Cor van Zuijdam
This is my grandfather, my mother’s father. He experienced the Second World War completely different than my grandfather from my father’s side of the family. My grandfather was a kid (11) when the Germans invaded the Netherlands. He lived in a very small village called Geldermalsen. Living next to a baker and a butcher the family never experienced hunger. “As a kid the Nazis looked very impressive. Nice clothes, healthy and strong. We would go to the train station and help them carrying stuff for money.” My grandfather told me he didn’t have a bad war memory. “We didn’t have to go to school. We could play all day. It was safe and we had enough food.” When I first heard my grandfather talk about the war is was a little bit shock knowing my other grandparents story. I asked him if he knew what happened in this horrible war.” Of course I know it now but during the war I didn't. We didn’t have newspapers, television didn't exist yet. We weren't allowed to listen to the radio and I wasn't allowed to go to another village. A village 10 km away seemed as far as New York. Therefore we had no idea what was going one.” When the war ended and the stories of what happened reached my grandfather he was shocked. How could humans do this to other humans?
My grandfather also believes his neighbors had something to do with the resistance. “There were many people coming and going we didn’t know.” While the war continued my grandfather grew older and seeing more of the danger. He remembers going home with his father when somebody told them there was a group of young SS walking around. The person told them this group of SS would beat up everybody they saw. He and his father walk through the dens farmland with apple trees. My grandfather described it as “exciting” not knowing what would happen if they were caught.
“When the Allies come closer and the Nazi’s had to use their anti-aircraft guns we would go and look. They would shoot up in the sky and we had a couple of seconds to hide somewhere before the shells came down. It was fun to watch and very impressive to see.”
He also told a story of his neighbor who was around the same age as he was. “This boy would catch cats and skin them. Them he would sell them as hare to the Nazis stationed in Geldermalsen. He became a trader because he was, even during the war, always selling stuff. ”
I think this is also an important story about the Second World War. It didn’t only consist of good and bad and wrong and right. There were also people just living their lives not knowing what was going on.
Today it is very easy to say “I would do this” or “I would do that” but back then it wasn’t that simple.
Not all stories are heroic or cruel-evil. Some stories are just stories and they need to be told as well.
Steven van Koeverden | +31617351867 | firstname.lastname@example.org