This is one of my favorite stories in the book my grandmother put together for us. Not because it’s a warm and happy story, but because it drives home some of the realities that come with war. As a child growing up in the Netherlands during WWII, it took a little time before Beppe realized the extent of what was going on. However, as time went on, she found the realities of war growing more and more prevalent in her childhood days. Her family farm, held by 3 generations was close to the sea. Once the perfect place to raise children was now uncertain territory. She does comment though, that the churches during this time were always full.
“One Sunday, while singing a Psalm in unison, a man entered through the back door. He walked down the aisle with a firm step, and then up onto the pulpit whispering something in the ear of the dominee, the preacher. The organ stopped playing. The people were silenced and our dominee made an announcement. He asked the men, ages 18-40 to come forward. The organ commenced playing, while a rug was rolled away in haste, some floor boards were lifted, removed, and then all the young men disappeared, one by one, under the floor. Quickly, all was put back in place and the service continued as before.
German soldiers had been spotted on the corner of the street where our church stood. Thus, the quiet alarm sounded. The service ended and no young men were among the crown leaving the church or they might have been rounded up and sent to Germany to labor in Hitler’s “war machine”. We were well prepared. As we streamed out of church, no soldiers did we see. They were already gone. Perhaps they had no bad intentions that day.
Later, in the middle of the night, in 1943, about 20 men of our village were rounded up. Some were executed, some were sent to concentration camps. Among them were an uncle, cousins, and friends of our family. It was then I realized the fear that gripped us all and freedom we had lost.”