Market Garden - a family history
In the author’s note of the introduction article to the theme ‘Market Garden’ of WSS 74, I hinted at a family history with the battle. I figured it was time to expand on that today, exactly 70 years after the start of the operation. When I was little, there was little talk of the war - its consequence, the loss of his mother, had traumatised my dad - and there was only a Dutch translation of Urquhart’s Arnhem: Britain’s Infamous Airborne Assault of WW II available in the house. Around age 10, as I became aware of the Airborne museum in Oosterbeek, I started asking questions and my dad made me read the book, and at one point the letters below were brought out and read. From that point on my personal interest in the battle spiralled out of control, mostly via books and tiny tidbits. My dad didn’t remember much, as he was too young at the time, and my granddad hardly ever spoke about that period, though we did go to the Airborne museum together one time, when he pointed out the Pharmacy in Oosterbeek where he held practice in the weeks after the battle, using leftover British medical supplies.
The translation of the letter below was made by Christy Beall from a transcription made by my dad in 1992. She did it initially to be able to show them to her parents. The original letters now reside in the Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek.
[Christy’s note] I have not translated these letters literally; rather I have done my best to convey the tone of the original language in English. I have based my work on transcriptions of the original letters by Kees Oorthuys (1941-2010) , son of the author. Below is Kees’s introduction, which does a good job of laying out some background for the letters and listing the people involved. The Dutch transcription also included footnotes; I have omitted these as they generally contain information that is less relevant to an English audience. Instead, I have added new footnotes meant to provide extra background information and expand upon points that may be unfamiliar to the reader.
[Transcriber’s Introduction] C.B. Oorthuys (Caspar Bernhard, born February 21, 1908 - d. 2002) is a widower; his wife Jet (Henriëtte) de Bie died in Oosterbeek on April 23, 1944. There are four children: Annalous (Anna Louise, also shortened to A.L.), born on October 17, 1935, Regnera (Regnera Louise Geertruid Constantia), born March 7, 1937, Christien (Christina Adriana Lucretia Catharina), born August 20, 1938 and Kees (Cornelis Willem), born November 9, 1941. A fifth child, Jaquie, (Jacqueline) died shortly after being born, but before her mother. The address in Oosterbeek is ‘Laag Wolfheze’, Utrechtseweg, on the property of the Van Eeghen family, who are renting it to C.B.. The family has been living there since their evacuation from Scheveningen (due to the building of the Atlantikwall) in 1942 where C.B. had worked as a family doctor. He is now working in Oosterbeek as the doctor for a retirement home consisting of other evacuees; he also occasionally treats people wounded by the fighting.
Also living with the family is Juf (the nanny) and Ms. C(orrie) van der Schalk, another evacuee who originally came from Oosterbeek. In addition, various friends and acquaintances are described in the letters; of these, Jan ter Horst from Oosterbeek is perhaps worth noting. His wife, Kate ter Horst earned a certain degree of renown due to her hospitality towards English soldiers in her house.
Now and then the letters mention various brothers and sisters (in-law) of the writer. Here is a list of various relatives on the Oorthuys-side:
Jacq (lives with the author’s parents)
Louk (is staying in Loenen in the Veluwe - north of Arnhem)
Wim (clergyman from Rozendaal - just to the east of Arnhem)
Hans (Japanese internment camp, Dutch East Indies)
Gerard (with the Allies)
Marine (beginning family doctor in the Hague)
Anneke (social-worker, The Hague)
Kees (In the resistance/in hiding)
Jaap (student in Delft)
And on the de Bie side:
Rein (Groningen, married to Piet van Rhijn, who is mentioned)
Jan (in Zeeland)
Tuuk (Japanese internment camp, Barones Van Dedem-de Bie)
Lies (Japanese internment camp, Mrs. Oberman-de Bie)
Anna (helper/wet-nurse; is mentioned in Utrecht; she worked as a caregiver in CB’s family)
Most of the letters are addressed to the author’s parents in The Hague; Two of the letters were obviously meant for his parents-in-law in Rotterdam. The letter from November 10th claims to be more or less a “pass-around letter”, meant for anyone interested in reading it. At the same time, it also deals with various personal matters. Where necessary, footnotes have been added by the transcriber to provide clarification.
The transcription faithfully reproduces the spelling and sentence construction of the author.
1. Letter from Oosterbeek sent to parents Oorthuys – van Hasselt who lived (having been evacuated from Scheveningen) at 1e Schuytstraat 4, The Hague. The original letter is small and written on both sides of a prescription form from C.B., with his address in The Hague; Duinweg 21F. Size: 80 x 121 mm.
Dear Father and Mother,
Somebody on their way to Zeist just told me that the mail was still going. Amazing! We are all unharmed and doing wonderfully. We have the only undamaged house in all of Oosterbeek (which currently looks like the pictures you see of many villages in Normandy). Miss van der Schalk is doing an outstanding job with the house-keeping. We spend most of the time in the basement. Bombs constantly all around us, and explode nearby. The children sleep peacefully under the heavy artillery bombardment. We had 13 S.S. soldiers staying with us for 2 days, but they are gone now. For another 3 days we were English. The first gliders landed on the heath behind our house. There aren’t any doctors in the village. Every morning I hold visiting hours in the drugstore. Most people have been evacuated. Arnhem had to be emptied. 75,000 people in 2 hours time. In the direction of Schaarsbergen, Apeldoorn en Groningen.
There are still wounded here, lying in musty basements under destroyed houses. They can’t leave, because there isn’t any transport. We bury the dead under bushes. There are still many bodies left lying around, some left to rot for a week or longer. No gas, electricity, or water. Everyone is strong, calm and good-natured. No telephone, newspaper or the like. All news comes from refugees.
Will you inform prof. Block in Leiden or Dr. Immink in Bloemendaal, brothers-in-law of Corrie vd. Schalk that she is doing fine, but has lost everything.
2. Letter from Vierhouten. The original of this letter was available only as a photocopy. The original paper was so thin that the back-side of the letter also showed through on the copy, making some part of the writing unclear. This letter (as previously mentioned) was meant as a “send-around letter” that described the weeks after the landings around Arnhem up to and including the family’s final evacuation from the area. Personal and business-related matters are also mixed-in.
Here and there this letter was annotated with a pencil, both to clarify the text and to remove names from the typed version. These notations are not included in the body of the letter, but added in as footnotes. As far as the transcriber remembers, there was at one time a typed version of this letter (which his grandmother let him see at one point), but it is no longer available. The names in this letter are written out completely; Anonymity is no longer necessary in 1992.
Dear Parents (all four!) and friends,
Mother’s letter (dated October 28th) arrived on November 5th. I was especially moved when I once again saw that familiar handwriting. It was also the first letter I had received since September 16th, except for a letter on October 21st from Wim, which I received via special courier. It is so incredible after five weeks of isolation in a place where more happens in one hour than in a normal year, to find oneself once again living in a normal village. When we first came here, we had no idea if there was still a ration system in place, or if there was still a store anywhere that still sold things, or if money was still valid, or if the postal system still functioned …or many other things besides. Until now, we were living without a mayor or police, but also without danger from the S.D. [SicherheitsDienst - used as a shorthand for all German (secret) police forces]
The first bombardment (Sept. 17) mostly fell on the Wolfheze asylum [ Allied intelligence had located German artillery near the asylum, causing them to launch a bombardment just prior to the Airborne landings.]. I was busy there for two days helping Dr. de Groot. Of the 1000 residents, 100 were killed, and another 200 wounded, many very seriously. By the afternoon we were already occupied by the English. Tuesday everything was uncertain and I stayed close to the house after I twice got caught in the crossfire of English and Germans shooting at each other and having been shot at on the heath when I came back from the hotel. In the evening, we encountered Jan ter Horst, who was fleeing from Oosterbeek. The reason for this is long and un-writable, and has to do with the man himself [This somewhat cryptic account by Cas probably describes Jan’s attempts to go and help the English as part of the Dutch resistance. On his way to find the English, he became cut off and could no longer return home, forcing him to seek refuge with friends.]. He stayed with us for awhile and added a most agreeable element to the family. Until the following Wednesday, we all stayed together in the house. By then, the last English had been driven from Oosterbeek. We saw a number of fires burning in the direction of the village. Large artillery (up to 15 and 20cm) was set-up all around. We heard the shells being fired and then whistling as they fell again to the ground. We guessed what later proved to be the case: that Oosterbeek itself was being fired upon. Jan knew that his house was being used as a center for British resistance while his wife and five children were still hiding in the basement [Jan’s wife, Kate is famously known as the “Angel of Arnhem.” A tall, attractive woman, she was known for helping and sheltering many British soldiers in the family’s house.]!
Corrie vd. Schalk stayed with us a few days in order to help train Miss Reneman , who was supposed to arrive on September 21. I am extremely thankful that she hasn’t come. How could I think about some strange person, who is still so rooted in The Hague and must leave it in a short time, and when we are now so totally used to being with each other? I forgot Miss Reneman very quickly and had no further thought of her until Mother’s letter reminded me. I realize that I am once again living in a place that she can safely reach, but admit that I have absolutely no interest in seeing her here. Corrie and Nanny have really become accustomed to one another. We have gone through so much already, that we’d prefer to spend the next several months riding things out together, or dealing with whatever other difficulties may arise. We are currently living in a small house and dealing with all the resulting problems; there is no light except for a few small wax candles. Nanny is a good soul, but to have to sit with her and another unknown person night after night in the dark would be quite trying. Besides which, Corrie would prefer (at least for the moment) to stay here. Therefore, I’d prefer to continue with things as they are. Could you please explain this to Miss Reneman? I am of course financially obligated to her starting from September 18th. If she wants to be released from her obligation to me, then please by all means tell her that she may go, since everything here is so uncertain. I’ll find myself another Miss Reneman just fine. Please take care of this in whatever manner you feel best and I’ll hear from you what her answer is.
After the second week of the conflict (after September 27th), things calmed down and we were able to look around and see how everything was. The first week had consisted of endless sitting in the basement. Kees especially was very frightened, and in order to keep him happy we were rather indulgent. As a consequence, we’ll need to use a firmer hand with him in the future. In addition to the basement, we spent some time in my bedroom, since this was the safest of the other rooms: it looked out only over the north, a direction free from any chance of danger.
Corrie van der Schalk came home first with the news that her family home had burned down. Of the many valuable things in her parent’s home such as books and silver, nothing has survived, or at least nothing which can be found. Later, we were able to fish up a few bottles of wine from her cellar, which we put to delicious use that night.
Now that she has neither work nor home, she has asked to stay with us and lend a hand however she may. Jan ter Horst’s house is still standing, but was badly damaged from the fighting. In the garden there were ruined English vehicles, many household objects which had been tossed out and the bodies of twenty English soldiers, both dressed and undressed and lying hodgepodge on top of one another. With some difficulty we were able to reach the front door by wading through shards of glass and thousands of unexploded rounds. In the hall, kitchen, living room and bedroom were more dead: falling off of chairs, shoved into corners, laying under tables and the like. These bodies lay there for three weeks before everything was finally cleaned up. Jan and I gathered up as much clothing and food as we could and brought it home with us . We did the same the next day for various other people. In between (as you already know), I held visiting hours in the pharmacy, which except for missing windows, was pretty much intact. All the doctors had fled with the majority of the town’s population, but there were still 2500 people that had stayed behind in basements. There were many wounded, who sat without any treatment in the crowded cellars. I could not help much, but these people were quite thankful that there was at least somebody there for them. There was no possibility of transportation to the hospital. In the meantime, the casualties continued to mount, since bombs were still constantly falling in the village. It was not possible to walk or bicycle in the town without serious risk. Twenty people were staying in the basement of the pharmacy, among them Mr. and Mrs. De Koning, who took care of things when we left. Their brother-in-law, Mr. Bode was also staying there. In the afternoon he had an attack of angina and died shortly thereafter. Before darkness fell, they had already buried him in the garden. Four stakes in the ground to mark the location. When I went to the pharmacy a few weeks later to pick something up, I could no longer find the grave: a tree and a great deal of rubble had fallen on top. Such things must we endure. One of my old ladies from Hotel Wolfheze also lies buried under a hedge like that.
After 10 days or so, on October 8th, the whole village proper was evacuated in two hours time. At this point, my work in the pharmacy was done. Even so, a population of 700 or so remained, who had occasional need of medical attention. I had found a lovely English medic’s satchel that still contained many supplies. With some of my own additions, it became very handy for accidents and emergencies. I even used it for a sudden birth. I wasn’t always able to help properly, but mostly it went well. One time I was asked by a family to help stitch up a cow, which they had found by the Bilderberg with an enormous mortar wound. It was certainly necessary, but after a short time, I found that I could no longer pull my needle through, as it would surely break on the tough cowhide. The “discovery” of goats, rabbits and chickens was quite common, so everyone was getting plenty of meat. Other items were more difficult, such as butter. As a result, a small distribution center was opened in Wolfheze under the direction of Prof. Kristensen, the old Egyptologist and Rev. Bergkotte, who had both come there as evacuees. I had a great deal of contact with them as they helped the remaining population (that weren’t officially there, since the whole township of Renkum was evacuated). They provided a pleasant distraction from all of the excitement and emotions of everyone around us at that time. Through all of this, the artillery fire continued day and night. As soon as the Germans had found a new position, the English went looking for them. Sometimes the Germans were already being shot at two hours after they had moved. They never stayed in the same place for longer than 24 hours. As a result, there was a constant worry as to whether or not they would show up again in the area with their men and guns. They lodged in our house on four occasions. Some nights we slept with as many as 30 soldiers in the basement. Night after night the children went as quietly as possible to bed in the pitch-black cellar and tip-toed through the pitch-blackness to the toilet on the second floor, since the Germans were on the ground floor. After a few days they got used to the shooting and didn’t seem afraid unless the Germans came into the room to ask us a question.
The excitement from those weeks didn’t come so much from the shooting, but more from the maddening uncertainty of what sort of changes the next hour could bring. During all of this, it was also of course very difficult to keep the children well-tempered and to shield them from all that was going on above. The last weeks I let them play in front of the house, even though shells were still falling very nearby, but by then we had become amazingly desensitized. Frequently when we were bicycling various projectiles flew quite close by, to the point that I’m amazed we were never hit by anything. The worst part though was seeing the great misfortune of others, the devastation, the shameful plundering of people’s property, all the bodies of dogs, horses, cows that were left laying in the same place for five weeks and the corpses of English soldiers all about. One of these was left laying in the main street, so I was forced to passed him everyday on my way to work for four weeks. In the forest there were at least ten more bodies, which gave off a nauseating smell. The German soldiers were always quickly buried.
The English had already thrown away a lot of their equipment, so it was possible to find all sorts of useful things lying about. Of particular use are the fire starting blocks. We have brought with us a chocolate tin full, as they have proved extremely useful. In addition, we are using English toothbrushes, nail clippers, toothpaste, soap, candles, wool gloves, various backpacks and smaller bags, my aforementioned medic’s satchel which contains bandages, gauze and cotton balls (100 grams of supplies compressed into a package slightly larger than a box of matches). We also brought in a few of the hundreds of parachutes (yellow, blue and red) that were lying nearby. Beautiful thin fabric with strong cords attached, which did excellent service on our journey here. (The value of one parachute turns out to be 1600,- guilders!)
In any case, the tensions in the area were so great that, on October 20th (the 40th wedding anniversary of mother and father), a German from the Feldgendarmerie came to tell us that we must leave by Sunday, October 22nd. The required haste was really something of a relief, a feeling of: it is now really for certain and we may, in short, leave everything and flee. That week we had 40 S.S. soldiers lodging with us and were thus living in a constant cloud of fear.
We were busy for a day-and-a-half preparing for our departure and making sure that everything was safe – but there wasn’t really a great deal to do. Naturally, we had already been preparing for quite some time: nonetheless, we were glad to get as much time as we did. I had already found new wheels and tires for the blue bicycle wagon (of which there were more than enough of on broken bicycles along the road and in the forest).
Jet’s bicycle and our car were “borrowed”, that is to say there was no official transference of ownership. The Germans took and used the engine from the car and left the remainder behind in the barn. In that way, we lost several means of transport. I had put the blue bicycle wagon in my bedroom sometime before that for protection, so it was available when we needed it. We had made lists of everything we should take with us, but that didn’t amount to a great deal: all told, perhaps 100 kg, which included two changes of clothes for the children, one for Nanny, Corrie and I, the camping chest, some food, a blanket for everyone and two sleeping bags. The children each had their bags, in which they were allowed to put their most treasured possessions: Christien had old Adri and Annalous had Hannibalda , both of which used to belong to Jet. In addition, they had various books, all of a small size, for as long as they could stand to carry them. I kept the bible and children’s bible safely in my own possession.
On Saturday I was busy until 1:30 with various preparations, and was already awake by 6:00 on Sunday, October 22. There was still so much to do. Corrie found it difficult to leave a messy house behind, with all the dirty dishes still lying about. But why bother cleaning up when you’re just leaving everything to the 40 S.S. men sitting in the house? So in the end, we left a tremendous mess behind in the house. It was a gorgeous morning. At 10:30 we started out. Nanny took Christien and Kees on her bicycle. Kees was clamped between Nanny and Christien, so that he couldn’t fall off. Now and then, he would fall asleep. Regnera sat behind Corrie and I was pulling the wagon behind my bicycle, which was so heavy that I had to get off and push when we reached the surrounding hills, but we still managed to keep moving at a good jog-walk. Annalous was riding on an English army bicycle, that had been dropped by an airplane. Those bikes are very low and by moving the saddle, she was able to reach the pedals. She was extremely pleased to have her own bicycle . As we were going along she said: “How marvelous Father, a whole day outside!” Good children are always thankful for such things.
After all of the stress, the departure turned out to be quite easy and quickly turned into an enjoyable holiday ride in beautiful fall weather. On our way to Vierhouten, we repeatedly encountered other Oosterbekers who were also leaving the town. This made the trip “gezellig” . As we continued, the sound of the guns became increasingly distant and we came gradually in an area where there were undamaged houses with people still living in them, who were peacefully chatting to their neighbors. There were horses and cows in the way once again and all the other little details that give one a feeling of normalcy. The children were naturally very confused by all of the ruined houses that we first passed in Wolfheze. They were not used to the destruction, as they had always stayed at home before.
We bicycled in the direction of Otterloo, as that was the only safe flight path. Originally I had wanted to go to Loenen and see if we might sleep with Loukie for the first stage of our journey. After that, I had planned to go to Vierhouten, to see if Jan ter Horst’s house there was empty (Jan was staying with friends in Schaarsbergen). There were other possible destinations too: the Mallejan , a family called Beresteyn who might be willing to help us (though this was really only a tentative idea) or otherwise the forest, with a close eye on the coming winter.
I did not end up choosing any of these options however, since I had just received a letter from Wim on Saturday saying that Louk was in The Hague. Therefore, it seemed best to go directly from Otterloo (where we were immediately welcomed with hot soup) to somewhere further north. In Otterloo I met doctor Talman Kip and doctor Hengeveld from Arnhem, who were taking turns working as public medical inspectors since Dr. Veeger from Nijmegen wasn’t reachable. The former thought it would be best for me to go to Vierhouten, since he had some work for me in that area.
We were fortunate to arrive in Garderen at 5:00, were we were generously taken in by the family of Rev. van der Berg. It was truly a blessing to eat again in such a peaceful house. They made porridge for us and prepared us straw beds in the Catholic school. We slept wonderfully well. On Monday we arrived in Mallejan early in the afternoon. In Uddel one of the wagon axels broke, which I got repaired in Elspeet with some difficulty. I was already afraid that we wouldn’t be able to reach Friesland if we weren’t allowed to stay in Vierhouten. The Mallejan received us warmly, just as I had expected. They were honored that I had chosen to flee to them. After arriving, I went looking for the family Beresteyn. From their loyal maids, Rika and Bonje, I heard that the family was not there and that the house was full of various relatives. I then discovered from the evacuation bureau that there was only one house left to rent in Vierhouten – a house belonging to the ter Horst family , which had been abandoned due to a tuberculosis epidemic. We washed the whole house out with Lysol and burned a formaline lamp. Afterwards, we boiled everything that could be boiled. I felt after this that the house was sufficiently safe to live in.
The house is 6 x 6 meters square: the south wall is 4.5 meters high and the north wall 2.5 meters high. The south wall is made entirely of glass, so whenever the sun shines a bit, the whole house becomes warm. The lower north wall, which contains only the front door and the kitchen window, protects the house from the cold – a great blessing at this time of year. A small stove, that burns well and is quite suitable for cooking is to be found in the living room. Our only furnishings are the following: a table, three chairs, a stove, a bed with a mattress, a pair of pillows, a wash table and a few plates and bowls. I took the house immediately – the rent was 40,- guilders. Mrs. Ter Horst is not here, but that saves the 60,- guilders I had to pay my last landlord.
The problem with the house was that we couldn’t sleep there the first night and the evacuation bureau couldn’t provide alternate accommodation. In the end, I was sent to the hotel, where I arrived, well and truly tired, at the beginning of the evening. After much pleading, they said we could probably spend the night, as long as I was able to confirm this with the owner later in the evening. That was the first less than friendly welcome during our journey. Luckily though, I was welcomed at the Mallejan with the announcement that we could stay there for a week as guests of the “Our House” organization. That was a great relief, since we were very busy organizing things for the first few days. Mostly thanks to Corrie’s hard work, we were able to assemble a good collection of house wares in one week. This consisted of 18 sheets, 20 quilts, 6 beds with mattresses, a dinner service, knives and forks, sufficient cooking equipment, hand towels and tea towels. Everything is more than sufficient and of good quality as well. We have brought more new things into the house at one time than we ever had in a whole year before.
So it was that we finally moved into the house on Monday, October 30th. Address: Niersenscheweg 22. The name is prosaic: House B. House A and B are actually 2 vacation houses on Mrs. ter Horst’s property. Her normal house had of course been destroyed, so when she’s in town, she stays in House A, right next to us.
The children are very disappointed that there is no school here right now. The schoolmaster is far too busy with the evacuation. The daughter of one of the women from the Mallejan does happen to be a teacher though: Ms. Dekker. For the time being, Annelous and Regnera go to her every morning. That gives us some peace and quiet.
We had only been in the house a few days when all of the children and I became sick. The children were not seriously ill, but I had quite a serious case of the flu (with a temperature over 39 degrees for a few days) – in short, I was a complete disaster. I’m still lying in bed now. The children also had a fever, but they’re already out and about again.
I guess I’ve now covered most of the important things that have happened in my family recently. All and all it’s been quite intense, given the fact that we’ve had so much to deal with as a result of our first-hand contact with the war these last 14 days. It’s really enough to keep me busy for months:
1. The abandonment of all my possessions except the children with an almost certainty that I will not see them again.
2. The whole evacuation, with no certain destination.
3. The search for a house.
4. Arranging for new household items.
5. Starting a new chapter in my life with a new job.
Dr. Kip came by here last week to give me at job with the B.A.B. [Bureau Afvoer Burgerbevoling (Bureau for Evacuation of Citizens).] as a doctor in charge of making sure that all evacuees in Elspeet, Nunspeet and Vierhouten were properly quartered. The salary is 5000,- guilders! At least I have something to do again which in addition provides at least some income. Please don’t worry about the state of my finances. I naturally can’t tell you the state of my finances in October, but I have about 1000,- guilders in cash with me and around that much in my bank account too. If father could advance me the money for my insurance payments in Rotterdam, I should be able to stay afloat. I’m amazed by how good the exchange-rate still is! In Oosterbeek the English frequently exchanged their new Dutch guilders for the old money that we had, but I gave all of that away in the course of events, since we’ll all have it before long anyway. There’s a portrait of the Queen on the front. For the first time I’ve seen she’s pictured as an old lady, in three-quarter view from her left side. The back of the banknote shows the Dutch coat-of-arms in orange.
Would Kees go to Weeda in the Zoutmanstraat for me? I sent a couple of rare postage stamps there at the beginning of September to have auctioned-off . Maybe the whole auction never went through, but if it did, it may have yielded something. Do you know of some way of getting that money to me? Otherwise, please hold onto the money for me, since I’m in no big hurry.
Last week Mrs. Immink from Bloemendaal was here. She should be giving you a call soon, as you probably already know. I see from all of the letters I’ve received from Rotterdam and The Hague that my messages are getting there fine. In contrast, it seems that your letters to me are not always being delivered.
Kees turned 3 recently. We were fortunate to find some wooden blocks and toys for him. He is not yet of the age that he finds it disappointing to receive such simple things. Annalous celebrated her birthday by receiving all of the gifts she had on her long wish-list. The good child had gone to the effort of only putting things on the list that could be created from things in the house! She was allowed to choose her birthday dinner and picked out some combination of berry juice and pudding, since she had had it the Sunday before and knew that Corrie could make it! She was so happy with her beautiful birthday.
We get our firewood here from the woodsman from v.B., who services the whole village. It is fresh wood and very expensive, but at least we can stay warm. The food distribution situation is just as we were used to in the beginning in Oosterbeek: unfriendly people that sell any left-over food to the more persistent evacuees. This results in much waiting and running around to secure extra food. Towards the end in Oosterbeek we had an excellent and friendly relationship with these people, especially in the Betuwe. What is to be done about those people? Corrie is very clever and resolute in shaking things loose. We’ll work something out just like we did before.
The small space, the unfamiliar surroundings and the coming winter (which makes playing outside difficult) all take their toll on the children. But through all our hardships, they remain amazingly good-tempered and sweet. They have found a good friend in the 8 year old neighbor-girl. Her mother is Mrs. Eikendaal from Wassenaar, who evacuated here 2 years ago. She used to go to school with Louk. However, since she doesn’t have a husband, I don’t dare to ask her maiden name. The dark evenings are trying. We go to bed at 8 o’clock and sleep undisturbed until 7 in the morning. Perhaps this is in response to all we’ve been through, or maybe the lack of light and the continuous fiddling with a wax candle makes us sleepy.
It is wonderful to hear all of the good news from you. I was very worried about the food situation in the big cities, but now I’m getting the idea from The Hague and Rotterdam that hunger is not really a problem .
Nanny went back to Oosterbeek for a few days, along with Mrs. Rambonnet, one of the directors of the Mallejan women. In her simple mind , there is nothing better than going back. I would never dare to do such a thing, since I’ve seen inside many of the houses there and know the things that go on when the owners are gone. Even if our house doesn’t burn down, I don’t expect to recover any of my possessions, or at least to find most of them stolen. The Heldring family had several genuine Rembrandt etchings for example, which were sliced through with a knife. Our neighbors down there were two single women living together. In the one night that soldiers stayed in their house, holes were burnt in their mahogany furniture with candles, wall paneling was destroyed and legs torn off of chairs. All the same, that’s far better than the whole house burning down! The old Prof. Steur and his wife survived their house burning down; later, they were able to recover one chest of clothing and one box of silver from the basement. They had these standing in their garden for only a short time before they were stolen. I visited the home of the Beelaerts family on the Hemelsche Berg [Heavenly Mountain - in the Netherlands any hill higher than about 30 feet automatically becomes that], or should I say under the hill, since the whole house had burned down and the family was living in the basement with 100 other refugees . Only the wine cellar was completely spared. They stayed there for four weeks, until the sad surroundings became too wretched to bear. All the people were safe at least. It was really quite lucky that nearly all the cellars, without any extra reinforcement, were able to survive the bombing. You were always quite safe from normal shelling in the basement, even if the house above you might collapse. Of course, aerial bombing had a much more serious effect. Nonetheless, the basement was the best place you could go. Of course, if an aerial bomb falls right on your house, you’re done for anyway.
Here I am going back to all of my memories of things that happened to us during the fighting in Oosterbeek. I just read back over what I wrote to you, but I realize that it is simply not possible to paint an accurate picture of what it was like. There is still so much more. You might get the idea that we sat there for five weeks in one terrified pathetic little heap, but that is really not the case. As it would happen, there was always lots to do that provided a fine distraction when I was at home. Corrie and Nanny were determined that day-to-day life should go on as normally as possible: the children did their chores, we ate on time, they had house-cleaning days and everything went on in an orderly and organized manner. This was in contrast to many families, who seemed to live like half-wild gypsies. This was the case by Dr. de Groot’s family for example. We had a great deal of contact with them, but because of their constant fear and indecisiveness, managed to work themselves into an ever-growing hole. I am extremely grateful for all of the enormous and undeserved advantages we had at that time, especially in comparison to the thousands of people around us. Our good fortune was always on my mind and the mind of the others too I believe, since we found ourselves discussing the subject quite often. All the same, evacuating was not difficult, despite how well we were managing under the circumstances. Hadn’t I just gone through a situation far more dire than what most people will ever experience? What was the loss of my home and possessions in comparison to that?
And how we are blessed! Our own house and finally rest in a safe village. No, there is certainly no reason to complain, even though there are still many things that remain quite difficult. I do not know if the grave of Jet and Jaquie is still undamaged. I haven’t been there since the burial. There seemed to be endless shooting going on in that area, but I haven’t heard that the church and graveyard were destroyed.
The Helmers’ retirement home has been moved to the Veenendaal hotel “Berg en Bosch”. Our cousins the Hudigs are there and at least according to the last letter are doing well. The old folks had to go through a great deal before they arrived there. Luckily, such things don’t seem to deeply effect old people. The bowel movements of today are more important than the bombs of yesterday. This is the blessing of those with a child-like state of mind.
Nanny didn’t bring very much back from our house in Oosterbeek. The whole house was full of Germans, so she didn’t have much time to look for things. All of the linens were gone, as well as all of the food. She said that many other things had been broken. She was able to salvage some of the children’s clothing. In any case, I think she’s been cured of her desire to spend any more time in Oosterbeek.
It was nice to hear so much good news from Rotterdam. I received father’s letter on November 9th. Corrie and Jan certainly have lots of excitement to look forward to in Zeeland. I’m glad to hear it is still going well with Piet. I was sad to hear about Prof. Aalders… that he isn’t even aware of his own condition.
Will you give my warmest wishes to the van der Veldens, if you see them? They were extremely patient with me when I was in Oosterbeek. If their chauffeur had been able to reach us on October 21st, then we would have gone with them. I avoided the west due to the supposed scarcity of food. The country remains someone better in that regard. Today we received the following from the Red Cross, meant for all seven of us: 600 grams of fatty cheese, 1200 grams of low-fat cheese, 3 packs of milk powder (equivalent to 3 L. of milk), concentrated juice blocks and 3 pounds of flour. This will make a good basis for a new store of food.
Please don’t worry anymore about our situation. We are all quite well and thankful for all of the good things that we experience every day. If we are forced to leave here (something which was discussed quite seriously ten days ago), then we will just keep bicycling, in the direction of Friesland probably, until we find a place where we can find food and keep the cold at bay. No worries for tomorrow. We live by the hour (though Corrie finds this totally impractical, as a housewife always thinking about the next meal). It is wonderful to have such help. Nanny is being agreeable and is generally cheerful, in contrast to the tantrums and forgetfulness that she showed earlier.
Warmest wishes from all five of us. The girls don’t wish to add anything else, as they have just written letters for you about “everything”, as they would call it.
3. Letter to mother and father-in-law De Bie in Rotterdam.
Please forward this letter to The Hague.
Dear Father and Mother,
This week we heard disturbing reports that 52,000 men between the ages of 17 and 40 had been arrested in Rotterdam. 8 barges full of people arrived nearby in Kampen. Five had died on the way. There are many escapees. Four men that escaped from a camp near Munster are sleeping in the village tonight. They don’t have to have done anything. Here, just as there, they are shot for treason.
Is Hein one of those arrested? I heard that no exceptions were made. My work now consists of the following: nothing. I am supposed to be receiving orders from the B.A.B. in Apeldoorn, but the mail is very slow, even over such short distances. The last letter from Epe took 14 days to arrive. Tomorrow I’m going to Apeldoorn to see if face-to-face contact delivers better results. Naturally, this is dangerous to do on a bicycle, but I’ll risk it all the same. I have various papers which say that “mein Kraftwagen ” cannot be appropriated, but just two days ago another doctor had his bicycle taken. Another man, who was an assistant of the doctor in Harderwijk protested when they tried to take his bicycle and as a result was killed and mutilated in such a way that his wife could no longer recognize him. So as you can see, things go on out here in the peaceful country just as they are probably going on all over Europe.
A few days ago Corrie and I bicycled to Oene, a village near Epe, where they make lots of clogs. It was our plan to go and buy clogs for Nanny and all the children. This morning the S.S. were at the Mallejan, as they are considering whether they wanted to use it for their operations. This afternoon they came back with a definite decision. The old ladies there could “nach der Stadt, wo noch Platz genug ist ”.
Due to the mail situation, I addressed this letter to The Hague, with further instructions to send it on. The girls from the Beresteyn family have been helping us here with various little tasks around the house. The whole clan isn’t here, but rather two brothers-in-law with their respective families. They are also friendly people.
We’ve been eating from the soup-kitchen. The food is brought here from Nunspeet. The evacuation commission found the whole thing quite pitiful, and invited us to eat one meal on Sunday at the “Vossenberg”, a small village hotel. There all the “bread-liners” eat together (only 20 people) in a group. Yesterday: soup with lots of meat, beets, potatoes and meat dripping with lots of small pieces mixed in. Everyone got an apple. Free apples, no ticket required. We all feasted quite heartily. The adults all ate five portions, and the children all ate three! This was a wonderful blessing in an otherwise bleak food situation, since we are still regarded as outsiders by those organizing everything. Things are just like they were the first year in Oosterbeek.
The small space here is difficult for everyone, but most especially the children, who very easily get in each other’s way. Still, given the difficult circumstances, they are in exceedingly sweet and loving.
Now I’m going to write a letter to the mother of a German soldier, who I cared for as he lay dying of a stomach wound on the street back in Oosterbeek .
4. Letter to the parents-in-law in Rotterdam
Please forward this to The Hague.
I received your letter from November 5th yesterday, and the letter from November 12th today. The latter therefore arrived in 12 days. That is, up until now, a record.
Everyone here is in a good way. We’ve already been in Vierhouten for five weeks. Time flies by, aided by the short winter days. We were very surprised to hear that you still have electricity. What a piece of luck. The dark evenings here are the greatest difficulty. Vierhouten has a population of about 200 people; Right now 400 evacuees add to that number. Potatoes are almost impossible to get now. The last winter stores are being used now. There seem to be enough in the north. Milk is extremely difficult to get, but now and then we do manage it; flour is easier, but seldom three bags at a time like last year in Oosterbeek! Up until now we haven’t had a day where there was too little to eat. Corrie wants us to be able to eat as much as we like for every meal, and up until now she’s been able to make that possible. The last 14 days we ate at least some meat or egg each day. In regards to food, you needn’t worry about us.
The light is still the tricky point. Fortunately, we were happy to receive two packages this week: one from Mother and one for Corrie from her sister. Both were sent through the Red Cross. They were sent on November 7th and arrived in Apeldoorn on the 8th. Since I was in Apeldoorn that day, I got the news that two parcels were waiting for me. I had to be there this week for my B.A.B. job and could pick up the packages right away. It turned out to be two big boxes filled with all sorts of necessities: clothing, cleaning sponges, soap, needles, thread and, accompanied by loud squealing from the children, three boxes of candles. We are going to go test one of them out to see how long it lasts. It is our plan to burn a candle for one hour each day. That is a luxurious light, by which all three of us can read at once. In addition, we have a few little oil lamps and some extra oil and a wick too. They make enough light for one person. I often sit the oil lamp on my knees and place a book directly behind. In front of the lamp I place a mirror, so that I don’t have to look directly into the lamp and to help reflect light onto the pages. In this way I can just manage to do some reading. I often read from Samuel Pickwick, a work that none of us know and therefore all can enjoy . It is refreshing to keep busy with some new reading.
My job is generally not busy and consists of various small tasks. The Veluwe is divided into twelve areas. Each area has three types of doctors for the evacuees. One treats the evacuees, one takes care of the healthy population in the area (this is my position in the area where I work: Nunspeet, Vierhouten, Elspeet, Leuvenum and Hulshorst) and one cares for the invalid population in the area, chronically ill or insane people for example, who are brought to special camps run by the B.A.B. I have a worker under me that does most of the real work, but I’m ultimately responsible for evacuees’ moral and hygienic well-being . I frequently have to make visits to the B.A.B. offices in Apeldoorn, where I also receive my pay each month. It’s amazing to have this experience in civil-service, after my thus-far independent career in medicine. I am very happy to (temporarily) have this position. I come into contact with all sorts of people and still have my role as father, chopping and sawing wood and pumping water to keep me busy.
Please give my thanks to Hein for sending me that stationary. I believe I already thanked Kees and Mother for the letter they sent to little Kees and the girls. It is wonderful for them to have some contact again. I sent a “war report” to my parents, with the request that they forward it to you. Perhaps you have already received it.
I am very interested in all of your news about Rotterdam. It seems that everyone is having their own experience with the war where they live. I am glad to hear about Hein. There are still Rotterdamers passing through here on their way from the east to the west. Now back to The Hague. Will you give my best wishes to my cousins the Hudigs, and especially to Nurse Niermeyer. She is a wonderful, tough woman who took care of Dirk most courageously in every possible way. Can Henk Eijman have this treasure of a woman for any future tough spots?
There are still so many reasons for us to be very thankful. We have everything that we need, even though everything is of course far more difficult than it was in Oosterbeek. I am quite honestly happy that Jet was spared from all of the troubles we are now facing. She was never very good at living from hour to hour.
All my best to Anna. It’s a shame that her thyroid gland is giving her so much trouble.
5. Letter to the parents Oorthuys in The Hague
Sunday, November 25-1944
I received your letters from November 5th and 7th sometime last week, soon after I had gotten your package. You sent it on November 7th and it arrived in Apeldoorn on the 8th. I received a letter from the Red Cross there informing me that I had two items waiting which I should come and collect. I went to Apeldoorn under the assumption that they were only some old letters from Oosterbeek. I had to go to Apeldoorn anyway for my new job, since it is important to keep in personal contact with the people working at the B.A.B. headquarters. How surprised I was to find two large boxes waiting for me, one for me and one for Corrie. You all must have agreed together on what to send, since we found the same articles in both boxes. You wrote that they were rather sorry packages since they didn’t contain any food, but you should have heard the cheers and deafening screams from the children when everything was being unpacked! I’m amazed at how well you guessed what we were missing. Annalous and Regnera were extremely proud of their new dresses. It was only a disappointment for Christine, since she couldn’t fit into the green dress as well as Regnera could.
It came out fine in the end though, since Christine has the most clothing anyway. I had myself only one pair of pajamas and had borrowed a bathrobe from Mr. Beresteyn, so Father’s pajamas are extremely welcome, and the socks too. Annalous said: “Father, Grandmother or Aunt Jacq did a really good job of ironing those pajamas even the little loop is flat and they are shining all over. They look completely new.” She is always so attentive and caring towards me. If I’m away from home for too long, she becomes the most worried and then always shouts the loudest when I come home.
I’m happy that you weren’t able to send any food. That would have caused me a certain degree of worry. I know you have said that everything is going well there, but I keep hearing from other people how very difficult it is in the cities right now and how small the rations are. Everything here is naturally also less, but bread, butter, milk and meat rations are still available. Potatoes are the most difficult. Without stamps, you can’t get any. You mustn’t worry about us. There hasn’t been a meal yet were we couldn’t eat as much as we wanted. The last 14 days we’ve eaten some meat or eggs every day (the soup kitchen served us nice thick rabbit stew with lots of meat in it today)! We are all perfectly healthy and fully recovered from the flu. Nanny is extremely happy with your supply of needles, thread, soap-powder and everything else. Incredible! We haven’t seen that many needles in one place for many years. Regnera says: “It is just like an organ”, of course meaning all the different sizes of needles. The candles were the greatest cause for celebration. I made stripes on one of them to see how long it could burn. They last around three hours, which means we should be fine for 2 months, if we have one hour of candlelight every evening. In that way, all three of us can read or write. Right now I’m writing by the light from an oil lamp, but that only works for one person. We received some oil from Rika and Bonje, which should last us some time. Mrs. Kanberg also sent us 18 little oil lamps, so at the moment the lighting situation is much better.
We already heard hear about all round-ups in The Hague. The general opinion is that Amsterdam will have its turn, and then the Germans will sacrifice the west and retreat behind the IJssel. We’ll have to wait and see what actually happens. In any case, there is now a great movement from west to east.
You asked what things we still needed. Practically speaking, we have everything that we need, even a small chest full of presents for the children. They are already very excited for the coming of St. Nikolaas . They put out their four little clogs after several seasonal songs and were delighted with the little things they received in them later. They all feel so much more at home than a few weeks ago. The “school” is doing them a lot of good. Christine is attending now as well.
I’m still waiting for your answer in regards to Miss Reneman. Then we’ll have to see what is to be done next. She can continue to maker herself useful in The Hague.
Will you give my greetings to everyone I know? Does Father know what happened to the Ruys family?
I got a friendly letter from Marine this week. He is always so attentive. Perhaps you could send him my general account of the events here and in Oosterbeek. You should certainly have that by now, so you know everything that’s been going on here.
Mrs. Kanberg wrote: “I don’t understand why Dr. O doesn’t come here to help his father in his practice.” Honestly, I think it is best if I stay here, at least for now. A fear for the hunger and cold weather we’d encounter on a flight to the west holds me back. I have important work to do here with the evacuees in my B.A.B. job and lots of contact with other doctors, plus the salary of 5000 guilders (from which I don’t have to deduct any overhead costs). I think that I’ll wait out the rest of the war here.
Van der Ploeg and Colijn are both dead. They were both so valuable at the place where they worked. Has the V1 also been giving you problems? Any broken windows?
Heartfelt greetings to all,
and hugs from your Cas
6. Letter to parents Oorthuys in The Hague
Dear Father and Mother,
One of the porters from the Mallejan is going to The Hague tomorrow and can take this letter with him. If you give Rev. Rest of Galenstraat 38 a letter by Monday, he’ll take it with him when he comes back here. You’re going to hear all sorts of news in double now.
We’re all doing well here. Our health is good and we are receiving especially excellent care from Corrie and Nanny. The food up until now has been more than sufficient. We really ate with our backs against the wall the last week that we were in Oosterbeek, since we expected to find far less in the future. It’s a good thing that we did too, since all the food there is now going elsewhere. I do odd jobs here and there wherever I can, thought it really isn’t easy for me. My new job, through which I come into contact with all sorts of people, has a very good effect on me in that regard. With this attitude we’ve tackled all the obstacles so far as well as we could and probably a great deal better than thousands of unfortunate souls.
The children have finally settled down here. In the beginning they were having some trouble fitting in. Now they have two friends, both eight years old. One, a girl from the Eikendal family, lives two houses down from us. Her mother is from Wassenaar and went to school with Louk (she was Miss Grootenboer then ). The girl makes a very nice friend as she is the only child here with nice dolls and lots of books. As a result, she is a very popular playmate. They are invited to spend the whole Sunday there. First they’ll go to church with Grandmother Grootenboer (from North Parklaan in The Hague) and then stay to play and eat. It’s a delightful diversion, and one to which they are greatly looking forward. The “church” is really a meeting lead by an old man (who used to manufacture candy) from the Church who is evacuated from Arnhem. He reads a lecture to the twelve children in attendance. He does this in the single room that his family shares with another group. The whole affair is rather primitive, but generally speaking everyone is on their best behavior, making every effort to be as considerate as possible.
An emergency hospital has been set up in the B.A.B. camp in Nunspeet. The director, Dr. Schaep, is a surgeon from Arnhem who finds the whole situation very difficult. Every morning at 7:30 he gets up and goes to the forest with his son to cut, saw and chop wood. At 9:00 he is at the hospital. At 12:30 his wife stokes up the fire, allowing him to go on for another hour-and-a-half. It’s a good thing there’s a forest. Of course, cutting down trees is strictly forbidden since the forest belongs to the Germans (this fact is of course posted everywhere about). He has many other problems besides. It all makes setting up such a facility very hard. Of course, there are all of these and many more problems for those in the cities.
Just as before, the children are completely in the spirit for Sinterklaas. They’ve already put out their clogs twice and insisted that all of the “big people” must do the same. The children made presents for us all by themselves: a handkerchief for Nanny with “For Nanny” embroidered on it, a tidy cotton bag for me that I can use for my tire repair kit and a lovely picture for Corrie. They thought of it all themselves. The Red Cross in Friesland sent all of the evacuees here the following: cheese, flour, peas and powdered milk. There was also some food left over, which is being used to make something yummy for all the evacuated children. They are all invited to the “Vossenberg” hotel on Tuesday, were Sinterklaas himself is coming to distribute treats. In the evening we’ll also make some other surprises for them. They are still full of the memories of celebrations from the years before. I’m not looking forward to all the festivities that go on in December, but the fact that we’re now in such other surroundings makes everything easier. I am truly thankful that Jet hasn’t had to go through all of this. She was already living in a “rotten house” back in Oosterbeek, even when we still had electricity, water and all of our old possessions, which was such a luxurious existence compared to what we have now . As far as I can tell, Christine is the only child that really misses the female contact that I can’t provide her with. The children have all bonded much more with Nanny, who has grown to have a much more independent position in the family, at least compared to the slavish dependency she had before. Naturally, there are still things she can’t provide. Corrie doesn’t really have an affinity for children. It is also hard for her since Nanny has been in the family much longer, while she is only here temporarily. She doesn’t take care of the children into her own hands, which is extremely helpful. We’ve already been talking about this point. It’s going very well with Nanny. Corrie gets along with her well and leaves Nanny to her own business.
We received that packaged that you sent recently with great joy. We honestly have everything that we need now. If we need anything in the future, I know that I can always come to you for help. That is wonderful. But if you send me any more things, it will really cause me to worry. I am really, really thankful for everything and that so many people regard us with such warm and tender feelings. I got a letter today from Conny Patijn and Lily Gallois. It’s fine to have so much contact with people again. I wrote to Gerard yesterday at the Red Cross in Geneva. It’s rather difficult, but perhaps after three months or so the letter will finally get there. At least it will be an article for future enjoyment.
Kees is growing so fast. He’s becoming a very independent little fellow. He is again much more manageable than in the beginning of this episode, since we are once again being more consistent with his upbringing. He can already speak quite well, but still has some trouble with two consonant sounds next to each other. He talks about suur en tok en tout, instead of schuur [barn] en stok [stick] and stout [naughty]. His little observations are sometimes quite dumbfounding. Yesterday I took him to see my neighbor Dr. Stuurman, who has evacuated from Arnhem. No sooner had we entered the house, than Kees said “it smells like apples here,” which was indeed the case. On the way home, I pointed out the full moon that was shining between the trees, whereupon he said: “Just like on Sinterklaas day. ” He plays very nicely with his sisters and they always treat him with the greatest care, though if they go outside, he always walks a bit slowly in his tiny clogs. Fortunately, he is every bit as clever as his sisters, having an equally great interest in books. His greatest interest lies in practical things however: building and drawing. Luckily, he seems to be very clever with his fingers. He has finally grown completely into his large head, which now sits sturdily on his little neck. He has a good sense of humor and utterly adores Regnera, who is currently going through the “poop and pee” phase, something that Annalous never had.
I received good and pleasant news from Marine, Wim and Anneke. They seem to have some peace for the time being. It looks like Velp [bordering on Arnhem] is going to have to be evacuated pretty quickly.
Best wishes for everyone. We are looking bravely towards the future. Wonderful that I’ll be able to get an answer so quickly. Please send this on to Rotterdam!
7. Brief to the parents in The Hague
Dear Father and Mother,
Thank you very much for your Sinterklaas presents, they were very much appreciated. So nice to have real tea again! Lovely. I’m really enjoying the book about mushrooms. I’ve been wanting something like that for a long time. It should be a good start for a new book collection. The little doll dresses are still very tidy. They haven’t changed since we were that age. They now have all sorts of those things lying about.
Thank you for the liturgy from Colijn. Could you perhaps send me a Duinoord liturgy as well? It is really nice to have the sermons of Kwint are being read out loud, something I’m currently getting from Miss Boogaard.
I am very happy with your letters, especially the one from Father. This is the longest time that I haven’t been able to see you I believe. It is wonderful that you are both full of such vigor. I remain also thankful that you are both still in such good health. We know how hard it is to get food there. We are hearing so many stories from the people coming here out of the west to forage. Things are very hard here too. We only laugh at your appreciation of “light”. You sent us a patience game, since it was something that father could still do by candlelight. For us, a candle is nearly the highpoint of the lighting options. We only burn them if we are reading. You’ll get used to that too, if you go a month without any light. In three days or so we should see an improvement in that area, since the days are going to start getting long again. We need to keep looking at the cheese and not the holes, as someone put it to me the other day. In addition, we now have electric light from half a bicycle with a grinding wheel pedals attached to it, so that you can pedal while sitting on a normal chair. A shade made from English foil paper makes for a good reflector on the lamp. The most people here do it this way. It works very well, but of course we always have to taking turns at peddling, and the noise it makes is annoying. Our newest acquisition is some oil from a central-heating system that I got from Geb and Esther Scholten. It burns extremely well in a petroleum lamp. I went to see them on Saturday and Sunday in Twello, where they were staying with grandmother Besier. It was really pleasant there with them. We have so many old friends, many through the children. It is 25km to Twello on a bicycle, so very doable from here. They were all extremely friendly. I have a great urge to lodge with them for a few days, but that wouldn’t work out so well. Corry isn’t pleased by the idea, since she can’t keep everything together at home by herself, for various reasons. As a result, I probably can’t go away for that long. Please don’t talk about it anymore. If the situation changes later, we’ll see about it then.
My B.A.B. job keeps getting busier and busier. In addition to checking peoples’ lodgings, which is generally not medical work, I also have to handle the intake in the B.A.B. emergency camps. I have to determine who should and shouldn’t be taken in. Since the IJssel river and the coast of Friesland and Groningen are now closed to boat traffic, we can no longer send people to Friesland, where there is still plenty of space and food. This week 1000 people came to Nunspeet from Barneveld, where they had been until now kept in chicken coops. At the evacuation bureau I met a childhood friend of Fathers: Karel ten Broek from Haderwijk, who has already lived here for years. He used to spend a lot of time with Grandfather in Haderwijk. In addition, greetings to father from Nurse Grundlenen, director of “Ericas,” which I visited this afternoon. Also greetings from Nurse Hesse, who while caring for Mrs. Burgerhout was treated to oysters and champagne on the shortest day of the year, since they days were going to start getting longer again. Further, I went to see Mr. Volkmaars this afternoon. He is the brother of Mrs. Lindonk on the Pansierstraat. I run into so many people with which we have a connection.
I’m glad to hear the situation with Nurse Reneman was taken care of. Thank you very much for all of your trouble, that you had because of this.
I still don’t know how were going to get through Christmas with the children. There is so little that we all can celebrate these days. Fortunately, Esther and Geb also found it difficult. They also didn’t have any solution.
We all have clogs. I can’t say that I’m able to walk in them very well, but they’re nice for staying warm and dry when I’m cutting and sawing wood in the morning.
Since the little house is extremely noisy (it’s similar to Boschhut but then much smaller), the children are always frustrated and very fussy. They naturally don’t have very many amusements here. I’ve also noticed that the more time passes, the more they miss attention from their mother. This is something I can’t give them and something that is so very necessary for their development. They are always very sweet, but can very quickly get upset and start to cry. That is definitely quite trying for me. Though really, I’m very lucky to have such a good situation with Kees and the girls.
As of the present, a B.A.B. courier is making a weekly journey from Groningen to The Hague. He comes through Vierhouten and can take my letters with him. If you deliver a letter Monday to the B.A.B. bureau in The Hague that is addressed to C.B. Oorthuys, Medical Lodgings Inspector, B.A.B. Vierhouten, I’ll get it in a few days. I’ll try to use the same method to send letter in your direction.
Many warm wishes for this same time in 1945. You know what I mean. Your Cas
8. Letter to parents Oorthuys in The Hague
Thank you very much for the liturgy and envelopes! C.
Somebody is bicycling to The Hague again, so I’m sending a letter with them. Last week I was at the Scholtens’ in Wilp for a few days. Esther had written that they had some potatoes for me. I bicycled through the thick, powdery snow to their house. With great difficulty, I managed to get the empty bicycle wagon there too. I had hoped that it would thaw quickly, or that the snow would freeze hard on top. Unfortunately, both things happened at once, so by the time I had to go back, the road had turned into a mirror-slick piece of ice. Bicycling was impossible; I started walking and left my bicycle behind. On my way back, I ran into Corry. Together, we were able to pull the wagon full of potatoes through the hilly, snow-filled Gortelsch forest, though not without tremendous difficulty. The snow lay 20cm deep there . In any case, after walking 25km in 7 hours (with a 5 minute pause), I got home safely with 130 kg cargo of potatoes. I still have to walk back though and pick up my bicycle. I’ll do that tomorrow; the west wind and rain has caused things to thaw out some, but there’s still a layer of ice on the road, so maybe I’ll put that off for a few days more. Now you can see what a burden we have in getting food here. At least I now have 1 mud of potatoes, some rye and wheat, two sausages, tea substitute (which isn’t available here anymore) and two loaves of rye bread. Esther was extremely helpful with everything. They were so friendly and it did me some real good to get out of the house for a few days. After going to Wilp, I was in Apeldoorn, Beekbergen and Klarenbeek a few times for my work. Next week, I have to go to Barneveld-Voorthuizen. Maybe I’ll couple that with a visit to the Patijns’, who are currently in Amersfoort.
Traveling here and there is a nice distraction, but I still long to have my own practice once again. That shall certainly be possible again in the future. But when?
I am curious when Nurse Reneman will come. Everything has been happening so fast recently. I am really counting on her arrival, since Corry is leaving on February 1st. It’s better to choose a definite end for this period and not leave it hanging in limbo .
Annalous got a book for Sinterklaas titled “The Devils Head in the Rocky Mountain,” by Karl May. We read that now every night after dinner. She finds it “Enormously exciting”. It is really a boy’s book, but still really to her taste. Kees is enthusiastic about the “Elephant” and “Monkey” books by Miss Leembrugge, who previously wrote the “Rabbit Book”. After two readings he has practically memorized it, so that he can finish all the sentences when you are reading.
After all the news I’ve had recently from Nanny and Loukie, your letter from December 27th, which I got in the mail, contained little new information. (However, you mustn’t write in such a precious fashion, like in that letter: “why here your letter has just arrived and I see…”)
All seven of us are safely evacuated, and here in Vierhouten busy working for and with the other evacuees. For recreation, education, morale, religious care and support. Very nice. Protestants and Catholics alike. Gathering food and distributing it goes along with this. This week 200 pans of food were distributed to the people. I’m really eager to hear what news Louk has when she gets home there. The Red Cross letter I sent to Gerard came back as undeliverable. Reason: it wasn’t foreign post!
A good kiss from