zondag 21 oktober 2012

Oorlogsherinneringen van mijn Nieuw-Zeelandse oom en tante.

Mijn oom Joop (broer van mijn moeder) en zijn vrouw Wil werden geïnterviewd toen ze in Nieuw-Zeeland een tentoonstelling over Anne Frank bezochten. De meeste herinneringen gaan over het grootouderlijk huis in de Spaarnrijkstraat in Haarlem. In diezelfde straat ben ik geboren. 

De dappere Duitse vrouw die gedurende de oorlog haar Joodse man verborgen hield heette mevrouw Elekan. Ik moet haar als peuter nog gekend hebben maar ik herinner me haar alleen van de verhalen. 

Tears flow for couple who were in occupied Holland


Powerful emotions: Johannes and Willy-Louise Krook have been greatly moved by the 'Anne Frank A History For Today' exhibition now showing in the Lane Gallery at Puke Ariki.

Krook's eyes become moist. Mrs Krook wipes away tears. Flashes of memory come back unbidden when Johannes and Willy-Louise Krook walk in to the Anne Frank - A History For Today exhibition at Puke Ariki.
Both the Dutch husband and wife are surprised with the emotions that engulf them when they look at the photographs lining the Lane Gallery.
"The first time I came here I had tears," Mrs Krook says. "And then the second time I had tears. I did not expect to be so affected by it."
The exhibition tells the story of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who wrote the famous diary about hiding from the Germans in Amsterdam during World War II.
Lining the walls are more than 200 personal photographs from the Frank family and excerpts from Anne's diary, along with details about the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
Seventy years on, those photos come alive for Mr and Mrs Krook.
"Anne looked exactly like a girl I went to school with, a Jewish girl, Netty. She survived," she says.
"It's nothing new," he says. "All those photos are in your mind already because we seen them before and we have seen all the Germans."
He points to a picture of soldiers on the move in a city street in The Netherlands.
"They would march and they would start to sing," he says, breaking into song. "They were very beautiful singers. In some ways you liked it, but in other ways you were disgusted with it. It's ingrained in your memory."
During WWII, Mr and Mrs Krook were children living in a city called Haarlem, 25km from Amsterdam.
When the war started in 1939, he was aged nine and she was eight. They lived in nearby streets and their school and the next door kindergarten were occupied by the Germans.
"Our neighbour was a woman who had no contact with the people in the street. She was German and her husband was a Jew. He was elderly. We knew him wearing a star (of David)," says Mr Krook, now aged 80.
"He suddenly disappeared from the scene. When the liberation came he popped out of the house and we were astonished because he had been hiding there for all those years."
Mr Krook believes that being German must have helped her tremendously. "Because how could she escape all the searches?"
That same woman was also part of the resistance and when the electricity was cut off and illegal radio messages could not longer be transmitted, she helped pass on news via an underground newspaper.
Their home was in a row of houses separated by wooden fences. A clog would be put on the fence and she would hide the news inside it, the Krook family would read it and put it back.
"She was an incredible person and it's only now I realise how courageous she was," he says.
Mrs Krook, now 79, has a vivid memory of watching a young man jumping over fences and hiding to escape being taken away to a labour camp in Germany during a "razzia", a round-up of able-bodied men needed for work.
She also remembers seeing Dutch women who fell in love with German soldiers having their heads shaved after liberation.
Both Mr and Mrs Krook are absolutely clear that the Germans weren't all bad. They say the SS and the Nazis who destroyed the governments of occupied countries were to be feared, but the ordinary soldiers were fathers and sons.
The German soldiers were very disciplined and they never harmed anyone and so the civilians never had anything to fear from the soldiers," he says.
During what the Krooks describe as "the hunger winter" of 1944/45, when the railways were on strike, the coal had run out, the shops and schools were shut and there was no fuel, his job was to find wood.
"Any trees were targets of tree choppers in the night – you had to do it to survive."His father and brother had the duty of going north to get food and their only transport was a bicycle with tyres that had been patched up about 20 times. Their staple diet was porridge made from sugarbeet and wheat, cooked in pots that had been fixed using metal plates, nuts, bolts and asbestos, and sometimes aluminium. "I remember eating blue porridge from the aluminium," Mr Krook says.
He also remembers that one night when he was out on an illegal wood raid, he got caught by a German soldier.The man, aged about 60, realised the youngster was sawing wood from a stump, so didn't send him off. Instead, he encouraged him, saying "schnell, schnell" ("quick, quick") and made sure the Dutch lad left with wood for his fire.
Mr Krook has never forgotten that man's compassion.So when the Mr and Mrs Krook stand amidst the photos of the Anne Frank exhibition, they are flooded with a thousand memories and mixed emotions. And the tears come.
The Krooks moved to New Plymouth in 1964. They have four adult children.

Anne Frank: A History For Today is on in the Lane Gallery until March 16.For more information contact Virginia Winder at Puke Ariki: winderv@npdc.govt.nz 
© Fairfax NZ News

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