A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 56. World War Two

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I became aware that war had come to our country on Friday, May 10, 1940 at 4 a.m. when the sound of many airplanes filled the heavens.

On the road, it looked like an ants' nest but instead of ants, there were soldiers everywhere. Since September 1939 when mobilization started, our village had been filling up with soldiers. The men were all housed in our farms and barns as we were the last road parallel to the defence line.

Amersfoort had a good size army base: here were the barracks of the infantry and across town the cavalry with their horses and canons. But now with more then half a million men at arms, they had to find their own places to sleep. Practically our whole village became a military garrison.

During our grade school days, whole infantry units often came marching through in step with their iron clad soles over the brick roads. We did a tremendous amount of looking and stood in awe when they passed by on their make-belief battle fields. They carried everything on their shoulders: eating utencils, a shovel, blankets and whatever was in the pack sack, and of course, their rifles.

Then four or six were hitched up like horses towing a wagon with machine guns, kitchen equipment and many other things I could not figure out. Sometimes they had mock battles out in the field. They had red and blue patches on their arms to distinguish friend from enemy. They would shoot at each other and crawl through ditches or sneak around haystacks and houses.

At some other place, they would have strong lights and have flappers in front so they sent messages to each other. One had to be well educated to understand what they were saying.

Our hundred or more year-old house housed about 10 or 12 men. I had expected them to pass us by, but when the officers came to look, they figured it was good enough. So they came from all parts of the country: a dock worker from Amsterdam, a farmer from Groningen, a salesman from Hilversum, a musician from heaven knows where. And this mixture of people all in the cavalry doing the same thing.

When I raised the question "Why not put farmers and horsemen in the cavalry? The answer was "Discipline". When you are in the army, you have to be able to do everything and be scared of nothing. Imagine a barber in the infantry meeting an enemy on horseback coming at him, he might die of fright so we teach him how to handle it. I never thought about it that way. Hmm!

The men at our house slept upstairs beneath the reed covered roof where I had my steel bar iron bed. Mom said, "You can sleep there, but don't expect me to climb the ladder every day to make your bed." "No problem, Ma, I like it this way." The straw filled mattress left a dent in the middle and I fit right in. Of course, the spiders did not get disturbed and we all lived in peace.

When the soldiers moved in, I felt like a big shot. They had to sleep in a blanket on the straw while I had a bed with sheets and blankets.


Related resources:

History of the Netherlands (1939-1945) from Wikipedia.

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