World War 2 Experiences

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World War 2 Experiences

WORLD WAR 2 EXPERIENCES – Jan Weiss

PERIODS OF WW2

There were several periods in the war:
1. Before WW2
2. Entering WW2
3. During WW2
4. Exiting WW2
5. After WW2

BEFORE WW2

1. I was born in Holland in 1927, an I spent the first part of my life in the Netherlands. World War 2 started in 1940 when I was 13, and finished in 1945 when I was 18.

2. Warning Against Hitler
Hitler wrote a book, Mein Kampf (My fight), and in that book he wrote what thought and what he was going to do. I can remember one of my high school teachers who had this book on his desk, and was reading it even while he was teaching us. In that book Hitler wrote how he wanted to conquer other countries. How he was going to treat the Jews in every nation he occupied. He did this in several stages.
First he would distinguish them from the others (Arians) by insisting they wear the Jewish star on all their clothing. Then they were systematically arrested, and transported to concentration camps in Germany. In those concentration camps they were systematically gassed and cremated. So Hitler himself warned us against himself and his ideas.

3. Oldest Brother’s Prophecy
I can remember my oldest brother (5 years older) talking at the evening table, and warning us against Hitler. The others at the table criticized him for this talk, and disliked him for it. But he could not stop talking. My parents and the other brothers did not read daily papers, and so they were kind of ignorant in comparison.

4. Some Followed Warning.
I remember an author who sailed across the North Sea to England before the war started.. I remember an American minister who traveled from Holland through Belgium, France, into Spain, and sailed from there to America. But most of us were caught by the Germans in Holland and experienced 5 years of Nazi occupation.

5. Warning by Dutch Spy
I remember hearing about a Dutch spy who operated in Germany and warned the Dutch government that the Germans were planning an invasion into Holland. But the government did not listen, and on the first day of invasion German soldiers came out of a ship that had been parked in the harbor of Rotterdam.

6. Mobilization summer 1939
My family used to spend each summer a whole month in Katwijk at the sea, where we spent every day at the sea. My father used to rent a car that would bring the whole family from Rotterdam to Katwijk, with all our belonging. He would rent a whole house, where we would have an evening meal and where we would sleep. In the day we would spend the whole day on the sand and in the water, and my father would sit in a chair and talk to various people about education.

But in the summer of 1939 the Dutch government mobilized the country, and so we could not use the car to return to Rotterdam, and so my father rented with another family a bus, and we returned to Rotterdam in that bus. This was the beginning of a whole change of our life.

ENTERING WW2

On May 5th German planes dropped soldiers from the air into Rotterdam. They also crossed the border between Germany and Holland. Then they also bombed the centre of Rotterdam, so much of it burnt down. We saw people streaming out of the center, seeking new housing in outskirt areas. We saw many houses burnt down.

In the meantime German soldiers marched to the Hague where we had the center of the Dutch government, and on May 10th Holland capitulated, and Nazi government began, and would reign for 5 years. It was an easy take. Any resistance was crushed down with force and speed.

DURING WW2

1 . Not much change
In the beginning we did not notice much change. German soldiers were very disciplined. One time a soldier took something from a young boy on a street car. He went to the German commandant, who took him around his soldiers to identify the thief, and when the soldier was identified and he confessed, he was shot and killed by the commandant on the spot.

But slowly circumstances began to change. Less and less food in the stores, and also less and less supplies. In the last year of the war all stores were empty and closed. Also there was no electricity, gas, or coal, only water.

2. Price of Food
My father bought a loaf of bread on the black market, and paid for it a laborer’s monthly salary, and then we would stay in bed much of the day, and have one slice of bread per day, and that was all the food we had.

3. Sugar Beets
One day in the winter of 1944 my brother and I pushed a wheel cart for half a day to get a heap of sugar beets out of a field to bring it home for our family. On the way back I was so hungry that I took a sugar beet, bit into the clay and spit it out until I reached the meat of the beet.

4. Heating and Light
Our hearth was removed, and we bought a little hearth where we could burn wood or coal. The wood was cut from the trees in parks or from bomb shelters. The coal was dug out of the paths in parks. On that little hearth my mother cooked if she had food. It heated the room where it was installed, and at night we sat around the little hearth where we could see just a little. I remember we created electricity with the dynamo on a bicycle, so some of us could read.

5. Underground Experiences
In the last year of the war I was in the underground. We gathered in school gymnasiums where we practiced with brenguns and stenguns. I was able to put a these weapons together blindfolded. But first I had to meet every person at their house and then bring him to the gymnasium whose location they did not know.

6. Gathering News
When the invasion started it became important to gather invasion news, which was not available on the Dutch radio, but only on the English radio. My father did not allow us to this, so one of my friends did it, and typed out the news every day, which I then followed on the map, seeing the allied forces advance from LeHavre all the way into Europe.

One day I approached my friend’s house to get the news, and I saw the German police from a distance, and so I quickly turned back on my path. Later I learned that most of the people who worked on the news had escaped over the roof, but the parents of my friend were arrested, and later on executed.

7. Work Forces
The Germans often arrested males and made them work in Germany. They would barricade a street, and then go from door to door, and get the men out of the house. My mother was smart. She told the soldier that we were sick in bed with an infectious disease. The soldier refused to go near us.

8. Accidental Arrest
My oldest brother was hiding from the Germans, and staying with a family. The German police were after a certain person. They knew his name and the name of the person where he was staying. When they came into the village they asked children for the name of his host, the children pointed to the house of another person with the same name, and that was the host of my oldest brother. So my brother was arrested, first brought to a Dutch concentration camp, and from there to a German concentration camp. After arrival, one of the guards looked at his records, and noticed my brother was “polizilich unbekannt” (not known with the police), and so they let him out of the concentration camp, but made him work in a police station.

9. Bombing by Allied Forces
To prepare the Germans for the invasion, night after night allied planes would fly from England deep into Germany, where they would bomb and destroy many cities. At first we would flee into the cellar, but after a while we would stay in bed and sleep through these operations.

10. Razzia at College
At the end of the war it was dangerous to go to college. One time we had to run from the back of the building, because German soldiers were trying to get into the front of the building, so they could reach students to get them to work for them.

I safely got to the rail road station and rode on the train to Rotterdam, but we then decided that we could not go to college anymore. After the war I returned to the college, but for quite a while I had to ride the train standing in a cattle car, because the Germans had taken all our passenger train cars, and we had to search for them all over Germany.

EXITING WW2

1. Final Day
When we found out that the Germans had lost the war and had given up, we were all very excited, and after curfew time, when we were not allowed to be on the street (6pm), we went outside and began to share that information and joy.

At a certain moment a convertible with 3 German soldiers drove into our street, stood up in the car, and shouted “Hinein” (Go inside). At that moment it was clear how scared we still were of the Germans, for people ran to their doors and tried to get in, but some doors were closed, and people could not get in.

2. Whole Night of Dancing from street to street
Once we were sure the German occupation had come to an end, we went from street to street for a whole night, singing and dancing for joy. The five years of German occupation had been very hard and scared us a lot.

AFTER WW2

1. Back to College
After WW2 it was safe to go back to college, and I could sit in the train again.

2. Return of Oldest Brother
One day after the war, our whole family was together in our parental home. And suddenly we heard a key slide into the outdoor lock, the door was opened, and we heard someone come into the house. We were startled, for every key holder was already inside. Who could this be? We spontaneously all ran to the door! And here was my oldest brother. He had walked all the way from Oranienburg, Germany to our home. How excited we all were. We did not know he was still alive, as we thought he was in a concentration camp until the end of the war.

But do not think he told us much. He talked a little, but then asked where his girl friend lived, and then on a borrowed bicycle he drove to her to tell about his return. And even after he returned to the parental home, he told us very little about his concentration camp experiences.

All he told us was the fact that at one time he had been discharged from the concentration camp because he was told he was “polizeilich nicht bekannt” (=not know by the police, they did not know why he was there). Then they made him work on the furnace of a police station, where had enough food and was always warm.

3. Threat of Communistic Russia
By the time I had graduated from the chemical engineering college, we became aware of another threat, namely from communistic Russia. And I was glad to be able to go to the United States in 1950. When I arrived on the boat in the New York harbor and saw the statute of liberty, I felt happy and safe! No more dictators in my life, please!

4. Thanks to the Allied Forces
I will never forget how many men in the Allied Forces died for my liberation from Hitler and his Nazis. It is now 65 years ago that the second world war ended, and my memories are still very vivid. Sometimes I hear people talk about casualties in more recent wars, but none of them can compare in any way with the casualties of World War 2. So thanks to all those young men who probably have forgotten this war. Even today I hope to do something for their children, grandchildren and great grand children.

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