General Friedrich Christiansen, commander-in-chief of the Nazi-German forces in the Netherlands on 17 July, 1940. Rijksmuseum/Wikimedia Commons photo

Column: German raids and food rations

Observer columnist Bert De Vink discusses moving to The Hague and conditions under the Nazis

After breaking my arm racing around the wash line post, I was pretty limited in my activities.

Being left-handed, I was allowed to write with my left hand in school until my right arm was healed.

As soon as my arm was healed, the boys of my class took me pole vaulting across ditches and canals.

I was having a great time living in a rural area with farms and meadows.

Then the bad news came.

We were going to move to The Hague because the tire depot my dad was in charge of had moved there.

I disliked The Hague with a passion when we got there, and seeing German soldiers carrying guns everywhere did not help.

We moved into a second-floor flat across the back of a post office where trucks came in and out.

The reward of living there was a ground-floor garden that was about 40-foot wide and 15-foot deep.

The second- and third-floor flats had bay windows, which made it possible to see both ways down our street.

This was an advantage when the raids started, because we could see the German troops and motorbikes that had side cars with machine guns on them.

This was the sign that another raid was coming.

The first raid came not long after we moved to The Hague.

German soldiers entered our home and took our radio, so we could not listen to the English channels.

After that, raids became a part of life.

After taking the radios, the Germans took all the copper and brass items in the house.

When there was nothing left to take, the raids were mostly about finding people they wanted, like Jews and resistance people.

All the schools closed because they could not heat them, and supplies were not available.

Electricity and gas were cut off shortly after the schools closed.

The majority of people used gas burners to cook, but the loss of gas was not important anymore because there was no food available to make meals with.

The Germans provided soup kitchens in the empty schools, and over a short time, the contents of the already meagre meals turned into lukewarm water with small pieces of potato and cabbage in it.

My dad had gone underground because he left the doors of the tire depot open so people could get at the tires before the Germans got them.

He could not apply in person for a ration card because he was wanted by the Germans.

We had to live on five ration cards and if my dad’s family had not smuggled a bit of food in occasionally, I might not be sitting here.

Bert De Vink is a regular Observer contributor. Part 1 of Bert’s story was published in the April 4 edition of the Observer, part 2 was published April 25, and part 3 on May 9.

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