Chapter 9 The War Years

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Chapter 9

The War Years
I should also mention something about what came to be known as "Dolle Dinsdag," translated as "Crazy, Frantic, Wild, and/or Mad Tuesday." Indeed, this first Tuesday in September 1944 proved to be all that, and much more. It all began with the major breakthrough and march of the Allied Armies through France and their capture of Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium.
On Monday, September 4, 1944, the BBC announced that advanced regiments of Allied forces had reached Breda in Holland! This news set into motion the widespread rumours that other Allied troops had arrived at Dordrecht and Rotterdam! There were stories about the capture of the Moerdijkbrug across the major waterway between Breda and Dordrecht. From there it was a short way to Delft and Den Haag (The Hague)! Yes, the "Tommies" were on their way to free us! Everywhere, groups of people gathered together talking about all these amazing things. No one feared any more German trucks driving around. Indeed, crowds of people blocked their way; they had to have the military police fire their guns to clear the way for them. The German military also knew that their days were numbered. However, like us, they had not expected it to be this close. Some of them traded bike tires for civilian suits to go into hiding when the war would came to an end.
But the next few days were a big let down! It all proved to be "rumor mill news," which we had been feeding ourselves. Of course, we desperately had wanted it to be this way. However, it had not only been highly exaggerated; the rumors also were wrong. Ironically, during the next days when people tried to contact the Government Offices of the Information Services and Arts, telephone calls went unanswered and doors were closed. It was the same with a number of provincial, city, and town hall offices. The people in charge, who had been placed there by military authorities because of their national socialistic sympathies, had all gone in hiding because of this "Dolle Dinsdag" business. They too knew that Hitler's day were numbered, but these things from the wild rumor mill had scared the wits out of them. Later, when the rumors proved to be wrong, these same Government Information Service and Arts published in large newspapers that "services for several days had been required elsewhere in the land." Of course, we were used to such types of lies.
Just the same, for all of us the phrase "big let down" does not adequately describe the emotional feelings of the disappointment. Among other things, it underlined the fact that the big cities of Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, and all other smaller cities in the western part of Holland, WERE TO FACE ANOTHER HUNGER WINTER, one worse than the previous ones, when there still was a sort of "scraping by" for half of the population.
September 8, 1944, was the day that the first V-1 was fired in the direction of England. It was a highly secret weapon. And if one was found searching for a piece of the material that had come down accidentally, it meant death on the spot by a firing squad. There was a fear of resistance fighters passing on pieces to our friends and their enemies. The first launching was at Raaphorst, near Wassenaar and close to The Hague. From where we lived, it was about 15 kilometres away .
The launching and reaching of the desired height sounded like 50 trains rattling by. The next day, the RAF came looking for the place of launching. Soon, air battles with machine guns ensued, and bombs rained from the skies in the area. Orders were given by the German military to evacuate the immediate area. Within three days everyone around there had to be away, with whatever they wanted to take along. You can imagine what types of vehicles were on the roads, all stacked as high as possible with belongings, many people not knowing where to actually go. September 17 was a repeat of heavy bombers filling the skies. This time there were 30 or 40 of them. And like the other time, they were surrounded by many fighter planes firing machine guns at the German anti-aircraft below, even as there were engaged with German fighter planes in the sky. These duels were a sight to behold, if you dared to be outside. The next day was quiet, and no V-1’s were fired into the sky. Two days later, people were told they could move back into their homes. We wondered what this meant. Had the RAF destroyed everything? Had the military already given up on this highly sophisticated secret weapon of destruction?
A few weeks later, we found out that it was still full steam ahead with the secret weapon of destruction. Only now they used trailers as launching pads. After launching, they immediately drove several kilometers away to hide the trailers under large trees, only to wait for an opportunity to move to some other location for launching again. Each day, during the following months, from 10 to 20 weapons were launched toward England. But as at first, many never reached their targets; instead they came down before they could climb the skies high above the North Sea, which was about 25-30 kilometres away from where we lived. Some came down whole; others exploded in the air or when they fell to the ground. It was frightening at times when they came right over Schipluiden and area.
When it became obvious that Hitler’s days were numbered, it meant that the Dutch NSB, National Socialist Bond (Fraternity), who were our betrayers, began to "chicken out." The wives and children of the men who had volunteered for the German Army or who had been forced to join, decided that it was time to flee to Germany and other areas where people did not know them. For days on end, trainloads of these people left from such cities as The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen, and Leeuwarden. They had become frightened by talks of “bijltjesdag.”. This saying meant, "day of the ax" and/or "heads about to roll." We are sure that this type of revenge would not have been allowed to take place. Yet, these people felt that some of them might become victims just the same. The stakes were too high to risk staying around.
The 1944-45 winter was known as "the hunger and fuel shortage winter." People with empty stomachs desperately searched for things to burn, to somehow keep warm. Such demands for fuel not only included cutting down trees wherever they might be found, but also going out along railway lines were small pieces of cinder were dug up. Even pieces of asphalt were used for fuel. Such desperate actions as chiseling asphalt from roads took place under cover of darkness for fear of being shot if found doing so. In the inner cities, small blocks of hard wood had been used between the cobble or paving stones. They now began to disappear. Signs went up in the areas, warning people that anyone caught doing so would be shot on the spot. Fuel for stoves included wooden beds, dressers, doors from closets, etc. In large cities ads appeared requesting dry stove wood and offering to trade wine, whiskey, perfume, shaving knives, kitchen ware, steel chairs and tables, antiques, marble tops, bath towels, table clothes, china ware, linen, Persian rugs, needle work, diapers, oak dining room sets, high work shoes, riding boots, etc. The list was endless.
In the early fall of 1944, the battle that raged around Arnhem could indeed have been called "The Stalingrad of the West." However, the battle also included areas around Nijmegen and Eindhoven. The huge battle was about the bridge over the Rhine river at Arnhem. The only description that seems to fit those terrible days of battle was "hellish." It was so for those who lived there, for the Allied attackers, and for the German defenders. It started on September 17 and rapidly increased in its severity. On Sunday, September 24, the order was given to evacuate all of Arnhem. Arnhem-south was to be evacuated before Sunday at 8:00 p.m., and the rest of the city before Monday at 4:00 p.m. Some of the people went to Emde, Zutphen, Deventer and other places, but most of them headed north to Apeldoorn. It was a horrible and indescribable experience for its citizens. As a result of this evacuation, Arnhem was duped "The City of the Dead” because the day after the evacuation order, no civilians were left in the city.

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