Bosma, Uilke

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                            UILKE (JEEP) BOSMA
                       Family Risks Everything to Protect Girl
                               By Kyle Houlston

Uilke (Jeep) Bosma listened to the radio one morning in May 1940 as a report came across that Germany had invaded Holland. The Miramichi man says he remembers the Dutch anthem played for the last time.

While listening to the sounds of war in the distance, he left his bakery by bicycle for the next village to bring his wife back to their small town of Grouw. “Our first thoughts were of shooting, looting and murder, but it didn’t happen. The Germans were very disciplined.” Fighting lasted about three days with the bombing of Rotterdam and other Dutch cities, Grouw, in northern Holland, saw the first German troops move in and take over. “At first, they took all our copper and church bells for ammunition. Soon they marked all the Jews with stars. We were given food stamps, rations, cigarettes, electricity, and told us to register for labor if the Germans needed us.” But Bosma did not sign up for fear of being sent to a work camp in Germany.

Then came a curfew. No one was allowed out between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. Bosma attempted to sneak out one night to go to his bakery. “Just as I had stepped out and locked the door, I heard talking at the street corner no more than 50 feet away. I desperately tried to unlock the door and no sooner than I got in my house, two German shepherds hit the door. I heard the Germans walking up because they had the clinkers under their boots. They stood in front of the house for awhile and left again. My heart was beating awfully hard.”

Soon they started rounding up the Jews with the help of the “Jan Hagel.” These were natives of the Netherlands who helped the Germans hunt the Jews and seek out the Resistance. These people often thought the Germans would give them powerful or prestigious jobs after the war.

Bosma’s sister worked for a Jewish man who wanted to hide his daughter from the invaders so Bosma talked his in-laws into hiding her in their home.

When speaking of the Holocaust, he said, “We did not know what was happening, but had a strong idea.” When Bosma’s brother-in-law was taken to jail by the Germans, he saw what was happening to people who protected the Jews. He urged his parents to find her another place to hide after his release three months later.

Bosma, knowing the risk to himself, took in the seven-year-old Lia, fearing if she was caught she would be sent to Wassterbark, a concentration camp in the Netherlands. During her stay with Bosma and his wife, they had a close call with the Jan Hagel. “One day they had all the streets around our house cordoned off. They were looking for the leader of the underground.” Fearing their house might be checked, Mrs. Bosma hid the Jewish girl in a hole in the floor where they kept black coal for the stoves. “I said no way we can put a little girl down there.” He opened the lid and took her out when he got home. Bosma told her to sit in the corner and play with her dolls and if anybody came, to be quiet, and he would do the talking.

The Jan Hagel never came to the Bosma’s house. But Lia was later caught. While out one day, a German soldier chased her to a canal, where Lia had no choice but to dive in. The soldier followed and soon had the little girl taken to jail.

About three years ago Bosma received a letter from Virginia Beach. It was Lia, and she had survived. She never had to go to a concentration camp. She and Bosma exchanged letters and she expressed her gratitude for all he had done for her during the war.

                       Without Work Papers Bosma Nearly Arrested

Uilke (Jeep) Bosma didn’t sign up for labor duty, as everyone between 16 and 65 was supposed to. It nearly cost him dearly.

“On day I got caught and because I had no pass, I was in trouble.” But a German soldier recognized Bosma from the bakery he regularly went to. “He pleaded with his commandant to let me go, because I was their baker.” They threatened Bosma with work camp, but let him go with a stern warning to get his papers. Bosma said most of the German soldiers were “good people” and were only doing their jobs.” It was the Gestapo and SS who terrorized and struck fear into the community.” Once a German soldier told Bosma “that they did not want to be in Holland, they all just wanted to go back home to Germany,” said Bosma. “We were more afraid of the Russians than the Germans,” he said.

                               Life Tougher as War Drags On

Life grew tougher as the war went on, says Uilke (Jeep) Bosma. As the war continued the Germans began taking more and more out of Holland – radios, cars, trucks and food stamps became increasingly scarce and some families traded everything they owned for food.

One day as Bosma told it, the Jan Hagel, a group of Dutch Collaborators, confiscated a saw from a man in their village. Bosma, feeling they went too far, went to them and demanded the man’s saw back. A bold move on his part. “I can’t remember if I ever got it back from them,” he laughed.

When wood for their stoves became scarce, Bosma and a friend started to fall a tree. They did not realize the tree would strike communication wires set up by the Germans. They brought down the wires along with the tree. Fearing reprisals, they fled the scene as quickly as possible.

                            Germans Leave In a Hurry at War’s End

The war ended quickly for Uilke (Jeep) Bosma. “One day the Germans were there in our streets, the next gone back to Germany. They left in the middle of the night, we didn’t see them go,” he said. “We were all so happy that they had finally gone,” his wife, Maudie added.

Their village of Grouw in northern Holland did not see much of the fierce fighting between the Canadians and Germans in southern Holland in the fall of 1944. “We were very lucky.”

The Canadian victory in the Netherlands brought feasts, parties and huge dances in the streets, as the Canadians continued into Germany.

During the war, the Bosma’s decided to leave the Netherlands to go and live in a country with fewer restrictions due to high population. “We thought of moving to the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada,” Maudie Bosma said.

In April 1955 they made the trip to Canada. Bosma picked up his baking trade once again to make a living here. Bosma then worked at the Golf and Country Club in Bushville and Curling Rink in Newcastle. He and his wife are volunteers for Meals on Wheels and very active with their church and community. Maudie said, “We must keep this history alive, we can never have what happened to occur again, especially what they did to the Jews.”

Source: Miramichi Weekend – November 10, 1995

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