world. Do we ever learn something?

Today, we all pause for 2 minutes silence and reflect upon the past.


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