The following is Dan’s personal account of what transpired in Belgium, Holland and Eastern Europe after the German armies capitulated. A vivid picture. You can easily envision it as it is transpiring.
And Dan, from Holland on May 6th, rec’d. June 1st. “The first inkling of the affair came on May 4th when I happened to be across the border in Belgium. We had just left the American Red Cross Club of an Army military Hospital where we had been killing time listening to a “jam session” of several musicians, patients, dressed in pajamas and bathrobe. We were on our way to our truck, on the point of departure, when we heard the first rumors – – all the German armies in Holland, Denmark and Western Europe had capitulated! We drove to our destination in the center of town and learned from some civilians that the report was true. But things were quiet in Belgium. They had been freed several months earlier – – and the war was not yet over! The town band, however, which happened to be practicing in a café across the square from us, staged an impromptu march through the streets, but it was already dark and no one turned out to celebrate except a few well primed GI’s, who were walking back to their billets, shouting and singing on general principles. We returned to Holland before dawn next morning and were surprised to see the streetlights turned on and small flags hung out – – this at 4 o’clock in the morning. The streets were deserted. May 5th. Saturday. “Gesloten” Every shop in town except the cafés were “gesloten” all day, which in perfectly good Dutch means “the joint is closed, Brother”. Every shopkeeper and his friends and relations were decked out in bright orange (for the Queen), and red, white and blue (for the Fatherland), in preparation for the grand Promenade in the streets – – to continue the spontaneous celebration that we had missed the previous night. As the afternoon waned, the holiday spirit waxed anew. Bands of youngsters waving Dutch flags and festooned with Orange trappings organized little parades through the streets, beating on drums which were improvised from 5-gal. gasoline tins. One group paraded an effigy of Hitler, hanged from a pole. More and more flags appeared from windows. Everyone wore orange. About 4 o’clock in the afternoon a crowd of civilians gathered about a group of German prisoners who were erecting a series of fence poles around a public square – – now serving as a parking lot for all vehicles. The prisoners were guarded by Yanks. The crowd was kept back by civilian police. No one said a word. It was strangely symbolic on a day such as this. I didn’t envy the lot of those subdued and muddied jerries. As the evening progressed the excitement fever mounted. Crowds swarmed through the streets, some strolling aimlessly, others marching arm in arm, singing Dutch songs. Their ardor was unclenched by lowering skies and spats of rain. When it began to drizzle steadily – I thought the celebration would suffer a slow drowning, but I was wrong. It seemed even that the rain was fuel that kindled even brighter flames of conviviality, for as the lights came on again the streets became crowded with merrymakers, men women and children, who almost brought traffic to a stand-still. G I trucks made progress only by incessant blowing of horns and racing of motors. Occasional rockets and flares lit up the murk of the clouds overhead. Along the main street the celebration reached its apex under the stimulation of a series of amplifiers which blared fourth continual music. Crowds joined hands and danced wildly in circles. Couples waltzed, rhumba-ed and jitter-bugged according to the tempo of the varying tunes. At one time recordings were broadcast of ancient speeches made by Hitler, Goebbels and Goering, while the crowd “Seig Heiled” in mock frenzy. The interminable rain continued unnoticed by all except a few glistening umbrella tops. I returned to the convent (which is our home) about 11 o’clock and the celebration was in full swing, showing no more sign of abatement than the falling rain. Today (Sunday) our menu for dinner included fine, gaily decorated cakes, baked for us by the Sisters of the convent. On each cake they had written the words, “With greatest thanks to our liberators”. You can imagine how much we are enjoying it all.”
Hearsay has it that Erwin Laufer has been permanently and honorably discharged and has gone to the camp in the Adirondacks for a rest before coming back to look for a job. I don’t know what he expects to do. He never got over to meet the girls. I saw him for a few moments one afternoon in the drugstore.
The young people in the apartment are very pleasant and friendly. There is not the same amount of visiting back and forth that there was with the Wardens. Ted Southworth and his wife Marj. (21 and tall for her age) and Jimmy Watson are their names. The boys both were in aviation but were discharged on account of their eyesight. They are still interested in flying, in fact been giving lessons when opportunity permits. They have redecorated the entire place, kitchen walls and floor and living room walls, and trim. The bathroom is next on the schedule as soon as they can be sure Carl has fixed all the leaks. They either didn’t like the oil stove or couldn’t make it burn properly. In any event, they took the whole business down and carted it down into the cellar and consequently when the balmy March was followed by a raw April and May, they have practically chopped up all the smaller pieces of fallen trees I had so laboriously gathered in one place, leaving only the bigger trunks to be operated upon by the proprietor or his sons. I think you boys would like them after you got acquainted. This in answer to Dave’s question. By the way, Signaler, did you ever get a watch, either as part of your equipment from Uncle Sam or on your own?
Lad, I suppose you and Dan have both figured out your points but you have said nothing in your letters to me on the point. Of course, Lad, when you get time it will be interesting to hear more about your trip over. Dan’s pen picture of the Dutch celebration was quite vivid and was next best to being there to see it with their own eyes.
For many weeks now we have been enjoying (?) a very spasmodic supply of hot water furnished by the old, coal-stove heater, but next week, I believe, a Sears Roebuck automatic oil water heater will be installed, and according to Elizabeth, will give satisfactory service at much lower cost than the electric heater. Tanks for the latter have not been made since the war started. And so, for today, nighty-night. DAD
This weekend, two days of letters from Biss to her father. She is really trying to keep him informed about what is going on in her life in St. Petersburg.