WW2 – grandma’s memories


Anne Frank got a bunch load of young girls jealous when she got a ‘visit’ from Justin Bieber. Tweets of hatred filled the internet and many were wondering what this girl had done to ‘earn’ a visit from Justin himself. In the Netherlands we were shocked by this, how could they not know who Anne was? I realise now that maybe for those living overseas the story might not have been such an important part of their education whereas I went to the Anne Frank museum with my primary school.

Extinction of memories

The other day when I was speaking to my grandma I asked her about the war and saw her eyes lighting up. Not of course because it’s a fun thing but I guess because there aren’t many people alive anymore who she can share these memories with and for the newer generation it’s just something that happened years ago. Within a few decades we won’t be able to listen to these brave people telling their story anymore as they are getting older and older. It is for this reason that I am sharing a couple of my grandmas stories, to make sure that they don’t just disappear. Don’t worry I won’t make it too long and it’s not gonna be some history lesson. Although, I am quickly going to explain who Anne Frank is for those who are clueless.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank was a jewish girl who lived during World war 2 and was about 10 years older than my grandmother. After having fled Germany she and her family moved to Amsterdam where they hid in what we dutch call a ‘back house’ which entrance was hidden by a bookcase. Sadly after two years they were betrayed and were deported to different concentration camps like many others. Anne’s story is told world-wide because she wrote it all down in her diary which was found and kept. Her father, the only survivor of the family, decided to publish it and it became a worldwide success. The most heartbreaking detail for me? She died so close to the liberation, if only she had survived just a bit longer she would have felt freedom again.

Grandma’s Memories

It’s a harsh thing to say but my grandma was lucky not to be jewish, it probably saved her life. Nevertheless, during war times you’re constantly living in fear. This is so hard to understand for us, never do I worry about getting deported when I go outside or do I scan the sky for bombers. I’m just going to briefly write down some of my grandmas memories. Writing them down feels like keeping them alive.

Especially at the end of the war the German army was in desperate need of more soldiers. Any man, not to young, not to old, would do and thus they had so-called razzias. As a man of the right age you weren’t save and hiding was difficult since they’d search houses as well. My grandma told my how once during a razzia her father hadn’t come home yet, fearing the worst her mother stared anxiously out of the window. My great-grandfather had just knocked on some strangers door and had hidden there, he seems to have been a smart man. When in the Netherlands you need a bike, so there were actually bike-razzias. The german army would take your bike, except for if you’d, just like my great-grandfather, hidden your bike disassembled in a sand box.

Imagine having all the electricity  shut off, nowadays we wouldn’t even be able to live like that. My family got lucky again, there was a bakery in there house block (they were allowed some electricity) and somehow they managed to tap it. At night they had to close the curtains neatly so no light would hit the streets and reveal their secret. It even made it possible to bake their own ‘bread’. Roughly translated my grandma called them flatters. Placing a flat-iron upside down they could ‘bake’ some sort of flat bread, a real luxury. 

The winter of 1944-1945 has been given the name ‘hunger winter’, many died because of a lack of food. Parents would send their kids to other cities with more food where they’d work as a housemaid. My family had one, a girl from Amsterdam. She ended up missing her parents so badly that she cycled to Amsterdam on a bike with wooden, yes WOODEN, tyres. I wonder what happened to her, did she make it?

My grandma can still picture her and her brother at the end of the war, sitting at the table, eating real bread with sugar. She even still knows it was swedish bread and it was probably the best thing she had eaten for a long time.

I think that listening to these kind of stories is a real eye-opener and shows us how glad we should be with our living situation. While I’m sitting here, a roof above my head, Macbook on my lap, somewhere on this world a girl, just like me, is living a completely different live. She might not be save at night, or even during the day. Isn’t it unfair that just because of where I was born I’ve got so many more opportunities?

2 thoughts on “WW2 – grandma’s memories

  1. This was a very interesting to read and you are so lucky to still have your grandmother to listen to. My family is from Germany and my grandmother lived through WWII in Germany. Unfortunately, just as I was getting old enough to sit and understand her stories my grandma’s alzheimer’s got worse and then she past away. I’ve tried listening to my aunt and dad about stories, but they never really ask either. Still I loved hearing about your grandmother’s experience and you are a great writer!


  2. Great and very captivating post! I can’t believe there are people who have no idea who Anne Frank is.

    It’s so important to remember that we’re really lucky and that our grandparents had to endure very hard times. After all, if they hadn’t made it, we wouldn’t be here. I’m glad you’re preserving your grandma’s memories!


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