Veteran Stories:
Betty Laron

  • A photograph of Betty Laron and her parents in their garden during the summer of 1941.

  • A photograph of the Heister family, who hid Betty Laron and her family for 786 days during the German occupation of the Netherlands.

  • A drawing by Betty Laron of a Dutch fisherman, dated 27 November 1943.

  • A dynamo torch, a manually powered flashlight belonging to Betty Laron's parents.

  • A photograph of Betty Laron in June 2012.

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"We looked out of the window and we saw the first Canadians coming around the corner. Some were on motorbikes and some... and they all had daffodils on their helmets. It was in the spring time so the Dutch gave them daffodils and they handed out chocolate. "

Transcript

When we were occupied May 10th, 1940 the Germans got into our country and five days later the army capitulated. And I saw my father crying because he had heard the talking of those refugees who came in the train and he said, ‘No, it’s done for us’, he said. Yes, he expected something bad to come.

Because we were Jewish we were not supposed to stand out over other people or to draw attention. You kept quiet. In 1941 I was not allowed to go to school anymore, to a non-Jewish school, and I got lessons from a teacher in Arnhem for about a year, and then I went to high school, a Jewish high school in Arnhem for half a year, and then we went into hiding. And you know all the measures? We were not allowed to go into swimming pools or libraries, parks, even some stores.

My father said all the time ‘if we have to hang it will be on the last gallows.’ He said, ‘I don’t want to be picked up unexpectedly’, and he was with the Jewish council appointed by the Germans and he had... well, I’ll show you a little card that they could not pick him up in [...].

And I remember, I have it my book also - I remember that in the summer of 1942 we were sitting outside and I heard my parents talking and I was reading or doing something, and suddenly I heard my father say it’s time that we are looking for a hiding place. And I jumped up and I said, ‘Why do we have to go into hiding? Why can’t we stay home like anyone else’? Well, my father explained it to me.

But to find a family is very hard. In the first place they should not have small children because they can talk. They have to be trustworthy, they had to be anti-German, they had to be good Dutch people, good Dutch citizens, and for them it was a big risk. They risked their lives.

First my father was talking about a couple, an older couple without children and a friend of my father visited them and they were willing... they were not against it and he especially - he said, ‘Yes, we could do that’. But after a week he came to us because in the meantime he got our name - he came to us and he said, ‘My wife is too afraid and we cannot do it’. And we could understand it; you couldn’t blame those people because they risked their own life.

But he said, ‘My neighbours...’, and that was Mr. Heister, ‘... I talked to them and they are willing to talk to you’. So Mr. and Mrs. Heister came one evening and my father warned them to start with that... they had to realise that it was a very risky - not risky business - but risky enterprise to do this. And he said, and I’ll never forget that - he said, ‘I think it is our duty trying to save a Jewish family’.

We never went outside, none, not an hour in all those days, never, never, and that’s probably how I got to be after the war. I had... because you didn’t have fresh air, you didn’t have good... the food was, especially the last year the food was very bad. But we were afraid because we had that clothing business and we knew a lot of people, and there were people who did it, who went out and they had... but there were flashlights, but we were too afraid. If you meet people who knew us you never know what they would do. I mean, we trusted a lot of people but in that time you could not trust anybody because they got seven and a half guilders [Dutch currency] for turning in one person, for the Germans.

It was Easter in 1945, it was the 1st or the 2nd of April was Easter. The Heister family went to the church but the pastor said to the people, ‘Go home because the Canadians are so close by and I don’t know if there’s any fights, you better be home’. So they came home after half an hour. And we heard shooting in the distance and we didn’t go to bed because we wanted to be there; we didn’t want to sleep if the... we knew that there were Canadians in Babberich that’s a little... that’s on the border of Germany and Holland; it’s five kilometers from where I live. We knew that they were there. Why don’t they come? Why don’t they come? We don’t go to bed.

So the Germans had dug in ammunition a lot in crossings, in important streets, because they thought ‘we could keep, we could halt the Canadians,’ but later on they came with those enormous bulldozers. They had the streets, they had big craters, in half an hour it was filled; it was amazing. But the Germans had at three o’clock... from the 2nd to the 3rd of April, at three o’clock, there came the last Germans along our window because behind our little street there was a castle and there was the Commandant, the German Commandant was sitting there.

So there came two or three German soldiers and we heard them talk and we had the curtains opens - they didn’t see us, we were sitting in the dark - and we heard them say, ‘Is everyone there’? in German. ‘No, one has to come’. So the third one came and then it was quiet. There was no more shooting, there was nothing and we were waiting and waiting, and suddenly there was the explosion. They ignited all the ammunition in all the crossings and all... oh, it was big cobblestones were flying through the... came through the roof of our house, all the windows were shattered. It was like a big earthquake; it was terrible.

That’s what... we blamed the resistance. The resistance after the war, they walked with big rifles, but if they had

killed or kept or arrested those three Germans this wouldn’t have happened. It was terrible. The whole city was shaking. And then it was quiet again; quiet again for an hour and we were sitting there. Yes, we didn’t see anything. And then at six o’clock I told you, we went upstairs and we were sweeping up the mess, the flower pots had fallen down, the paintings came from the wall, glass everywhere. And then we looked out of the window and we saw the first Canadians coming around the corner. Some were on motorbikes and some... and they all had daffodils on their helmets. It was in the spring time so the Dutch gave them daffodils and they handed out chocolate.

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