Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Family history 1939 1950s

Christiaan Andries Van Doodewaard
Born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands on April 25, 1942.
Father: Anne Antoon Johannes Van Doodewaard (1916-1999)
Mother: Plonia Van Doodewaard – Jansen (1915-1992)
Grandfather: Gerardus Johannes Van Doodewaard (1858-1925)
Grandmother: Lukina Van Doodewaard – Hukema (1886-1975)
Grandfather: Christiaan Andries Jansen (187?-1943)
Grandmother: Leentje Jansen – Van Mullem (1875-1957)

My parents were married on August 30, 1939 and
had six children:

Lukina (Ina) Den Hartog – Van Doodewaard (1941- )
Christiaan Andries Van Doodewaard (1942- )
Gerardus Johannes Van Doodewaard (1944-1996)
Lena (Lenie) Engelfriet-Van Doodewaard (1947- )
Anne Antoon Johannes (Andrew) Van Doodewaard (1950- )
Johannes Cornelis (John) Van Doodewaard (1953- )

I was born in the large industrial city Rotterdam, The Netherlands, right in the middle of World War II.
The country was occupied by the German occupation forces of Hitler (as was the rest of Europe), and although the Germans were well fed, the Dutch literally starved. Not a good time for my parents. My father was working at a grain elevator where grain was processed at the quay of one of Rotterdam’s many harbours: the Maashaven. The company understood that people without food could not do very much work. The employees were allowed to take some grain home from time to time to feed their families. This kept our family alive during the war. We can see that the Lord was gracious and cared for us. In the war period (1939-1945) there was an immense dearth of food. People who had administrative jobs often did not have any food at all for long periods of time.

Many people who did not have “connections” - relatives who had a farm- or money, died. In a large city nothing grew that could be eaten. Tulip bulbs had long been consumed. In the winter of 1944 – 1945 (an extremely cold one) people had little food, nor fuel for warmth. Not many trees survived that winter. Inside the homes, all unnecessary wood (doors, trim, stairs etc. were burned to have heat). Many people froze to death, many people starved to death. Each new morning found trucks picking up the dead off the streets for burial.
During this war period my sister Ina (1941) I, (1942) and my brother Gerard (1944) were born. We were born in the Van Haeftenstraat in Rotterdam. When the German war effort started failing, they mobilized all able bodied Dutch men between 16 and 45 to work in the factories in Germany. Their own work force, of all ages, (including children of 14 and retired men) was away from home fighting their wars. Vassal countries were emptied of all able bodied men, who had to work without pay in Germany. The alternative was the cemetery. Most complied, including my father’s brothers, because they thought the risk inherent in non compliance was too high. A few did decide not go to Germany, and just disappeared. They hid in homes, or with friends, and could never show themselves anywhere on the streets since their age would give them away, and they would be captured by the everywhere present German military. If caught they were usually executed, or sent to a concentration camp, and a few were sent to work in Germany anyway. Dad Van Doodewaard was determined not to work for the Germans. He knew he could easily lose his life doing this.

As the fateful morning came, when all able bodied men had to line up in the street to be taken away to Germany, my father was missing. The neighbours asked my mother why he was not there. All their men were lined up. After tearful good-byes, they were marched off and loaded into trucks, some never to be seen again.
My parents lived on the second floor of a row house, with a short, level landing behind the front door, (just deep enough to accommodate a bike) and then there was a staircase to the second floor. My father had made an opening in the floor just behind the door, and built a very sturdy (flush) cover for it. When closed, everything was covered by the runner that went straight up the stairs. Under the floor the building was open and you could crawl under all the houses in that row. Not a pleasant place. But in case the opening was found, he would hide in a far corner behind some concrete posts. If hiding places were found, the Germans had the habit of throwing in a few hand grenades. Rats and other vermin also had it as their territory, and there was no heat. The front door was always left doubly locked when my father was in the house, and the trap door cover was always left open. My father would run (quietly, so the neighbours on the main floor or in the next house would not hear him) down the stairs, disappear into the open hole, while my mother walked down the stairs normally. She would make sure the cover was closed properly, unroll the runner, unlock the door, and let the visitor in. If asked, she said that she double locked the door since she was now alone. None of the relatives, nor her mother or dad’s mother ever knew dad was in the house. Many a time a relative visited, while dad was listening in the next room. Mom sometimes had to go to great lengths to keep her mother or sister from just getting the crying baby in the back room. All signs of male (or double) occupancy had to vanish, before any visitor could be admitted. The price to pay was too high in case the secret leaked out. My father was a member of the “underground” resistance, and with others, planned sabotage actions, and helped the Jews, and looked after false identification papers for the resistance.

He also had weapons at home, and my sister and I on one occasion carried a machine gun through the city for him, under the noses of the Germans. It was a sten gun (taken apart) with diapers and baby clothes on top, carried in a bag with two handles, one, being held by Ina (4 years old) and one by Chris (3 years old). Mom pushed the baby stroller with Gerard in it. Every one thought we looked so cute helping Mommy carry the bag. The gun got to its destination safely, and so did we. Towards the end of the war things got too hot in Rotterdam, and my dad traveled (by underground) to Overijssel (another province in the northern part of Holland) and went “underground” there. He lived on a farm in the haystack. A tunnel had been made and a space opened inside to hide. Pepper was regularly scattered around the area, to throw off the dogs the Germans used to hunt for fugitives.
Before the end of the war he was able to return home again and help in resistance preparations for the normalization after the German defeat.

Church history
Our family members were all members of the Gereformeerde Kerk. Mom’s parents, the Jansen family, were from a small place called Strijen where my grandfather operated a transport company. Don’t think of trucks, think horses and wagons. (1920-1940) Company name: Sleperij Jansen. Their roots were with Kuypers doleantie church, and they became Gereformeerd after 1896.
My fathers family also was part of the Kuyper merger, but they came from the experiential Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk prior to 1892. They also became Gereformeerd in 1896.
So it is clear that all my grandparents witnessed and went along with the Kuyper merger in 1896 and beginnings of the Gereformeerde Kerken. However, in the family on my fathers side there was dissatisfaction with the Gereformeerde Kerken. My dad left the Gereformeerde Kerken and joined the Gereformeerde Kerken vrijgemaakt when issues came to a head in 1944. The main issue at that time was the competency of a synod in deposing consistories, pastors and office bearers. Church order indicated that this belongs to the jurisdiction of the highest body in the churches, the local consistory. A classis and synod are advisory bodies, and their decisions are accepted by common consent. These bodies do not have the power to call, depose or remove an office bearer, but may advise the consistory to do so.

My father worked in the Netherlands in the immediate post-war period of 1945-1951, and then moved to Canada. Holland had been devastated by the war, it’s infra structure destroyed, and work was poorly paid and scarce. Most of the city of Rotterdam had been burned to the ground by the German bombing attack in the beginning of 1940. Acute housing shortages were a problem that would plague the country for decades to come. A flood of Dutch immigrants moved to overseas countries that had not seen the ravages of war, where life was good, jobs plentiful, lots of space and freedom to start whatever they wanted. So they thought. Only the last point was accurate. All these countries had repatriated their veterans and wounded home. There was a plethora of workers available for few jobs.

So many Dutch decided to become immigrants to foreign lands. Anne and Plonia Van Doodewaard-Jansen applied for and received their papers to immigrate to Canada in 1951. They had five children at that time. They said their farewells and in August of 1951 boarded the MS.Volendam for the trip, via LeHavre (France) to Halifax. On the Lordsday we all listened to some good sermons held by Rev. J. Tamminga who was also emigrating to Canada, and becoming the new pastor of the Free (Christian) Reformed church of Chatham, Ontario.

Our destination was Vancouver Island in B.C., and dad would work in the forests there as a logger. In Halifax we boarded the train for the long journey across the Canadian provinces. In Holland they could cross a province in the train in 15 minutes, and the entire country in four hours, and here some provinces took three days! The scale of Canada was awesome. An den de “rokkee mountens”. Dey werr rrreally sometink!
Really something were also the sturdy wooden train benches without any trace of luxury. After 6 days of that we were all quite square and flat on one side. The endless dum-dum----dum-dum----dum-dum of the tracks never left us for weeks thereafter. Finally we arrived in Vancouver, ready to travel the last leg of our journey to Vancouver Island. In Vancouver we were told to disembark, because we could not travel on. Forest fires on the island made work impossible. The Dutch field man, (person looking after immigrants) picked us up and put us in a motel in Sapperton. From there we moved to the top floor of a house in New Westminster owned by a Mrs. Bell. So, there we were in Canada: No job, no income. Yet, the Lord cared for us.

Dad could find work at a feed mill in New Westminster; Brackman and Kerr, and worked there for some years. We could purchase a house on Godwin Avenue in Burnaby, and it had some land. Dad started building a big chicken coop, and a barn, and bought goats, and raised chickens. The children sold the eggs door to door. The goats were milked, and the hospital had a requirement for goats milk for some patients. So we could sell the milk. The vegetables in the garden were plentiful, so dad bought a pickup truck, and hammered together a display stand on the back and started selling our veggies door to door.
This went so well that besides growing them, he started buying them at market early in the morning in Vancouver. He had things running like a train, when the Chinese moved in. The Chinese are nice people, but they live on rice only, they push their carts and do not use gasoline, they (seem to) never sleep.
Where several neighborhoods will nicely support one Dutchman, it also seems, that instead, the same area is able to support 10 Chinese who sell below wholesale prices. End of that business.