Monday, April 16, 2012

To Drive out Tyranny

"De Tyranny Verdryven"

So read the letters on the cross attached to a ribbon of red, white and blue vertical strips, abutted by a wide strip of orange and bordered by black.  On the bottom of the cross, below the torch, are the years 1940 and 1945...the years of occupation of Holland by the German Army.  It reads "To drive out tyranny".

This is the Resistance Memorial Medal, awarded to those who participated in the resistance against occupying forces in Dutch territories during World War II.  It was presented to my father in 1980, on the 35th anniversary of the Liberation of Holland.  It surfaced today, when my mother and I were rummaging through his desk.  I remember when he received it, and was proud of him (as I have been thoughout my life) at that time. 

Ironically, I never saw him wear it.   Not that he wasn't proud of what he did...far from it!  The stories he told me of those years were rife with the adventures one would associate with wartime, such as sneaking into railyards under the cover of darkness, opening up the gearboxes of locomotives and filling them with sand.  The trains would later grind to a halt...and become sitting ducks for Allied aircraft, or other resistance fighters who would open the cars and release prisoners on their way to the German camps.

This he did in secret, while working his job as an engineer with a large construction company. One day, on his way to work he was met by other resistance members.  He was told he could not go to his office...the Gestapo were waiting for him.  He couldn't go home either.  The Gestapo were there too, having discovered the radio he had hidden and used to receive messages.  With the clothes on his back, he was spirited away to the French border where French resistance fighters took him further south to the Canadian Army coming from Normandy.  He joined with the Canadians as they later liberated southern Holland.  That's also when he would meet the young woman who would become my mother.

My father passed on almost 13 years ago, and this year would be the 100th anniversary of his birthday.  I think of him often, and wonder about those years.  I also wonder if I would've had the courage to do the things he did, in the name of drive out tyranny.  I'd like to think I would.

Thank you, Dad.

(For a related writing about my father, see:

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