Yesterday it was 75 years after D-day. Seventy-five years after the Allied forces invaded Normandy. But we still had to wait another eleven months before Nazi-ruled Germany surrendered and we were liberated from the German occupation of The Netherlands.  3

On 6 May 1945, the second wold war ended in The Netherlands when German general Blaskowitz surrendered to Canadian general Charles Foulkes. It wasn't until the day before that I could move freely outside, without fear of being picked up by the Germans.  4

It was a beautiful day, with a clear blue sky. But I wondered about those pieces of charred bits of paper that suddenly came dwindling down. It turned out that the Germans were burning documents in their nearby headquarters.  5


I have been married for 65 years. Shortly after getting to know my wife, I found out that she had been liberated a few weeks before me. She had lived with a family in Kommerzijl, a small village in the North. Here is her story.  6

But first a few words about hunger and another few words about the Teenstras, the family who saved her from the worst of the hunger winter.  7

After my pee and making lunch. And doing the dishes.  8


Dishes done. Now a nappie. Old foogeys often have a snooze. Or doze off. After the snooze, it is about tea-time with my wife Elisabeth. Tea for two and two for tea, one for me and one for you.

      Nobody near us
      To see us or hear us,
      No friends or relations
      On weekend vacations.
      We won't have it known, dear,
      That we own a telephone, dear.

But I am rambling.  

Old fogeys ramble a lot—and pee a lot. Also doze off, or have a snooze. That's what old fogeys are good at.  10


From Elisabeth's Memories that never left me (WWII years):  11

"For days, in the distance we kept hearing the shooting of heavy artillery. In the sky we could see that the city Groningen was burning. The Canadians used flame-throwers to get the enemy out of their hiding places. Shortly, people started talking about the Canadians coming closer. It was a stressful time, not knowing what would happen next. Most peopl stayed close to home.  12

"I remember one day we heard from far, far away a scary, creepy sound. It was from tanks rolling oh so slowly over the country road. A sound so creepy .... I still hear it when I think about it. It is a slow, very slow clinking, scratching, scraping noise. Mr Teenstra called me and gave his binoculars and asked me to go to the attic where they have a door onto the roof. 'Go and try find out if these tanks are German or Canadian,' he said, 'but be careful.'  13

"I did what he asked me to do, got up to the roof and looked in the direction where the creepy sound came from. But it was too far to see anything. Even Piet came later and tried to look for it, but could not see anything either.  14

"The noise, very slowly came closer. I can't tell you what we felt, something was going to happen, was feedome near?  15

"As I wrote before, the back of the Teenstra's house was right next to meadows and fields of farmland broken only by narrow creeks and those typical Dutch willow trees and shrubs that lined the roads.  16

"Nearby always stood a big bull. His eyes appeared nasty and he always stared us down. He was on a chain pinned to the ground, however, he sometimes got loose and some farmers then had a hard time to get that beast back. I was terrified of this animal, but we got out of the house so little anyway. We kept hearing that distant creepy sound of those tanks while waiting and waiting. All of a sudden I could not stand it anymore and said, 'I am going to look and ran to the front door. 'No, no,' Mr Teenstra yelled to me and Piet yelled, 'Stay here,' but this time something burst inside me; I had to go and ran through the back door and started to run in my shabby, navy-blue dress, old shoes, and not-to-charming socks, and Anneke closely followed running behind me.  17

"By now, the Teenstras stood at the door, yelling for us to come back. I ran and ran, never mind that bull, stepping on cow dung crusts and kept going, jumping over narrow ditches, and felt like I was flying toward the sound of those tanks, and Anneke close behind me. For the first time I felt some freedom, away from everybody, being myself; yet I still did not know if those tanks were German or Canadian. We crossed several sections of farmland until we came to a small, narrow rural road lined with those typical Dutch sculptured willow trees and shrubs.  18

"I told Anneke to stay low behind me and we kept hiding under the low brush and saw in the distance one, then two, then three tanks approaching, so slowly, with those iron treads grinding over the road. We kept watching to see if they were German tanks; those we knew quite well.  19

"Then, oh my God ... CANADIANS, CANADIAN TANKS, three Canadian tanks followed by trucks. I don't know whar it was, something snapped inside me, I got out of the bushes, ran to te middle of the road straight towards those tanks, waving my arms and dancing like an idiot and shouting 'wij zijn vrij, wij zijn vrij' (we are free, we are free). Anneke right behind and did the same.  20

"The first tank stopped and then the hatch on top of it opened and a Canadian soldier stood up. What a sight. What a sight.  21

"I never, never will forget this. To me he was gorgeous, a big smile on his face. I guess he rather saw a teenage girl dancing on the road in front of him than engaging in a fight with the enemy.  22

"What a sight it was!!!  23

"This smiling gorgeous soldier put up a hand for the tanks behind and spoke to them over the contact system that they had with each other. All the tanks came to a stop. The hatches popped open and more soldiers looked at us. Then the first soldier spoke to us in English and, of course, we did not understand what he was saying. I am sure they must have been informed that in our area there was not a German army, not in our village nor nearby. Then this gorgeous Canadian reached out and invited Anneke and me to climb on the top of the tank. I took his hand and he pulled me up. He asked us 'where do you live?' Not speaking English but somehow with signs and some words we sort of understood what he ws asking. Then they continued rolling on along this rural road toward Kommerzijl.  24

"People all over running out of their houses; men, women, children filled the streets, waving their arms and Dutch flags. After five horrible years we got our freedom back. The tanks rolled over the small bridge that spanned the canal bordering the town and we pointed to the street where Anneke and I were living. Th tank turned onto our tiny street with barely a meter space that kept the tanks from scraping the sides of the houses along this narrow sreet. All the tanks and trucks followed and then we stopped right in front of the Teenstra's house. Unbelievable! Just unbelievable!  25

"In this jubilant atmosphere, there stood Mr Teenstra, Piet and those Jewish people, and all the neighbours too, screaming and shouting with joy. So, after all those months, Piet was able to go outside and feel free and not afraid of being picked up and sent away to Germany.  27

"Later, when all the excitement in the street was over and everyone back inside, Mrs Teenstra and Piet told me that as a young girl I should never hav climbed on that tank. A nice girl simply does not do such a thing. Piet was mad, his face was white and rigid with anger. This was the first time being with Piet that I observed something in him that I had never noticed before.  28

"We had lived with each other under such unusual circumstances, always at home, always with the ssme people. In a way very sheltered without influence from the outside or others. So, from Piet's side everything was under control. I did not know any better. He was my best friend. I was very ignorant, knowing little or nothing. It took me a while to wake up.  29

"So we had peace."  30


Ah! I forgot! I forgot to tell you about the hunger winter and people in my wife's story. Old fogeys often forget. Maybe that is why we ramble so much.  31

Near the end of the war, food rations in The Netherlands went down rapidly, to less than one half of what is needed for sustenance. The problem was made worse by the harsh winter of 1944–'45 and became most severe in the western part of th country, the part with the big cities. Thousands died from starvation.  32

Elisabeth was at the time engaged to Piet Teenstra. Near the end of 1944, she and her sister Toos were taken care of by Piet's parents who lived in the northern province of Groningen, in farming country where food was still available. Anneke was Piet's sister.  33

I'll continue from my wife's Memories: "It is funny, it struck me just now, after writing my memory of that soldier who first reached out for my hand and that I took, that he was the first Canadian I touched, not knowing then that years later I would emigrate to Canda and become a proud Canadian."  34

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