The Netherlands / Story

Hide from the war




After his release from prison camp Wilhelmshaven, resistance fighter and helmsman of the Abel Tasman Henk Brouwers from Delfzijl lived with his in-laws for the rest of the war. “During the last fourteen days of the war, Delfzijl came under heavy fire from the Canadians,” says his daughter Willie. “After a bomb hit the port area, we couldn't stay in Grandpa and Grandma's house anymore, all the windows were out. We ended up in a makeshift air-raid shelter, actually it was an emptied cistern at the barracks from the French Period.

There were three large cisterns. We stayed in it with 45 people, but our grandfather and grandmother stayed in their broken house. My mother kept urging them to come along. But Grandma said she didn't want to live underground. Unfortunately, another bomb fell and Grandma got a shard in her neck, which killed her. Later on, Grandpa gave me the silver necklace Grandma wore around her neck. I still wear it. We went back to the bomb shelter and in one of the last days of the war a bomb fell less than five meters away. Everything was shaking, our hair flew up, the combs flew out of the hair. Our dad grabbed us and said, "Look at each other, this is the end."

Fortunately, only one bomb fell. The entrance to the air raid shelter had collapsed, but was cleared by the men and once we got out we saw great destruction. There were broken houses everywhere. We had no shelter at all. We walked to Farmsum, no idea where to go. The Germans fired from the Farmsumer church tower at anything that moved. We escaped the shooting and we were lovingly received by the Groot family, the grandparents of former mayor Emme Groot. There were even more homeless people. We lay with eleven people in a small cellar on straw. We stayed there for several days. At one point, Mr Groot said: 'Come on, we're liberated, the Canadians are here.''

The family walked through the rubble to their home in Cornelis Houtmanstraat. “We found a terrible situation here. The German uniforms were on the floor and they had apparently never heard of a toilet, because there was poo and pee everywhere. They must have fled in fear. In the Marcus Buschstraat near our house, a certain Siert Bruins had lived during the war, who had fought for the Germans during the war. Dad went there with us to see if they were still there. The door of one bedroom was locked and my father had a hammer with him and I can still hear him shout: Come out, I'll kill you. There was silence and Dad kicked this door open. No people, but all stolen items that came from our house. Also foodstuffs such as wheat, kidney beans, which we had bought with great difficulty from farmers.”

Pijpplein 4, 9936 CJ Farmsum