60 years ago:   Remembrances of the war

                                                 By Grietsje Krikke-Bijlsma

Introduction

 

I promised Albertsje Alkema – ten Hoeve that I would participate in an exhibit about the Second World War.  I will try to write something about it.  We were living at the end of the Ouwer  (Oldeouwer), what now is Sluisweg 6.  Our father Klaas Bijlsma and his wife Reinschje van der Meer farmed there.  I still lived at home, and was 15 years old when the war started and 20 years old when liberation came.  Thus, the best time of my young life.

 

Worrisome beginning

 

During the first days of the war, my brother Knelis (Cornelius) was a soldier at the war front.  When after a few days, our soldiers surrendered to the enemy, the first good news came from soldiers from our village who had been in the war.  But we received no news from my brother.  Thus, it is impossible to describe how worried and upset we were.  The whole village lived through it with us.  To put their minds elsewhere, our father and mother began to clean the stable.

 

The horrible insecurity lasted a week.  Then Tine Wagenaar came by, a daughter of policeman Wagenaar from Skarsterbrug.  At the post office there was a postcard for us from the occupied area.  Tine soon brought us the card which read:  “Greetings Kornelis and all is well”.  The postage stamp was from after the period of war.  (You could not phone, everything had to go by mail!)  We cried with happiness.

 

Everything with ration cards

 

Life went on with all the changes that came with it.  It was almost impossible to keep up.  Everything now required ration cards.  All foods, such as bread and butter and everything else.  We bought a spinning wheel and learned how to spin.  In this way, we made our own clothes by spinning sheep wool.  Making our own butter became a daily chore.  But we were thankful that we could take care of ourselves.  Our country became poorer and poorer.  Everything was taken away from here.  Big boats with grain and rye sailed every day through the Skarsterrien (canal) and later continued in the direction of Germany.  And Netherlanders died from hunger.

 

Evacuees and fugitives

 

Many Netherlanders were lacking vital materials.  As a result, we received evacuees from Arnhem and The Hague.  A man and woman with a small boy and expecting a baby.  There was also a fugitive, Piet Blankespoor.  Later, my sister Antsje also came with her three children.  Her husband Jan was forced to hide because he was involved with the resistance.  Thus, at midday, we were quite a large group around the dinner table.  We fortunately had enough to eat, but during this time our father had to slaughter a pig.  But there was always worry, always anxiety, about the enemy coming.  If a German car came by, the fugitive Piet had to flee.  Most young men had to become fugitives.  During this time, Rev. Geerling was minister.  He taught catechism at various places.  In this way, people received support during a frightening time.

 

Jetze Veldstra

 

Jetze Veldstra was responsible for keeping track of the addresses of fugitives.  But the work with the resistance later turned out fatal for him.  One day he was picked up by the enemy.  That day we saw German cars in front of their place.  Our mother said:  “That doesn’t look right”.  Later we heard that they had taken Veldstra with them.

 

Germans on the Rien

 

We kept our cows over the Rien (canal).  During haying season, our mother and I went by boat to milk the cows.  Sometimes, colossally big German boats came sailing by.  We had to go by them with our small boat.  The big boat left such a huge wake that the waves almost swamped us and almost sent our boat to the bottom of the Rien.  Our mother was naturally scared to death, but I was still too young to be aware of the danger.  Later, I thought differently about it!

 

The Horse Confiscation

 

Then there was also the obligatory horse confiscation.  When the Germans needed good horses, then the farmers who had horses received notice to go to the obligatory confiscation and selection of horses.  That was in Heerenveen, where the German authorities were in control.  Now, that was something.  We really liked our horse and not all horses would have suited us because most of our work was close by the Rien.  We first wanted to secretly keep the horse at home, but did not dare to do this.  Thus, Father left early in the morning with horse and wagon to Heerenveen.  I looked after them and thought:  How will this turn out?  But in the middle of day, the fugitive Piet came to the window and called:   “Uncle is coming back with the horse, come quickly”.  (Piet always called our father “uncle”.)  Then I ran the whole length of the Polderdyk and there was father with the horse and wagon.  How glad we were!  They first wanted to keep our horse but an acquaintance from the Agriculture office had said that this man absolutely could not do without his horse.  Thus, this turned out alright.

 

Innocent but dead

 

Our young years thus went by with hope and fear.  Very bad things also happened.  Like in Dunega, where ten innocent Frisians were shot dead;  Hotze Brouwer from Haskerhorne was one of them.  I can still remember it as if it were yesterday.  In the morning, the painter Kampen came by one day and told us the sad story.  Later a couple of German cars were on the Lytse Polder (Small Polder).  Piet fled with my sister Antsje over the Skarsterrien (canal).  They stayed the whole day in Bokma’s field, behind a windmill.  But fortunately, everything turned out well.

 

Mother sick

 

With all of these happenings, it became too much for our mother and she became a nervous wreck.  She had to rest and said to me:  “Now, you will have to take over for me".  The following times were very difficult for me with a house full of people and a sick mother.  I was almost unable to do it all.  Fortunately, my sister Antsje also helped out a lot.  It was a time of falling and getting up.

 

War couple

 

During the war, my brother Knelis (Cornelius) was married with Sip Dijkstra from Haskerhorne.  The couple went in the ‘dogkar’ (open carriage with a horse between poles in front) leading the way to City Hall at Heremastate in Joure.  (That was then still the municipality of Haskerland.)  We all went on our bicycles behind them;  there were no cars.  Mother was feeling somewhat better and it was thus a happy day.

 

A silver lining

 

Our mother always liked to listen to Radio Oranje.  Everyone had to turn in their radios, but we had hidden ours well.  Thus, we always listened to Queen Wilhelmina from England (she had fled there).  And I can still hear her saying:  “Countrymen, hold fast, liberation is at hand!” There were also nice newspapers dropped from the English airplanes.  On them were pretty photos of Princess Juliana with the girls.  Thus, the dark clouds had a silver lining!  And very gradually the days of liberation came into view.  But we were still not there yet;  more and more people still lost their lives.

 

Skarsterbrug

 

Finally, the day arrived.  The liberators came to Skarsterbrug.  But there was still a horrible battle.  I stood behind our house and could hear the shooting and see the places on fire.  Kornelis Klijnsma died in the fire.  In the evening, a large number of people who had fled the violence stood on the other side of the Rien.  Our father carried them over with the rowboat and brought them to our house.  That night, they slept in the hay at our place.  Much later, we received as thanks a plaque, with a man in a rowboat with the people who had fled (this plaque will also be at the exhibit).  The next day, we went to Skarsterbrug.  It was a very bad situation.  You cannot describe it with a pen.  Everywhere were dead German soldiers lying on the ground.  You could see that they were very young boys.

 

Rev. Geerling

 

The following Sunday, Rev. Geerling had to preach in Skarsterbrug.  After the service, he could not return home because the bridge had been bombed.  Then, he walked on the land to the Skarsterrien (canal).  We first did not notice him but our mother said:  “There is a man walking with a suitcase, what is he doing there?” I said:  “It looks like Rev. Geerling!” I quickly went in the rowboat to bring him over.  He told me the whole story of the bombed bridge.  I am not sure any more why this had to happen after all the fighting was over.  Maybe it was a final retribution by the enemy.  The church was shot through with a lot of bullet holes in the tower.  But there was still a church service.  Where can people better be than in God’s house?

 

Liberation

 

After 5 years, we met a lot of acquaintances again.  Fugitives came out of hiding.  We were all glad to see each other again.  Girls who dated German soldiers were captured and had their heads shaved.  That was quite a situation.  In the little war newspaper in the Jouster Krante was a description of the liberation.  It also included what Rev. Geerling said on Sunday:  “The Lord has done great things to us, which had gladdened us”.  During the war, the churches were always full;  people went there to search for consolation and protection.

 

In conclusion:

 

Even though I am now 80 years old, I am reliving my younger years.  I was back in the middle of the war.  I will never forget that time

Grietsje Krikke-Bijlsma

 

(This story has now been published in a book about World War II in Ouwsterhaule;  the book is titled "It wie doe sa" and can be purchased (cost 17,50 euro) from:  

Foppe Veldstra, Wolsmastate 9, 8513 CN Ouwsterhaule, Tel. 0513 551026.)

 

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