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Grandfather Ernest MAG
The Diary of Anne Frank prompted me to learn more about World War II. My grandfather, Ernest Kervel, lived in Holland during this war. I thought it would be interesting to hear his firsthand knowledge and personal experience.
How old were you when World War II broke out, and where did you live?
I was about nine years old and lived in Laren, Holland, approximately 22 kilometers from Amsterdam.
What was it like to go to school while there was a war going on?
Well, our schools were confiscated by the Germans and used as an army base. My teachers taught us in underground villas, or buildings confiscated by the Germans but standing empty. Our parents arranged for us to meet at these villas.
Did your family harbor Jews?
No, but we did harbor onderduikers. These were Dutch people, children and adults, from North Holland, who were wanted by the Germans. The onderduikers were hiding from the Germans because they were not registered with them. Had they been found, the Germans would have sent them to concentration camps or the front line.
How was your mother able to feed so many mouths?
My mother and sister went to North Holland in search of food. The trip took a minimum of four days, and while they were gone my brother and I stayed with another family.
What was one of the scariest things you remember of the war?
One day I was walking to school and noticed my bike among the others that had been confiscated by the Germans. It took a lot of nerve, but I pulled myself together and stole it back. It was also scary to see all the armed Nazis, not knowing when they were going to shoot next.
Did the Germans enter your house frequently?
Yes. The Germans would walk down the street and enter any house without consent. My house was large, so the Germans suspected we would have Jews oronderduikers, and they entered frequently.
Where were the onderduikers hidden, and how did you make sure the Germans did not find them?
We hid them in secret rooms behind walls which you could only reach through one room. When the Germans would come to search we would let them see our vicious dog, putting him in the only room that connected to the secret room, and then they would not enter the room.
If anything, what important lesson did you learn?
I learned to be a good friend by helping the onderduikers, and I learned to appreciate friends like those who took care of me when my mother was not available. I also learned how important a family is; when I was left alone I missed the love, caring and security of a family.