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February 19, 1921 - December 29, 2011

With Thanksgiving just behind us, it is once again time to reflect on a day of remembrance. Many events are planned to remember those who participated in all conflicts, but for me it is a day to recall one man in particular, who, although he survived the war, was not without involvement, which must have had an abysmal impact. That man is my father.

Having been born and raised in the southern portion of the Netherlands, our town shares a border with Germany. Now that Europe (or most of it) is one nation and the border between the two countries is marked with a line on a sidewalk. In the thirties and forties, however, it was quite different.

I knew my father had been involved in the war, mostly with the Dutch resistance, but like so many from that era, he seldom, if ever, spoke of those days, and I can only imagine some of the events he must have witnessed. In 2005, on one of my trips to Europe, I asked my father (84 at the time), if he wanted to join me. I explained we could do a trek from the Netherlands to Dusseldorf, where he was interned during the war, and then to Berlin. He agreed, and off we went.

After a few days with relatives (and there are many of them), we set out and drove to the city of Dusseldorf, about an hour away. Enroute I asked him why he was there during the war, and he began to relay some of the facts of his life, sixty years earlier.

The Dutch did noit have an army and the Nazi invasion of the country took less than five days. The Netherlands had a vast underground system and my father, along with my grandfather, played their part. Unfortunately after a few months, my father was picked up by the German army and he was taken to a camp in Dusseldorf. Although it was not a death camp, I’m sure it was no doubt, a traumatic place.

I recall him talking about the food, 90% of which consisted of sauerkraut, and how a boyhood friend of his, also in the same camp, complained once and was never heard from again. Small tidbits of information began to trickle out, and I started to piece together the silent part of his life.

As we neared Dusseldorf I asked if he knew where the camp was. He looked at me, as if I had two heads. “Of course I remember,” he said.