In the previous blog we saw how Tera survived the Dutch famine and sent a first postcard to Pico on May 5, 1945. The summer of ’45 is very important for both Tera and Pico as a couple and for the Netherlands as a whole. In the weeks following the liberation she writes a lot, and to do her justice this blog will be slightly longer than you are used to get from me. All letters can be found on the website (in Dutch).
In her first letter after the war an extensive report of the last days of the war and a repetition of the misery of the last months.
Friday evening (4 May) 9 o’clock suddenly dozens of people on the street, shouting it’s over, Germany has capitulated. Nobody could believe it right away, because the last few days there have been more of those rumors. Many immediately raised their flag, but the Germans didn’t allow that. Saturday morning Greet (Wouters Nona) was already here to give a detailed report. (..) The whole day I had numerous visitors. I also made a stroll with Jan Horringa, to look at all the happy flags and to see the happy faces of all the people.
Sunday and Monday about the same mood. Everyone congratulated everyone. Here and there some quarrels with German soldiers (mainly Dutch SS) who are not “good loosers”. The Canadians came first Tuesday; actually a bit late, because now there was a vacuum of 3×24 hours. You have to admire the people, that they behaved so calmly. Fortunately, the festivities were not too exuberant, because for many these days bring many sad memories, or uncertainty about the fate of their relatives in Germany, or the Indies or elsewhere. All the Jews came out, shaking hands, sobbing, laughing. You hear the most incredible stories about their existence in hiding. The shops have made the most charming displays in their windows. You can buy and read illegal newspapers everywhere. The B(domestic) S (armed forces) race around in cars and on motorcycles. They wear blue overalls and look like window cleaners. After the forced and tense silence of the last few months (we were not allowed on the street later than 7 p.m.) it is now cheerful and lively again.
At the places where people were shot not long ago in connection with an attack on Rauter, flowers were laid by the public. One of these murder sites was directly opposite the Sicherheitsdienst building. In this way the Gestapo men could see clearly that the people sympathized with their dead.
The entry of the Canadians was entertaining. In the midst of heaps of Dutch boys and girls who had clambered onto the cars, you occasionally saw a laughing, kissed soldier with orange or a flag. How they could still drive, with so many passengers obstructing the view, is a mystery to me.
(..) The B.S. now arrests NSB members, Germans and black traders on a daily basis. Their goods go to the hospitals and poor houses.
Wednesday and Ascension Day I went to Haarlem to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday (May 10). Five years ago and the following years, these were always bad and super bad days. Now she is the first to celebrate her birthday in a free country again. Now we have to wait for nephew Chris from Wurtenberg.
(…) Because I am so miraculously frugal for myself, there is still a large part of the wood, 40 peat and ½ mud coal left. With that I hope to get by until gas is supplied again. Now that it’s summer, I cook on one of those small summer stoves. Runs well and works very economically. I said goodbye to the central kitchen. It got too bad and then always those weird takeout times and the long wait. I don’t understand how you can prepare such unappetizing pig feed with good ingredients from home. My stocks have endured with much deliberation. Moreover, I now also dare to use things that were reserved for the greatest need. I also found all kinds of surprises in my flight cases.
We are now in the process of retrieving the stored animals. I hope that we will soon have electric power again, because it is unmercifully dark in those catacombs of the museum. Until Easter, all Artis rejoiced in electricity, because we were in line with 3 barracks (Or. Nassau, cavalry and the green police in colonial institute). It was an enormous privilege, especially for the pumps of the aquarium and the cold store. After that, a petrol pump with petrol from the Germans came into operation. And it was just about to run out or Canada supplied gasoline and oil!
(..) The winter was cold. All that ice water from the tap! And then always dirty hands from the stove and coals. I only started up my stove to cook around half past four and out again at 10 o’clock. A few times I let it burn the whole day through on Saturday and Sunday, but most of the time the coal supply was not sufficient. How did you cope with cold and hunger?
I already wrote to you that Heimans has arrived in Switzerland. What a relief for those people after so many humiliations and hardships. He will be saddened to learn that Thijsse passed away at the beginning of January. Will the Jews now return to Holland?
It is clear that, aside from some rumors, Tera is unaware of the immense misery of the Holocaust. Two days later, she received the first letter from Pico, along with the news that his mother has passed away.
May 15, 1945
My dear Pico,
A kind spirit just brought me your letter of May 12, which was given to the Breda committee for help and information in Amsterdam ((..) I am very sad that your mother died in December. That must have been a great shock. Even though you saw her getting more and more frail. It is tragic that she did not see her house and court again and died more or less in exile. Happy that you were able to take her to the cemetery in Middelburg. Her passing will have left a great void. Someone who has been a patient for so many years and who needs a lot of care, you miss all the more when all those worries are suddenly no longer necessary. I am glad to have known her well; despite her old age and illness she had such an expressive and handsome face. (..) It pains me that during these months I was so completely cut off from you and could do nothing but think about you a lot! In the meantime you have had plenty of time to make up your mind and I hope you have come to a wise decision. Can you freely travel back and forth between Ginneken and Middelburg? By train, or bicycle, or bus? Where is your headquarters located?
Of course I would like you to come here as soon as possible. Maybe you can ride with a car or truck. Try to bring your bicycle with you, because the distances in the city are long, and there are no trams running yet. (…) On the enclosed paper I give a list, in order of preference, of any items to bring. But don’t think that you are not welcome without these!
The joy at the arrival of the planes that scattered parcels was enormous. It was a sight to see all those boxes falling like confetti. The fact that the Germans approved of this measure was a sign to me that capitulation was imminent. They would never have agreed with that before, because 1: there could have been weapons in those boxes and 2: it was an admission that they were not able to support the population themselves. But how did that reconcile with their starvation policy? …
Don’t think my feelings have changed in these months. We will have a lot to talk about after such a time of separation. Therefore: the sooner you can come, the better! Piet M. has not the slightest temptation to marry me, and me neither to marry him! Because we have said that so clearly to each other, we can be so honest and free and friendly with each other.
I hope you will suddenly stand right in front of me, either in the aquarium or on Parnassus. You pretty much know my daily schedule and if you would come to my house while I’m out, you can wait for me at the downstairs neighbors (Van Ginkel); very friendly old couple. Bye dear boy Lots of love from T.
All her letters start or finish with a cry from the heart if he can come as soon as possible and she devises all kinds of possible ways of travel for him. Riding along with someone or something seems to her the best solution. However, she is slightly unsure whether Pico has not changed his mind regarding her.
May 18, 1945
My dear Pico,
I suddenly have the opportunity to send mail to the south and I now take advantage of that, even though I wrote you a long story on the 15th.
(..) I am so curious about your work program. Whether you put a Ph.D. as the first item on the list, or the management of the museum in Middelburg. For the former you have to live here or in Utrecht, for the latter in Zeeland of course.
(..) I have an insatiable appetite for messages from the civilized world. Send me newspapers, photos from Zeeland and from the free world. We see almost nothing here, because there is no electricity and therefore nothing can be printed. A thousand kisses from T.
Pico sends food parcels with asparagus, with preserves and sugar and rice, but also candles and soap. Things Tera hasn’t seen all winter. Life is slowly getting back to normal. She writes that the cinemas will open again and that hopefully the trams will run again soon. Most of the trees in the city were cut down in that last winter because people try to burn wood due to a lack of gas and coal.
Sunday morning 27 May 1945
Dear Pico, your one wonderpackage, which came to Parnassus, was delivered safe and sound What a delight! I didn’t think I’d eat asparagus this year, because you could occasionally get them black here for f10,- a pound, and that was a bit harsh for me. I’m saving them now until Tuesday when the Beaufort comes again, and then I’m going to brag with them! The bread was also very welcome, because we probably won’t get any bread this week, only biscuit. Now it is fine to eat, just a bit boring in the long run. And the candles, what a splendid idea. Are you clairvoyant, that you knew that I only have 2 small stumps, a finger-lid length, left? Anyway, now I become clairvoyant with such illumination.
I usually get up now at 5:30 am and go to bed at 10 p.m. Occasionally, if working in the evening goes very well, I light the carbide lamp again. The soap is also a huge gift: good for washing, washing dishes and bath. Coincidentally, soap isn’t my weakest side: I had hoarded this in all its forms immensely, early in the war.
Yesterday in the newspaper a message that first gas, then electricity will be supplied again.. Would be a big advantage for the cook. then the wood robbery stops immediately. The streets look sad, with all those stumps. The giant trees on Parnassus all fell too. (…)
The received asparagus are shared with colleagues. Pico also sends newspapers and magazines because news was hardly available anymore.
May 30, 1945
Dear Pico, (..)
The asparagus were received with cheers. Besides the Beaufort, Engel also ate with me. The former brought eggs and the latter some butter, so that the asparagus could be enjoyed in the traditional way. Now I have a part left over to treat Piet M. The magazines were also very popular.
June 8, 1945 , Dear Pico,
The miraculous feeding from Middelburg has arrived safely. A package full of surprises, with which I was very happy. How did you get so much rice after 5 years of war? And all that tea? You look like Mrs. De Meyere, who until recently still owned hoarded tea from the previous war. I’ll keep these treats until you come. Thank you also for the enclosed letter and the two postcards of May 30 and 31 from Domburg.
(..) I make every effort to provide you with an opportunity to travel here. So far with little success. Couldn’t you ride with the bringer of the package from Middelburg? After you have been here and depending on how our discussions will go, I would like to go to Zeeland with you, or – with or without you – to Nunspeet. What do you think of these plans? Where can we stay and eat in Middelburg or Domburg? Are my food stamps valid there? Otherwise I’ll have to take a whole stock of food with me. For Nunspeet, taking the right food stamps is less urgent; there is always something to eat there. I’d appreciate it if you got to know my cousin. I owe a great deal to her and she helped me to roll through the war without hunger.
(…) Come quickly to have a look. I long for you. Wouldn’t I disappoint you? With many kisses from T.
At the beginning of July, Tera goes to stay with her cousin Kitty in Nunspeet. She goes by bike (about 75 km.), but she can ride along with a truck for a while. Pico, 52 years old, also sees an opportunity to come to Nunspeet by bike from Middelburg. That is more than two hundred kilometers. Most bridges are broken, but ferries are already sailing across the rivers. It takes him two days. They stay there for ten days. Fortunately, Pico hasn’t changed his mind and together they make their final wedding plans. In a letter to her sister-in-law, on 5 July 1945, she writes that she is going to marry Mr. P. van der Feen, but that the date is not yet set.
In the next blog the wedding is celebrated!