Divine Intervention -

Interview with
Johan Boogaards, 22 December 2007


So that was the incredibly severe winter of 1944.
My father had left for Friesland on a bike without tyres to get food and make arrangements for us to stay there for the duration of the war. He had been gone for two days when we received a message from an uncle in Oestgeest saying: “I have 150 kilos of tulip bulbs for you but I can’t get any further than Wassenaar with my delivery bike so you’ll have to collect them there”. So, my stepmother rented a wheelbarrow from a hire firm around the corner from our house. She and my eldest brother, who was 13, then set out through the snow and ice on their way to Wassenaar. Their journey was a success but of course it was freezing cold and it was a difficult trip for a 22 or 23-year-old woman to make with a 13-year-old child that wasn’t hers.

In Wassenaar she had to wait half an hour for the man, who helped her load the tulip bulbs. And then they started back. The  Benoordenhoutseweg was much too dangerous, too wide, and guarded by many German soldiers. So they turned left after the old zoo and entered the Marlot district. 
In Marlot, a man walked up to them and asked: “Shall I help you push?” But in wartime you couldn’t really trust anyone because there were some Dutchmen who would steal food from their compatriots. And, if you had any goods, there were Germans who would confiscate them and keep them for themselves, so in those days you didn’t trust anyone.
Therefore, they weren’t really pleased with his offer. They were glad to have help pushing, but they would rather not have had the man.
They then walked through the Bezuiderhout neighbourhood. What I didn’t mention, that was also happening at the time, was that V-1 rockets were being launched against London from the Haagse Bos. While they were walking there, one was launched. They saw it rise, and then there was a sudden loud bang and a lot of flames. A V-1 was in the air, about 50 metres high and it careened. There was an enormous blast. Very close to them. The sonic boom had probably passed over their heads because when they walked down the Bezuiderhout the whole street was littered with shards of glass. All the windows had shattered. It was a real shock to them.  About a hundred metres further, once they had passed the Karel Reinierszkade, which is quite close to Huis ten Bosch, my brother Leo saw a large black bag in the street. A large bag. Just sitting there. There were houses, a pavement, a cycle path and there it was on the bare street, all by itself, just sitting there. So he gazed at it. And gazed at it. OK...ok… what could it be. A hundred metres further on he said: “Mama, I have to take a closer look”. He went and picked up the bag and brought it back to the wheelbarrow. But they didn’t dare to open it with the man still with them. Finally, in the centre of the town, the man said: “thanks for letting me help you”. He turned off to the left. They were very pleased he’d gone and continued homewards.
I’ll never forget it. I was then…yes…nine and a half, almost ten. I was sitting by the window with my brother Willem, who was 12, looking at the snow and ice outside when we saw them, freezing cold, coming down the street with the wheelbarrow. We flew down the stairs to unload the tulip bulbs. And ... there was the bag, of course. The bag was placed on the table. 
“OK”, said mama, “let’s open it now”. And, thinking back, it was a true miracle because we had nothing to eat, nothing at all. The bag was full of tins and things we had never eaten before. Asparagus, tinned salmon. Ten or twelve tins were set out on the table. Now, in that small house of ours we had 5 rooms on the second floor but only one was left because we had removed almost all the doors and walls. So we tore down the last few walls upstairs and used the wood to get the stove burning. Singing, with tears of joy on our faces, we sat in front of the stove, in front of our divine miracle. Two days later my father returned from Friesland with a suitcase full of food and the news that he had made arrangements to take us to Friesland for the rest of the Hunger Winter.