Page one of a wartime letter from Halbo Kool (b. 1873) and Christina Kolle. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)
Page two of a wartime letter from Halbo Kool (b. 1873), Christina Kolle. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)
Halbo Kool, son of Halbo Christiaan Kool and grandson of Halbo Kool (b. 1873), sent me this wartime letter from 1942 — from Halbo Kool (b. 1873) and Christina Kolle to their grandchildren — along with an extremely helpful translation with annotations. Halbo Kool called it “A bit off the cuff and not very polished translation but rather close to the original.” I call it a godsend on account of me not being able to read Dutch. Google Translate still isn’t user friendly. Without further ado…
Haren 24 July 1942
(Haren is a place near Groningen where my grandparents had a house on the Rijksstraatweg in a residential area. It was requisitioned later and my grandmother lived for years with her brother-in-law Hendrik, but moved in 1956 back to her house in Haren (but got only half of it, the rest was still let) and lived there till she died in 1957.)
The last few days it was here too an unpleasant atmosphere. Sunday all the man’s bicycles were seized and Monday they asked door by door to hand them over. Then there was suddenly the rumour that the blankets were also asked for but it appeared to be a false alarm.
What a situation these days, I can understand that it’ll be bad in Amsterdam. Is it true of all those suicides? People say that Amsterdam and Rotterdam have been surrounded with barbed wire, is that true as well? There seems to be much tension in the air, everybody is very nervous.
As far as food is concerned things aren’t to bad here, we still have a regular supply of potatoes and vegetables. Milk is getting difficult and is going to be rationed from August. It’s a big problem for Dad (Halbo Kool b. 1873) as I’m always making porridge from the bread, the grains (larger bits) stick in his throat and then he must cough terribly. (Christina’s note: Halbo Kool (b. 1873) died the following year)
The weather is a bit rotten these days and we don’t go out of the house now that’s it’s almost August.This morning we received a letter from Kees (her son Cornelis Kool) and Loes (Christina’s note: Louise Lopes-Cardozo) demanding us a statement about our parents and ourselves so he can prove that we don’t descend from Jews (mixed Aryan-Jewish – excuse me the unacceptable expression – couples were then still had some respite, and it may well have saved Loes and her children from deportation, as it did for the first husband of my sister Anneke’s first husband, Emile Mot. His parents were both Jewish, almost all their family was deported, but he and his parents escaped, they lived in Hilversum, not far from Naarden, and a policeman had — to my knowledge –declared that Emile was his son from an adulterous relation with Emile’s mother.)
What can he do with this, perhaps that things are a bit easier for Loes? We’ll do of course straight away the necessary. Monday auntie Trui (Geertruida Kolle, sister of my grandmother) has her birthday and if at all possible I’ll pay her a visit. Auntie Marie (probably Johanna Maria Kolle, another of her sisters) is there and she’ll be able to tell us where we should go (for the information). Did you already visit Mrs. Cardozo (should be the mother of Loes, who was sent off to a concentration camp with or like her daughter Frederika, neither returned. This information and the names of the aunties was given to me by Anje.) or she you? How terrible all this is, such a family being ripped apart like this. You hear about such things but if you know the people well, you really feel it.
How are you Willy (my mother)? Do you still get extra food and are the children all right again? Are things all right in Haarlem (where Willy’ s parents and sister live). Do give them my greetings when you can. What kind of sugarsweet product is that, Halbo, and under what name is it sold in the shops, is it something for us to buy?
Well, dear children, the very best, greetings and a kiss from your loving Grandpa (and) Grandma. (C. Kool-Kolle)
I find this letter super interesting because it really reflects the issues of the day. It sounds like Cornelis Kool was trying to arrange it so his wife and family would avoid persecution and execution during the war. One of my uncles had said that was possible because Cornelis worked at a paper mill and the Nazis needed paper; therefore, his family was probably lower on a list somewhere (and speaking of commandeering bicycles, he’d saved for years for the car the Nazis took from him and stayed angry about that for many years after). As for this, though, it sounds like maybe he was doctoring some genealogy records? I certainly would.
Editor’s note: The name of Halbo Kool (b. 1973) has been updated in this posting. It was misstated in an earlier version of this post.