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Grandpa's Attic

FIRST LETTER FROM UNCLE DOEKLE AFTER WWII

Interpreted by Jack Van Laarhaven, AVIO
([ ] Interpreter’s Comments)

Groningen, 14 July 1945


Best Father, Johanna, Abe, nieces and nephews:

It is today, Sunday, July 14; and I received your letter yesterday, that was postmarked May 22.

Yesterday, it was also announced, that mail can be sent to America again; so we hurry to write you back.

Good that you are all still there and we are so glad that Dad is there, too; and may experience the demise of the master race [they are referring to the Germans, just after the occupation, apparently], the criminals. The worst ***!!!### and vermin [same thing that the Germans said about the Jews] that lived since creation.

We are all still here, although we became victims of the war many times. [I think I should interject, here, that they probably hadn’t had news from the United States for a long time; because it was just after the war. And, this might have been the first mail and answer to the first mail in years. No mails were delivered between 1940 and 1945; because, they were occupied by the Germans]. The war in Europe is finished and finally, also, Holland was liberated of a gang of bandits and murders.

The Canadians were the ones that liberated us from five years of slavery, suppression and terrorism. Here in Groningen, in our street, they arrived on Sunday morning in the middle of April [liberated before the surrender--actually liberated by military force].

The bullets hit the tiles on the roof. Grenades came through the air. I looked into the street and, yes, there was a patrol of Canadians—the rifles in the ready, storming into the street.

I left the door open and they entered the house and over the roof to get closer to the German defenders to get an aim on them. In the evening, at 7 o’clock, the scum was either killed, wounded, or taken prisoner; and in the surrounding area, they lay in the streets and park of which is only 50 meters [150 feet] away.
They lay around for a couple of days before they got picked up like garbage [the Canadians had to go on to fight the war].
The city of Groningen has suffered badly from the war and the surrounding of the great market place with all its large stores, hotels, etc., is in ruin. The American papers must have been full about the war in Europe; and they must have kept you informed about the circumstances here in general.

We came out of it alive, but we suffered some very bad years. Neltje [Nellie] lost 50 pounds [good diet having Germans over there, you know]. We could always get enough to eat; but, sometimes no fat or grease for months. Always dry food, no milk, either—only every week, two or three quarts of nonfat milk [this could be low fat milk]; never fruit, apples, pears or anything. Also no fish, etc. Vegetables were just a couple that the Germans didn’t “devour” [like an animal eats—some hostility here on the part of this old gentleman]. They ripped off and stole everything and sent it to Germany.

First all the gold, silver, and copper; then the church bells, the bicycles and then the bicycles were taken out people’s homes, or were taken away in the street. All radio sets had to be turned in [I should interject, here, that the Germans didn’t want you to listen to the British radio, where the government (Dutch) was at].

Also our set, that cost 300 gilders, was taken away. They all were sent to Germany or kicked into pieces by these animals [the man has got some dislike there]; so, also most all of the clothing, underwear and all fabrics. We have hardly any underwear or outerwear anymore. Also, all shoes were stolen. And we are paying 200 gilders for a pair of new shoes and 1,000 gilders for a suit of clothes in the black market.

I have to stop now; because I am only allowed to write one side and the letter cannot be heavier than 20 grams [about ¾ of an ounce].

Say hello to everybody and read the letter to them.

Dear Dad, I salute you!

Doekle, Neltje, Roelof and Murk

We hope that you [meaning the father (Ralph Arnold)] will still be around for us for a long time; and, if you can, write a few notes in the next letter. Best wishes of all, Doekle, Neltje, Roelof and Murk.

 

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