The 11th of November is Remembrance day. Veterans will gather at the cenotaph inscribed with the names of their fallen brothers in arms.
A lone bugle will lament the 'Last Post' followed by two minutes of silence.
Heads will bow and tears will flow; with closed eyes and lost in thoughts, the old veteran's will be fare away in time and location, there, where their comrades fell, never to rise up again.
They will re-remember their personal stories of loss and grief.
But than the noise of life and living quickly will bury the silence, as if embarrassed by the quiet. The crowd will slowly disappear, another ceremony has come to an end.
Yet, some stories stay alive, tucked away in the minds of who care and – remember, and remember that not all war stories are exclusively about hate and killing, some stories will be remembered because of care and sacrifice on both warring sides, some of deeds of love.
This is such a story, which is told by Anne Smit, the eldest daughter of Luke Smid and his wife Jantina. Anne was also my dear wife for over fifty years. Anne had me record her story which will be published in three parts.
PART ONE of a true war story
After the capitulation of the Dutch army in, my father Lute Smit, a man of few words, and an intense dislike of the occupying Germans, bordering on hate, held on to his military rifle after the dutch army lost an humiliating war against the far superior German Wehrmacht in the spring of 1940, when the dutch army surrendered after just five days of fighting. The defeated soldiers were required to surrender their weapons to the enemy but my father, known for doing certain things his own way, hid his service rifle in the bedroom closet, which was a serious offense punishable by death.
Father had been a sharpshooter in a dutch paramilitary organization which operated until the end of the five day war with Germany when the Nazi's, of course, abolished it.
To make things worse for father he hid my cousin Roelof Maarhuis, a former soldier in the dutch army, who was conscripted to work for the German army or become a German soldier. Roelof refused and fled from them to our place, where he slept above my bedroom in the attic, where father had build a hiding place for him.
Hiding a fugitive was also punishable by death.
My father was a soft-spoken man and definitely no talker, if a sentence required ten words, he would use eight, and bite off the ends of some of the words as well. He was also a man of his word, a good example being that, before they got married, he promised mother to attend church with her every Sunday and kept that promise until she died, but after mother passed he never set a foot in church anymore.
When his own time came up and a funeral service was held in the church but he was carried in and not aware of what happened.
Had he anything against the church? He never talked about it if he had.
My mother was a stately woman, tall and slender, flashing a great smile, often shyly, behind her hand, at whoever she would meet.
Her sisters all had worked as farmer's maid but mother had landed a job as a nurse maid for a rich farmer, looking after his little children and babies, which made her quite proficient of bringing up children, but not of cooking, and when she served father every day a week long the same dish, after their wedding, together with an angelic smile, and father mentioned that a little variety was alright with him, she cried and confessed that this was the only dish she was able to cook.
From thereon father supplied her every day with a variety of fresh vegetables out of his own garden which they learned to cook together.
My mother nearly panicked and her heart raced when she saw three enemy soldiers coming toward our house. Quickly she rushed our fugitive into his hiding place where he got in record time. They were knocking again, more impatiently now, while mother unlocked the front door, still praying that they would not find Roelof.
And there they stood, three large German soldiers with three big rifles, mother shook with fear when she looked from one to the other, however, they did not really look malicious and one of them asked for tools to cut down a tree with.
Father's tools were in the barn where mother took them, all three one after the other following behind her. When she got into the barn she noticed that the ladder leading to Roelof's hiding place was still standing up and in full view of the soldiers.
The soldiers took what they needed and left, while mother, still shaking went back into the living room and cried. Hat they gone up the ladder to investigate they surely would have found Roelof and could've killed both her and the fugitive.
After she had calmed down a bit she went back to the barn to get potatoes for supper and was shocked to see one of the soldiers still there, sitting up against the wall, his head between his knees, doubled up with pain. He was about her age she thought and when he lifted his head she saw that he had no cruel face. He could've been a neighbor, save for that hated uniform. If only Roelof would stay out of sight.
It took all her courage to ask the soldier what ailed him and he answered that he had severe stomach cramps, which she understood well since she herself had often stomach pains.
”I take warm milk sometimes,” she said, wondering why she was was she was even talking to him, but mother was a compassionate woman whose kindness won out over all other considerations.
'Come in the house with me,' she said, 'I will warm some up for you.'
Can you imagine, my mother was a beautiful young woman, only thirty-two, inviting an enemy soldier with her in the kitchen with her?
So, now I hear my father coming home, he walks directly into the kitchen and stairs right into the eyes of a hated German soldier, sitting in my father's chair at the head of the table, a half filled glass of milk in his hand, and his other hand well within reach of his gun which stands against the wall, while mother shyly smiles from one to the other.
Father's illegally held rifle was directly on the other side of the wall in the bedroom closet, and what if Roelof feeling hungry would come down, because it was close to supper time...