-Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative past Tuesday, US President Barrack Obama took the remarkable step calling modern day slavery “barbaric” and “evil” as he spoke against trafficking and praised companies, organizations and people taking up the fight against the traffickers: “It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric”. “It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime”.”I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery.”
A 2011 paper published in The Human Rights Review about Sex Trafficking, the trends, the challenges and limitations of International Law, noted that since 2000 the number of sex-trafficking victims had risen while costs associated with trafficking had declined: “Coupled with the fact that trafficked sex slaves were/are the single most profitable type of slave, costing on average $1890,= each but generating $29000,= annually, leaded to stark predictions about the likely growth in commercial sex slavery in the future.” In 2008, over 12 million people were classified as “forced labourers, bonded labourers or sex-trafficking victims,” – as the study stated. Approximately 1.39 million of these people worked as commercial sex slaves, with women and girls comprising 98% (or 1.36 million) of this population. Trafficking as can be seen is a lucrative industry. It has been identified as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.It is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world.
President Obama signed legislation for domestic federal contracts, and tightening anti-trafficking rules for government contracts. He praised businesses in their industry, church groups for using their faith to tackle slavery and people trying to make sure the products they buy are slave-free. He further said: “Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights issues of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it.” The President also spoke about modern-day slavery in the U.S., from child sex slaves to migrant workers who have their documents taken from them. He said: “Last year we charged a record number of predators with human trafficking… We are going to do more to spot it and stop it.”
What he said should apply to each country, should be the responsibility of each nation, – the rule of each State to make sure there is proper law enforcement to irradiate this crime against humanity, – to ease the burdens of those who are forced to live at the bottom of a total unacceptable social and moral spectrum. A spectrum where the law of criminals rules, where people get abused and tortured for life, if they survive.
There are countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards but there are many countries as well whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards. Some of them are making efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. Others however do not comply with the bare minimum required standards and neither are they willing or making efforts to do so.
A White House news release recently mentioned: “More than 20 million men, women, and children worldwide are victims of human trafficking”. “Companies around the world are taking steps to end the potential for trafficked labour in their operations and supply chains, and President Obama is committed to protecting vulnerable people as government contractors and subcontractors perform vital services and manufacture goods procured by the United States.” “As the largest single purchaser of goods and services in the world, the U.S. Government has a responsibility to combat human trafficking at home and abroad, and to make sure American tax dollars do not contribute to this affront to human dignity.”
Why is this single issue so important?
This single issue represents at large the standard of any morality in any country, and failing to comply with the protection of human rights as such in this area is of predictive value as how the social & political standards of counties do evolve, – some of them simply ignoring and blind folded by the gross injustice affecting vulnerable people. Not taking any action against it is similar as allowing the world to become a worse place where cruelties within nations themselves are interlinked with the level of increasing moral decay of institutions where criminals have increasing free play. It is very clear which countries are the worst culprits in allowing this injustice spreading.
In 2009 it proved that seven countries at least demonstrated the highest possible performance in effective policies for the most significant dimensions of protection, even though those countries had problems on this issue as well. At least they did something. These countries were Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and the US. The second best performing group included France, Norway, South Korea, Croatia, Canada, Austria, Slovenia and Nigeria. The worst performing country in 2009 was North Korea, receiving the lowest score. The global extent of the problem is still horrendous. Thousands of children from Asia, Europe, North America and South America are sold into the global sex trade every year. Often they are kidnapped or orphaned, and sometimes they are actually sold by their own families, – a problem still tolerated by many countries all over the world.
Whilst there is still a lack of understanding of human trafficking issues, poor identification of victims and deficient resources for the key pillars of anti-trafficking, besides identification, protection, prosecution and prevention, – the good thing is that the current US President is voicing his opinion on the matter. It’s an international dilemma and it deserves international attention.
The ignorance of the violent past is inadequate for the even more stormy future if little is going to change on this important aspect of human rights. Whilst ignorance is able to multiply on thousand occasions ,violence against human rights is able to multiply on a million of occasions The occasion is piled high with difficulty like we see amidst a different scenario in Syria, and we must rise with the occasion. We can’t afford to turn a blind eye against gross inhumanity across the globe without the last and final implication that at some stage we will be ourselves the victim of similar gross inhumanity, as where we allow others to fall we will degrade ourselves as well. People not being educated on the moral issues of our times are lost people, like a child uneducated is a child lost.
Progress in our general humanity is neither automatic nor can it be escaped, however the road towards increasing justice is as old as Methuselah and requires struggle and suffering, besides the tiredness efforts and passionate concern of dedicated people who feel compassion, in which all ethics must take root. Compassion only can meet its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living people at the disadvantaged level of the human spectrum and the fight against human trafficking is one of the corner stones of respecting human rights, – and international law enforcement on this issue should be at the corner of our international efforts as it is both right and a reflection of human justice.
Abolishing of human trafficking is at the heart of global civilisation as it will decide our approach on other issues affecting human rights, – both here and around the world!
Human activities during war-time may lead to war crimes against humanity.
From my perception human trafficking is a crime against humanity and needs to be dealt with accordingly, without mercy for those who commit them.
My mum and dad met during the 2nd world war and whilst my dad was actively involved as one of the leaders of the “Flying Brigade” resistance group, my mum was dedicated to her role as a “courier” for this group. Many messages and documents went as such from one group to the other. Intelligence about German defence systems across parts of the Dutch coast line passed as such as well to Allied Forces in England.
Both my mum and dad were the only survivors following someone betrayed the “Flying Brigade”, and this fate, this coincidence actually, determined the road to their marriage – which ended some 26 years after the 2nd world war.
In retrospect my parents were good and decent people and though their relationship with each other had such imperfections that it could not sustain, they tried to live life as good as possible. They made an impact in what they provided for their children and what they expressed in their own ways to friends and relatives.
I loved the walks with my dad in the forests near Haamstede when I was young, as he always told me about things of interest and he showed a lot of interesting places in Zeeland, like eg particular spots at Zierikzee and Middelburg.
I still see my mum cooking in the kitchen of our house in Haamstede on the hot summer evenings, with the evening sun shining through the side window, and children sharing the table after playing football.
The owner of the little local Foodland at the time (“Van Dijke”/ van Dike) was always kind enough to bring a supply of shopping home in those early days, or bringing e.g. a new gas bottle.
I was really fortunate enough being born within comfortable circumstances. No matter what the difficulties were at some stage, no matter what the challenges were when I was a teenager, where it really comes to in life is affection, respect, encouragement and good examples generating the sort of strength and love – which is essential in life, besides meaning.
Personally I had many good examples, both nearby and far away. Still do I have warm feelings for all those people for what they gave me during various moments in life. This appeared often in little things and most of the times they were not aware. It is one of the mysterious things in life of what we give to each other without knowing it, and the impact it has at times. Sometimes this happens during trivial circumstances and simple encounters, – sometimes this happens during vital moments within our human endeavours. Moments with seeds being planted in our hearts and minds, and wisdom – at times many years later – growing through the grace of God. In my case there have been people I never met who made an impact.
In moments of reflection we may look back at the colours of our own life. For each of us they are different. If we are lucky, the colours may get warmer when the years pass by. However not for all of us do the blend of light and the peace of nature come together, – like it may happen e.g. in those late sunny afternoons where the mix of circumstances and light do create an inner peace with whatever we experienced in life.
Both my oldest and younger brother are still alive. One brother, 4 years older only, died suddenly in 1999. His name was Tjakko. Among the brothers he was perhaps the “lion” of the Wolves, both fierce if required but also kind and generous. We played a lot when we were young and apart from some rivalry there was always encouragement and support.
Many of my childhood memories go back to the town of Haamstede at the lighthouse, where so often we went on holidays during the summers in the company of childhood friends. Like my dad, – Tjakko later went to study law (in Utrecht). It was within reason perhaps to suspect that he did consider a career in politics at some stage, but the political dynamics in the Netherlands did not really appeal to him, neither was he attracted to courts of justice. At young age he became director of a road construction company. Both as a result of this and his investing endeavours in property he became quite prosperous in Haamstede, where he lived for years already. Before he died he was able to reconsider his options in life as he had the type of wealth he could afford this. He was not the type of person who would be happy with an easy lifestyle as he had a degree of restlessness making him to seek new endeavours. Three days before he died we had a last telephone conversation in which we discussed a family reunion in the Netherlands. I was living at that stage with my wife and children in Scotland. When we heard about his sudden death on monday, we traveled as soon as possible to Haamstede to be part of the funeral preparations and share with the family in sadness, together with his wife. They had no children. Quite a number of people were profound devastated.
For various reasons his life was an unfinished life, – he died far too early. – Still I do remember sailing with him at the lake near Veere (Veerse meer) in the county of Zeeland, both with him and his future wife at young age.
Some years between the age of 16 and 18 I spent with a lovely foster family in Apeldoorn. I was able here to finish secondary school as only this environment provided the support being required at this stage in life to help me with some attention & concentration issues at school. This was a somewhat different environment than I was used to. Quite an artistic and warm hearted family actually. There were 3 other children, all a bit younger. Wilgert, the oldest, died at the age of 25 in Groningen following an accident with a bus, one of those terrible moments where a split second of lacking perhaps the required concentration to avoid pending danger proved to be fatal.
Five years ago we went for a broad family reunion and stayed obviously in Haamstede, – besides travelling to Scotland and see old other friends. Having had the opportunity to live so close to the sea in Cullen, in-between Inverness and Aberdeen, was a great experience for both my wife and 3 children. Together with their friends, our children often jumped from the harbour in the sea. There has been always something special with Scotland, the country of both “the high road and the low road.” Very special as well was both our stay in England and South Africa, before this.
When I was 4 or 5 I was hit by a motor bike whilst skiving off preschool, – on my way to a friend’s house. Can’t remember the impact but when I woke up there with many faces bending over me, but I lost conscious and woke up days later in the hospital of Goes, in the county of Zeeland. Considerable head injury and an open fracture of my leg was the verdict. My poor pre school teacher Miss Mathla was possibly in trouble as young kids are not supposed to escape from preschool. I could recover that summer in Haamstede but it was not the most pleasant holiday.
Funny enough I still remember some preschool events and St Nickolas arriving by boat in the harbour of Goes. Goes was a great place in my perception and I was sad for days with the prospect of moving to Apeldoorn, if I knew what sadness was in those days. At least I did not like it.
Adapting to Apeldoorn took time. The school was different, likewise the culture. However, also there were friends at an interesting primary school being called the Sondorp school, named after the previous school inspector. There are many stories about this school and my old school mates have many memories as well, last but not least about the head master. He made the school what it was with pride, but on another note he often used his hands when kids were naughty, or when “he thought” the kids were naughty. He reigned with a vigorous regime, not rarely at a cost of the children. Practices as in those days at schools would not be tolerated today and it always puzzled me why my dad did not make the required efforts to tame this man, – but it would seem that the other teachers did respect the way up with his approach. He became the victim of his own attitude and one day -(so I was led to believe)- a mob of teenagers were waiting for him.
We had a good class though, – at the time of this headmaster, united in our awareness of the daily potential dangers. Some pupils were however more at risk than others. My performance was seriously not that great with this teacher in the last class of primary school, whilst with some other teachers before I worked hard because they were really nice and genuine.
The first part of secondary school was not that good. Often in trouble with teachers. The school system at that particular school at the Church Lane (Kerklaan) in Apeldoorn, next door to the swimming pool, was less than inviting or stimulating – the least. It went somewhat better at a different school but I think my mind was a bit preoccupied with other things going on. Things were not ideal at home.
Matters profoundly changed after finishing the Teaching Training College in Amsterdam, after passing an entry test for the medical faculty. I found direction.
Being able to do the medicine study in Maastricht, the most beautiful city of the Netherlands, did open various doors to the future. The city was great for students who liked the outdoors as e.g. rowing on the Maas, or climbing rocks in the hills of Belgium.
Life evolved further in Sneek, the county of Friesland. This as part of a hospital job which combined General Surgery, Obstetrics and A&E. It was reasonable preparation for working and living in Venda (South Africa), which we did at Siloam.
With England and Scotland in between, we arrived 10 years later in Australia…..
We all may have our specific mission or goal in life which provides fulfilment, despite obstacles. No matter what can be taken away from us, still at the end we have the last choice within the given set of circumstances we have.
The lighthouse in Haamstede was built to give light, was built to endure burning. I still have this picture in mind and it has a meaning for me. Lighthouses do not move, they give direction.
My family roots is a story on its own, more detailed than being described below:
Granddad (Louis Gustaaf Wolf) was born in Klundert ( the Netherlands) on the 15th of February 1865 and married grandma (Louise Ploos van Amstel) on the 3rd of May 1899. She was born in Reitsum on the 16th of July 1877 and was the daughter of Reverend Johannes Jacobus Ahasverus van Amstel and Anna Geertruida Binksma. They had 6 children including 1 daughter who died at a very young age.
The archives of the Wolf family go back to the 17th century. Elias Wolf was born in Rostock in July 1717. Becoming Mayor of Jever he married Margarethe Christiene Kohnemann. One of their children was another Elias Wolf, born in Jever on the 24th May 17 68 and he became the owner of some plantations in Essequebo (Guyana). He was President and adviser in the criminal justice department of this colony and married on the 5th of May 1792 with Sarah Barkey in Rio Essquebo. They got 5 children, including Frederik Hendrik Elias Wolf, born on the 30th of November 1803 in Breda. He became Reverend in the Dutch Reformed Church at Leeuwen and married in Gendt on the 9th of April 1828 with Johanna Henrietta Coenen. Both got 5 children including Elias Frederik Hendrik Wolf, being born in Leeuwen on the 18th of January 1829 and this Elias became a Reverend in the Dutch Reformed Church in Utrecht. He was married with Sophia Carolina Charlotte van der Goes.They got 7 children, one of which was my granddad.
Considering the directions his brothers and sisters took in life, I can only assume granddad had a colourful family.
Actually I don’t know too much about granddad’s younger years. He went obviously through primary and secondary school and opted to go into medicine but in his 5th year, just before the clinical part, – he realised that this was not the future he wanted. After careful consideration he stopped medicine all together despite his good results (I don’t think his own dad offered him to try a different study as there were more children to raise).
How and when he met grandma (oma ), I don’t know. He moved with his wife to Canada and started about 1890 one of the first Dutch settlements near Yorktown. Perhaps he was comfortable to be a bit away from his family as he did not follow the usual patterns of life, – or family expectations. Who knows… Auntie Sophia was born in Yorktown and did live amidst the real Wolves and Indians. The stories were quite colourful.
After a couple of years grandma became terribly homesick and both granddad and grandma returned to the Netherlands with the family. Obviously if grandma would not have been homesick in those days, for sure I would not have been able to write this story in Australia.
History for our family would have been totally different. This applies as well when my dad and mum would have been caught by the Gestapo during the 2nd world war.
The family had to settle again in the Netherlands after the Canada experience. For granddad this was perhaps not the easiest time in his life as he really liked Canada, – likewise his daughter Sophia who loved the lifestyle in the outback and the horse riding etc. For grandma it was clearly different as again she was more close to her own family.
Granddad got eventually employment with the “N.V. Maas Buurt Spoorweg” (Maas-Buurt Railway Company) in Brabant and became President – Director of this company in 1918 after the retirement of President – Director J.M. Voorhoeve, – following the 1st world war. The 40th anniversary of this company was a huge event in October 1911 with lots of celebrations and praise for mr Voorhoeve, including an appreciation from the Queen of the Netherlands at the time. When granddad took over the reigns it would seem he did do this in an energetic way with leadership and insight in a time of challenges and turmoil. With an increasing number of bus companies in those days leading obviously to growing competition and with the economic recession, this job was really a tough job. There was the need as well for more social reforms in those days in the company itself and granddad did properly engage to this, so I am led to believe. He loved his job and cared for his employees. He reflected fairness courage and determination, besides a good sense of humour. In speeches he could be quite funny.
On the 1st of June 1935 he retired from this place and mr Schafers took over as President – Director. Later on the Dutch Railway lines (“Nederlandse Spoorwegen) took over this company and the future of the Maas – Buurt Railway Company came to an end. Granddad served the Maas – Buurt Railway Company for almost 35 years and left his legacy in the railway business in “good old Gennep”. He retired at the age of 70 and both grandma and granddad had 6 children. One daughter died at very young age and Elias (my dad’s only brother) died suddenly in 1934. His death drove grandma to total despair. She recovered very slowly.
During the 2nd world war both provided shelter for Jews in their own home at the Parklaan in Bussum. This was at times nerve rocking, last but not least as due to my dad’s activities in the resistance movement. Granddad loved to smoke his pipe and tell stories. He died on the 27th of March 1948 in Bussum at the age of 83 as a result of throat cancer.
Even though he died before I was born, he made a real impact on me when I was a child. His original painted picture frame is still positioned in our hallway as if he is keeping an eye on the family.
Grandma was as remarkable as granddad, but in different ways. She survived him many years and died later in the 1968 after being moved to Apeldoorn. She left a history of memories in Bussum and at her age she could not coop with this transition.
I remember that she was cared for by miss Flick in Bussum. “Juffrouw Flick” we called her. She was never married and was some 10 years younger than grandma and she undertook it to look after her as there was no way grandma would move into a retirement home with more help. However at the end she needed nearly as much care as grandma needed.
As a family we did visit grandma on regular occasions when she lived in Bussum. Always on her birthday, which was just before our holidays in Haamstede. Often we did visit her on a sunday and when we arrived she sat in the front bay window waving to us when we arrived. Miss Flick always moved her chair to the frontal window so that she could see us arriving on her drive way. We were always welcomed in the first instance by mis Flick and a tiny dog who barked a lot but did not do any harm. I clearly remember the meal time events between 1 and 2 pm. All those warm meals were well prepared by miss Flick, who had a remarkable ability and reputation. As usual there were bible readings and prayers. Grandma was a very devote Christian. As children we kicked each other with our shoes under the table and giggled a lot during those moments, being supposed to respect those serious moments, – despite angry looks of our parents. Obviously we looked during those prayers whether our parents did not look, and if they did not look there were again a few kicks under the table. Nevertheless grandma loved us as grandchildren and she was always teary when we left again later in the afternoon. Her house was filled with furniture breathing an atmosphere of history and many memories. Her desk was full of family photo’s.
She had a special chair on which we were not allowed to sit by our parents. This chair was called the “holy chair”. At a stage in her life grandma had “an appearance from heaven”, some time after her eldest son died – so we were told – and as ” this person” did sit in this chair the chair as such had a special meaning for her. As children we looked with the eyes of children and had no idea what she endured in her life. There was otherwise nothing unusual with grandma. She was grey and small, both very generous and reflecting at times the kind of wisdom perhaps not entirely from this earth. Somehow she was more closer to heaven than we have ever been and in silence she always prayed for us, more than we ever did. There was something around her which made her different from others, even different than our other grandma in Bussum where we had at times sleep overs. She was clearly my “Wolf grandma”, – a grandma of a special kind who reached a special age.
From the lives of this special granddad and grandma I sensed somehow that life may become harder when we live for others, but it also becomes happier and it brings more fulfilment. Perhaps not everything was that positive in my later childhood, but examples were not the main thing which gave direction in my life, it was the only thing. Hence that I am still grateful for all the receptive moments of influence and decision, – to make the desired circumstances. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is merely a matter of choice as some would say.
My dad’s story is like many untold stories anywhere in the world. It includes my mum as well, as she was involved as well. This story in which they revealed something special to me, is what I value so much in them long after they have gone. It happened at one particular stage in their lives.
The story where people at some stage stood up against what was evil and wrong in their times. The story of people trying to protect the right of others and their own fellow countryman against the pressures of their oppressor’s.
It’s the kind of story still happening in day-to-day life anywhere on this world, where people are shot perhaps or wounded by powers not having justice at heart. People at the wrong side often being used as well as puppets for those groups or powers preying on their victims, – those not being able to make the right distinctions between right or wrong, – but at least responsible for what they did.
Those are story’s as they still unfold in many countries, where people sense the evils of their times and want to change it, – where people see what is wrong and try to make it right. Whatever they do in other areas of life, – the measure of their character is what they did when times were not comfortable or easy anymore , what they did at times of pressure when the risks were high. The times when they showed ‘grace under pressure”, when their inner voice asked to do what they had to do.
Those examples still show ripples of hope to break the walls of oppression, for those suffering the implications of this oppression, – wherever they may live.
Often those story’s as they do occur are not heard, and often people disappear in e.g. the “chambers of hell”, being tortured in countries like e.g Libia (as we watched on television), – but also in many other countries.
The stories are endless and often tragic, – and still it seems that despite the beauties of this world, the many positives and the many opportunities, – the burdens of human kind are as clear as they always have been, – and still human rights at a large-scale are allowed to be obstructed or compromised by those nations allowing to do so.
This is one of those many stories, – as it happened during the 2nd world war, in a place somewhere in that small country called the Netherlands.
Being the youngest with 3 older sisters and 1 older brother, my dad was born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He grew up in a family with very different characters. His parents being well grounded in their beliefs and religion. Though I have not known granddad in person as he died before my time, the stories about him made me think he was the “pioneer” of the family. He had a good character as well, with a strong sense of justice.
One of my dad’s sisters (Sophia) was born in Canada and spent some years in Canada before the family moved back to the Netherlands, being used to the Canadian style of life, – including horse riding.
Dad’s health at young age was not that great and at the age of 7 he had mild TB. For this reason he had prolonged in-treatment and could not attend primary school until he was a bit older. Other members of the family sustained other ailments and setbacks in those years between 1920 and 1930. When my dad spoke later in life at times about his youth, his family and other events, – he always spoke with a degree of respect for his parents. He had to smile on the memory of his own mum (Louise Ploos van Amstel), who once did knit adapted underwear and a bra for a naked little female statue, which he received from some of his friends whilst being a student in Amsterdam. The generations were different and dad was clearly the youngest. Grandma was lovely though, always kind besides being sensitive.
Dad’s older brother Elias died suddenly in 1934, which obviously had a profound impact on the family. It drove grandma actually to total devastation and she needed a long time to recover. After my dad did finish secondary school (“gymnasium”), he decided to study Law in Amsterdam at the V.U.
The 2nd world war however broke out which obviously disrupted his studies, as he decided to join an increasingly active resistance group, operating mainly in both Amsterdam and Bussum. Quite a number of young students were involved. He worked close with Joop Kemper, who started this group called “The Flying Brigade” (FB).
Dad and Joop Kemper became the leaders of the FB. One of the previous members of resistance group CS-6 joined the FB as well, though FB and CS-6 were not the same. FB worked together with CS-6, the “OD”, “Group X” and Professor Oranje.
The first aim of the group was to give shelter and money for Jews, to prevent them from being arrested and moved to the various concentration camps in Germany. For this purpose they tended to meet in the youth chapel in Bussum to discuss strategies and tactics. Besides this they collected information on defence material on coastal areas north of Amsterdam and in the county of Zeeland. Photo’s about harbours and other strategic points were sent to England by couriers. It proved however that providing shelter for Jews was not enough as dangerous Gestapo officers and collaborators compromised the safety of Jews.Many of the last were shot or put on transport to Germany. This was the reason the group (FB) decided to target the most dangerous Gestapo officers and collaborators as well, and they were able to collect weapons from other cooperating resistance groups.
Obviously the Gestapo became quite anxious to discover “the where about” of FB as a number sabotage targets and assassinations became succesful and damming for the Gestapo itself. —
One day FB was planning to liquidate a dangerous traitor called Somer but the Gestapo became aware of the plan and prepared an ambush via infiltrators.
On the 9th of September 1943 the group (FB) decided to meet again in the youth chapel on the Meent weg (Meentway) in Bussum, to discuss the assassination on Somer the next day. Somer was as far as the archives concerned a dangerous spy and traitor, but the Gestapo was already fully prepared.
The meeting was in process but the person being hired for the assassination proved in retrospect to be a Gestapo infiltrant, who managed to get the trust of one of the group members. He was a specialist assassin and seemed to be most suitable for the job, being recommended by “friends”. It was noticed on the 9th of September that various car’s were parked around the chapel place, the last next door to the Reformed Church. It would seem that some people were walking around at the time of the meeting, keeping a close eye on the youth chapel. During the meeting in which the potential assassin was involved, my dad raised technical reservations about certain aspects of the planning and in particular the car being used. The plan was to go ahead with the execution the next day, at a place in Amsterdam. Dad discussed his reservations in detail whilst feeling a degree of uneasiness about the situation. Especially when 2 people in the group, the specialist assassin included, looked at each other in a particular way, – his intuition became on the alert, but he could not pin point the danger as yet. The others were oblivious about the raised concerns. The assassin was as I said introduced by a trustworthy member of FB and nobody appeared to have any suspicion. My dad (who felt that something was not right) decided to go out the room to discuss “some financial issues” in a next door room, and said to get back as decisions needed being made, but to give it an hour or so. He disclosed his concerns to my later mum – who was a courier for the group at the time – and both decided to go outside to discuss the matter with Wim Hille, who appeared the most proper person to discuss the matter as he was a senior member of the group.
They sensed they were followed. When Wim Hille appeared not to be around and dad discovered a particular blue car being parked under the trees, – he became aware of an immediate critical danger and wanted to go straight back to the youth chapel to warn his friends.
Right within the main entrance already, – a car was parked and dad tried to get back via the back yard entrance of the youth chapel, – but he was stopped in the garden by the Reverend’s wife who told him only in a few words what happened. My later mum warned my later dad not to get back in the youth chapel itself, – as it appeared that the Gestapo had fully arrived.
Both managed to escape via the back garden, followed however for a little while by some men. The Gestapo action was obviously fully concentrated on all the people inside the chapel.
With full strength they had invaded the youth chapel and instantly arrested everybody being around. There was not even the time for an exchange in gunfire.
The house of granddad and grandma at 27 Parklaan sustained extensive searches by the police that night, the next day included as well. Dad’s sister was taken to the police station but later released.
Following extensive Gestapo interrogation and torture, – all dad’s friends were shot on the 28th of October 1943. They were accused of assassinations on people in public life including the police president in Utrecht, a police captain in Bussum, but also sabotage, – providing Jews with money and shelter, – besides maintaining close coöperation with the resistance group CS-6. The last group was responsible for both the assassinations on General Seyffardt and Minister Folkert Posthuma.
There was a moving church service after the death sentences were executed. CS-6 was largely liquidated as well. – In memory of those 8 people who died for their country, – on the 6th of November 1943 this church service was held in Bussum. The church was filled with emotions and (Reverend) Ds. J.J. Louet Feiser emphasised in the eulogy on the meaning of those lives being lost, and what those 8 people had to say. They did understand the critical situation and the evils of their time and responded in the way they did, – knowing that life could take an end as result of their joint efforts (>1 Peter 5,6 and 7 < – was at the centre of his reflections).
My dad had to seek permanent shelter until the 5th of May 1945 as he became a prime target of the Gestapo. He always carried a pill with him, which would cause instantly his own death for when he would be caught by the Gestapo.
The war had a lifelong impact on dad, – largely as due to the loss of his group. As an Attorney and staff officer (section arrest) after the war he was able to question those Gestapo officers being responsible for the executions of his friends and he got a lot of information about the 2 traitors being involved.
He started after the war a law firm with a good friend and married my future mother, who survived the war as well.
Years and years went by and after changing profession and being a school inspector for a long time in different area’s of the country, besides 2 unhappy marriages, – he died in 1995, leaving a legacy among his friends in the education system in the area’s where he worked, – but for sure as well within the efforts and choices he made during the 2nd world war.
My dad had his struggles, but he had his victories as well. He was for certain not perfect but looking back he was brave enough to put his life at risk for his fellow Jewish human beings, who had to face the agony of Hitler Germany. In times of real crisis he stood up. Like my mum did in those days, long ago now.
The courage of life in most occasions is less dramatic than the courage in the very last moments of critical decisions we may face, – however it is no less a spectacular mix of both triumph and tragedy, for those who are able to finish their lives. Dad stood up as one with others against the evil systems of oppression during the 2nd world war, – knowing as well that life could take an end.
As Corry ten Boom once said: >”The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but it’s donation.”<
My dad’s story at times of crisis in circumstances of war, is one of the many available all over the world in all its many variations, – his story however being trivial perhaps compared with what some others had to endure, those who did not survive as he did. Nevertheless he was no bystander watching how things were evolving, without doing anything within the domain of his decisions.
Many people after the war said: “We did not know!” Many people in Germany said this as well, and in part many indeed in Germany were not aware of the concentration camps..
In history many died in their endeavours for their own people and still many will continue to die, – either at war or in their endeavours to fight for human rights, – or bringing liberation to those being oppressed.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; – Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. –Let us not forget”.
Viktor E. Frankl, a famous Psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps in Germany once said: >>”Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; – to life he can respond by being responsible. – – Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
The first 5 years of my early childhood were spent in Goes, – a city in the county of Zeeland (the Netherlands). It’s the county better known at present for the Delta works, aimed to protect the area against further flooding after the flood disaster in 1953, where some 1200 people died.
Still do I have warm memories on this area and our house at 70 Oost Singel, – where I often woke up at the second floor with the peaceful noises of pigeons. The earliest memories are there.
The house had a beautiful outlook on the Singel, a small lake, pretty long though, – with a tiny island at the centre .
On some warm summer evenings there were music bands on this island and there was a narrow (removable) bridge to this island, – where we were not allowed to come. My older brother Tjakko once drowned nearly there and was saved by one of his mates.
It was a nice place actually, peaceful, – it still is. The Singel was good for ice skating in the winter, and was well used for this purpose when the ice was strong enough. Testing the strength of the ice was an art on its own, and not always without danger for playing children. My oldest brother Wiet was both good with testing the ice and ice skating.
The winters were really cosy in Goes. The last perhaps in part because St Nicholas did visit many homes including ours on the evening of the 5th of December.The doorbell went then at about 6 pm whilst everybody felt some tension as youngsters. This (holy) St Nickolas came from Spain and always had black helpers. When he entered our home they left first a washing basket full of presents at the front door. After this he came into the lounche and sat down in a special chair, taking his “secret” book from his bag, – with all the stories about the children in Goes. In the days before we had to put our shoes in front of the chimney and as children we were led to believe that presents arrived through the chimney, – provided we left something in our shoes for the holy man’s horse. The last one had a lot to do at night with the black helpers from St Nickolas, – and the chimney’s were at times dammed hot in winter.
From his book St Nickolas learnt from our good and “bad things”, – e.g. naughty stuff we did. We were always led to believe that if you were “bad”, his black helpers would take you to Spain, – hence the efforts before the 5th of December to behave as good as possible as this increased the chance of getting decent presents, which was obviously the most important bit…It was the time of “speculaas” and chocolate in those early days in December. When you looked out from the front bay window from our house, apart from the Singel you could see behind the houses on the other site of the Singel, – the Maria Magdalena Cathedral. In the olden days it could have been a Roman Catholic Church, but now it was a Protestant Church. It was built very close to the market place and the Town hall at the centre of Goes. Vaguely I remember strong working horses being either on show or for sale at this market place on certain days. It was often a lively market on weekdays with all sorts of things for sale. Good friends were living at the corner, – at the end of the Oost Singel and I did attend preschool just a few streets away from home.
Walking to school meant that you could safely walk along the street of the Singel in the direction to the corner of the street where you had to cross over, at the end of the East Singel. One particular house on the East Singel looked dark and obscure, as if something mysterious was happening behind closed doors. In the afternoon a drunk old man was often sitting in front of the house and from his chair he made rude comments, – swearing a lot. It scared the hell out of me this man and when I returned from preschool I made sure that I walked sideways the street on the grassy area as close as possible to the water. That low close to the water he could not see me when he was sitting in his chair. At times the man did wave with his walking stick. In my perception it was a house of potential horror. One day I did not see him anymore and he never returned, – the shutters remained always closed. Besides this the walk to school was always nice as I could get a glimpse of Carla Veldhof, often playing in the garden. The last at the corner of the Oost Singel just before you had to cross over a main street.
We often played there after school time. Carla had a brother called Louis and he was my best friend in those early days. We often played together.We either played at his house or in our house but the Wednesday afternoon was special as at his house there was the opportunity to watch television. Strict at 5 pm “Pippo the Clown” was the favourite kids program.
At the very start of the Oost Singel, not too far away from the market place in Goes, there was a complete empty abandoned house. This house was for us most interesting and both Louis and I found our way inside the house, making sure that nobody watched us doing this. Inside this house there were secret cupboards, a cellar and all sorts of other intriguing things attracting our full attention.It was a “real secret” play ground and it was always exciting not to get discovered by the owner of the house, as we realised that someone would own the house. We did however not know who this was. This house was very close to auntie Deer’s house who often invited us for a drink, together with auntie Mien. At times this was stress release for us as well as whilst playing in that secret house we had an awareness that there was a risk of being discovered. On a bad day, a very bad day, Louis’s mum did found out that we were playing there. I remember that Louis got a firm smack on his bottom and that I was not allowed to play for a fortnight, at their house, – which meant as well that I could not watch Pippo the Clown, – the last being a real disaster for me at the time. It was not my lucky day and I vaguely remember that my parents were informed as well, which made it even worse… His dad was an ENT surgeon and was strict (I thought) and when I was allowed to come back at their house I had to do my best to control my bladder, but all was back to normal and nothing was discussed anymore. Watching the ongoing stories of “Pippo the Clown” simply continued as usual whilst Carla’s mum made drinks and apple cake.
We however did do more things which were not allowed and I remember vaguely getting the engine of a truck started at “Stienstra’s Garage”, which was an experience. The last was possible as the keys were left. Louis and I agreed that we better kept quiet about this issue as young as we were, – we knew that quite “bad things” could happen for us, – considering “some little damage”.
Mum was always home after coming back from preschool in the afternoon and she always made tea with milk and sugar.
Often playing in the garden as well. Our garden was not that large but big enough to play around a beauty of an apple tree where you could climb. At the right time of the year there were plenty of apples and as kids we helped dad to get the apples in the cellar. The instructions however were very precise as the apples were put on various shelves and were not allowed to be too close together because when one apple would start to rot, the others would follow as well. This cellar was important for other reasons, not being fully understood by us as children as yet. In case of war it would be a good hiding place and every week the serene’s went to test the warning systems. Those warnings through the air were loud and clear and though the cellar was an exciting place, the noises of the warning systems made us vaguely aware that war was not pleasant but we had no idea what it was.
The summers could be warm and pleasant in Goes. The smell of flowers and the sight of large green trees always made a vivid impression on me and life seemed endless.
One of my other friends was Jan Keesje van de Vreugde. He developed leukaemia and my mum was kind enough to join me during the visits at his house when he was closing in on becoming terminal. Jan Keesje was very special to me in the way he knew that he would die, – the way he seemed to perceive things after all the treatment failed. Obviously I have not a clear recollection on this but he was in peace. During his last days on earth he gave me a little record of Albert Schweitzer playing the organ. He did listen to the same record, day by day and night by night and it gave him the kind of peace you rarely see with people preparing to die and being taken away from their mum and dad. I did not attend his funeral, perhaps because my parents decided I was to young for this. After he died however I did listen to this record of Albert Schweitzer which he gave me, not knowing what sadness was at the age of 5. I played this record really for days and for days. Still do I have the same music and in retrospect I recognise that Schweitzer played some particular parts of Bach in a nearly poetic way, far more different from the usual ways of playing this music. In a receptive mood it may open an area beyond time and place, close to eternity and far away from here. Perhaps it was this which gave me some comfort after Jan Keesje died.
My dad was able to play the organ as well, skilled improvisations then, without being able to read the musical notes. At times he had access to the great Maria Magdalena Cathedral in Goes as he was a member of the church committee. The sounds of this organ were always impressive in this large historical cathedral.
During our holidays in summer we always went to Haamstede near the lighthouse of the island of Schouwen Duiveland.
My parents had a little Austrian style built house close to the dunes and the sea at 19 Populieren laan . There were the regular families with children coming each summer. I remember when getting a bit older being able to join in with football in the evenings. Members of the van Everdingen family from Dordrecht played in particular very well. Everybody could join in but at times it was really rough. This family clan had 5 to 6 very sporty children. Their father was a GP and they lived at the start of the Populieren laan, just at the other side of a tiny lake being used at time by the fire brigade. They came every year like we did and came across as very straightforward. All the boys and the girls played as fanatic as possible on the football field.
The memories and the smell of the sea, the forest and the bushy dunes, – being together with the family on this beautiful part of the country were a great gift at this young age. Often during the day during those summer holidays, and when the weather was suitable, I was allowed to help out on little things at the glider club at airport Haamstede. Often with a free flight in the evening. Before the 2nd world war this was an active airport used by the KLM as well for short distance flights from Rotterdam. The runway is still there. During the war the Germans did build defensive bunkers and there have been quite real bombardments on this airport. The bunkers in my early years, quite some time after the war where still in place and a playground in the dunes.
The transition and the move to Apeldoorn in the county of Gelderland in 1960 -1961, brought many different experiences, – not always that straightforward. It was however so special to have had the opportunity to start my life in Goes and nowhere else, – as this place together with the first early childhood experiences in Haamstede, – provided a sound base for the rest of my life and helped me whatever happened later on to see in the positive, – by choice.
I am still happy for the gift of this early childhood.