A child’s eye

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

What was going on in Haarlem while Jan van Boeckel was away from his family? While he made his way to the maquis got arrested was sent to a concentration camp and robbed of his life? What was his family doing at that time, without knowing where he was?

DSC_7199-01 - CopyMien, my grandmother, had thirteen children. When Jan left in 1944 , the oldest daughter was 31 years old, the youngest nine. The older girls were partly at home and helped out with the household chores. One of them was a nurse at the Mariastichting Hospital in Haarlem. The oldest boy, Gérard, had left for Indonesia and had been shot down by the Japanese in his fighter plane, but she did not know that yet. Most of her sons were ‘onderduikers’. There is no equivalent to this term in the English language. It literally means ‘diving under’ – which describes the state of being in hiding from the Nazis. Two of the older boys were in hiding, sometimes at home, diving into the small space in the attic, if need be. And later in hiding in other places in the country. By 1944 uncle. C.  was in Limburg hidden on a farm. Even the youngest son, who turned 15 at the beginning of 1945 went into hiding that year, on a farm to the north of Holland near the sea.

During all this time my mother Jacqui, who was the second youngest, was at home with most of her sisters and her mother and father. Some years ago I asked Jacqui to write down anything she remembered about the war. And she did. Here I chronicle this part of the story as seen through her eyes. It describes the hard times the van Boeckel family experienced during the war years, what my grandmother experienced before she started the search for Jan in earnest. I have taken some literary freedom here, but the events described are as Jacqui remembers them, supplemented with some historical facts. The tale is told in two parts.

IMG_1007.JPGJacqui was playing in the garden, humming to herself, enjoying the sunshine. Suddenly her older sister Willy swooped down on her. “Jacqui – what are you doing? What tune is that? Do you KNOW what that is?” Jacqui looked up at her, astounded.  “That, that …grotesque thing” Willy emphasized, “That THING is the Nazi national anthem. You were humming Deutschland Uber Alles!” She spit it out. Jacqui looked at her in wonderment, her blue eyes wide. That was in the beginning of the war. She was seven years old and she had heard the tune repeatedly in the past few weeks. In the years to come she would grow to despise it with a vengeance.

Interested in the rest of the story? I am writing a historical novel, which tells the whole story.

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

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