In May of 1940, the German army moved into Belgium and Luxembourg. On May 10, 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.
At that time, there were 140,000 Jews living in the Netherlands. They had left Germany to start a new life. Many of them sought to hide as the Germans began to destroy their synagogues. Families were arrested — placed in railroad cars — and taken to concentration camps where many died in crematories.
Allied ground forces could not invade the Netherlands but the Canadian and American air forces began to destroy the German army. The Netherlands army tried to fight the Germans but to little success. Food became scarce and people began to die. The Allied air forces were successful.
My cousin, Lt. Henderson of Fresno, became a fighter pilot. Flying out of England, he was assigned to fight the German air force in the Netherlands. His plane was shot down in the water around the island of Texel. This island is located where the Bay of Amsterdam empties into the Atlantic.
A captain who lived on Texel had been ordered to work for the Nazis using his commercial boat. He was required to go around the island, picking up aviators who had been shot down. When the captain picked up my cousin, the Nazis on board demanded that he move aside as they threatened to shoot him. The captain refused to follow their orders and he saved the life of my cousin.
My cousin was captured by the Germany army when the boat docked. He was taken to a Stalag concentration camp and was considered a prisoner of war. His health deteriorated until the armistice was signed. He was brought back for hospitalization. His health finally improved but it was a problem for the rest of his life.
On May 4, 1945, the American, Canadian and Polish armed and air forces drove Germany out of the Netherlands. Forty-five years later, my wife, Shirley, and I visited the Normandy beachheads. We had been able to get in touch with the grandson of the Texel pilot. We were invited to come to Texel when were in the Netherlands. We spent the night at his farm and spent hours talking about his grandfather and my cousin.
Early in our visit we head a choir practicing at a Lutheran church close to where we were spending the night. Because we are both church choir members, we decided to go into the church and visit. The choir told us that we should spend the night of May 5 at a nearby village. On that date, the 45th anniversary of the Night of Liberation (May 5, 1990), there would be a celebration. A festival is held every five years.
There was a large crowd in the village that night for the special event. Performing was the Lutheran Choir, a tuxedo-dressed community choir, the town high school band and a group of 6 to 7 year old girls all dressed up, dancing and waving pom-poms.
It was a night we shall always remember. We were proud that our American and Canadian army and air corps helped end the terrible crimes against the people of the Netherlands.