Monday, November 29, 2004

Homeward Bound

My Opa had 5 children between 1932 and 1943. Two of them, Babs at age 5 and Willem as a baby (after whom I am named) succumbed to diphtheria in May of 1944, the War perhaps partially contributing to the state of nutrition, vaccination (or lack thereof) and medicine available.
After peace was restored to Europe, my Opa was called in 1946 to minister at a different church this time in the town of Driesum, where he stayed until he retired in the early 70's. He continued to actively preach however and for a time had his Sundays completely booked, up to two years in advance.
He went home in October of 1985.

Oranje NBS

Because of my Opa's position as a pastor of a church, it made for a natural fit into a resistance network. The privilege and prestige that came with being a minister, the already-in-place network of ministers and others throughout the towns and village of Holland made for a good starting point for an underground resistance.
As the war ended, there was suddenly a lack of governing structure, and the resistance members maintained some semblance of control. This arm band was worn by those in the resistance to identify them as someone in charge.

My Mom Remembers:

The Germans were going through our village looking for members of the resistance.

Normally everyone received advance warning of a sweep, were able to slip out the back and seek out a place of temporary refuge until they could return to their homes. This time was no exception. The trouble was my grandfather was quite sick and was not able on this occasion to make himself scarce. He had no alternative but to leave it in God’'s hands.

As the Germans finished up their sweep, there were three houses in a row between two bridges left unsearched, an oversight.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Agents of Grace

In a similar albeit much less extreme vein of resistance to that of The White Rose and Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Dutch Churches felt they had to say something to the Nazi Government. This is a copy of the letter they sent. It is a good example of how one's faith demands action, especially in the face of tyranny. As we look back from our comfortable chairs, the events seem remote, tame and maybe even a little romantic. But if you ever have a chance to see either the movie The White Rose or Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace, you may be able to better appreciate the gravity of the situation. A gravity that caused lives to be sacrificed on both sides of the war.

The body of this letter is as follows (translated):

Dr. Seyss-Inquart, Federal Minister
Reichs Commissioner for the Dutch Occupied Territory, The Hague

The Christian churches in the Netherlands have already deemed it necessary to complain to your Excellency during the years of occupation, particularly in the matter of the Jewish citizens of our country, but there is something so terrible happening now that we cannot possibly refrain from addressing a word to your Excellency in the name of our Lord.

We have already deplored various acts of the occupying forces which are incompatible with the spiritual foundation of our people who, since their beginning have at least tried, with their Government, to live according to God's word.

In the last few weeks, a sterilization process has begun in so-called mixed marriages. God, however, who created heaven and earth and whose commandment applies to all people, and to whom your Excellency must also be accountable one day, has said to the people: Be
fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). Sterilization means a physical and spiritual mutilation, which is in direct opposition to the divine commandment that we shall not dishonour, hate, injure or kill our fellow man. Sterilization means a desecration of the divine commandment as well as human rights. It is the latest consequence of an anti-Christian and genocidal racial doctrine, an excessive presumption, a world and life philosophy which undermines a truly Christian and humane existence and, ultimately, renders it impossible.

You, Excellency, are currently the highest political authority in the Netherlands. You are entrusted, as the matter now lies, to maintain law and order in this land; entrusted not only by the leader of the German Reich, but also by God, through an inviolable dispensation as proclaimed by the Christian church in this world. The commandments of this God and Ruler of the entire world apply to you, as to all people, but to you especially, because you have accepted this high position.

Therefore, in the name of God, and based on His word,' the Christian churches in the Netherlands say to your Excellency: It is the duty of your Excellency to prevent this despicable sterilization procedure.

We have no illusions. We know full well that we can hardly expect that your Excellency will heed the voice of the church, meaning the voice of the Gospel, meaning the voice of God. But that which one cannot expect as a human being, one may hope for in the Christian faith. The living God has the power to bend even your Excellency's heart to conversion and obedience. We therefore ask God to bless your Excellency and our suffering people.

May 1943

Sunday, November 21, 2004


This is a permit allowing the council of my Opa's church to meet during weekday evenings. The council was responsible for overseeing the church operation. The permit allows for meetings on church related matters, but meetings could not go longer than 11pm and political topics were not to be discussed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Bicycle Permit

Because of his position as a pastor the Nazi Government also allowed my Opa to keep his bicycle. Most bicycles were confiscated for Germans to use, unless they were well hidden. The permit shown above was the official paper granting him the privilege to be able to keep his bike.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Grandfather in Dutch is 'Opa', consequently I had an Opa rather than a grandpa. Since my Opa lived all his life in Holland, and I have lived most of mine in Canada, I only met him a few times when either he was visiting Canada or I was visiting Holland.
My Opa was born in Den Haag on the 2nd of December 1902. He attended the Free University of Amsterdam and after graduating was ordained as a pastor in the Gereformeerde Kerk (Reformed Church) of Achlum, a small village in the province of Friesland in 1930. He spent the years of World War II in that village.
Pictured here is his permit from the Nazi Government allowing him to continue working as a pastor in Holland. As the war progressed, every able bodied male in Holland was required to go to Germany to work in aid of the German war effort.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada.

As a Canadian and as a Son of Dutch parents who were children during World War II, I have instilled in me a very base honour for the Canadians who participated in liberating Holland. The few times I have visited Holland I was taken aback by the deep respect I felt from Dutch strangers when they realized I was Canadian.

I pray thanks for soldiers everywhere, but also to all those who have fought injustice, who fought and continue to fight in ways other than as soldiers. Over the next few posts I would like to share a few mementos from my maternal grandfather, a member of the resistance in Holland during WWII.

Lastly I as a proud Canadian, I leave you with but one word. Vimy

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Toilet Training

Here is a toilet complete with slippers. The toilet is separate from the bathroom. I had to learn how to properly use the slippers and also learn which way to pull the flush lever (big or small).

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Passion Awareness

While I was in Japan, the movie The Passion of the Christ made a smallish splash. There was talk about it, people had questions about it. There was literature available in Japanese about the movie, and the Grapevine Cell Church received a stack of little booklets that could be handed out. One day Dan and I went out and about (I said that with my Canadian accent) stuffing mailboxes with these booklets and an invitation to the next Alpha course starting in the neighborhood. We planned carefully where to hand these out, and ended up distributing these upstream (as far as traffic flow) from the Abeno Room, which was where the Alpha was going to be held. As we were walking the back streets and stuffing mailboxes we occasionally met people and personally handed one to them as well (if they wanted one). The procedure, a slight bow of the head and a spoken 'Doozo'. Doozo has a kind of broad 'please' interpretation. Because of the population density of the Abeno area, we handed out about 1000 booklets (all we had) and never really got more than about a 10 minute walk from out starting point.