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by CSV Solent

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

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CSV Solent
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02 January 2006

This Interview took place in Holland in July 2005. J.H.Warmerdam (Hann) was interviewed by Henriette Wood-Grossenbacher. He was a school boy during the war growing up in Lisse, in the Dutch bulb growing area, where he still lives. He spent his working life in the flower bulb trade and is a dear friend to an aunt of mine. He gave permission to add his story to the BBC People’s War website.

The worst of the war was the winter 1944/1945 because there was no food left at all, and no light, no gas and no water. Whole families were evacuated because along the coast was a zone where no one was allowed to live or go. My granny was evacuated too. She was living in Lisse on her own and because a family from Katwijk [evacuation zone] needed somewhere to live my granny was evicted from her house. So we had to have Oma [granny] at our house. But we had 11 children and the addition of Oma created frictions. We kids did our best to make her life a misery. Now we had to sleep three in a double bed and a single bed was shared by two, so that was five, and there was Oma on her own in the third bed in the same bedroom. For the 11 children we only had three bedrooms. We had to share our beds and Oma was lying like the pope in a bed of her own and sometimes was snoring too and woke us all up. It wasn’t at all well. Oma started off at our house, then went to uncle Jan with three children. That didn’t work either and she went to uncle Henk with 11 children too. That didn’t work and she went to aunt Jans who was an adopted child (I only understood later that she was some relation’s illegitimate child). Then she went to aunt Marie with four children and that didn’t work and then the war was over, and in 1948 she was given an emergency flat where she lived for another year and a half before she got ill and died.

When Oma stayed with us she was peeling lots of potatoes. Later in the war, 1943 there was nothing else available but potatoes, e.g. no bread. So we had potatoes three times a day, which meant pealing 30 litres of potatoes a day, but by then we children knew how to do it. The boys had to do the potatoes and the girls had to do the ironing and darn socks. There were socks with holes every week, we were walking in clogs, and they are hard wearing on socks.

We ate everything that was eatable. To start with we had sugar beet, which we turned into sugar. First we had to chop it into small cubes which we cooked. We pressed that out, and the juice, which was still very liquid got boiled till it was sugar. The pulp we fried as pancakes or bread rolls. We ate the tulips bulbs [as I said elsewhere]. Other strange things we ate were spinach seeds ground up in the coffee grinder. When the corn got harvested and the sheaves were taken into the barns there were some wheat ears left behind where the sheaves had been propped up. We went to gather up those heads and would maybe fill up a tulip bulb basket (30kg). The grain had to be dried and threshed and we had to grind it in the coffee grinder. This was a hand grinder with a little glass container underneath and the children had to take turns to grind the amount of 10 glass containers at the time. Of course the blades of the grinder were rather blunt and the handle kept falling off. My father was botching it up again and again. There was no food available whatsoever and now go and have a look at today’s meat department of a supermarket!

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