Interview with Dirk Bosch


Interview with Dirk Bosch


Dirk Bosch was eight years old when the German army occupied his home town of Amsterdam. In this interview he describes what life was like for him during this time. He refers to seeing Dutch Jews rounded up and deported. He describes the hunger of the time and the effort to find food by travelling to the countryside and hoping for help from the farmers. He also speaks about the dangers he faced while taking illegal newspapers to a neighbour. He describes the sound of the Lancaster bomber aircraft flying overhead at night. He also describes Operation Manna.




Temporal Coverage





01:16:00 audio recording


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MC: This interview is being carried out on the behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewee is Mr Dirk Bosch, the interviewer is Mike Connock and the date is the 30th of July 2015 and the interview is taking place at Welton. Right, if you just tell me a bit about where and when you were born.
DB: I was born in Amsterdam, July 1931, just about eighty four years ago therefore and when war broke out I therefore was only I was only eight years and a number of months old. That’s very young and my parents obviously tried to shield me from everything. We lived in Amsterdam and I do remember that when Holland had capitulated as they obviously would have. They would either have been overrun by superior German forces or capitulate so I think it was a sensible option. The country is small. In the First World War which was often mentioned 1914 1918 the Netherlands were neutral and we liked it. We took that as a good thing and we wanted to be neutral again. So we tried to be neutral. We did not mobilise in the face of Germany because we thought we could pacify her. We could keep them quiet which meant that when war broke out we were not prepared. We were knowingly and consciously not prepared. My brother therefore who was of that age, older, about 12 years older than me [pause] he was lately, late on called up and he was got ready for the front because we didn’t engage, we didn’t engage with the Germans. It was that quiet. But he late on was called up and he was got ready for the front with no preparation to speak of. No training. No exercise. Just in, issued a uniform, keep him in that barracks there and you know he was very soon to go to the front when fortunately the war ended in Holland. We were not unhappy with that as such. It, it was the best of two evils really.
So I remember standing along one of our main entry roads into Amsterdam and the Germans came in in endless columns. Nearly all in transport. There weren’t any, any boots on the floor. They were nearly all were in transport and they dashed past us, they rushed past into the centre of Amsterdam and from there probably onward. The Germans being Germans will have been well organised. And that afternoon. Whatever time it took - that was it. We were now occupied. You didn’t notice that much on the day. We didn’t hear any
MC: I was going to say, you were going to say I just wondered how the schooling, your schooling was, you know, up until that time.
MC: Can you?
DB: Well yeah I’m trying to recoup where I was. Anyway the Germans were all through town and for one thing they took our school. We had a nice, fairly modern school and they took it for a hospital. We therefore, the pupils had to join another school and I haven’t got the dates and times precisely I know but it was something like 8 to 1 for the one school and one to half past five for the other school and that alternated. So, that, the prettier school that the Germans had, had taken for the hospital, that was built right into the middle of blocks of civilian houses and they had, I’m sure, done that on purpose to make sure that the RAF or whoever wouldn’t come in to bomb or anything. Well in the first place everything was pretty quiet. We were told at a fairly early time but I don’t know how early that we had to hand in our radios and my parents did but the neighbour below us because we lived in flats, the neighbours below us hid theirs. Now if it had been found they would have been shot. As easy as that. But it wasn’t found because the man was a worker at a local bank and he had all sorts of nooks and crannies at his disposal, vaults and safes and he could manage to scriddle[?] his radio away. We did of course see Germans walking and we also had what we referred to as the NSB which is the National Socialist Bond or something and they acquired uniforms. They were given uniforms and they were put on the street corners selling their particular paper which I’ve never ever seen anybody buy. That was the most ostensible signs. There was, there were declarations. The Germans put declarations on walls and house sides and the declaration would be in the gothic lettering. We couldn’t hardly read it but then they also put what we would call today normal, normal script, normal font next to it and we were supposed to read that and see what we were to do and not to do because that was what it was all about. We had an underground and the underground was active but very cautious because we had little to gain. We couldn’t do anything that was terribly significant. I mean you wouldn’t go and kill a German soldier because the repercussions would be tremendous and you wouldn’t have achieved much. So we just saw them march and they sang. We had a curfew. Not I suppose at once but I only remember it if it was all [?] time we had a curfew at night, fairly early. I would think depending on how light it was. Something between 6 and 7 and then at night when we had little to do but go to bed we could hear the singing and marching. There was of course no transport to speak of because at, in 1940 stroke ‘45 we in Holland had very few motorcars in the first place. I mean who had a motorcar? I had one uncle who had a car and I had twelve uncles, you know and, but that was how life was. That was normal. We had bicycles. The use of the bicycles was fairly limited because the Germans built cordons and let all the bicycles run into it but none out. They took the bicycles for melting down the rubber of the tyres and the steel or the metal anyway for their, for their weapons production. So people became terribly frightened and cautious about using their bicycles. The out, the way out was by using the bicycles without tyres. It’s possible. It makes it a much slower process and very loud especially on cobbles. The things rattle like hell but what developed was that parties of people not many at once would go ‘up farmer’. Now ‘up farmer’ means you go and sort out a farmer somewhere in the country. You take your box camera or your, a couple of sheets or whatever you have in the cupboard and you try and exchange that for something to eat because the, at this time, the time I’m talking about but not sure how to to identify we had no food and the farmers were sympathetic and I did take our stuff. I suppose I more or less had to, er but they would they would try to give you something to to take away and the thing to have was peas because they were long lasting things and wheat. Wheat was always fancied. Er Potatoes. Potatoes could last a good while but anyway anything they would give and then the people would walk the bikes so they wouldn’t matter so much if they made a bit noise but there were trips beyond a single day so they would have to sleep somewhere by the roadside right on top of the bikes so that they wouldn’t get stolen or anything with their gear on and then the following day they would have to continue their journeys. Now my sister, who at that time must have been anything between fifteen and twenty, sorry I can’t know much better she did a couple of trips and she did it with a friend of hers, also of course a young lady and there was, I never heard of any problems that they had with the German soldiers. They were stopped and they were asked what they were doing and what they had there and they happened to get away with it. They didn’t lose any gear but a number of people would relate their stories. They were stopped by German soldiers. They would take everything they had got from the farmers and the bikes and they would have to walk the rest home with nothing. That of course was very, very unfortunate very unpleasant. So as war progressed we got we had less and less food. The Germans provided a system of ration cards and food to, to cover those ration cards. There was also what was known as centrale keuken - centralised kitchens and you had ration coupons for those kitchens and it was my not ever so pleasant duty to go with a pan to some shack somewhere and get your, your ration of slops whatever it was and carry them, carry that home again and when it got home it was a very unanimous sort of slops you know. There was, you could see perhaps a little bit of the potato or a little bit of carrot but you couldn’t really tell what it was. It was just like a thick soup basically and then if you wanted to warm it up somewhat or something you did not have any fuel. There was no gas. There was no electricity. Electricity wouldn’t have helped in this instance because in Holland we used gas for all that and electricity really only for lights, radio, that sort of thing. So we had stoves in our main room in our lounge, our sitting room - living room. We had stoves and where they came from I don’t know but there was a supply of little stoves. Little metal boxes and those boxes were more or less open in the bottom and had a hole in the top and they had a little drawer in the bottom and had the shelf in the middle like a roster with, you know that the air could pass through. And us kids were sent out to find branches and bits of paper and anything that would burn and what you could do you could put the little square box, metal that was on top of your stove your main stove in the lounge and the draft would come from the bottom, draw through the grid, the grill and you had some paper in there and you lit it and put your branches fired your branches, your bits of timber anything you could find and that would then burn quite well. You could put a pan on the top of it and the pan shut off the top so you have got an opening in the bottom for the air to go into, then you had a, it, it went through the fuel if you like. Then there was a vertical enclosure of it and that was not quite, did not quite go to the top. So the air that rose being hot would go over the top and at the back it would be sucked away into the works of the stove and go up your, the chimney in to the environment so that way you had a heated source and you could warm something a bit. Obviously later, in later years when it got colder and that last winter ’44, ‘45 wasn’t it, it was a very bad one. A very strong winter. It was not it, it, it meant nothing. It was not enough heat to do anything. At that time we would sit in our kitchens. It would be dark early. I don’t know what this discipline of lighting we had whether the clocks were forward or backward or two hours forward or two hours backward even we, I don’t know but it was light, it was dark early and you went to bed early. We sat in our kitchen and our kitchen was about ten foot by a good four foot and there was one little table in it. There were in fact six of us. My brother, two sisters, my father, my mother and myself and we would, we would sit on that around that little table a little table of about 60cm by 120metre, you know, very small and my mother would be invariably darning. My sister would be rehashing, recycling clothing would be unpicking the seams, would be cutting away the edges would be putting it back together and later sew it again on a hand sewing machine and then it would be a different size. It would be smaller because everything would have been uniformly proportionately be reduced and that was for somebody else to be used and that’s how we went with that. The ice on the windows was measurable it was at the bottom end of the of the window pane where some melting might have occurred and it had come down. At the bottom of the window pane it would be a good half inch thick and the whole pane would be filled with ice. And it would be rather beautiful to be honest where all these patterns that these crystals make. But upstairs, and I slept upstairs it would be absolutely freezing. It is unbelievable. People did not only died of hunger but they also died of cold of course. Now there is a big thing not yet mentioned to you which had its own affect all through and at one point we had on one the morning when we stepped out we saw people with funny yellow stars on their clothing and I had no idea. I had no idea what it was about and I don’t know if I very soon did because as I said my parents tried to keep me out of things. Not ever so religiously but on the whole you know I didn’t know about. But those of course were the Jews and at a given time these people all came out with these yellow stars on their coats and as you know the Jews wear a lot of black. Black overcoats are a favourite and then they had a very poorly sewn yellow stars on their coat. You could see someone very unused to sewing sometimes had sewn them on. Big course stitches you know five points that was all really. But once they were identifiable and identified they were sitting ducks. I suppose that there would have been certain ones who didn’t do it. They were very much in danger if they were found out but the ones who did do it were little better off. One morning and I, one of the things I remember, and I don’t think I have a memory for everything at all but one thing I remember when we walked to school from where we lived we crossed a rather main artery, you know, major road and as we came from the side street that we used to cross it and continue on the other side to my right were a number of German trucks, open trucks and there were people being ushered along the pavements. There were German soldiers stood along the pavement in in rows that I walked in between and the Germans were all armed and they were sort of roughly made to get into those trucks, standing on top in the open and those that had been filled were just having to stand there and wait and the rest will no doubt would have filled because we just crossed that road and we went on. Talk about it. We had no idea we had no idea. Nobody did. Perhaps at that time the right people hadn’t even been addressed to Hitler to set processes in in motion. I don’t know but we, Germans to us were our neighbours. We had a certain respect for Germans. Other countries as well. Holland by the nature of its minerals, its ores and other things we were dependant on foreign countries for much of our industrial product and we knew Germans and French and English well. On, even on the quite simple schools you learned the three languages German English and Dutch err German, English and French because you were expected later to be able to converse with these people.So, I’m trying to pick up my train of thought here. We, we had seen Germans we had known we knew, were more into German music than English or French music and we would have some idea of German films. Even in the, the wartime in the beginning of the war we could still go to cinemas but only to see German pictures and we spoke of Heinz Ruhmann because he was such a funny man. We didn’t mind Germans at that level somehow because oh they would look after us. The Jews would be alright. They were, after all they were Germans. They wouldn’t do anything nasty. It wasn’t in ‘em. And although we had our underground from the word go and people were very much anti the German sympathisers we didn’t at that point hate the Germans, strangely enough. Perhaps my memory is not perfect on that score or my knowledge but that’s how it must have been for at least for a good proportion. So we went into that period and the Jews were being deported to work camps. We understood that the Jews were being taken to work for the Germans. Now it wasn’t very nice. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t good but they’d be back soon. They wouldn’t be long. So there they went and the Germans started to empty their houses or their flats or whatever you know. We referred, in our idiom we referred to all that as houses. They started to empty their houses and if you looked in the railway yards you could see long columns of wagons with enormous banners on them from back to front and it says liefde giften van Holland [?]which means love gifts from the Netherlands. This of course was a lie but nobody was even shaken too much about that. After all we didn’t have that much respect for the German decorative but in any case we didn’t know what was going on and what happened was that those wagons were all being run off to Germany and somehow were made available to Germans. We of course in Holland had lots of waterways and near us in one of the canals we had one of these big lighters [?] . Are you familiar with lighter? A lighter is like a big open house a big hull really that’s all it is. And they were full of small items. I proudly, we jumped into them and do you know was rummaging about and I proudly brought some bank slips home. I had no idea what a bank slip was but I could, could draw on that. So I brought that home for drawing on and for writing on. Just a few things. I think I was then told not to do it again but that was the long and the short of it. So and by and by that disappeared. Now those houses stood empty and as it got cooler and colder eventually we Dutch people of Amsterdam came and broke open the the doors because in Holland and certainly at that time there was one front door and several flats off it so the flat, the front door could usually be opened with a latch key. So they kept, they left the front doors in the beginning but they began to take all the stairs away. They took the stairs away right to the top to the third or fourth floor they burnt them of course. That was fuel. And when that had gone they took the doors on the higher floors away and when they had gone they took the floors of the floor of the other floors away and when they had gone they took the beams and rafters until they were stood there empty. The front door by that time would have gone as well but they, they were empty carcases of houses. The bricks of course remained and I think out of caution and health and safety they left some of the beams so they wouldn’t collapse on people. But that that was that. That disappeared. We had one Jewish couple - couple from family which we were acquainted with and they disappeared. We knew through my sister there was a girl in that family Stella and her father and mother and their fathers and mothers they all disappeared one day. Gone. And only the girl herself came back. After the war, I don’t know I think it was the Americans who found them in their concentration camp. After the war they were first taken back to another part of Germany and then to Sweden and from Sweden to America and we have known them and we have visited them in New York where she had by that time married a German. A German Jew. He had also been in a, in a concentration camp and they, they told us stories not too much because it’s distasteful and you don’t like to talk about that but on the other hand they were very keen that young, younger people, their own kids would be well acquainted of facts. Right. What I would want to say is are you happy that little?
MC: Did your parents work at that time? Were they, what did they do?
DB: At -
MC: For work
DB: At that time women very rarely worked in Holland. They were housewives. Holland of course had a reputation for being clean and everything. Well those women at home were always cleaning and they cleaned the streets in front of our flats and we, carpets were being beaten twice a week and it was quite a, quite a thing you know and all carpets were taken up – carpets and rug, rugs, and my mother would talk to the lady below us and they would come together, take all the carpets and rugs out. Some of ‘em had special steps, wooden steps, very tall about seven steps to a set and they had two brackets in the top rung and they would bring down a long wooden pole and they would push the pole through the brackets and big the eyes and then they would put the carpets over the pole and they would hold a corner of it in one hand and the carpet beater in the other hand and they would give it hell and, I didn’t know that at the time but there was even regulation about it. Not everyone could at any time beat a carpet. You couldn’t do it before and I’m guessing 8 o’clock because people might still be sleeping. And you couldn’t do it longer than 10 o’clock because it was about time that it stopped and when those carpets were being beaten and remember that was all down the street and those buildings are four storeys high so it echoes and the din was enormous and then when it was done it had to be rolled up, taken up the stairs, the stair carpets had to come down as well and the stair carpets were sewn together so that when they were rolled out they took the shape of the stair and then they had the carpet rods and they were, had to be reinserted under the eyes that were drilled into the carpet to the stairs however and then peace was restored. But it was not of any import in itself of course. Not relevant to the war. That always happened but that’s what the ladies did. They cleaned. My father was made to work somewhere because just at that time when the Germans came in he’d become sort of redundant because of the slump because by that time you know you had the big malaise and he was, was set to work in fields because I know this because the Germans loaded them up on trucks and ran ’em to the fields somewhere and gave them jobs to do. I spent the whole day there. I had a fishing rod and stayed there all day and had a marvellous time. Excellent time. And the Germans stood guard armed over these elderly Dutch workers. So I don’t know what he did. I never went to look. I don’t know if I’d have been allowed to get any nearer. Perhaps I was as near as I could get but they will have been building bunkers or tank, tank stops, tank – I don’t know. And really on the whole therefore we didn’t have an awful lot to do with them. I would, I was involved in taking an illegal paper. Now illegal papers were serious business and the Germans here again would kill people. Because they wanted, at all costs I think they knew the punishment was out of step with the offence but they knew that it had to be stopped at source because the illegal papers told people things they didn’t want you to know. There was, the only news I know we had was a news cinema in town. For a little while we had the radios and that already very quickly turned into propaganda medium. Let’s not be mistaken about this all the time everywhere but the when the Germans said that over the front at this point the German forces have carried out tactful for retreat for the good of the war and therefore be in a better position. No. They had been beaten and they had been beaten back but you didn’t know that and you didn’t know what you could believe and what you could not believe. We thought even the illegal newspapers were written with a view to bolstering morale of the readers and could have been prettified but we chose not to believe that because we wanted to to hear the best and therefore well anyway one day I had to take it to the next person to read it. It was after curfew. We were lived in a quiet street and there would rarely be anybody around in the daytime and at night. It was absolutely empty. So I had to take the illegal paper over the road. I came downstairs singing and dancing because I could do the stairs in the pitch black. Knew exactly where everything was no problem. I got out of the front door. It was a moonless night. No light whatsoever. Street lights had long gone. I stepped out and I suddenly became aware that there was somebody and I could just about having got close, too close see that it was a uniform and I thought, “Oh my God what do I do?” I thought go straight on. Make out that it’s nothing so I skipped on and went over the road. I had my latchkey, the latchkey ready. I threw the latchkey in to the lock, opened it and shut the door behind me and stood with my heart beating cause if I’d gone back they would have hurt my parents if I’d gone forward the other people could have been but they could have denied all knowledge and could have said, I just fled. So that is what I did. Later on I learned it was actually a navy man and the navy wouldn’t have had anything to, to, no axes to grind, you know what I mean. That was one little event. Another little event was we had to walk everywhere because there were no longer any trams. There was were few buses in Amsterdam anyway but they weren’t there. No trams, no buses. All you could do was bikes and I’ve said something about that. Or walk. And we walked everywhere. I had an aunt who lived about two hours walking north of Amsterdam beyond the harbour. And I remember walking there and a couple of my mates came with me. We did that a lot. You could go anywhere with your mates and come in. And there was little tiny boat probably a mine dredger or something in the harbour and kids were selling a little puppy dog for half a loaf, half a German loaf. German loaf of course is quite a brick you know. They weren’t very good. On the same walk having arrived on the other side of the harbour we walked on and there was a lot of shouting and running about. We saw that a group of people was attacking a baker. He was delivering bread. That was common. That was ordinary at the time. There is nothing new under the sun is there? These deliveries from supermarkets well they were already delivering bread by cart from the bakers and as the man had arrived at his destination house and had rung the bell he’d left the hood up and there was a big cover on it, a hard cover and the people were in it, robbing him of his bread. And he ran back oh six foot of it and slammed the cover down and I remember that one loaf had spilled out from it from under the cover under the cart and I was well inclined to go and pick it up and have it but it was gone before I could even begin to make ground and it was one of those well one and a half inch high loaves because there was no yeast. There was no yeast. There was no salt. The flour was course and hadn’t really been strained or [unclear] or whatever you do. That was, that was why the bread was as it was. What we did do and did a better job of it if we got the opportunity we went into the countryside when they were harvesting and we walked behind the err what do you call it, the machine, the big machine
MC: Combine harvester?
DB: The combine yeah. We walked we used to walk behind the combines. No I’m lying we didn’t have the combines. It was a scythes job.
MC: Yeah.
DB: Remember that?
MC: Yeah.
DB: When they would be scything, the farmers would be scything and there would be somehow, there would be ears of grain on the floor. I don’t know how they got removed from the stalks but they were like the ears and from the bundles you know the sheaves and those we were allowed to pick up and put in bags and there was usually a German soldier stood in the field but they didn’t fuss with that. A field is a big thing to cover and they didn’t have that many people on hand. If, if they, if they’d done anything like shoot at people it would have been very difficult for them to keep control over all the people that were there. I don’t think they would have been too keen.
Right. Well I would hardly say this is all but I’ve?
MC: So you mentioned about the, you heard, used to hear the bombers going over. Perhaps you could tell us a bit more about that
DB: Right well at night and remember about the curfew we would go to bed early and in the dark I remember it always dark pitch all the time. In the dark you would lie listening and listen with the certain knowledge of what you were going to hear. There was no traffic. There were no cars, no buses, no trams. There were no planes of course. There wouldn’t have been any bicycles without tyres at that time of night. But what you would hear and there was some magic about it you would hear planes and the planes you would hear you wouldn’t hear the beginning of. You would, you could never say it’s started because it was either there or it wasn’t there. They, that merged into the silence so thinly because it was so far away that you couldn’t make it out. Not until there were more of ‘em and they were nearer and then you would hear the anti-aircraft guns and the anti-aircraft gun would at first, in the early stages they would be busy. You know the lights would be crossing the skies quite wildly it seemed. Sometimes they would pick one out and let’s say it was a Lancaster it would just go off and the aircraft gunners would aim at it but it would be too high. They would be invariably be too high and it would just go on. They wouldn’t lose it whether they, whether because of the aircraft moving them not being good enough to hold on to. Not that easy I think but they would lose it then and through the night you would hear that distant drone and you would know that it was power, powerful drone excuse me power, powerful drone because one aircraft would not have made that particular noise. It was the numbers that made the difference. And when you were in your bed alive [?] to it and that being the only sound you heard it had a big significance. You knew that this mattered, it mattered to our good because it was the only bit of war effort that we witnessed and it happened to the German’s detriment. That’s the other thing that would make it good. And they would drone over and over and over and we would normally not hear the end of it. Hard enough to do but by that time we would be asleep and then sometimes we would hear an aircraft. Normally a single, an aircraft come over low and land. Low and very loud. Not like the drone. Not power or anything. It would probably have been it and it would come over low and just miss the tops of the houses or steeples or whatever and it would be on its way back and you would know that there would be people sitting in there – four, five, ten, I don’t know. And they would be in danger. And they might die. And they would go over and go towards the west. They would soon be over the sea and they would all be sitting in there praying that it would stay up. That it would make it to Norfolk, Suffolk you know. The first stops. Not Lincolnshire I don’t think because that would make it such a wider angle. It would be farther to fly. We don’t know whether we ever heard one that went down. We don’t know whether we ever hear one that put down safely you know. That, that was a very relevant sort of noise [unclear]. It sort of, of course when the war ended we were in a bad way. In Amsterdam in particular because we were above a certain line. I don’t need to go in to this here but the Germans had perforated the dykes so the water had come in and much of Holland is below sea level so a lot of area had been inundated err the food [?]still could come to us very easily but somehow somewhere an agreement was reached for the allies to drop food. Now there will have been a lot of people who knew detail of that you know. The underground resistance workers. We didn’t. It wasn’t for us to know but what we did know is that one day we heard an aircraft as loud as we ever have heard one and only feet high. Came over, we could see the members of the crew and we were waving whatever we got. They were waving. We were cheering. You could hear the cheering over everything [short pause]and that was marvellous. They had dropped food and they were on their way back. They were waving to us. People were on the rooves especially where they were flat and they were waving with sheets and towels and flags. You weren’t supposed to have flags. And everything and the big thing of it was we knew it was true. Now it was true. We were liberated. It was, was enormous. And that is why it is so big in Holland.
MC: So when did you get access to the food? Did they bring it?
DB: That was, that was out of our scope. That wasn’t for us. There were authorities and the authorities took it and they were our authorities. Dutch. And they did it proper but don’t forget they didn’t throw down bread loaves they throw down flour. Threw down flour and that had to be collected, baked and the, the bread which came almost overnight which was so good. Was white. We didn’t believe that you could have white bread like that. It was white and it was high. It stood like that. We couldn’t believe that either. And then we got food at school. They provided food through the schools so that the kids could have food and well that, if you like, was it. That was almost the very last act of the war. The Germans had had enough and you can’t blame ’em. The Germans who were there had had enough and they set off walking. They walked. You see Holland is not a big country as you well know and I think it would still probably take three days to cross it on foot you know. But they set off, they set off walking home. Oh and the edge of Amsterdam was a pile and each German solder threw on it a bayonet, his gun, his rifle whatever he had. All his arms and that pile was growing all the time. We looked at it jealously because us kids you know, thought marvellous I’m going to pinch one of them but you didn’t get that chance. I suppose if I remember correctly it was the underground that guarded it, people of the resistance and, and that was, and there was only one other thing an account that the war was over. Germany had capitulated. On the corner of the Dam Square in Amsterdam where the palace is is a principal hotel and the German officers used it and they thought it would be fun. All the people had come out again. It was lively on the Dam Square lots of people walking and being merry and they thought it would be fun to aim their sub machine guns on it and start rattling and they killed a number of Dutch people on the square after the war had ended.
[tape stops]
MC: So the Dutch railways?
DB: This is running?
MC: Yes, yeah just
DB: The Germans had left the Dutch to run the Dutch railways but they made diligent use of it. They used it for freight of all sorts, armaments perhaps. I do not know. And personnel. And when it got a bit further in to the war and the underground was thinking what more could we do to help here, a difficult organisation you must understand they decided to encourage the Dutch railwaymen to go on strike and that would just throw down the Dutch railways bang [we won[?]. And I don’t know how they achieved it but they did it and the Germans were a bit, very upset about and very much crossed their line of approach, their system. And for one thing they, they did kill a number of railwaymen for the reason, for that reason and they tried to find more all the time and there were those who were just at home. My uncle was a railwayman and he and his wife also were harbouring a Jewish woman. But in the first place they had got a one escapee or what shall we call them? A person who avoids the German occupation but, or, or imprisonment but she would have gone to the camps. Well they had the one lady had a position in the eaves in case of danger. That was the Jewish woman. And when they did in fact come and they did of course they had personnel records so they could go straight to the addresses of the people who hadn’t turned up and they came to look for railwaymen and there my aunt was hiding this Jewish woman but they got her into the eaves somehow in time but there was very little time to do anything about my uncle. Well in Holland we have the custom of every day taking off the bedclothes and airing them over a chair or something so she forced my uncle on the chair because she was a very quick witted woman. She forced my uncle on a chair next to the bed and threw the bedclothes over him. There is a version of this story that the Germans came through the house all right. Never got anywhere near this Jewish woman but when one of the Germans looked and my aunt looked at him she saw him look at the pair of shoes appearing from underneath the bedclothes and she then believes that he thought, ‘no, leave them be’. Not all Germans were of course bad. I believe that they with the war being over we, you know they wish they had been. I know that I was later in Switzerland of all places and I was on an outlook post in a in a Swiss forest and there was another chap on the top there and we got talking and he asked what nationality I was and I said I was Dutch and he shrunk, he visibly shrunk and he said, “You must hate me”. You know there were good people. Not that many.
MC: So after the war you stayed in Holland?
DB: I stayed in Holland. I did a job and um but not immediately of course and actually it is a bit relevant. We had people doing health checks and a lot of us who had been hungry in the war we were underweight. And if you were underweight there was a system whereby Danish, Swedish, I think Swiss families had opened up to Dutch kids to put some weight on again and I was chosen to go to Denmark which I well enjoyed by the thought of it. That would be good for me to see this country. It would an adventure and everything and I was well keen to go but not all that long before the travel time it was full and I couldn’t go. Well that wasn’t good at all because I had to have my end exams, my final examinations from school at that time but with the prospect of going away my head teacher said he’d prepare me one on the basis of my schoolwork which would have been considerably better than than the exam so I was happy and now I had go again. So I locked myself up to study and then I got a place in England. I got a place in Lincoln. So at the late hour I was taken to a place called Woodlands near Doncaster which was an, I think an RAF base. May have been an army base and we slept in Nissan huts and I spent six weeks in Nissan huts and eight weeks with family.
MC: And how old were you at that time?
DB: Fourteen I believe and the people that had the honour of having, receiving me, for getting me were the parents of my wife. Can you imagine, I often think of this, somewhere in Amsterdam in an unknown place sits an unknown person who says who have you got down for Denmark? Oh no, no they’re full. At that moment my life changes. I don’t know that. I will never know the, and then somebody says there are a few places left in England. And that’s when my life changes, changes again. And even the, it even chooses my wife. So the war has got something to answer for don’t you think?
MC: Absolutely yeah yeah it can change your life yes. So after, after that you just stayed in Lincoln?
DB: I worked in Holland at the savings bank, the Holland Steamship Company that sailed to Falmouth and Fowey and Manchester and Liverpool and London and I got some free, free sails, sailings with and I then worked at my uncle’s who had a factory in [unclear] in a small metalwork. I then worked for an importer no I worked yeah, yeah importer, exporter of chemicals and aromas and I worked somewhere else, I can’t remember now. I mentioned I also did administration for a small dealer in household objects. Anyway I came back from time to time to – just because I liked it to be honest. I liked to do it and to come here and I had certain opportunities and I once or twice came to my then still foster parents unannounced and they put me up sweet as anything no problem. Then they came once or twice to Holland. Then Mavis came to Holland once - no with a friend and I just grew in the normal way that things grew and that really became the end. Now let’s see if there’s anything there must be something left. I had a feeling that there was something significant yet to tell you. No I can’t, I can’t think. I’ve certainly gone over all the major things that I have to tell you. It’s - unless you have any questions that -
MC: No.
DB: No my brother was the same age that I have referred, have I, have I referred to him
MC: [unclear]
DB: My brother in law but yes he was my brother in law was deported to Germany as a, as a worker. He could drive car which very few people could and he drove cars and buses in Germany of labourers or workers from their lodgings to the factories. Now my brother was the same age group but he didn’t have to go because he’d been working in the horticultural industry and his boss had quicky diverted to vegetable growth, growing veggies and he became a protected worker thereby. My sisters. My younger sister worked what that was commonly, in service and my older sister in the clothing industry and did well after the war and went to America and had a small department in a patterns factory in in New York. A company called Simplicity.



Mike Connock, “Interview with Dirk Bosch,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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