Thank you for allowing me the privilege of sharing with you today. Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for all who have served and continue to serve this great nation of ours and have brought and continue to bring us freedom and peace.
We had always asked my dad to write out his memoirs. We had heard many of his stories from World War 2 in the Netherlands, but we didn’t want to have the details lost to time. It looked like they would be lost, but my brother had a brilliant idea, instead of having him write them down, he would do a video of him telling the stories. So, during the pandemic, my brother gathered the stories.
The story I want to tell you today happened in 1942. Just to give you some background. The Netherland’s was invaded on May 10, 1940. It took only 5 days to bring the Netherlands down. This lead to Nazi occupation for 5 years till their liberation in May of 1945. The first couple years were known as the “velvet glove” as the Nazi’s tried to gain support through softer measures. When that did not achieve the desired results, this approach ended. Leading to greater repression for all, particularly the Jewish population. Which leads to my dad’s story.
My dad was 16 at the time. He had biked to the YMCA in Harfsen, a small community about a 20 minute bike ride from his family farm just outside Bathmen. It would be like biking from Corbeil to Callander. Probably the size of the towns would be comparable as well.
My dad noticed, as he was biking back, a sign on the side of the road. It would have been similar in size to the town signs, six feet wide – three feet high. Held up by two wooden posts. On the sign were written these words. Voor Joden Vorboeden (No Jews Allowed). He was surprised and shocked by the blatant message of the sign.
He got off his bike. Picked up a fence post and smashed the sign to bits. He said it took a lot of effort, but he destroyed it completely. Then a thought entered his mind, “I should have looked to see if anyone was watching.” Fortunately, for him no one was watching. It was his first act of resistance. He was confronted by a great injustice and couldn’t sit idly by.
The sign was set up again, and he destroyed it one more time. At that point the war had intensified, and it became too dangerous. My dad went on to talk about the Jewish people who lived in their community. It was a small group, only 13 or 14. But my dad knew them all by name, they were neighbours and friends. All of them were captured and sent to Westerbork before being sent to the concentration camps Auschwitz and Sobibor. All but one of that small Jewish community, died in those camps.
This was part of what was being fought for in World War 2. To stand against tyranny and repression. To boldly state that this kind of hate is intolerable.
My dad is now 96. It has been 70 years since he destroyed that sign with a fence post, and I would like to say that kind of hatred has been lost in the past. That no longer would a sign that declares “Voor Joden Vorboeden” be tolerated and that antisemitism would be gone. But sadly it is not. I asked my dad what he thought about the hate that is visible in society and he simply said, “it’s disgusting.” He would go so far as to say that those who do not stand against it are complicit in it.
This week the Ontario government announced that it will change its educational curriculum so that the Jewish holocaust with be taught earlier to curb a disturbing trend of antisemitism in Ontario schools. Just recently it has been in the forefront of the news, as sports figures and recording artists have once again jumped on this bandwagon. The company that served as Kanye West’s talent agency released this statement.
“Kanye is a producer and sampler of music. Last week he sampled and remixed a classic tune that has charted for over 3000 years – the lie that Jews are evil and conspire to control the world for their own gain. This song was performed acapella in the time of the Pharaohs, Babylon and Rome, went acoustic with The Spanish Inquisition and Russia’s Pale of Settlement, and Hitler took the song electric. Kanye has now helped mainstream it in the modern era.” (MRC studio executives Modi Wiczyk, Asif Satchu and Scott Tenley
We live in days where hate is strong. In my lifetime, I have never seen society so fractured and polarized. Social media has given everyone a soapbox to express their views and it has made us angry, opinionated, and volatile. We seem to be moving ever further from what this day is to be celebrating: the end of conflict and the moving towards peace on earth. I’m reminded of the words of the Christmas Song, “I heard the bells.” The author is bemoaning the fact that as he looked on society, it seems to be no better.
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
But he concludes the song with an anthem of hope
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.” (written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863)
But how does that happen? How shall the wrong fail? How shall the right prevail? How will there be peace on earth – good will to men? In the Bible the writer James tells us that the road to this ideal is found when people follow this simple guideline
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20
Hatred and anger do not produce the result God is looking for. It happens when you and I decide:
- I will be quick to listen
- I will be slow to speak
- I will be slow to become angry.
I will decide that as far as I am concerned, I will live at peace with all men. I will not allow hate to have a foothold in my life.
As Martin Luther King stated, ““Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Presented at the Callander Legion (Callander, Ontario), November 11, 2022