The Dutch did not want to become like Austria, incorporated into Germany. We were no-one's servant, but our own master. As a consequence we were experiencing the beginning of restrictions, some of which were outright ludicrous.
English language was forbidden. Homes that had English names, had to change them. No English songs; schoolbooks were altered so that England wasn't mentioned, or a map shown.
Always wondered if Germany would find the way to England. The soldiers were still marching through the streets, singing "Und wir fahren---gegen Engeland" (We sail to England). Regrettably the German bombers knew the way and relentlessly bombed London and other targets.
Street names representing the Royal Family were changed. Even the game of Monopoly was forbidden. A friend of us made a copy of the game in Dutch, with Dutch play money.
Naturally, we had curfew, which was mostly ignored in the suburbs. Our suburb had so-called fire alleys (just wide enough for a bicycle) behind the houses - so it was easy to visit back and forth.
Blackout was in force all during the war. Walking out at night was hazardous - no street lights; we did not use flashlights (no batteries) but the ones that you had to squeeze. It was the size of a computer mouse and you had to squeeze it to keep a feeble light going.
They made quite a bit of noise for such a little thing; you could HEAR other people coming for quite a distance!! We called them "Knijp Kat" (Squeeze Cat). In addition people wore reflective pins on their clothing. For ladies there were often fancy reflective flowers. We had to recharge these things during the day by setting them in sunlight. Cars, whatever was left allowed to operate, had to wear blue shades over the headlights.
It was forbidden to fly our flag or the orange banner, which was used with the flag on Royal birthdays. We grew orange flowers, never have seen more marigolds and other orange flowers than during the war. Windowsills were packed with potted orange flowers. We all wore a tiny orange bow under the lapels of our coats. Still have mine!
Below is a scan I made of that ribbon
It was forbidden to have a portrait of the Queen in your house. Now they were selling at premium. It was forbidden to sing the National Anthem, so we sang another song, the one you can hear on the Home Page. Some churches were daring enough to let the parishioners sing the National Anthem under the pretext it was a hymn.
It was forbidden for three or more people to walk or group together! How can you enforce that if people are standing in line at a greengrocer or at the bus? It wasn't.
Just another one of these silly rules.
Life took on a different dimension now. When we went visiting relatives, we brought our own lunch or brought coupons for bread, meat, margarine, etc. The hostess of children's birthday parties usually asked for a coupon too for the cake or candy.
Train travel became more and more hazardous. First of all, the modern Dutch rail cars were sent to Germany, and we had to use old wooden passenger cars (Four classes!) that must have come from a museum or something. Secondly, later in the war, the railroad and cars were frequently bombed by the allies.
Listening to the English Sender on the radio was not allowed, so they were "blocked". One of our friends had a radio rigged up as some kind of a receiver and I made an antenna by stringing wire around and around a diamond form which I made of two strips of wood, nailed crosswise in the center. Looked like a giant fly swatter, but it worked. This whole contraption we had to hide until we used it. I held the antenna out at a window on the 3rd floor, where we hid the radio too.
Then, at night we heard the familiar, first notes of Beethoven's 5th (equivalent to the Morse code for the letter V for Victory - short,, short, short, long) a very deep and reverberating sound, which I can never forget, and Radio Nederland was on the air. First a string of coded messages, obviously meant for the underground, then we heard the news and sometimes we heard Queen Wilhelmina (our government was in exile in London). There were German patrol cars with a detection device driving through the streets, but they were more intended to hunt for Morse code senders.
Another thing in the beginning was the confiscation of all things copper, for Hitler's war effort. More things to hide. The Germans came door to door but did not get much. I know of a woman who had a lot of antique copper and she handed them a miserable little old copper pitcher. The confiscation of bicycles was sporadic. In the end our bicycles looked like 2-wheeled contraptions running on wooden or no tires. Ours were stolen when I still had wooden tires on mine. This was the end of the milk runs.
A familiar sight was the collection cans (like a big sugar canister). Dutch Nazi women, who were hysterically enthralled by Hitler, came door to door for donations - every week. So-called Winter Hilfe (Winter Help, for the Finns I believe). You could find these women outside the big department stores, on street corners. Mother always made sure I had a few pennies. One penny was enough to keep you from the blacklist. You had to hold your hand a certain way so one could not see what you put in the can. I later encountered these cans, not green anymore, but bright red, when I worked for the Dutch Tourism Office where people could put in a donation for materials received. The Dutch remembered them so well and they were glad to put a donation in the, once hated green, now red cans.
We all had identity cards now, if you were Jewish, you had a big "J" stamped on it. I recall that there were various colors. The diamond cutters had a preferred status. Jews were to wear a yellow star on their clothing out of doors. Jews were not to shop in stores, only at a specified day at specified hours. They were not allowed to go to the movies, theater, restaurants, parks or swimming pools. Everywhere they had to put signs up of "Juden nicht erwünscht" (No Jews allowed, note how all signs were in German now). Jewish children were not allowed to attend public schools, they had to go to Jewish Schools. My fourth grade class thinned out considerably. Very few came back after the war.
Jewish people could have no contact with non-Jewish people. Ineke, my girlfriend since kindergarten, was scared to death to be found in my house. Later she moved to Rotterdam, close to where my grandfather lived, and we visited a lot - in a much bigger city a lot of things do not get noticed. One time she forgot to put on her sweater with her yellow star when we were in my Grandfather's garden. She panicked! My grandfather and I took her home later, so we knew she was safe.
If it had stayed at that level, it would have been bearable, but things got much and much worse. I did not get to see Ineke for a long, long time.
From "Fragments of My Life"
~1939-1945 ~ WW II
by Henny Carlisle
© Henny Carlisle - 2003
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