We recently learned that a dear couple that supports The Fellowship has a remarkable history. While they agreed to let us share their story, they insisted on not being named, claiming “others did more, and suffered more than us.” For the purposes of this post, we will call them Steve and Mary. May their experiences inspire you as much as they did us.
“Steve” grew up in the Netherlands, which the Nazis invaded and occupied early in the war. His family assisted the Dutch underground forces by hiding and sheltering refugees and enemies of the Nazi regime. One of the people who needed their help was a Jewish woman from Germany. Watching his family take her into their home had a profound impact on Steve, who was a young boy at the time. Eventually she was given refuge by others in their town, and through this concerted effort she survived the war and immigrated to the United States, where she was able to create a blessed and successful life.
Early on, Steve was too young to understand the danger his family was in. He would hum the famous beginning to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, not realizing this would clue in any suspicious person who would know those musical measures marked a secret radio broadcast – and having a radio was strictly forbidden!
Dutch airspace was used by both sides during the war, so battles were often waged above them, with pieces of aircraft landing dangerously in various neighborhoods. Particularly frightening were the V-1 buzz bombs. They made a distinctive noise when they flew over Steve’s city, and if that noise stopped everyone knew that one was soon going to fall from the sky and explode. One failed to reach its destination and detonated a few miles from his town, causing great destruction.
The winter of 1944-45 was a cold, hard season of starvation for the Dutch people. The Nazis were failing, resources were scarce, and the occupation was not going to help care for the people of the Netherlands. Steve attributes some of the health issues he has dealt with over the years to the lack of nutrition he suffered at that time.
Steve remembers, “The Nazis were retaliating for the Dutch underground participation in Operation ‘Market Garden’ in September 1944, which had the objective of establishing a bridgehead across the Rhine River near the city of Arnhem as a prelude to the invasion of the ‘Ruhrgebied,’ the German industrial heartland. The Dutch underground warned London to postpone the invasion due to the presence of two German crack Pantzer Divisions on R&R from the East front across the Rhine bridge. The warning went unheeded and Montgomery pushed through, resulting in a horrendous disaster. Hitler retaliated by ordering to starve the Dutch population to death as punishment. In Amsterdam alone 2,000 people starved to death on a daily basis. The bodies were stacked up in the churches as they ran out of wood for proper coffins while the SS were patrolling the hospital wards looking for underground fighters."
While Steve was going through all this during the war, “Mary,” the woman who was to eventually become his wife, was living her own amazing war story. In fact, she was actually born in an air raid shelter! Her mother was not quite full term when the sirens sounded, but all of the terror of that experience brought on an early delivery, and that’s when Mary entered this world.
Steve and Mary were profoundly impacted by this war, but were never overcome by its evil. Steve eventually moved to the United States through the sponsorship of his Jewish friend. He secured a job with a major U.S. company and had an exciting and successful career in international business. Through that travel, he met his precious Mary.
God has blessed them – through the reciprocation of kindness and gratitude from Steve’s Jewish friend, through the courage to stand up for the righteousness modeled by his family, through the untold and unseen ways God has watched over them through the years. This couple has expressed their gratitude, and taken a stand for righteousness and kindness, by including The Fellowship in their estate plans.
The impact of those years is still with them all these years later, so much so that they recently visited Auschwitz. Steve and Mary know it is essential that we remember and that we stand up for Jewish people and never let these horrors happen again. Joining with The Fellowship enables them to take that stand.