Herinneringen van Pier Klijnstra

Pier Hendrik Klijnstra (1924 - 2012) is geboren en getogen in Koudum. In de Tweede Wereldoorlog moest hij onderduiken, maar werd gepakt en heeft in kamp Amersfoort gevangen gezeten. Na de oorlog heeft hij enkele jaren gediend in Nederlands Indië. Pier is een zoon van Jan Gerrits Klijnstra en Anna Maria Scheffer. In 1952 trouwde hij met Jannie Haijtema uit Workum en daarna emigreerde het echtpaar naar Canada. Hoewel hij nooit over deze tijd wilde praten heeft hij zijn belevenissen enkele jaren voor zijn overlijden toch beetje bij beetje verteld aan zijn oudste dochter Pat. Dat was rondom 11 nov. 'Rememberance Day'. Het verhaal zij opschreef is hieronder te lezen. Ze schreef het voor haar kinderen, de kleinkinderen van 'Grandpa Pier'.

1952, Pieter en Jannie trouwen. Het bruidsmeisje is Siebrenna, de zus van de bruid. Het kleinste meisje is Maaike Klijnstra.

2002, Vijftig jaar later met hun dochters v.l.n.r.: Agnes, Judy, Janet en Pat.






































Bovenstaande tekst is door Pier Klijnstra zelf getypt in 1995.

World War II In 1942 during WW-II (when Grandpa was 18) the Germans were occupying Holland. The Germans went to the Town Hall of Records for each town to find out the ages of everyone living in the town. All young men aged 18 and 19 years old got a registered letter stating they were to report to a certain place at a certain time (that meant you would be sent to Germany to work in munitions factories). If you didn't show up the first time you got one more letter and if you didn't show up then, the Germans were looking for you. Everyone else had to report to a certain place where they were issued an LD. card. They were all photographed and had their thumbprint taken and this was placed on a photo LD. card so everyone had one of these except of course for all the young 18 and 19 year old men who didn't report to the Germans to work in Germany. So while the Germans were in Holland they could stop anyone at any time and ask for their LD. and if you didn't have it, they would pick you up.  That's what happened to Grandpa as he said there was no way he was going to Germany to work for the Germans. So for two years he went "underground" or into hiding. At that time there was a curfew for everyone of 8:00 at night ~ so you could not be out after that time. Also as soon as it was dark you had to cover your windows until morning with black paper. No lights were supposed to shine through to help the allied planes get their bearings - everything was pitch dark.  During the last year of the war, the Germans turned the electricity off at 6:00 every night but if you were a farmer, you could have power for an extra hour because you had to milk the cows. Also you were not allowed to have a radio - the Germans took them from everyone that had one. The Germans took all the copper that people had and they stole all the bells and clocks out of the churches. All cows had to be registered so you couldn't just kill a cow for meat for your family any time you wanted because the Germans had a record of all that. They also took all the horses and most of the hay - if you had a farm you could maybe keep one horse. Sheep and pigs were harder to keep track of because of having babies quite often. So people used to kill a sheep or a pig and put the meat in milk cans to hide it. A sheep was worth 2,500 guilders on the black market during the war.  Grandpa and another man had to kill a pig once and Grandpa had a sledgehanrmer and the other man had a knife. They went into the pen and it was dark so they could hardly see but Grandpa was supposed to hit the pig to knock him out and the other guy would kill it with his knife. Grandpa hit it but didn't knock it out and the pig went wild and it broke through his pen and ran into the field. They had to run after it and catch it and finally found it and Grandpa hit it between the eyes really hard and the man stabbed it with his knife and then they had to carry it or drag it back through the field and it was about 300 pounds. Also the farmers that grew grain had to give it to the Germans but whatever little bit was left, the people that had hardly any food, would come and get it. Everyone had ration cards for food so you couldn't just buy whatever you wanted at the store - depending on how many people were in your family - they figured out how many cards you would get.

ration card If you lived on a farm you never really went hungry because you had a vegetable garden and could secretly kill a pig or sheep. You could trade some ration cards for different things as well like cigars. The underground network stole ration cards and delivered them to houses that were hiding people. The underground also had Dutch girls working for them that would go out with German soldiers and get them drunk and then other Dutch Resistance workers would come and kill them and throw them in the canal It was much tougher in the big cities where there were no farms and those people had hardly any food and had to eat tulip bulbs, which Grandpa had to eat at some point too. So for two years Grandpa was in hiding staying at different people's houses and sometimes going home to stay with his mother, but he always had to have an escape plan in case the Germans came looking. At his mother's house there was an old dry well in the back yard that went down 30 feet and when they heard the Germans coming (the Germans marched with a goosestep and their boots made a noise on the streets) he would climb down there and meanwhile his mother was upstairs flipping the mattress on the bed as the Germans would feel it to see if it was warm if someone had just been sleeping there. Sometimes he would sleep at friend's houses and sometimes the underground network would send him to a house of people he didn't even know. The people who hid him always showed him his escape route so he would know what to do in case the Germans came. Some houses had a trap door in the floor that was covered with a rug. In the daytime Grandpa did a lot of spinning wool on a spinning wheel. You couldn't trust anybody in Holland as even your neighbour could turn you in as it would mean he would maybe get extra food for his family. Nobody was allowed to have a radio ~ they all had to be turned over to the Germans because they didn't want you to listen to the progress of the war and then you would hear that maybe the Germans were not doing so good. Grandpa's sister had a radio and at night in the dark they would listen to the BBC to find out what was really happening in the war. Before they could turn the radio on Grandpa would go outside in the dark and walk around the house three times to make sure no one was around or listening so they wouldn't get caught with the radio. You also were not allowed to have phones.  Some people had bikes or cars they didn't want the Germans to get so they hid them in a mound of hay for the whole war. German soldiers would routinely take a long rod and stab in haymows to see if anyone was hiding in there. Grandpa's brother, Gerrit saw a man get killed because he was hiding someone. Gerrit was lucky he was hiding outside because if they saw him, they would have killed him too. The man walked out of the house with his hands up with the Germans behind him and they shot him. The guy he was hiding also got picked up and they questioned him. Then they marched him through the village and took him. to the place he was last hiding at and took him upstairs to the room he was hiding in and threw him on the bed and shot him.  If they caught a farmer hiding someone at his farm they would bum down the whole farm and take the farmer to a Concentration Camp or they could kill him along with the person he was hiding. Grandpa stayed at one farmer's house in the country for about 5 - 6 months. The parents still went to work every day and they had a teenage daughter that was at home and yet they still trusted Grandpa to be there alone with her in the house. 

Any way, when he was going back there with his brother after visiting his mother at home, they saw an Allied plane shot down from the sky (you could hear planes every night) and they could see the pilot parachute out in a field near the farm where Grandpa was staying. So they knew the Germans would have seen this too and they would come looking for the pilot so they thought they better go somewhere else. So on their way out of this field they had to cross a bridge ~ this was the only way out and it was early morning - maybe 6:00 a.m. and it still wasn't completely light out. On the other side of the bridge was a little building for a pumphouse.  Once they were within 40 feet of the building two Germans came out from behind the building with their guns drawn. Since they were on the bridge there was nowhere else to go so they both put their hands up. The Germans came over and asked them for LD. and of course Grandpa didn't have any. He said he left it at home and he would go and get it but they didn't believe him. His brother did have his LD. as he was quite a bit older, so he was O.K.. Then they said they were taking Grandpa with them. His brother was begging them not to take Grandpa - he said he would do anything they asked - but they took him any way. They took him to headquarters in Harlingen where he was in jail for one week and two weeks in jail in Leeuwarden. Hendrik (Grandpa's half brother) came to the jail to beg for his release and was literally on his hands and knees but they would not let him go. Finally he was shipped to Amersfoort, a German Concentration Camp in Holland.

Een foto genomen in Kamp Amersfoort tijdens WOII.

Amersfoort Camp

So it was 1944 and Grandpa was 20 years old when the Germans captured him and sent him to this Concentration Camp. The day he was captured Gerrit (Hendrika's husband) stopped in on the way horne from school to Grandpa's mother's house (he always did that every day as Grandpa's mom would give him some treats) and she was just crying like crazy and he didn't know why or what was wrong. The doctor had to corne and give her a sedative she was so upset as she had just found out the Germans had her son.

Amersfoort was originally an Army Camp and there were buildings (barracks) where they had to stay. The first thing they did was shave his head (everyone there had their heads shaved). They take your clothes and give you some clothes from a big pile - Grandpa had white pants (too short) and a black coat that was too small (sleeves too short) but they didn't care - they did not let you look for something else that would fit you.  You had to wear clogs on your feet with a piece of cloth to cover each foot - no socks. Lots of people could not walk on clogs but they were very similar to wooden shoes, so Grandpa could.

Every day (starting at 6:30 a.m.) it was still a little dark - they had roll call - where you had to go and stand outside in the court yard and everyone had a number and the Germans were making sure the prisoners were still all there. Sometimes after roll call they called out various random numbers and if your number was called you had to come forward and the guards led you away (those people were never seen again). There were guards patrolling everywhere with big German Shepherd dogs.  There were also Guards in the Watch Towers stationed in the comers of the Camp.

After roll call you had to work all day doing whatever they told you to do and if you stopped or were too weak they would come and either kick you or beat you with either a stick or a whip. Grandpa said he sometimes had to pull a plough with about four other men to plough fields and then maybe do some planting. If there was no work to do some prisoners just had to march back and forth in the yard all day so they would be doing something. At night for supper you had to line up for food (everyone had their own bowl and spoon) and you would get about two pieces of bread with maybe some jam and water, but you had to save some of that for breakfast because you didn't get anything else in the morning. For lunch you got some watery soup that was mostly water with some cabbage in it. At any give time there were about 4,000 prisoners housed at Amersfoort as men were constantly coming and going - some would be shipped to other camps and of course some were killed. 

One Sunday some Germans went to two Catholic churches in Groningen and another city and picked up all the men who were between 20 - 40 years of age (about 250 men) and brought them to the camp - for no reason - they hadn't done anything. Perhaps there may have been some Germans killed in the city or something.

The bunk beds in the barracks were three high and there were two people in each bed (each single bunk beds) so you had two people in each bed with only one blanket. You never knew when the Germans would come at night to check your barracks and when they did come you were always supposed to have the bottom of your legs and feet sticking out from the end of the bed so they could check your feet to ma1cesure they were clean (they thought all prisoners and Jews were "dirty") so you had to wash your feet every night and make sure they were sticking out of the end of the bed so they could see them. (Remember earlier that day you were working in the field with just a cloth covering your feet while wearing clogs). Grandpa said the man who slept beside him probably saved his life a few times because he was so tired or didn't hear the Germans come in to check and didn't have his feet sticking out so his friend shoved him down and lifted the blanket so his legs and feet were sticking out. If they weren't or if your feet were dirty they would call that man out and bring him outside and he would have to stand in his bare feet with his legs spread and hands behind his back. Then the German guard would say stuff in German to him and then come and kick him in the crotch (the Germans always wore high black boots). Other times men would have to stand in what they called the "Rose Garden" which was just a patch of sand and stand at attention all day long without moving. One day Grandpa saw them bring in two Dutch Officers from the Dutch army with their Army uniforms on and they were put on a stand so everyone could see them. The next day they were in prisoner's clothes and they had to stand at attention and then do deep knee bends all day long - when they fell down from exhaustion the Germans sprayed them with a powerful cold water pressure hose and they would have to get up and keep going. After two days when they both had finally collapsed and couldn't get up any more, they were dragged off and left lying in the sun. After that Grandpa never saw them again so they were probably killed. There was a greenhouse at the Camp were they grew some plants and food etc. and the German guard that was in charge of Grandpa's barracks one time let Grandpa and three of his friends in to the Greenhouse where he had a whole loaf of bread and he let them eat it in there so no one else would see them. As German guards go, this man was not as mean as most of them were. He said prior to being at this Camp he was marching to Leningrad to take over that city and he said those were some of the worst conditions he had every experienced - he told Grandpa and the others that this Camp was nothing compared to what they had been through. They marched for three weeks in the cold and had only one hot meal the whole time. This German guard had got shot in the head and Grandpa said half of his skull was gone and he always wore a black scarf wrapped around half of his head to cover it up, but when Grandpa was sick and got diphtheria, he probably saved him from being killed as you will see below. Whenever they were rounded up to go to a new work detail, Grandpa said he always just had to try to blend in. He never was at the start of the line or at the back of the line - he always tried to be in the middle of the line and in the middle of the group so he wouldn't stand out. He was taller than most men there so he tried to slouch down so as not to stand out. Sometimes they just picked someone at random and grabbed him and took him off somewhere and no one ever knew what happened to those people. One time the German guard (from Grandpa's barracks with half a skull) sent him off to get a shovel and rake. He had to walk across the camp almost to the outskirts. He was almost there when a Guard from the watch tower challenged him and pointed his gun at him. Even though Grandpa was sent there he couldn't move and just had to stand there with his hands up and then the Guard from his barracks finally went looking for him to see what was taking him so long and then everything was O.K. Grandpa said you always had to be watching and looking over your shoulders as there were Guards everywhere. Sunday afternoons were supposed to be free time for them but even then, you had to be careful if you were walking anywhere far from your barracks. They could just grab you any time and take you somewhere and you were never seen again. Lots of times they just let the dogs loose also. After many months of hard work and hardly any food Grandpa was getting sicker and weaker by the day. He did not realize he actually had diphtheria. With Diphtheria you have a really sore throat, headache, and are very, very tired and weak (everyone was weak from working six days a week with hardly any food). Any way at roll call one morning Grandpa was so weak he could hardly get out of bed and he felt so awful, he said he just didn't care any more, that he could not make roll call. He had managed to keep a red bandana from his clothes when he was first captured and he had it wrapped around his neck and he hobbled out for roll call.  As they were calling numbers one of the guards asked him why he had that bandana on and told him to take it off. Grandpa said he wasn't taking it off (it helped his throat feel a little better) and he felt so awful he said he didn't care if they killed him right on the spot.  The German guard (the one from Grandpa's barracks with half a skull) came over and said "this man needs to see the doctor". Grandpa then got sent to the doctor and the doctor confirmed that he had diphtheria and then he got to go to a special barracks for sick people with other diseases that would spread as the Germans didn't want any disease spread to the guards and they were very afraid of getting diphtheria.  Then he did not have to go to work every day any more because he simply couldn't - he was too weak and sick. Some of his friends from the other barracks were sneaking off to see him and they desperately wanted to get diphtheria so they could be in the sick barracks and wouldn't have to work any more. They would bring their own spoons and they had Grandpa put their spoon in his mouth and then they would put the same spoon in their mouth desperately hoping they would get sick too. One day when Grandpa went to see the doctor again, the doctor told him that maybe he would be let go because he was so sick. The doctor told him if he was ever let go and was told to walk out of the Camp, that he better not fall down, even though he was so weak he could hardly stand, he was told not to fall down as if you did, they would probably kill you. At this point the war was nearing an end and the Germans (even though they loved killing prisoners or didn't care if prisoners died) they still had to dispose of all the bodies and they didn't want to leave a lot of evidence behind. 

That day Grandpa's number was called with some other men, about 70 in total. He didn't know what that meant but they were all herded together and marched to the front gates by the guards. Then the gates were opened and they were told they were free. Of course they didn't believe it but they just started walking away and hoped they wouldn't be shot in the back. Some had the urge to run but they just kept walking and Grandpa was so weak it was all he could do to keep walking. There were a lot of people lining the streets once they were far away from the Camp and these people hugged them and asked if they were O.K. and gave them money so they could get back home. One lady told Grandpa he could go to a certain "safe house" and get home from there. Grandpa and a friend made it to the safe house from there and then went to his friend's house who did not live too far from there. They got food and drink there but got very sick because they weren't used to eating a lot or drinking alcohol. (The friend's parents wanted to celebrate because they were so happy their son was at home).

For Grandpa to get home you couldn't go by train as the Germans had commandeered all the train lines and even though he was supposedly a free man he was still scared he could get picked up by Germans as he did not have any papers or an J.D. card.  Any free man walking had to have J.D. to show who you were and he had nothing. So after the safe houses he had to take a ferry to Stavoren to eventually get home. He was on the ferry sitting on a bench below the deck (just before the ferry was to leave) when he heard Germans and they were coming to check random people for their papers.  Grandpa was sitting there skinny as a rail with a bald head so he really stuck out in the crowd. There was an older man sitting beside him that had a hat resting on his knee. Grandpa reached over and grabbed the hat and put it on his head so they couldn't see that he was bald. The man beside him just looked at him but didn't say anything so the Germans didn't come up to Grandpa and ask for any papers so he made it home eventually. Once he was home Grandpa was unconscious for two days - he was so sick with a very high fever. The doctor came and gave him antibiotics and he was home sick for 6 - 8 weeks. When he finally went outside for the first time he could hardly walk - he couldn't lift his wooden shoes as they were too heavy.

Liberation Then finally in 1945 the Canadians came to liberate Holland. When they came to Grandpa's village everyone was so happy. Grandpa's mother came outside with porridge for them to eat as she thought they would be hungry. Even though she had hardly any food for her own family, she was so happy she made the only thing she had, which was porridge. Grandpa and his brother went to town on their bikes (there were no tires on the wheels - just the rims). They got to Town where all the soldiers were and they asked the soldiers for a cigarette - the soldiers gave them one and it had been so long since Grandpa had smoked a cigarette he got dizzy.  Few Dutch people could speak English but everyone was going crazy for the Canadian soldiers - even the married women. The Canadian soldiers stayed for three or four months but it still took a long time for the ration cards to stop and for things to get back to normaL  The soldiers brought egg powder (just add water and you have eggs) - (both Grandpa and Grandma said the egg powder was really good), crackers, Klim milk powder (just add water and you have milk) and chocolate (yummy). After the war Grandpa and some other young men found a German SS Officer and the men wanted to kill him. They marched him to the Town Square and were ready to kill him but a Minister came out of the Church and said they could not kill him so they handed him over to the Authorities.  There were however German soldiers that were killed by Dutch people when they were caught. Also if Dutch men caught Dutch girls going out with German soldiers, they grabbed them and marched them to the Town Square and shaved their heads. Those girls then wore a kerchief on their heads to cover their bald heads and that's how you would know they had betrayed their people by going out with a German. When Grandpa and his friends saw girls with kerchiefs on their heads while waiting to get on a bus, they would say things to them so they wouldn't get on the bus.

Indonesia Once Grandpa had recovered from diphtheria in 1945, he joined the Dutch army and was stationed in Indonesia, which was a Dutch colony, and the Japanese were trying to take it over. He was in Indonesia from 1946 to 1949 and there were 250,000 Dutch soldiers in Indonesia in total.  Approximately 6,000 of these soldiers were killed there. First though he had to go to England for training for six months. The Dutch army was so poor that Grandpa said for his training they did not even have real guns, they practiced with broomsticks for rifles. As part of your training you would have to run for 5 - 8 miles and if you stopped running and walked for a while, you would not get a day off on Sunday.  Training was six days a week and you would have Sundays off. Grandpa had to really work hard to build up his strength after recovering from diphtheria and there was not a lot of food either, - small portions. It took thirty days to get to Indonesia by boat from Holland. The boat was supposed to hold 1,800 people but there was 2,500 on board. It was very hot and there was not enough water on board and lots of people got dysentery and lots of men were seasick. Grandpa did not get seasick though.  There was a submarine following the boat to watch for enemies and every so often it would surface in front of the boat.

Netherlands East Indies Once they arrived in Indonesia it was hard to get used to the climate. It was very, very hot all the time. Grandpa's job was to do patrols in the country and he said you had to be very careful as the Japanese were very sneaky. There were no lights there for months at a time and he was guarding bailey bridges over rivers and they also tried to free Dutch civilians from POW camps that Japanese soldiers were guarding. One Dutch civilian was in a camp for seven days and after that was found in a canal near Jakarta with his throat slit. There were lots of snakes in the canals and crocodiles in the river.  The natives had long bamboo poles that they used to move their boats and they would capture a 16 - 18 foot python and put it in a bag. There was a little hut that Grandpa was supposed to stay in during one of their patrols and there were two snakes in the room so he didn't want to go in and then two dogs went in and tried to get the snakes and a half hour later the dogs were dead. Part of the Dutch soldiers' job was also to search houses to see if any Japanese were hiding there and to search for weapons. All the soldiers had their own mess tin (for food) and if you lost yours you didn't get any food. Grandpa lost his and used an old dog food tin for his food. They had bread to eat and one day they were all excited as they thought they had raisin bread but it was dead ants in the bread - it was so hot there it was hard to keep food from spoiling. They had potato powder to make mashed potatoes. It was in Indonesia that Grandpa hurt his knee playing soccer on his free time. While he wa.'?playing he got kicked in the knee and something gave, out and he knee was really swollen after that. He saw a medic but was put back on patrol and the swelling got a lot worse from walking on it.  He then went to a field hospital where they had a generator and he was in the hospital for 2 - 3 days on bed rest to try to get the swelling down on his knee. While his knee was starting to feel better he got very bad pains in his stomach all of a sudden. He felt really sick and was throwing up a lot. The medic did not call the doctor until the next morning and it was a lot worse then. He had to betaken by ambulance to a hospital in Jakarta - about 170 kilometres away - and the road was rough and bumpy and every pot hole hit in the road was excruciating pain for him.  He arrived there in the afternoon and there were two surgeons there. He was wheeled in to the operating room and there was a high table in there and one of the doctors told him to jump on it. Apparently his appendix had burst. The doctors operated and it was bad because so much time has passed since his appendix had burst.  He was in hospital for six weeks on his back with his knees up and a drainage tube in his abdomen. The wound was open from April to Christmas. After the stitches came out the wound was closed for a few days or a week and then it would be open again and was not completed healed until Christmas.  Grandpa said there was a nice nurse there that looked after him. Since he was in the hospital so long he saw a lot of people die there. There was one man in the bed beside him that had been burned very badly and he was in a body cast and there were little holes all over the cast and maggots got in there eating the dead skin. Grandpa said the smell was awful of that rotting skin and that poor man was dead in two days. Once his appendix was finally healed they operated on his knee and then he was sent back to his Unit doing light duty at first, but then on to active duty. He spent the rest of the war there until 1949 when he came back to Holland. Reunion When Grandpa was back in Holland in 1995 for the 50th anniversary reunion of the liberation of Holland he met the doctor who operated on his appendix all those years ago in Indonesia. He was talking to him and the doctor said he remembered him as he did not think he was going to survive the surgery. There was another man that Grandpa met at the reunion who had escaped from the bunker that was below one of the barracks at a POW camp. He had shackles on his legs and on his hands but he found a spoon (a regular dessert size spoon) in the sand and he used that to escape. He was the only person that ever escaped from that bunker. He used the spoon to file through the shackles on his feet and on his hands. Then he sharpened one side of the spoon using a rock and he filed through the bars on the window of the bunker until he could squeeze through. No one ever came down in there to check on him as the guards just put his food through a tiny slot in the door. (His chain on his foot shackles was long enough for him to reach the food).  Sometimes the guards put the food through the slot so it would fall in the dirt on purpose so he couldn't eat it. Any way, he finally filed through two bars on the window, squeezed through and escaped.  As soon as he got out he saw the search light that goes around all the time and he threw a rock far away from him so the light would focus there and then he ran away.  He escaped one day before he was scheduled to be executed and was the only person to ever escape from there.

Pat Klijnstra, 10 oktober 1992, Stratford, Ontario, Canada. Informatie via Pieter Haijtema uit Sneek.

krantenartikel uit 1991.