In 1940, in the month of May, World War II started. This war would not end until 1945. The five years were hard for many people and this is a story of two people living in the Netherlands during this time.
Mr. Len Toet was 13 when World War II started, he’d turn 14 that July, while Mrs. Jane Toet (Kuik then) was 11 not to turn 12 until October. Mrs. Toet was born lived in the eastern part of the country in a place called enschece and was only five kilometers from the German border. Mr. Toet lived on the opposite side, right on the coast. They both had siblings Mr. Toet had one brother and one sister and Mrs. Toet had four brothers and two sisters at the beginning of the war but in 1943, another brother, Mr. Jake Kuik was born.
The first day or so of the war was shocking for them because the Germans came out with bombers and bombed the bigger cities on the west coast. In the beginning, the railroad workers went on strike but got in so much trouble over it that it didn’t last long. But life in the beginning was pretty normal just going to school and going about their lives. They knew they were under German rule but just went about their lives. But later in the war when the English and the Canadians came with bombers going to bomb Germany and the German Pilots would shoot them out of the air, which was scary for them. Mrs. Toet recalls her and her sister leaving the bed that they shared to go to their Mom and Dad’s bed.
Mrs. Toet started work at age fourteen because they just had the 7 grades but had a lot fewer holidays. She had quite a few jobs but still stayed home with her mother to help out with the children. She worked in a factory where there was sowing and pleading skirts. Mr. Toet became an instrument mechanic and had slightly more education (After the war he joined the army).
The Germans would round up men from age 14-45 to go to Germany unless you had a job that required you to stay in the Netherlands. One of Mrs. Toets brothers was rounded up but had a job that required he stay, and he had a paper that said all this but it didn’t have a picture on it so after he had come home Mrs. Toet took the paper with her to the place and the Germans let her through because she was just a young girl who wanted to say good bye. But she got in and gave that same paper to someone else so he could leave and since there was no picture on it he got away.
Mr. Toet also had to watch out and hide from the Germans so they wouldn’t round him up to go into Germany.
Mrs. Toet’s three older brothers were supposed to go to Germany to help the war effort but naturally didn’t want to so they went underground. One of them did quite a lot for the Jews who were persecuted by the Germans. But feeding them was hard because food was rationed and they would get coupons for just enough and the Jews wouldn’t get coupons because they “didn’t exist”. But one of her brothers was a printer so he would print out fake coupons for Jews and others that were hiding from the Germans. One of the ways that they’d hid men running from the Germans and Jews was they’d have a hole in the floor where they could hide and they’d just a rug over the cover.
But in the last year of the war they were picked up because another person had been picked up and had been beaten so badly that he gave the name of one of her brothers and somehow had managed to get the other two. One was placed in a high security prison; he was the one that knew the most. Their family were scared that the Germans were going to shoot him but thanks to Gods providence he came back after six weeks. Another one of the brothers was brought to Germany to a concentration camp and he died at only 22 years of age, but the other stayed in the Netherlands because the allies had blown up the train line so no trains could get to Germany.
But through this time Mrs. Toet was safe to walk the streets as were all girls because they were “Germanic” people as Hitler called it and he said that they were the same level of human as they were. But that did not stop the Dutch from trying hard to stop the Germans from what they were doing to the Jews. And if they had to walk by Germans on the street they’d just pretend that they didn’t exist, and look the other way. They would also have a radio where they listened to what was going on in the war instead of listening to what the Germans were trying to tell them of what was going on. It was illegal but they would hide it. There were also underground papers.
The last year of the war was very hard for the people on the west side of the Netherlands because there was no food and they had to eat tulip bulbs and rotten potatoes, and they had no fuel to keep their house warm. Mrs. Toet however didn’t go through this because her family had farmer friends and relatives so they were able to bike and get grain. They would grind the grain and boil it with milk and water. And they got the food they got from rationing. So they would even have enough to give away sometimes.
Towards the end of the war when the Germans came out with the V-1, and V-2 rockets, Everyone would be scared because sometimes the rockets instead of heading for England the would just come right down and kill Germans and Dutch people in the area.
Mrs. Toets town was one of the first liberated on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 because the allied troops went through France and Belgium, through the eastern part of the Netherlands and then straight to Berlin because they wanted to get there before the Russians did because there was still a lot of friction between the Russians and the Americans. Mrs. Toet was on her way to church when they heard gun shots and they found out church was cancelled, so when the Canadian troops came through her street everyone went crazy, yelling and laughing because the Canadians were there and had liberated them. They had the Dutch flag in the window but as soon as the soldiers were gone they took it out of the window in case there were still Germans around. This is why the Dutch have deep respect for the Canadians because they liberated them. But Mr. Toet’s area wasn’t actually liberated until the end of the war (May 5, 1945). But the Germans were all fleeing back to Germany through the west, then North and they took all the food with them in order to feed the German civilians. So he would sneak over fences in order to get at rotten potatoes and he’d be shot at to. But by the very end the Lancaster’s would drop boxes of food. And they were distributed but distributed in a way that they could not get to much because their stomachs were so small from having not eaten in such a long time.
But then shortly after the war people started coming back from the concentration camps, but Mrs. Toets brother never came until finally they got word via the Red Cross that he had died of pneumonia since it was so cold and he had had nothing warm to wear. They found out that he had died only three months after they had picked him up because they treated people so bad in the concentration camps. That was very hard for Mrs. Toets family but they knew God so it made it easier to go through this time and the war. They had found out while some Canadian soldiers were over for coffee.
But even after the war there was rationing. But it was done for their good in order for everyone to get something. But it helped them so that now they don’t take things for granted. They didn’t end up having white bread until they came to Canada five years after the war and that to them was like cake.
That is what life was like for Mr. Len Toet and Mrs. Jane Toet during the war.