By Hansje de Zwaan Johnson
From "Vignettes from a teenager during the German occupation of the Netherlands, 1940-45)
©2001, 2008 Hansje de Zwaan Johnson
Another Underground member named Arnout Bosman lived next door to the Vleemas with his parents and two sisters. His father was in the hospital recovering from an operation.
The Bosman family also hadn't relinquished their radio to the German Headquarters. Arnout printed and published (illegally) a weekly newsletter. I delivered this to people who supported several resistance efforts, such as sheltering British pilots who were shot down over the Netherlands, and building up an arsenal for the future when our liberators might need our help.
When the soldiers broke into their neighbor's home, Mrs. Bosman heard the racket and saw the Nazis enter. She quickly hid their radio. She also was afraid that Arnout might be arrested. He was 20 years old, so even if the radio wasn't found, he still fell into the age group for forced labor. She told Arnout to follow her upstairs to the front bedroom. There she placed a high-backed antique chair wwith wide armrests in front of the open window. She told Arnout to sit down, mumbling: "Thank God you're not as tall as your Vader." She then pulled the heavy spread from the bed and hung it over Arnout.
"You're choking me!" he objected.
"Don't move, and not another peep out of you!" she admonished, adding: "I'd rather have you choke than be shot!"
Next she stripped the sheets from the bed and hung those over Arnout as well. He was now totally encapsuled from head to feet.
"Good," she said. "I can't see one little bit of you." Nervously, she added: "Remember, do as I told you. Don't move and don't breathe!"
They could hear the loud banging on the front door.
"May the Lord keep and save you," she mumbled as she turned to leave the room.
On her way downstairs she hoped that the German soldiers also had mothers, who, like most Dutch women, frequently aired the bedding over chairs or over the window sills.
Arnout had two very pretty sisters and when one of them opened the door, the officer stuck out his chest, and clicked his heels. He smiled, showing a row of alligator teeth, and asked her name. The other sister, who stood behind her, whispered something. Both of them gave an insincere half smile.
The officer told the soldiers to take it easy, and just check through the house. When Arnout's mother entered the room, he asked if she had a radio in the house. She quickly answered, "Nein. Nein."
The soldiers, after checking the downstairs, went upstairs. They could be heard rummaging through the bedrooms in the back. When Mrs. Bosman heard the clumping of their boots in the front bedroom, she quickly walked to the kitchen so that her fear wouldn't show.
The sisters, having no idea where Arnout was, sat down on the couch, staring at each other. The officer asked where their father was and if they had any brothers. They shrugged their shoulders as if they didn't understand him.
Mrs. Bosman, now in control of herself, called from the kitchen and asked if someone would come to help her. The officer seemed to understand what she said and sat down. The girls ran from the room. They quickly returned from the kitchen, followed by their mother with a tray.
Mrs. Bosman, who spoke German, asked the officer if he would like a cup of tea. Although he showed his pointed row of teeth again, he declined. He asked where her husband was and if she did not have sons, to which she answered that her husband was hospitalized, and her son worked in a factory near Berlin. Her answers seemed to satisfy him. He told his soldiers to leave.
Making a small bow, he lifted Mrs. Bosman's hand and kissed it; then he said that it was an exception to meet a Dutch lady who spoke such excellent German.
She was fervently hoping that he would shut up and disappear, especially not being sure if Arnout was all right, so she quickly changed the subject. Pointing to the window, she exclaimed: "Officer, something really should be done about those dogs running loose in the street. It's a terrible nuisance!"
Ready for action, he again clicked his heels, stating he would look into it immediately. At the door he made a half turn, saying: "Auf wiedersehen."
Mrs. Bosman nodded, hoping that was the last she'd see of him. She shut the door behind him.
"Where is Arnout?" the girls asked.
"Wait a moment. Let's be sure they're gone," their mother said. She peeked from between the lace curtains out the window.
"Come, girls. Let's get Arnout!" she called as she ran upstairs with the girls at her heels.
They found Arnout, red-faced, sitting on the floor, rubbing his head.
"Jesus!" he exclaimed. "The bastards almost got me! When one of them passed by me to look out the window he bumped into my elbow. Must have been my bony elbow that made him think I was part of the chair. I thought for sure I was a goner."
"One thing's for sure," Mrs. Bosman said. "We must make a better hiding place for you in case those Moffen pester us again!"
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