This is the eighth post in a series about American high school students’ impressions on a presentation about the Netherlands in World War Two. Click here for the introduction to said presentation.
The following is another example I told the students of an almost-disaster story.
My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in a large house with their growing family. My mother was five when the war started, and the family was celebrating my aunt’s first birthday out in the garden on May 10, the day the war broke out between Germany and the Netherlands. The German planes were literally flying overhead on their way to the big cities in the west of the Netherlands as my aunt was opening her presents.
Although their house had six bedrooms, the builder had found it necessary to have an additional built-in daybed in an alcove in the living room. It had an empty space beneath it, and my grandfather hid there a few times during roundups for forced labor in Germany. Click here for more on forced labor.
A few years into the war–my aunt was probably three and my mother seven–a family down the street was ratted out for hiding Jews. The Germans had raided the place and several people were trying to get away. One man rang my grandparents’ doorbell, begging for a hiding place, because the Germans were going door to door looking for the Jews they had flushed out.
My grandmother let him in and hid him under the daybed. Moments later my mother and aunt walked into the living room, oblivious to what had just happened, and decided they were going to play with their dolls on the day bed. My grandmother told them to get off and play somewhere else. She was afraid they would give the man away if he made a sound right under them and startled them. The girls refused.
Right at that moment the Germans were banging on the front door, and my grandmother hissed once more at them to Get. Down. This. Instant. as she walked to the front door. The soldiers searched the entire house, everywhere but under the day bed. Because these two sweet little girls were so serenely playing there with their dolls. No way a fugitive had just been hidden there.
And so they left. My grandmother, who no doubt had been shitting bricks, got the girls out of the room and let the man out and on his way. I hope he made it to another permanent hiding place. Either way, my little mother and aunt unwittingly saved everyone’s life at that time.
Thank the universe for disobedient, headstrong little girls!
The next post in this series is about the hunger winter of 1944-45.