Holandia / Historia

The liberation of Grolloo through the eyes of an evacuee from The Hague




A village in Drenthe, in the smoke of the Westerbork camp, not only had NSB members, but also the resistance. Everyone knew everybody. You knew everything about each other. During the war, hospitality was also provided to people from elsewhere, especially families with children from the West fleeing the winter of hunger. Then finally the liberation, chronicled here through the eyes of Gerrit van Lochem, and edited by his son Lou (Loek), who witnessed the liberation in person. The van Lochem family had ended up in Grolloo during the war after lengthy travels from The Hague, and they also experienced the end there.

"I felt that life was about to change. There was something, in the air, something undefinable. It was 12 April 1945. Rattling sounds in the distance. What was that? Looking through the window, we saw three Germans on rickety bikes with anti-explosion tyres. Interesting group! It turned five o'clock. The shooting became clearer. Was it getting closer? Another two Germans. One of them on a bike had a Pantzerfaust over his shoulder, and the one behind him was looking in all directions, with a revolver in hand. The few curious people out on the street hurriedly disappeared inside. I didn't know what to think. I remained quietly in front of the house. I wasn’t afraid. Surely they wouldn't shoot. Why? They lumbered on. Rattling along on their hobble bike.

Not long after that, we saw the first small tank, the barrel of its cannon looming forward, driving into the village street.I walked towards it, followed by my wife and Loek. A hatch opened up. A sunburnt face asked:

“Are there any Germans here?”. I rejoiced: “No, Sir except in the bushes of Rolde, 4 miles from here, patrols with dogs!”

He laughed

“O.K.”, made a few unintelligible sounds into a microphone and then the remaining tanks entered the village. In an instant, we were surrounded by soldiers. It was a moment to remember. Great to speak English!

I got some cigarettes, real Virginia brand. The first one that I lit up gave me a sensation of travelling by balloon into the sky. It was an intense delight. My wife was given a piece of soap and a loaf of white bread. Pure white, how was it possible? Loek got a roll of sweets. Happy faces everywhere, glowing faces.

Carts, cars, trucks, what an amazing crowd. A place was made here and there in a yard to spend the night. Time to go home, with cigarettes, bread and soap. Wonderful.

Free, free, what a battle, without seeing a shot fired. No Germans to be seen. What a day! First, have a cigarette before going to bed".

As a sign of freedom, Canadian liberators, accompanied by school children, planted a Canadian Red Beech tree with a bottle with their names underneath on 13 May 1945.