Harry van der Linden was a member of the Dutch Resistance. This excerpt is from a small narration in the second act of BROWN EMINENCE.
This story is a tribute in memory of Hermanus (Harry) van der Linden, and others that were part of the effort to "do the right thing."
After the Germans kidnapped our neighbors, the Askenasis, a group of Nazi pilots moved into their home. At that point, real anger grew inside of me, one like I had never known before or since. Now a cynic, my collection of memories makes me overly suspicious. It wasn’t just me, my family changed that day, too. We moved from a frame of mind ruled by fear, into one of readiness. Our behavior was dangerous and bordered on impetuous recklessness. My disregard for danger became irrational.
After the war ended, I wanted to talk about what had happened, but when I divulged the horrific experiences to people I met in America I found myself defensive. Those who had not shared my involvement treated me as if I suffered from paramnesia. I am sure I can distinguish fact from fantasy. The outcome from our efforts is proof positive of our notable successes and failures. So, instead of sharing, I often go through the events in the confines of my mind, alone.
We had to make choices…Godlike choices. We often decided who would live and who would die. Of course as the war went on nearly half of those we originally saved died anyway. The surviving members of the Dutch Resistance are humble; they lack the arrogance necessary to believe that their efforts were a success, especially for our beloved Jewish friends and neighbors. We lost one hundred seven thousand Dutch-Jews, seventy-five percent of the entire Jewish population in Holland. There is no reason for celebration in those results.
Hope, everyone needed it, and in those conditions it was hard to find. Children are hope so, that is where we started. Kindertransport began prior to the official formation of the Dutch Resistance. More than ten-thousand unaccompanied Jewish children traveled to Great Britain, and eventually another fifteen hundred moved to the United States to live with foster families. Although these large achievements are the most conspicuous, hiding and uprooting small children to safety was an ongoing effort. Several times, my mother and sister boarded trains with small groups of children escorting them to safety. This was an undertaking brave women had to perform as a man travelling with a group of children was too suspicious and would quickly gain Nazi attention.
I didn't spend much time thinking about the things most teenage boys use their time fantasizing about. (Chuckle) I spent all of my free time thinking of ways to torment the Germans. Fredrick and I made a fine team blowing up things. Our explosives often distracted the Nazis to allow covert passage for those dedicated to our cause. In another time and place our acts would have us arrested as juvenile delinquents. Contrary to the beliefs of modern psychology, I had no trouble distinguishing when it was an acceptable means of survival and when it was not.
Despite spending five of the most impressionable years of my life surrounded by the most vile and often grotesque circumstances and understand in many ways I was one of the lucky few, but nevertheless, I am deeply offended by the question most asked by the people I meet; “Did you kill any Nazis?” and invariably they grin when they ask. The truth is, I don’t know. I never waited around to make sure they were dead.
Perhaps, witnessing so much death and near death as a result of senseless cruelty, exaggeration of power, and knowing in the end it was all about money, I value life. I did not wish to die; I did not wish for others to die. Most of all, I am not God, I am a man in those days I was little more than a boy, I did not wish to kill.