Though I have no Dutch heritage, I grew up among the Dutch. During my childhood, the vast majority of my friends were the children of Dutch immigrants who made the journey to Canada in the years following the Second World War. I went to Dutch churches and Dutch schools. I even learned to like Dutch food (Dutch soup, chocolate or brown sugar sandwiches, olibolen, and of course, dropjes). The Dutch, like many immigrant populations, have a deep cultural heritage and one they cling to even in this new land.
Deeply ingrained in the Dutch heritage is the lingering memory of World War 2. All of my Dutch friends had parents or grandparents who had been living in Holland in 1940, when the German army invaded and quickly destroyed all opposition in a war that lasted less than a week. The Dutch people were subjected to years of oppression. The Jewish population, many of whom had lived in Holland for generations, were rounded up and transported to Germany and Poland, never to be seen again. The Dutch, a proud and fiesty people, organized themselves into various Resistance groups and did what they could to torment the Germans, to prepare for the coming invasion, and to protect the Jews and other fugitives.
Making Choices: The Dutch Resistance During World War II tells the stories of four members of the Resistance all of whom have since moved to the United States: Diet Eman, John Witte, John Muller and John Timmer. Diet’s story is particularly compelling and moving. The viewer cannot help but be stirred as he hears of her courage, of her brushes with death, and of the loss of some of those she loved. This film helps the viewer understand what motivated these people to risk their lives for others and to face the heavy toll exacted on those who aided the Jews, for those who helped the Jews were to be treated as Jews. Many brave Dutch men and women, having been caught in acts of rebellion against the Germans, were sent to concentration camps.
Each of these former members of the Resistance provides his or her motivation for helping the Jewish people. Each of them affirms that it was their faith that drove them to protect the Jews. They could not stand silently by and watch as the Jewish people were herded like cattle and driven to their deaths. In a moving scene near the end, John Witte reveals that despite all that was done by himself and the other Dutch citizens, he still feels guilt that they could not do more.
There is one thing that has always struck me as strange and it was affirmed in this video. In all the times I have read about the work of the Dutch Resistance and have heard Dutch people speak about aiding the Jews, there has not been a single time that I heard of them sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the Jewish fugitives. While they were faithful in protecting human life and in sheltering those in need, I never heard of a Jewish person who was converted during this time. I never heard of a person who made it his mission to ensure that the Jewish people were introduced to Jesus Christ. And indeed, in this video, there is no mention of the Jewish need for Christ. It is very odd.
Making Choices is one of many presentations I have seen in the past few years that recounts the first-hand stories of ordinary people who were driven to extraordinary measures during the Second World War. As that generation grows older and their numbers diminish, historians are racing to record and preserve their stories. The stories of those who served the war effort in Holland are worth preserving. These stories are moving; inspiring. I was glad to be able to hear them.
Making Choices is available from Vision Video or from Amazon: