October 8, 2015 Emily McCracken

Nieder and Down

The story of liberation child Henk Klok

Although the arrival of the allies was already forthcoming, the Wehrmacht kommandant in the small Dutch village of Almelo decided to call on another 500 local men for work in Germany. The Germans went from door to door to collect unwilling men, all reluctant to work for the enemy. With two of them, a fat one and a slim one, they came knocking on my parents’ door.

My father had already taken his hiding spot behind the attic wainscot when my mother opened the door. When the search downstairs didn’t give the soldiers the expected result, the most fanatic of the two, the slim one, made his way to the stairs to continue his hunt upstairs. He was setting foot on the first step, when the fat one called him, pointed at my mothers big pregnant tummy – she was expecting me – and without even saying another word, they left.

Portrait of Henk Klok's Mother

A few months later, in the early morning of 4 April 1945, the inhabitants of this little Almelo saw a plane approaching – that would later be nicknamed ‘Sudden Tinus’. It turned out to be a scouting plane and the first signal that the liberation was near. That afternoon, a Canadian tank and soldiers tried to reach the town via the one access road and the adjacent trenches on the terrain or our neighbouring farmer. On the other side, behind my aunt’s laundry, a battalion of the Hitler Jugend was hiding. They were singing songs like ‘wir fahren auf zum England’, like they did on sitting on straw bales during the whole of the war.

As soon as the Canadians and Germans caught sight of each other, a heavy shooting broke loose. My parents’ barn, a cow barn that was used as a shelter because of the lack of kettle during the war, was situated exactly between the two firing camps. My heavily pregnant mum waddled towards the entrance to find cover. The Germans yelled ‘nieder, nieder, nieder!’ and the Canadians ‘down, down, down!’. But mother had no clue that the whistling things above her had were actual bullets.

My mother reached the shelter safely, the Canadians liberated Almelo and ten days later, I was born.

The family portrait-Henk as a baby with Mum and Dad

The family portrait-Henk as a baby with Mum and Dad

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