In 1940, it would have been a very hard time to be living in Europe, especially if you lived in one of the many little countries that were being invaded by the Nazis. The Netherlands was one of those. At first, it wasn't so bad. The Netherlanders could live with them, but when the Germans went to fight in Russia, they needed more men and more weapons. So, they started taking men out of the factories and sending them to fight the Russians. But of course they had to have someone to fill the places of all the men who were being sent to the front, so the Germans started taking the men and boys from the countries that were under the Nazi thumb.
In mid 1943, Frederick Kroese, got a message telling him to get a few belongings and report so that he could be moved to Germany to work in the factories. As a 19 year old young man, he wasn't going to be bossed around by some government that wasn't even his own, telling him that he had to drop everything he was doing and go to work to help the very people who had invaded his country. So he just said, "I won't do that!"
There were then only two options left to him: he could either wait for the Nazi police to come get him, or he could go into hiding. Well, he wasn't going to wait around for the police, so he found a place to hide himself! And then, since he wasn't going to just wait in hiding, he decided to join the Resistance.
When I first met Mr. Kroese, he described to me in great detail the perils of joining the Resistance. It was a very real and dangerous thing to undertake. He knew that at any time he could be shot, put in prison, or tortured for information and addresses, but it gave him a way to "really do something against the Germans..." In a lovely Dutch accent, he told me, "You took part in an organization which did things you shouldn't do to survive it. In common clothes - you don't have a uniform, but we were the enemy of the Germans." He wore a band on his arm that said he was in food distribution so that the Germans wouldn't bother him or take away his bicycle. If you remember from Corrie Ten Boom's stories, bicycles were very important to the success of their plans.
One day, however, as he was coming out of the woods, he found a German stealing his bike. He really needed his wheels to get where he was going, so he tried to talk him out of it -but without success. He finally asked if the German would at least give him a ride into town on the back of it (oh the gall!), but he wouldn't take up his offer... And he lost the bike. Just another day in the life of Frederikus Wilhelmus Kroese.
When American or English pilots were downed, he was there to help them. "I was in the group that saved flying people who were shot down..." The pilots would call in to the Dutch Resistance saying, "Save us, save us, we're crashing!" and Mr. Kroese would organize the farmers to go to the location where they were falling, destroy the evidence, bury the parachutes, etc... Then find them a place where they could stay, forge false identification papers and ration cards, and finally get them new clothing! Isn't that just too rich...part of the Dutch Resistance, forging papers, and saving downed English and American pilots!!!
Although it was no doubt thrilling to their impetuous spirits, these Tommies and Johnnies were practically still boys, and didn't seem to grasp the danger of the situation or the tremendous sacrifice that these Dutch people were embracing, risking their lives, and giving them a large portion of their own scarce supply of food. "They would stay there for a few weeks, or as long as needed and they would stay in the house where I was aided. We gave them food, and some night I came upstairs after they had dinner, and I came and I saw that the soup was in the washing table," -(that was in the year that food was especially difficult to come by)- "So I said, 'Are you mad? If you don't like it, tell it to us, and we can have it, but don't spoil it!'"
At other times, the Americans struggled to grasp the precariousness of their situation. "Sometime in the following months, there came a German car stopping just before our house... but what did he (the American flyer)? He moved to the window, pushed the curtains away, and I said; 'Are you mad?!'" 'No, but I've never seen my enemy. I want to see my enemy.' As they are young boys, they don't realize, and they don't know. They didn't know that we had few food, and he didn't realize that he, ya, was in danger of bringing us in danger by showing himself at the window. It was remarkable."
Finally, after 5 longs years of being under Nazi oppression, after 3 years of working every moment against his country's oppressors, rescuing Allied pilots, burying parachutes, hiding radios, stealing bicycles, blowing up bridges, forging papers, scraping together food, organizing the farmers, - and every moment living in the realization that they could die any time, the Netherlands were finally liberated.
"It was happiness to be liberated."
In all the times that I've come in contact with people from the Netherlands, I've found them to be some of the nicest people in the world. So kind, and with such a full history of their own, and between our two countries, dating all the way back to 1608 when they welcomed our Pilgrim Fathers into their land, and gave us a place where we could live in peace and worship God in freedom for over ten years, until our forefathers sailed to America. Mr Kroese is certainly no exception! Thank you, dear sir, for your gallantry and your kindness to our boys who got in a tough spot in the air over there.