1942: Devilish dilemmas

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria

As I was waiting for inspiration for the next instalment of my Jan van Boeckel quest to present itself, I asked myself what Jan’s thoughts were when he got drafted for the Labour Service, the N.A.D. Did it make him mad? Did he try to refuse? Luckily my uncle Jan left a couple of tiny diaries behind when he set forth on his journey to the unknown. He writes down short sentences every day about what he does, and sometimes about what he thinks. There is also a diary from the year 1942 which I had never been able to look into due to lack of time. Although I had made a resolution to stop nagging my aunt I. for information in 2016,  I could not resist asking. You have to realise that my aunt I. is an octogenarian who has ever so willingly told me everything she knows over the last couple of months. I am however sure that it was quite an ordeal for her, and uncle P., to dredge up all the memories and answer all my impertinent questions. Anyway, aunt I. once more kindly furnished me with the necessary information with the  support of cousin M.

Here is Jan’s story in 1942. I had to recycle some earlier material as I’m also building the whole quest into a logical story. Therefore, if you are one of my avid followers you might recognise some sentences from earlier pieces.


After defeating the Dutch army in 1940, and bombing Rotterdam to cinders, Holland was occupied by the Germans. If living under these circumstances was hard for the average Dutch man or woman in the early years of the war, 1942 was a hellish year for Dutch Jews and anyone suspected of working against Hitler.DSC_7443-01

Razzias by the Feldgendarmerie or SP (Sicherheitspolizei, Hitler’s security police) were held in 1942 primarily aimed at the rounding up of Jewish Dutchmen and women and deporting them to the extermination camps. A large number of police – with vans and cars – would swiftly swoop down on a street or district, cordon it off and go from door to door to search through houses and pick up people from the streets. Some Jews went into hiding within cities and villages. The resistance groups were active, and the Nazis came down hard on them if they caught them, or on totally innocent bystanders in retaliation.

At the end of 1942 most Jews had been rounded up. For the Dutch people still in the Netherlands life became tougher as the months passed by. The Nazi occupier required cheap labour to aid the expansion plans of the German Reich. They founded the Nederlandse Arbeidsdienst (N.A.D.), the Dutch (Forced) Labour Service. It was promoted as “working to restore the country”.  Organised in several work camps within the Netherlands, it started out as a work place for defeated Dutch military men,  probably keeping them out of trouble in the eyes of the enemy. Then in 1942, boys between 18 and 23 years of age were also called up for compulsory duty . The idea was to train these young men for six months in The Netherlands so that they could be sent for forced labour to Germany,  or farther eastward to dig trenches and tank traps for the German Army on the Eastern Front.

DSC_7441These were scary times for the van Boeckel family. Everything functioned differently. Friends, neighbours, playmates, colleagues and teachers, who were Jewish in the eyes of the Nazis, disappeared – destination unknown. And now the Germans were after the van Boeckel boys. Born in 1923, Jan was one of the unlucky ones who fell within the age bracket for the N.A.D. But he had other plans. He was preparing to run off to England. In his eyes, joining the N.A.D. would make him a traitor to his country.

Want to know more about the Quest for Jan van Boeckel? Read the novel.

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria

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