My ration card - Oct - Nov 1944 for meat, bread and reserved. Card is totally intact, no numbers assigned for
anything at all.
At the beginning of 1945 the food shortages were highly critical. Germany had taken all our reserves and took anything from the citizens that was usable, from blankets to sheets. Factories were dismantled and machinery sent to Germany.
The Dutch Physicians sent an open letter to Seys-Inquart (the so-called "governor" of our country) indicating that they could not in good conscience treat German soldiers if the Germans were taking everything away from this country and leaving the population at starvation levels, in bitter cold, without water, gas, electricity.
There was a little ray of sunshine, when in January a ship docked in the port of Rotterdam with flour from the Swedish Red Cross! We received some real bread, white, 6 inches high; what a treat from the 2' inch high chunks of gummy substance that was sold as bread (I believe it was half a loaf a week).
With it came butter and some superfine sugar.
Mother locked everything in the dining room closet but it so happened that the key to my room fit on that door. When mother was not there, I opened that closet, stuck my index finger in the butter and then the sugar. Then I licked that finger and thought I was in heaven! After that I had to smooth out the butter and the sugar, took a quick final lick to clean my finger. Mother never said anything, but she must have wondered. I never told her either.
We struggled through the months of February and March. I remember fighting with Theo over the breadcrumbs left on the cutting board. For me it lightened up a bit food-wise since I was now eating twice a week at the Catholic Church and once a week at the Protestant Church.
Talk of capitulation of the Germans was now the order of the day. Meanwhile the allies organized massive relief, and started food drops in late April until a few days after May 5, the day of surrender of the Germans.
About 25 years ago I spoke with R. M. Gabriel (now deceased) who gave me a list of B-17 food drop flights in which he participated.
On occasion I speak with Col. Richard Manley (who allowed me to use his name) - we live in the same town. He too participated in these flights, several of them over my hometown of Utrecht. He was amazed at people standing in the streets, on the roofs, waving sheets, while we were still "occupied". Near the coast at the bulb fields he saw a sign on the ground, apparently made of white flowers, saying 'THANKS YANKS".
A "cease fire" was declared during the food drops, the shore batteries were not to fire and the planes were not to carry any arms, bombs etc. The first two planes sent out were shot at. When communication was straightened out flights resumed.
Col. Manley's first flight was to Amsterdam, flying at 200-300 feet. They encountered problems getting the boxes to move from the pallets out of the bomb bays. The first box out upset the stack of the ones behind. While that was being worked on the pilot was warned they were over the City of Amsterdam and to go up and out - church spires were all around and boxes would go through the roofs of homes. The plane had to tip its wings to avoid church spires. A lot of boxes burst open on landing and puffs of flour dust were seen. Returning to the coast, one box was left, which was dropped near an open field that happened to be next to a German bunker - their occupants came running for the food!
B-17 "Sally B"
Col. Manley's second flight was over my hometown of Utrecht. We saw the planes circling and they came right over the house it seemed. It was an awesome sight, these big lumbering fortresses - we could see the people in the plane! Little kids were frightened, but we older ones and adults were jumping up and down and waving.
The distribution of the food was more or less orderly, though no doubt a lot went to the wrong party. These last few days of war were really chaotic. The Canadians were all around and there was still fighting going on.
The house was shaking from cannon fire.
I remember we got some kind of heavy, chewy fruit bar, hard tack (or biscuits) in large tins. There were also cans
with corned beef and beans, a total unknown product to us, but I loved it. Ate it cold. As a matter of fact, I still buy sometimes a can of corned beef and eat it cold. The powdered eggs were a mystery to us - we did not know how to use it. Apparently it was for scrambled eggs. Since we had nothing to cook them with or on, it had to wait. Then there were also chocolate bars - I can remember we got one each.
Our happiness knew no bounds - we only wished the Germans had given permission for these humanitarian flights sooner.
Some enterprising youngsters found a use for the hard tack cans; they made drums and even rafts!
At the Health Department, where we were examined and weighed, we were told to soak the crackers in diluted milk and eat a little bit of it and to eat only a small bite of the chocolate. Our systems could not absorb all that food. That called for a lot of self-control!!
I heard later that about 20,000 died of starvation or froze to death (probably not counting the suicides) in these last few months of the war.
It took a couple of years before food supplies were normal again.