Again Schokland

Short story by Lex Smid Some pioneers, mostly farmers sons, eventually did obtain a farm, but it was the pioneer worker who really made the mucky polder dry with what onderduikers called the 'sweat spoon', the shovel, to cultivate the sopping sea bottom into arable land, ready for planting and growing food crops for the rest of the country and - of course, for the German Wehrmacht.

Like Schokland a hundred years ago

Like Schokland a hundred years ago

After the thousands of pioneers, onderduikers were flooding the polder. Onderduikers were young men, eighteen to twenty-three years old who had either served in the Dutch army or a semi-military service - the Arbeidsdienst.

The Arbeidsdienst was copied after the military, they marched with shovels instead of rifles slung over the shoulder, imitating Nazi soldiers with their killer-rifles. Though Dutch in name was the service was operated by the German Occupiers who taught the young men to work, with - the shovel. They were taught to dig trenches, ramparts, and tank traps. They were making the young men, hardly dry behind the ears, believe they were being trained for the benefit of their own country, the Netherlands, therefore they showed them also how to plant tree, engaged them in sports, even taught them to sing a Capella while marching, like real (German) soldiers.


The real purpose was to teach them the Nazi doctrine so that in a few months they were ready to put in practice what they had been taught - at the Eastern Front (against the Russians). Of the 60,000 men so trained only a handful took that challenge and the rest went instead in hiding. Many young men were scared to death to go into hiding, and should be, because it was no fun to leave their disciplined pre-war home without a job, support and without rationing coupons.

Going underground was definitely an easy thing to do as firstly everything was rationed, from food to clothes, practically everything could only be obtained with coupons, and onderduikers, now without a valid address, were outlaws and were not issued rationing coupons.


Being money-less, with no income on top of not having rationing coupons and not being able to return to their parents' house, they had to find a place where people were not welcoming them with open arms. They were viewed as today people might view the homeless, which in fact they were. They were hunted by a special branch of the German army, the Green police (the Ordnungspolizei (ORPA)). If caught, they were seldom shot, but the likely-hood did exist, or deported to Germany. Their benefactors were severely punished as well. Strange as it may seem there were still people who, perhaps begrudgingly, took the poor souls in, often for as long as the duration of the war.

Many found their way to the polder, so many that the polder got the name 'onderduiker paradise'. However, many of the young newcomers were not used to the hard spade work and started to hate the polder, they would gladly escaped from it. The regulars, including the pioneer-brothers Jan and Hendrik, would have liked to see them go because onderduikers were not known to be hard workers. The pioneers were working hard because their work was paid by the meter in contract which was established by the 'golden-gang'. The golden-gang was made up by young, and strong married men working at top speed digging trenched and ditches, and from their physical achievements the price per meter was calculated. Most onderduikers were single.

My father belonged in such a gold-gang, at least for awhile.

The gangs with older (slower) workers did, of course, never reach the top wages that the gold-gang received, and the gangs that were blessed with a few onderduikers among them, who were in the polder only because they were quite safe from the Nazis, receiving good food and a bed, did not care (or were not able to) work hard, saw their wages drop as well.

Protesting? No one, and certainly not the onderduikers wanted to rock the boat for fear of a raid by the Nazis, which was not uncommon. Those raids were called razzia's!