May 4th is Remembrance Day In The Netherlands. Although it is a day to remember all Dutch people who were killed during any war, we tend to focus on WWII.|
I'm sure many of you will know the story of Anne Frank. Her story explains it all. And that is just the story of one girl. It's hard to comprehend how many stories, like hers, there are. Millions.
My grandfather was Jewish. He married a German girl, they got two children and moved back to Holland. My father was about 4 years old when the war started.
One night their house was invaded by German soldiers. My grandmother was allowed to stay - she was German - but my grandfather, my father and his sister (aged 8) were taken away.
They were transported to the railway station - which soon was crowded with people. All taken away from their homes and loved ones, without an explanation why.
Children and adults were separated without getting the chance to say goodbye. That was the last thing my father saw of his father.
While those two kids were standing there, they were recognized by a passer-by. It turned out he was a friend of my grandparents and was secretly working for the resistance. He took a big water butt, turned it upside down,
put it over the children and told them to sit down and stay there - no matter how long it would take - until he came back.
Can you imagine those two kids sitting there (4 and 8 years old!!), with all the noise and shouting and crying going on. Trains came into the station and the people were put in freight-trains, so many in one cabine that there was no room to sit down, just stand up. They went on a journey and didn't know where it would end. Most of them didn't return.
After I don't know how many hours, the man from the resistance came back and took my father and his sister back to their mother. He risked his own life by saving theirs.
My grandfather was first taken to 'Kamp Vught', a concentration camp in Holland, then transferred to Auschwitz, one of the concentration camps in Poland, where he died on January 31, 1944.
So you can imagine why WWII still has a lot of impact on me, even though it happened more than 60 years ago and I haven't witnessed it myself.
There's a discussion going on in The Netherlands right now, if there is still need for a Remembrance Day. Some people say: it's too long ago, every year there are fewer people left who've actually been there.
I don't care. All it takes is 2 minutes of silence on May 4th. Is that too much to ask?? We have to keep remembering all those who died, whether they were soldiers, people from the resistance, or 'just' victims of a cruel regime. And the only way we can do that is by maintaining that Remembrance Day and by telling the story over and over again, especially to our children.
From a very young age, we kept our kids in the livingroom with us at May 4th and we all participate in those 2 minutes of silence. In remembrance of a grandfather I never got to know and out of respect for all the people who gave their lives, so we could live in freedom.
We must not forget!
~ From Anne's diary, July 15, 1944
"We mourn with all those who have lost loved ones and colleagues.
Let us not lose our ideals."
If you want to learn more about Anne Frank, visit the official website or the Anne Frank Center USA website.
To learn more about the Holocaust, I recommend the very informative site of A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
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This page created May 4, 2004