A flag with the words "Thanks to Canada - Greetings from Oosterbierum" which was written by a dutch civilian and kept by a Canadian soldier until after his death when it was returned to Oosterbierum.Martin Boomsma
An aerial photograph of the small town of Oosterbierum, The NetherlandsMartin Boomsma
A map of the region near Martin Boomsma's town of Oosterbierum, which was liberated by Canadian troops.Martin Boomsma
"We were in school and somebody hollered something in the hallway, and you know there was a lot of tension, there's was a lot of tension in the air and somehow we all rushed outside from the school, and there were army vehicles with friendly soldiers coming through the village."
My father was in the Dutch Army, and in fact he fought the Nazis when they invaded Holland in May of 1940, and I can remember him coming home in uniform, there was a considerable amount of fear, I think that stands out to me from the war, the fear when there were German soldiers around, what were they up to, what were they raiding, because you know all the men between the ages of 18 and 45 had to volunteer for the German work force, very few did so some times they just swooped down on the village, closed the place down and raided and picked up all the men in that age group.
And so whenever there was German activity around during the daytime, there was that fear, what are they up to, what are they searching for because that didn’t happen everyday, that just happened occasionally, and my father was of that age group, so my mother told me that he would go away at night if there was some activity around, he would go away at night and I'd say “well where does dad go?” And she would say “well he goes to a very, very old lady so that when the Germans come to the door they know there are no younger men there,” I found out after the war he actually had built a double wall up in our attic, and he slept there some nights.
One time that there was German activity and mum said “yes dad’s going away tonight,” and I heard him cough during the night, and I hollered downstairs in the morning and this is again upstairs from the same attic, but you know, “mom I thought dad was going away last night but I heard him cough during the night” and my mother just tore up those stairs and said “Martin don’t ever, ever say anything like that that can be heard outside.” That was a great fear of because there were a lot of collaborators, Dutch collaborators.
You know there were like especially the last winter there, what was referred to in Holland as the hunger winter, like we had no fuel, we had no light, we had to go everyday to the creamery in the adjacent village where it was two kilometers away, and with ration coupons, pick up some hot food that was being prepared in this dairy where they obviously had some fuel, but otherwise gas was cut-off, hydro was cut off, we had no coal, we were burning green wood of a few trees that were around that were cut down.
So we did without a lot of things, you know that you were normally used to but that we certainly didn’t have for the last part of the war, the last…especially the last winter.
I'm not sure that I fully understood at the time, but I know when we sat out for those two nights watching the Germans retreating, and hearing about liberation, and we and heard about you know that liberation was on the way, and then the day before we were liberated on… it was April the 15th, a Sunday afternoon, the Dutch flag went up on the steeple in the town five kilometers cross country from where we lived, and that was a larger town and the Dutch flag went up and that people were saying that meant they were liberated, but we were cautioned don’t start celebrating, don’t put flags out, you have not been liberated and the Germans are in harbour as they called it you know, that they were in a defensive position just 10 kilometers down the road, they could come back here tonight, and if they find the flags, the Dutch flags flying etcetera you know that there is retaliation.
So I do remember that and the day before and then the next morning on the Monday morning April 16th we were in school for our home, or maybe we were back to school then, because it was in April that the weather was much milder that we didn’t need the heat on, and we were in school and somebody hollered something in the hallway, and you know there was a lot of tension, there's was a lot of tension in the air and somehow we all rushed outside from the school, and there were army vehicles with friendly soldiers coming through the village.
At that time to us the Allies were “Tommies” and I did not know until later that day that afternoon, because my dad and some other men they followed the troops and they went about eight kilometers down the road and then they prepared for attacking this town where the Germans were in the defensive position, and they went there that afternoon and when my dad came back, he said well these were not “Tommies” or British these were Canadians, and as an eight year old I had at that point never heard of the country Canada, so that was a real new experience.