In 2011 I came in contact with Mrs. G.M. (Greetje) Wiekeraad-Lagendijk whose family, after the death of her father in June 1944, was “divided” among the family. Her mother went to a retirement home in Ermelo for six weeks where she gave birth to her seventh child.
In the meantime, Greetje was placed with family in the Neerkant, this stay was originally for a period of approximately four weeks, but due to the rail strike, which later turned out to be her rescue, she was unable to return to Rotterdam.
Because of the war violence in the Neerkant, the family had to flee, and after a few wanderings in the region, Greetje eventually ended up with her aunt, who lived in a Wehrmacht cottage on the Padbrugseweg in Deurne.
Memories, put in writing by mrs. Greetje Wiekeraad-Lagendijk, in September 2011.
In 1944 I went to the Neerkant, a small village near Deurne, for 4 weeks. Friends of Aunt Marie, my mother’s sister, lived there. With Grandpa Vinke on the train from Rotterdam, at the Moerdijk Bridge, all windows had to be closed so that nobody could see anything of the defenses that would be there. Water was sprayed against the windows, so you did not forget to open the windows. In Deurne we had to walk for an hour to get to the house of Aunt Marie and Uncle Evert. Grandpa took a sturdy stick and hung my suitcase on it, smart! The other day, a Sunday, they brought me to the Neerkant by bike. it was a wonderfully quiet trip and after a while we arrived. Aunt Drika and uncle Leo were very friendly and we had dinner there. Uncle Leo was working in the vegetable garden. I had to cry a little, Oh, but you get used to it. Now that was right. Riek was 8 years old, but we got along well. Jan was 6 years old and very naughty. Then you still had Mia, she always went to the Praise on Sunday. Then there was Anneke, 3 years old, and Leentje, 1 year old, who was still in the (box) playpen and, of course, was not clean either. Aunt Drika regularly shouted, O, now our Leen has again pooped in her bóks. And I didn’t see anything in the (box) playpen. After a few days, I realized that a pair of pants or diaper was also a bóks. That riddle was solved.
I had a great time there and felt like a child again. We played outside a lot. Also went to the family of Aunt Drika, Aunt Toos and Aunt Anna. Everything within walking distance, Riek also had a girlfriend, Sister Linden. Her father was the head teacher of the village school in the Neerkant. I also learned to ride a bike there and it was hard to beat. We cycled to the Deurne canal which was about half an hour by bike from the van der Steen family’s house. The house was originally the milk factory. It was not in use at this time, so the building was used as a house for eating and cooking. In the house that belonged there were the living room and the bedrooms, I slept downstairs and the van der Steen family upstairs.
If the English flew over we had to get out of bed, I didn’t like that at all. In Rotterdam we only did it when there was a terrible shooting. I was used to it much worse but I adjusted and that was better too.
I had a good time there and I was a child again. I was 12 years old and Riek, the oldest, 8. Jan was 6, Mia more than 4 and then Anneke came from 3. The youngest was Leentje, who was still in the box. I spent a lot of time with Riek and with her girlfriend Zus Linden. Sister had a brother Gérard, who Gérard made a prayer card for me:
”Our dear Greet died today,
Her last cry
was a crackling fart,
That slid off the bed shelf,
And hit the wall,
And splashed in the pisspot,
In a wide arc
flew out the window,
And sat on the clouds,
I also learned to ride a bike there, Riek and I cycled a bit. On a warm day, Riek drove a dig, which is a dry ditch. We wouldn’t tell but the news was already known when we got home. Luckily, it wasn’t made much fuss about it. So we continued cycling, I thought it was great.
When it was said that the family would receive a Protestant girl from Rotterdam as a guest, the pastor had to be asked. Fortunately he thought that people of a different faith should also be helped. Fairly modern insight for such a village pastor.
I had a very good time there, there was plenty of food. The first days I only ate white bread with rye bread on it. That was nice too, I soon discovered. Uncle Lé regularly disappeared in the back of the factory at certain times, there was a radio that everyone should have turned in. Then Aunt Drika asked what they had to say in the factory. So they listened to an English channel, I thought that was creepy because that wasn’t allowed of course. The channel was therefore very disturbed by the Germans. At that time Germany was bombed a lot, then we had to go into the basement and I didn’t like that. In Rotterdam also planes came over every night but we couldn’t go into the basement, simply because we didn’t have one. The planes also threw silver paper, which we went looking for in the woods. I was later told that the purpose of throwing out silver paper was to disrupt the Germans’ radar, the forests were full of it.
Originally I would go home at the end of August but at the beginning of September the railroad strike came and so I could not go back. I don’t remember that I was sorry. It was good to eat and drink there, and very nice! Abut afterwards good too.
At that time, an armored division came through the Neerkant on a Sunday. At the turn in the road the asphalt was completely rotten, there were large pits in the asphalt. The tanks were completely camouflaged with greenery and branches. There were also English planes in the sky. The trees were completely full in leaves at the time and the entire road was full of trees on both sides of the road.
But I do not forget those frightened faces of the Germans in the tanks. 2 neighboring girls of about 18 were pointing demonstratively in the air, I did not feel happy about that. Fortunately nothing happened. We also had to come in from Aunt Drika, I was very happy about that.
And then came Dolle Dinsdag (Mad Tuesday), which later turned out to be the start of the hunger winter in the west and of a war in the south of the country. The English went up very quickly and there were rumors that they were already in Breda. Then maybe you can go home soon, Uncle Lé told me. That turned out to be a whole winter later, the hunger winter.
After sleeping in the basement for 6 weeks and shooting a lot on the day and night, we had to flee on October 26, we walked to Asten. The Germans were behind the Deurnes canal and had started a sort of offensive. When we came outside, the church tower fired at us and the mortars were always aimed between the church tower and the factory chimney. We lived next to the milk factory, which was no longer in use and was moved to Meijel where Uncle Lé also worked. The English tanks stood against the houses, which was actually very dangerous. In the night the German patrols crossed the canal and sometimes threw armored fists to disable the tanks. Uncle Leo then asked if they wanted to relocate it, so it happened. After 6 hours we were no longer allowed to leave the yard. That was strictly forbidden because the booby traps were sharp. This is to scare the Germans off when they come in the night.
Where in the past the milk cans were put, that is to say an increase, English soldiers were beneath in those weeks. They sang songs such as; ice cream and so on, that was pretty fun.
We slept in the basement, 2 single beds side by side. Riek and I slept on that, together with Tina and Lies Rooyakkers. That family lived opposite us but had no basement. This is how the people helped each other, we also fled with them. There were also 3 old people who lived next to us and kept a post office. Dora, Nella and Frans, Maria had entered the house in the war of 1914-1918 and always stayed there. If there was a shot, we had to lie on the ground. Shots were fired and the old ones could not get up. Fortunately that only happened once. They didn’t go all the way to Asten, just like us. Along the way they stayed behind with acquaintances.
The second day we walked even further to Brouwhuis, there was a mill where we could spend the night. It was quite an invasion, we were still with 15 people. There was an aerial battle over Helmond that first night, the sky was full of flares. A beautiful sight, too bad it was war. After three days Wil Rooyakkers brought me to Aunt Marie in Deurne, completely walked. I was well received there. My little brother Kees was there too, nice to see him again. Aunt Marie lived in a little house with anti-aircraft guns. Grandpa Vinke was there too, I had a good time there. I have not had hunger or cold like the people in the West. We also cooked turves and cooked on a stove. grandfather Vinke went to get milk from farmers in the area, from the Vogels and Nooyen family. At the last, Grandpa also went to repair bags and was then singing, that people loved that. He was also allowed to eat, those people still had enough to eat. Aunt Marie had many books, textbooks, I read them all. In the spring I also went to get milk now and then and met different farmers from the area. I also went to Grad and Miet Vogels, that was very nice. Hanneke sometimes came too and that was very nice for me to see young people and to chat again. I then got chocolate milk. I told Aunt Marie that she didn’t like it, but I did. Aunt Marie wanted to go to Brouwhuis once. I had to go to Miet to ask for the bike and I said very nicely; whether Mrs. Gadella may have the bicycle, she must go to Brouwhuis. I was told that for years when I went to stay there in the summer.
I also had to go to the English with eggs. “You please ask some eggs”? Then exchange it for petroleum. In the beginning we had no electricity. I also had boils there, probably because of the monotonous food. I thought it was quite tasty, we ate a lot of legumes. but there was no real fresh fruit or vegetables. I also had an infection on my finger, the doctor was an hour’s walk to the village. He cut it open with a sharp knife and I had to hold the container myself. I did not cry and received a compliment from the doctor because I was so strong. I did say I thought it was scary! Are you from Rotterdam? he asked me. In the spring the daisies bloomed and Aunt Marie asked me if I wanted to pick a bunch. Now I was not used to picking flowers at all and I felt pretty embarrassed, anyway done of course. I was an obedient child. We also knitted a lot, Aunt Marie was a rock in it. I was able to knit socks for Grandpa, which I learned there. For Kees we have knitted two pullovers made of pulled-out wool. That was a package that mother had given with Keesje, so it didn’t help you anymore. There is another picture with Bas and Kees on it with those conscious sweaters on. They were light blue. In December we still had stuffy hours. On December 16, the Germans opened an offensive in the Ardennes. I remember that I had to get a red cabbage from the rabbit hutch. I just stayed between the loft and the rain barrel until the air fight was over. The German planes went so low over the Peel. It is very flat there and to avoid the English guns they flew terribly low. I am still grateful that I was not in Rotterdam that period! It should have been that way. Our entire family was separated and in retrospect we survived!