November 11, 2018
- RCG Remembers
- Remembering this weekend
- RCG was Super on Halloween
SEE CALENDAR: https://rcgarnett.sd35.bc.ca/news-events/
- No school – Monday, November 12
- Collaboration Day – early dismissal at 1:15pm – Tuesday, Nov. 20
- Hot lunch – November 15 & 29
- PAC Meeting, 7:00pm – November 19
- Crazy Hair School Spirit Day – November 23
- Early Dismissal – Report Card Preparation Day – 11:21 am, November 26
Thank you parents who were able to take some time from your day to remember with the staff and students of the RCG community. Remembrance Day is a day with a significance that is challenging to make real for students today in Canada. Doing so required a big effort from many staff members including: Mrs. Triemstra, Mrs. Storsley, Mrs. Saumier, Ms. Ponting, Mrs. Boysen, Ms. McInnis, Mr. Mancini, Mrs. Weiss, Mrs. White, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Moino, Ms. Steunenberg, Mrs. Jacobson and a number of student teachers from TWU.
Remembering this weekend…
We do hope that everyone in our community took a moment this Sunday to remember the Canadian fallen and those who have sacrificed in foreign conflicts throughout our history as a nation. While we all abhor violence, there have been times in our past when extraordinary events or extraordinary evil has made it necessary for people to put themselves at considerable risk and harm, in the hope their military intervention would benefit others’ security or safety. War or civil conflict are not desired, but sometimes right must stand up and resist unjust might.
These decisions have never been easy and have weighed on the consciences of Canadians. Historians routinely remind us that generations that become too detached, or too forgetful over time, from the horrors and sacrifices of previous generations’ conflicts, often too easily fall into newer and more horrific conflict. This was certainly the case of the generation of Europeans who bumbled mindlessly into a world war, fought mainly in a small, almost immovable line of trenches that became a killing field in Belgium and France from 1914-1918. That this really happened – a conflict that ended 100 years ago killing 37 million people in horrific ways – seems almost unbelievable to our own generation immersed, numbed and distracted by comfort and technology.
Remembrance Day always weighs heavily on my family, because our presence here in this community, in Canada, is so tightly connected to it. 100 years ago this month, in 1918 my grandfather, Albertus Woelders was born. He was born in a small town in eastern Netherlands, called Almelo, just days after the armistice was signed ending the First World War. He grew up in the shadow of the Great War and the Great Depression, often with little to eat and hard work as his family’s only defence against poverty and starvation. He told tales of working hard in trade school to become a mechanic, and bicycling for dozens of kilometres with his dad to take on jobs. In 1938, at the age of 20, he was conscripted into the Dutch Army as Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, and Japan’s invasion of China, made nations around the world nervous about maintaining peace.
He was still in the Army, two years later, serving to connect telephone lines between command posts scattered throughout the Netherlands in 1940 when Germany invaded. Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port and the Netherlands second most populous city was bombed to rubble within days. Paratroopers dropped throughout the countryside seizing key bridge crossings for tanks. Stuka dive bombers tormented communication lines. My grandpa recounted years later the horrific screech of the plane descending on his command bunker and unleashing a bomb right onto the roof completely destroying the structure and tearing to shreds the men, his friends, who were inside it. He was thrown free from the building out an open door. Whenever war came up as a subject of conversation, even decades later, he would graphically retell the story of having to toss the broken bodies and limbs of friends into the back of a truck. Dazed by the blast, he fell asleep, only to to be awoken by a German solder who escorted him at gunpoint to a holding area to be later loaded onto a boxcar and freighted to Luckenwald – Stalag III-A prisoner-of-war camp near Berlin. The Netherlands surrendered days later and was occupied by foreign troops until 1945.
My grandmother, Anna VanOmering, was the middle teenage child of three who remembered school ending early one day when news of the invasion arrived at her school. She was fairly wealthy as my great-grandfather was one of the only doctors in the town of Amersfoort. Their spacious house was taken over by a German officer and they were forced to live in the upstairs in a small one-bedroom section of the house. While spared many of the horrors my grandfather saw, she lived all of her teenage years unable to leave the town, listen to a radio, have lights on at night, or have access to the food, books or travel she enjoyed before the war. She watched from the rooftop at night as American bombers were shot down by German fighters and crashed into balls of fire into the fields beyond the town. Because they performed medical services for German soldiers in exchange for black market medicines for the local people, my grandmother’s parents were treated as Nazi-sympathizers after the war and my great-grandfather was stripped of his medical practicing license.
When we complained as kids about what was on our plate, my grandfather often reminded me about not having much food during the Depression. Or, he would tell us again about having to share a single meal of a bucket of wormy, boiled potatoes between 50 men in the POW camp, or not having any food at all in the winter of 1944-45 when all of the Netherlands experienced famine and thousands died. Sometimes, when he was “lucky” as a POW he told us, they would have shared a bit of soup from a small piece of goat boiled in a pot, and a small piece of rye bread. In that camp he also witnessed atrocities with regularity as Polish or Russian prisoners were shot publicly for any infraction. When the camp was becoming too full, the Dutch prisoners were sent home to work on the railways as slave labour or risked being shot for disobeying. Because the Americans were regularly bombing railways, my grandfather dug out a small cavity under his mother’s sink, made a secret door, and lived under there during the day from 1941-1945. He reasoned that hiding and risking being shot was better than being a slave labourer with a high probability of getting killed by Allied bombs. At night he came out to find food for his parents to eat. Several times he was almost caught by German solders while trying to steal food, especially as the war was ending and food was so scarce. His ability to speak German was the only thing that saved him on several occasions. He built himself a small radio from scrap parts and listened to BBC broadcasts from England to occupy himself during the day.
In 1998 I went to Amersfoort with my grandparents and saw the corner where a house stood that had been destroyed by a tank because two teenage girls were hiding an injured Dutch resistance fighter in their home. I saw the bullet-marked wall in the centre of town where uncooperative civilians were summarily shot by machine guns without trial. I visited the memorial dedicated to the hundreds of Jews who were emptied from the town never to return again. I visited a coffee shop where an elderly woman saw the maple leaf on my bag, and with a tear in her eye expressed thanks for something some other Canadians had done long ago.
Remembrance Day is important to me because of the memories of people like that random old woman in a coffee shop in Amersfoort in 1998. I understand that we commemorate fallen Canadians on November 11 because of what they gave others. I am not sure if it is accurate to say that Canadians died for our freedom, but in the summer of 1944, Canadian soldiers of the First Division secured a beach head on D-Day at Juno beach in Normandy, France. From there they advanced northward into Belgium, securing Antwerp and fighting their way into the Netherlands during the Scheldt campaign in the fall and winter of 1944-45. This was undoubtedly some of the bloodiest and bitterest fighting of World War II and the casualties were disproportionately high, with little hope of reinforcements because Canada’s Second World War army depended entirely on volunteers. They fought across deliberately flooded landscapes with no shelter from artillery and machine gun fire, across dykes and polders, dams and canals. It took the Canadians nine months to liberate the Netherlands from foreign occupation and starvation, at the cost of 7,600 dead and thousands more wounded.
Both my grandparents remembered vividly the day their 5 year nightmare ended – it ended on the day Canadian troops entered Amersfoort, after months of determined fighting, disarming the remaining German soldiers, reclaiming the town for the people who called it home, and immediately bringing in shipments of food to the starving civilians. Until they passed away in old age in 2004 and 2006, my grandparents never missed a Remembrance Day commemoration of Canada’s fallen dead. They never forgot, and made sure that we would never forget also, what was the cost and the sacrifice of those Canadians who fell in combat in the Netherlands. My grandparents were also a living commemoration of what was preserved in the sacrifice. For that I am truly thankful.
If you didn’t do so this weekend, please do take a moment to understand and remember.
RCG was SUPER on Halloween
Have a wonderful, restful Monday