In Memory of my Mother Trijntje Bouma - Langenberg
A brief history of Trijntje Bouma - Langenberg
In Memory of my Mother Trijntje Bouma - Langenberg
by Herman Langenberg, 1926 - 2008
The 10th of May 1940
During the night there was much noise as planes roared overhead. Formations of German planes were entering our country. My brother woke all the family and we all listened. it was an eerie feeling. Our country was now at war with Germany.
It was Saturday morning and there were not many people in the street. There was no shooting. Only at the train station were some people watching the last Dutch soldiers marching towards the Afsluitdijke. A small truck with some anti-aircraft guns was to be stationed near the Mayor’s house in the centre of town however they decided it was safer to locate them out of town. About a half an hour later armed trucks arrived and stopped at the tram station. People watched thinking they were Dutch troops because the trucks were covered in orange tarps. The door opened, a helmeted German soldier stepped out, gun at the ready. The people quickly made their way home. A short time later more trucks with German troops entered the town, weapons at the ready. At het Grootzand were a few warehouses belonging to Platinga and Douker. They contained liquor, the containers were smashed and emptied in the canal. A short time later the German troops took their positions in the town.
As boys of fourteen we moved freely among the the German occupiers. They were not at all threatening towards us. They were getting ready for the battle that was inevitable. The battle had yet to begin for the forts of Kornwerderzand, a small hamlet at the entrance of the Afsluitdijk, and the flooded lands near the small village of Worn.
Later in the evening the cavalry arrived. Hundreds came, some with guns on their back. All the troops continued their journey next day, it looked like war was coming.
You could hear the rumble of the canons in the distance, there was heavy fighting. The cavalry made their way towards the Afsluitdijke some 10 km from Bolsward. Often older soldiers accompanied the cavalry. There was fighting throughout the provinces and the Germans were not having much success. They then decided to bomb Rotterdam and then Utrecht followed the same fate. It was now clear that that the Netherlands had no option but to capitulate.
After the capitulation, some boys and I went to the Afsluitdijke. At the entrance was a grave where a German Officer, Ernest Abraham, was buried. How many soldiers died on the straight stretch of the Afsluitdyk has never been made public. Warsaw had already been destroyed before Rotterdam. Poland had been annexed and the most vicious crimes were commited by the nazis. To follow was ‘Kristalnacht’, everywhere in Germany jews were beaten, their businesses confiscated and synagogs destroyed. All this happened under the eyes of the West, the democratic West. Well before the war a social democratic newspaper ‘Het Vrije Volk’ pointed to the atrocities happening in Germany unfortunately no one listened. So the construction of the concentration camps continued and this is where people who did not agree with the Fuhrer ended up. I myself do not believe that we could have stopped the nazis however nothing was tried either.
Chamberlain and Faladier returned home quite humiliated. They were made fools of by Hitler. Their only action was to agree with the Furher.
The war was now getting worse by the day and people tried to flee, often without success. The SS was everywhere, watching, and some Dutch gave them a helping hand, they new so well where people lived.
One sunny morning my mother asked me to go to the tram station. A man and a woman would be arriving and I had to take them to our home. I knew the man, not the woman. Manus and his brother had been boarding with us before the war. They entered our home. The door was now closed behind them for the next three and half years. We learned that both their parents, a brother and wife and baby had been taken and sent to a concentration camp never to return.
The ‘February Strike’ was not political but to ‘wake up’ the Dutch people to remind them of the attrocities happening in our country. Rations came in and some foods were not available at all anymore. My mother was a widow without an income. We were living in a small house, 10 van Munnickhuizen Straat in Bolsward. Before the Jews arrived there was five of us. My eldest brother was sent to a a work camp in Germany. Another brother lived in Rotterdam, a sister was in Enschede and one sister was living in Alkmaar. Altogether four boys and four girls.
How would we survive, having the jews living with us was taking a big risk for our family. We had to create a hiding place for them. A brother in law was a carpenter, he had lots of tools. He cut a large piece of flooring out and a matress was lowered and the flooring replaced, covered with a piece of carpet. Table and chairs were placed on top and we all prayed that it would not be discovered.
As time went on people were becoming more scared. Arrests were made and guns were often fired. I still think we continued living as normal as possible, we survived. Of course the neighbours must have had their thoughts about the Langenbergs. Before the war, as the house was next to the foot path passers by could look freely into the lounge, not now however as glass curtains were hung.
Again I was asked to go to the tram station, another couple would be arriving. I knew Ab but not the woman. Manus and Ab were brothers. Bep and Paula, were sisters in-law but they were not too friendly to each other. There was not much room in the house, no spare bedroom.
My mother stayed very calm and things appeared normal. She quite often said “If they catch two Jews or four we are doomed just the same”.
The biggest problem was there was no money coming in, neither was there extra foodstamps. How would we keep going? We must have had a guardian angel on our roof top. Mr Heurink, the manager of the ‘cooperative’ or grocery shop was already involved in the underground in Bolsward. He himself was hiding three Jews, he got in touch with the underground and they mad sure we received some money and extra food stamps. One less worry!
There was no end in sight, more and more arrests were made by the Grune Polizei. We were lucky we had no spies in our neighbourhood.
We had to find another hiding place - one more Jew arrived. The only place was in the attic, right against the ouside wall. Standing room only, but it may save a life. Our mother was terrific no fear at all, or at least we did not notice, sometimes she even told a joke.
It was terribly hard for the Jews, always inside in these small rooms. They could not even look outside or have a smoke but at least they were still alive. Would there ever be an end to this war? This awful war. The atrocities increased and life was very scary.
My brother found a job for me at a dairy testing station in the Hague. I had to go to dairy factories to collect samples.
It was now 1943, I often thought of home, would they survive?
In Rotterdam and The Hague you noticed a lot of these ‘black monsters’ with skulls on their caps. I went home again in 1944, I had been notified that I had to go to Weert in the province of Limburg to work in the ‘Arbeidsdienst’. I made up my mind, no way was I going there. Easter Monday 1944, the three Nanta brothers were coming up the street, we had a bit of a chat, not long after mother called “coffee is ready”. Just before I went inside a motorbike with sidecar came roaring up the street. They were the ‘Grune Polizei’ they looked at me and then continued. We heard later that big Wybrand had been shot and killed and Theo badly wounded. I was lucky I only suffered a big scare.
The overall situation in Friesland got worse by the day, killings and arrests continued. We were still at 10 van Munnickhuizenstraat but for how much longer?
There was shooting in our street that night. They were looking for an ‘ouderduiker’ a person hiding from the Germans. If you were 18 years of age or someone of ‘interest’ to the Germans, look out, you had better hide. The person they were looking for had escaped and we started to panic. Luckily a policeman came to see us and he stood near the door, the Germans made no attempt to enter. I escaped through the back door after I had warned the Jews. We were extremely lucky!
Heavy fighting was going on and the Allies were holding their ground but for how long? When would the Nazis be defeated?
We still had gas for a few hours a day, but we needed fuel for the heater, where could we get that? My friend and I knew where to get a few small poplar trees for firewood. We had a lend of a small cart, we had a handsaw and a small axe and we went to work. We now had some firewood, at least we could have the heater on for a while.
On Sunday I took a small bucket to the ‘Gaaskeuken’ (soup kitchen). Potatoes and cauliflower and a bit of mutton was on the ‘menu’. The taste was not bad but that night a few of us suffered with cramps. One toilet for nine persons in not ideal in these circumstances. It turned out that the cauliflower had been cooked in brass containers.
It started to get dangerous to walk the streets; if you were 18 years of age or under fifty, the Nazis would take you and order you to dig pits and trenches ‘tank traps’.
The Allies came closer, but for us its was still too slow. Would we survive.
Finally the Canadians came, we had survived and we were ecstatic. We then heard what a fantastic neighbours we had around us. Our neighbour new what we were up to hiding the Jewish families and had told his children not to say a word. He congratulated us on our efforts.
In February 1945 a 19 or 20 year old Jewish boy, Ger de Groot, arrived unexpectantly to stay with us. Weeks later the deputy-mayor, Mr van Tuinen came to congratulate my mother and later the Mayor of Dokkum. He promised my mother some help, some weeks later the red cross came with sheets and pillowslips.
Eight years passed and the family was invited to the Town Hall she was going to receive a a royal order. She had been a dedicated member of the Labour Women’s Choir for forty years and she was to be honored with the Medal Of Honor, attached to the Order of Orange-Nassau in bronze by royal decree on the April 24th 1963.
For my mother however the most important thing was the contact she still had with four of the individuals whose lives she had rescued.
In 1976 she received some money from the Stichting 1940-1945. Life was now almost like paradise for her. She regularly received this money till she died in 1982. The money was made available through a Jewish organisation. The Coucil of Bolsward played no part in this. Bolsward had many religions but a labour party family did not really fit in.
My mother Trijntje passed away on 16 August 1982 in Bolsward after a long illness.
After 50 years I wanted to tell this story, to get it out of my system, to make me feel better.
Herman Langenberg, 1926 -2008
Leeuwarden April 1995
For providing a safehaven for Jewish families during the war Trijntje was presented on the 31 August 1970 with a certificate (No.3198) declaring that in recognition of Trijntje's assistance to Jewish families, five trees had been planted in Israel in the Queen Wilhelmina Wood (Koningin Wilhelmina Woud) by the Jewish family of Bep, Manus, Paula and Ab Nunes Vaz.
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