In the early days of May, when my war trauma makes me burst in tears again, I think of my uncles Frans and Henk, and 35 million other young men.
These young men formed the largest part of all people killed during the Second World War period, about 35 million out of 70 million. They were soldiers and driven to kill one another on battle fields, in Europe and Asia. Or they were deported to forced labor camps to starve and die, in Europe and Asia.
I commemorate these 35 million young men, killed because they were young men.
I commemorate the more than 12 million Chinese civilians, killed because they were Chinese.
I commemorate the more than 10 million Eastern European civilians, mostly killed because they were seen as non-Aryan "inferior people".
I commemorate the 6 million Jewish civilians, killed because they were seen as Jewish.
I commemorate the 3 millions of German civilians, killed because they were Germans.
I commemorate the other millions of people in Asia and Europe killed during the Second World War period.
And I think back again of Frans and Henk, young men, hiding in our house but betrayed and deported to the forced labor camp Neuengamme in Germany. They worked until exhaustion, got deliberately undernourished and battled with illnesses.
Henk was further deported to the Fuhlsbüttel prison in Hamburg, were you went in alive and left as a corpse. They have beaten him to death. Why? Because he was a young man and resisted authorities.
Frans survived one of the murderous death marches through Germany. He was liberated and cared for by the Russians during half a year before he could be transported. He arrived from Germany in an ambulance, in front of my childhood house.
He took three years to recover, in our house, I remember the room he had, twice in Switzerland, and a long time in his parents’ village Bloemendaal. I’m not sure he ever fully recovered.
Frans van der Werff, in Bloemendaal