Monday, March 29, 2010

The Effects of War

We live in times of peace. Sure, there are wars today and yes, many of the armed forces of Western countries, including the Netherlands, are fighting those wars. But these wars are fought overseas, far away, in countries not our own. We, civilians, are safe in our own country, our own houses, our own beds, far away from the devastation of war. How different this was for our ancestors. Many of them lived through times of war. Wars fought in their own country, their own towns, their own backyards.

We, as genealogists, often find records of those times. Records for our ancestors that served in the military, but also plenty of records of civilians in war times. And even if there are no records that specifically mention our ancestors, there are a lot of records and data about the wars, on a national and local level. It paints a vivid enough picture of those times and we can imagine our ancestors in that context. However, there is one important thing we often overlook when we look at wars. Maybe it’s because we have never truly known war, but it’s so easy to look at the dates in a history book and say ‘that’s when the war ended’. How wrong we often are!

The dates in history books tell when the battles ended, when peace was signed, but never is it the date the war ended. Wars can be compared to earthquakes. First there’s a big one, the war itself. Then, when that is over, there is at least one, but often several aftershocks. People’s lives have been ruined and effects of the war can be felt for years afterwards. And just because the big fight is over, doesn’t mean that all conflict magically disappears.

I was vividly reminded of this fact just last week. I’d long coveted the book ‘Achter verduisterde ramen – Voorschotense kronieken 1940-1950’, which is a book about the Second World War and the years after in Voorschoten, the place where my grandparents (all of them) lived during the war. It came out in 2009 and last week I finally bought it. I had expected to find several of my ancestors in it, like L.J. van Aken, a resistance man who barely survived an assassination attack, and B.C. Bolle, who held several public posts just after the war. I was not surprised to find a long list of Lamboo’s, all related in some way or another to me, as they are a big family and they’ve always been very active in the community. It did come as somewhat as a surprise though, to find my grandfather Adolph Knura mentioned.

Adolph Knura was German and he came to the Netherlands in 1932. His sister, Anna Knura, was married to L.J. van Aken and he came to live with her and work for L.J. van Aken’s painting company. He met my grandmother Henriette Geertruida Lamboo and got married. By the time the war broke out, they had two children. But however much my grandfather had integrated into Dutch society, he was still legally a German citizen. And so it came to pass that my grandfather was called to serve in the German army. He didn’t want to, but he still had parents and siblings in Germany and if he didn’t comply, they would feel the wrath of the Nazi’s. After the war, he returned home. All of this was known to me, and I expected there to maybe be a mention of this in the book.

Color me surprised when I opened the page his name was listed on according to the index to read the title ‘Landsverraderlijke personen’ or translated: ‘traitors’. According to the book, my grandfather was arrested after his return from Germany and spend a year in a prison camp before he was released, having been cleared of charges of being a traitor. The source for this was an interview with A.J. Lamboo, held in 2005. This information came as a complete surprise to both me and my mother. We had never heard of this before.

I need to look further into this, of course, see if I can find any paper sources for this, and maybe ask my aunt, who was around 6 or 7 at that time, if she remembers anything of it. Still, whether this is in fact true or not, and I’m inclined to say it’s true, it brings home the fact that after a war is fought, the war isn’t over yet. It wasn’t for my grandfather, nor for any of the other people arrested on charges of being a traitor (true or false). It wasn’t over for any of their families either. For years after the war, the effects were felt. And it’s important to realize that, spoiled as we are with peace. It will not only lead us to unexplored sources, like in my case, it will also help us realize just how good we have it.

1 comment:

  1. How true! A lot of my research on Civil War ancestors revolves around families dealing with the deaths of sons in battle, the deaths of those at home from disease, and the aftereffects of poverty and upheaval (including the kind of labeling that happened to your grandfather) that forced many to go west in search of better fortunes. And, of course, the wars of this century had many of the same effects.