The war was over and Holland was a free country again but our life wasn't without struggles. We had survived the German Nazi agony but the damage they had done would remind us about this war for many years to come.
Places in the open fields and wooded areas that were once an arsenal of war equipment had been our daily playground. Now the only reminders were the empty fox-holes and trenches, empty shells from small artillery which were set up in those trenches, tents, wooden boxes and empty gasoline cans. Still those leftovers from the war were very useful to many townspeople. I will never forget the unnecessary waste I witnessed on gasoline and so many of the food products. There were still so many things around to remind us for days to come that the Americans had been our liberators. The color of some of the children was different. Some had very dark skin. This was something new in our environment and we had to get used to it. Whenever those children walked on the street with their white mothers they would always get a lot of attention.
Many young Dutch men had fought alongside with the allied troops to clean out the Western front from the hated Nazis. After Germany was defeated and the war was over in Europe, almost all of those Dutch men who had fought alongside the allied troops went voluntarily to the Dutch colonies to fight the Japanese who still occupied some of the Dutch Indonesia and Dutch New-Guinea. Those young men were shipped straight to the U.S.A. and trained on marine bases to fight the Japanese. All of those young men became marines. When the Japanese were defeated by the combined Asian allied forces the conflict about who was going to rule Indonesia became very confused. The Indonesians felt that since the Japanese were defeated and the country was free from foreign intervention they should be free from the Dutch rule also and have their independence. But the Dutch Government felt the Indonesian people weren't ready yet to govern themselves. So the Dutch tried to hold onto their colony and started a massive draft program for young men to serve military duties in Dutch Indonesia. Most of them had to serve for two years.
I will never forget how nice and honorably the Dutch people treated those soldiers after they came back from a two-year duty in Dutch Indonesia. Some of those young men didn't come home since after World War II ended and they were sent straight to the Dutch colonies. After a soldier came home from his Indonesia duties the whole neighborhood would get involved. There were receiving committees set up in every city or town where the soldiers' home was. The house the soldier lived in was totally decorated with flowers and all kinds of colored lights which would light-up the house all night long. When this soldier arrived home the whole town was out to greet him. Music bands would come during the day in front of the house and give special serenades. All kinds of speeches were said by the town authorities. People of the town wanted the soldier to know how proud they were about what he had done for his country. Most of the soldiers had long leaves and celebrated for many days. Those soldiers were proud to wear their uniform through town, with their tropical sunburned faces they were a special attraction. Many of those young men never came back home again as they went through hell fighting those Japanese in the Dutch New-Guinea jungle. The Dutch people received all of those soldiers with open hearts, dignity and honors, and were very proud of what they had done for their country.
When the Germans retreated from Holland they totally destroyed the Dutch industry. Many dikes in the lowlands were blown-up and flooded all of the land. It took the Dutch people many years under the Marshall-Plan to rebuild their industry. I had missed so many classes during my elementary years in school, because first the Germans and later the American troops always occupied our school building. But the war was over now and we kids had to go back to school again. I was in my last year of elementary school in the eighth grade. From elementary school we could make a choice to go to a technical or business school. I was not interested in either. I wanted to go to a Catholic seminary to study. The reason I became interested to study in the Catholic seminary was that during the war time I had many friends with children from local farmers. I helped them on the farm because they had plenty of food to eat. I would always share in their meals during the day. One of those farm boys I became very friendly with. We were altar boys in our church together. After elementary school he had gone to this Catholic seminary to study for the priesthood. I visited him at the seminary one day and was very much taken by the peaceful atmosphere of this place. Since I was finishing elementary school I asked my friend if there were any possibilities that I could study at the seminary. He said he would love to have me there but he had to check first with the principal of the seminary. Right after the war only the well-to-do boys from families who had plenty of money were able to go to seminaries. Of course the farmers had made plenty of money during the war from the hungry people. So farmers could afford to send their children to expensive schools.