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24 The story off Jacob (Jaap) van de Krol at the WO-2

Jacob M. Van de Krol
29 Jan. 1998

Aspen Grove, Utah (Provo Canyon)

At an elder hostel and interviewed by Don Norton

I was born in 1931, so I was nine years old when World-II started. My earliest memories are of living in my home town Delft, known for its Delft Blue, located on the coastal section of the Netherlands, near Rotterdam and The Hague. The Hague was the residence of the royalty, and the Germans were trying to capture the royal family, as well as the gold stored in that area. Between The Hague and my home town, Delft, there was a military air field, which at that time had a few planes covered with linen fabric- not what you’d call the “very best”, but at that time the Dutch government assumed it would remain neutral, as it had in World War I.

My family lived quite close to that airfield. Because of the mobilization, a master sergeant was stationed in our home. About four or five o’clock in the morning of May 10, 1940- already a clear day, because of the longitude- we were awakened by a lot of noise, planes were flying over our home, so low they practically touched the house. The master sergeant , my mother and I stepped out on the veranda, from which we could overlook the houses in front of us. We saw the planes, and people were jumping out of them- something we had never seen before. Some of the planes were on fire. It is also interesting that at that airfield, my father was stationed as a sergeant, in some kind of a private artillery force, was shooting at those planes. My father was firing with the two-centimeter guns (about 3/4 of an inch).
The Junkers 52 were coming in so low it was no problem hitting them. The Junkers are like boxcars , their bodies made of corrugated steel. They were transporting the paratroopers to capture The Hague and the Germans did not expect very much resistance.

In retrospect, we’ve learned that because so many German planes were shot down during that operation so the next operation to bomb England was curtailed.
Anyway, this made a great impression on me as a young boy, only nine years old, seeing airplanes on fire and men jumping out of them.
Later in the day, I saw German prisoners being taking to the camp inside my home town Delft.
The Germans wore the special para trooper helmets, different from the infantry helmets, which were lower and a flare on the bottom. The para trooper helmets were more like a pan, with no sides. The Dutch resistance lasted only five days.
My mother and I thought it would be better to go to my grandparents, who lived about a kilometer down the road. We took with us some of our belongings, and walked along one of the roads. Then all of a sudden, we noticed a truck coming real fast. Near my grandparents house there was a drawbridge (a typical Dutch Bridge), under which ships could pass. The bridge had been pulled up about a foot or so, so that vehicles could not pass over it.
It was also guarded by Dutch soldiers. It turned out that the fast moving truck was driven by Germans, who had commandeered it and mounted a machine gun on top. They were trying to capture that bridge to provide access to the city. Somehow that plan was diverted. My mother and I went into the ditch, so that we couldn’t see what was going on. It was a natural thing to do. even though we’d had no military training. We just had enough sense to get down on the ground, when the bullets were flying. I never learned whether the Germans were captured or not.
My father stayed at the airfield, but at one time they were forced to retreat. During those five war days my father did come by our house with a couple of soldiers on patrol. My mother told me to go talk to him, but of course he was preoccupied with his military duties. I still remember that he just walked by our house, and my encounter with him was very brief. He just continued, he was on patrol and could not stop. I thought it very weird, but of course later on when I learned what military was like, I understood. “Exciting” is not the word; :scary” is .
We did arrive at my grandparents, who lived near that bridge which had been pulled up. Later on, another attempt was made to take the area, so bullets were again flying through the street. But we were so innocent at that time, because the Dutch people never foresaw that we would be involved in that war - which had been brewing since 1939, when Hitler went into Poland.
We in the Netherlands hadn’t anticipated involvement, so everyone was just standing outside, watching the whole scene pass before them. In retrospect, I see that it was a stupid thing to do. When the bullets were really flying, we retreated inside In order to make the Dutch surrender quickly, the germans bombed Rotterdam, the city about ten miles from Delft. I remember the bombing vividly, because it was with incendiary bombs, so the center of Rotterdam burned down completely. It had been a beautiful city, very lively. One of my aunts was in the middle of the city when it was bombed. The people had to leave everything and flee, as everything started to burn. Then the Germans gave the Dutch an ultimatum: “If you don’t surrender, we will bomb another big city,like the Hague or Amsterdam.” So the Dutch surrendered. In the meantime, the queen and her family fled to England, and subsequently to Canada, taking with them the gold. My wife, as a child lived closer to Rotterdam, and saw the burning of that city better than I did.
The Germans were delayed taking the country because of the Dutch military resistance. A book has been written about why the Germans were not able to take the country so quickly. I also remember that later on, the Germans buried their dead in an area close to my father’s parents house. I attended the whole military procedure of that funeral. Across that particular cemetery was an electrical power plant, fired by gas. I have an idea, which I have not followed up, but all the whistles of that plant started to blow as to interrupt the ceremony on the other side of the canal. Perhaps the people in the power plant did that on purpose.

My father went in all together different direction, but that is another story, He became basically a German sympathizer, something I never could understand. I talked to him about it, but it still made no sense. He was first involved in resisting the Germans, yet later on joined the Germans. He told me, “ My parents were very much national socialists, so sympathizers with the Germans”. Because of his parents, my father was called names by the Dutch, and this was his reason to switch his alliance. I could never understand that dramatic switch. He was in prison, like all his family, for a fairly long time after the war.
After the Dutch surrendered, my friend and I went to the airfield, because it was wide open. We found helmets, guns and bullets. Being a boy of just ten, I took these things home. My father told us, “ Throw it away!” It was something we should not have in the house. I remember having a helmet that had a bullet hole from one side through the other, so I knew darn well what had happened to its owner. But we were innocent; we probably picked up things that were very, very dangerous, but nobody told us anything.
The Germans took over the base, and it became restricted. I don’t recall that the base was used very much for flying. You could not come anywhere near it, and if you had a camera with you, it was considered spying.
My most vivid memory of the war is about hunger-- food. First of all food was rationed; you could only have so much food for a given family. And it was not always sufficient, so the black market was very active. I also remember that when my mother would say- and I knew she was not telling the truth- “Okay, I’ve had enough. You eat the rest.” As a twelve to thirteen year old at the time I would eat what she gave me, knowing darn well that she was doing that for my benefit. And I was hungry and egocentric enough to eat what she gave me. In retrospect, I see now why our children were not permitted to leave anything on their plates. They ate everything on their plates, liking it or not. And that has caused some trouble. When I go to my children’s homes and see the grandchildren look at their food and say, “ I don’t like that,” I’m right against the ceiling. Through experience, and my wife telling me to keep my mouth shut, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. But when I see food literally going down the drain, it hurts me deeply. At the Elder-hostel I attend, I see people take food and not eat it all, it hurts me, because the food is not used properly. All this because my family went hungry, and we ate every last crumb from our plates, and drank every drop from our cup. When i now drink from a cup, it’s empty. It is a hang-up I’ve acquired because I once was hungry. I now appreciate what I have to eat and drink.

During the war, if you were not involved with the underground, or did not confront the Germans directly, you were not in much difficulty, though you could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, if the underground shot at the Germans from a house or a corner, and then fled, the Germans then picked ten people at random and shoot them. Again that was something I could not understand. If a person was strong enough, and willing enough to fight German soldiers, for what ever reason, then that person should have stayed around. Finish the battle and take the consequences. By fleeing, the underground caused innocent people to pay the price. I’m not sure that the underground was doing the right thing, or that thIs made much difference to the outcome of the war. Maybe the underground helped the morale of some people, but most people were looking out for their own survival, and realized they could not do much in the way of inflicting damage to the Germans. The Germans bombed the living daylight out of England, yet the English never surrendered. The Allied flattened Germany (I have seen some of the cities), but the Germans did not capitulate because of it.
The Hague was bombed by the Allies in 1944. The Germans began to launch unmanned rockets from near the Hague, first the V-1, then the V-2. Some of these rockets did not get even off the ground, and even if they did, some would come down before they reached England.
My wife remembers very much when these rockets came over and could tell when they were in trouble. At that time I was not in the area of the Netherlands, the hunger winter of 1944. Sometimes the Allied bombs missed the targets and hit civilian areas, causing many casualties. That’s another reason why much of bombing was not effective. It was the concentration of the army on land that was effective. Some of the strategic bombing was effective like the oil-fields, and German airfields.
At a recent Elder-hostel, I met a Jewish person, Hans Adler, who was close to general Eisenhower. He mentioned that the Allies were trying to bomb the ball bearing plants, because if you do not have ball bearings, you can’t make engines for tanks and airplanes.
Ball bearings are a simple and small item, but very essential. Hans Adler said that the Allies did not have the right intelligence to bomb those areas. Also the Germans had distributed the the ball bearing manufacture plants in different places. Even when one place was bombed, they could continue their manufacture, while they constructed a factory somewhere else.
An uncle of mine, who now lives in Ogden, Utah, who was in his early twenties during the war, was like many other young persons in the Netherlands, who were taken to Germany to put to work in the factories to produce essential war products. The German men were fighting at the front. So my uncle, a machinist, was the kind of person who was taken. I’m sure his story about that time in Germany would be interesting. He was in Germany for four and a halve years, away from his family. He was paid very little, and he has now the idea that the German government or companies should pay him for those years. I told him that he had a very small chance of getting anything; even the Jewish people are not getting remuneration.
At my age at that time, I saw what was going on, but didn’t know the consequences.
Later I became more interested in the history of that period and I have done a great deal of reading about it. I have looked at the war from more than one side- not only from the Dutch or the German side, but also from both sides. There are many different ways to look at what happened during the war- things that do not take place in a society at peace. There were some good Germans and there were bad Germans. I was recently told about a Red Cross truck, with wounded Allied soldiers, got lost and drove in a German stronghold. The Germans let it proceed with the wounded. Later that same truck came back and dropped off a package and left. The Germans were afraid it was a bomb, but it turned out to be a parcel of cigarettes. During the war, cigarettes were like gold.
When I was a youngster, I saw grown-up men exchange bread -an item in high demand- for a little white stick, which they put in their mouth, light fire to it and then i t would disappear. I got the bread, because I was able to obtain cigarettes during the war by some wheeling and dealing. I never, never smoked after seeing people exchange their last piece of bread for a white stick ”I’m never going to smoke” I told myself and did. People called me a sissy since I didn’t smoke, but we have seen the effects of smoking on our health. It was the social thing to do then. I also didn’t drink alcohol. So I was an outcast.

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