Air battles over Flevoland. Part 11: There wasn’t a simple solution

“Let’s put it this way: if they hadn’t attacked, Germany would have been unbeatable".

The story of the salvage officer who was involved in the salvage of, in particular, Allied aircraft wrecks in the Flevoland polders.

11 zadkine

'The Destroyed City' is a bronze memorial sculpture in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Unveiled in 1953, it commemorates the German bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940. It is the largest sculpture by the Russian-born French sculptor Ossip Zadkine (Van Duinen, Nationaal Archief, The Hague, ANEFO Collection).

There wasn’t a simple solution. Let’s put it this way: if they had not bombed the Germans, then Germany would have been unbeatable. Can you imagine! Still people forget. Bombs also fell here in the Netherlands; the Germans stored and started V2's next to a hospital! This was no accident, they did this on purpose! 600 000 civilians, if we want to call them civilians, as a result of bombing. Not just women and children but also policemen, firemen and factory workers. Of course we mustn’t forget the six million Jews. Need we mention the two million Russians and two million Poles that they literally hunted down.

I was once in Germany, where I had to help the Americans with salvaging. I was in my Dutch Air Force 'working clothes', the odd man out, if you know what I mean. The stranger in their midst. Then an elderly German approached me: "Wer sind Sie?" (who are you?) I told him I was a Dutchman. He then asked:

"Why do the Dutch hate us so much? I was with the occupation forces and we tried to behave ourselves."

I told him: "Listen, in my hometown there were fifty Jewish families and not one came back." He looked at me: “oh” and he was gone. If you have not experienced it yourself: the story told by the song "heavenly music ", that is how we thought about it at the time. Only after the war they told us ..... Goebbels started the use of the term 'terror flieger' (terror flyers) when talking about the airmen. That won't go down with me, that nonsense.

The air gunners

We once went to Putten* with a group of air gunners and then the retaliation occurred. We told them the whole story there. When we boarded the bus again, one air gunner said to me:

"Gerry, having heard this, I don’t regret any of the bombs I dropped on Germany."

These guys were run down by Goebbels and that influenced how people looked at them in their homeland. There are still journalists in Germany that use this term for the English airmen. In England a monument was erected for Bomber Harris. Didn’t this cause a stir. Bomber Harris said:

"The Germans thought they could bomb anybody else, but nobody would be able to bomb them."

They're sowing the wind, they're going to reap the whirlwind. Coventry had been the example as the Germans found out. Coventry is an important part in the history. Look, it wasn’t fun for anyone! People in the Netherlands were also killed by bombings.’

Source: Batavialand, interview by Lenie Bolle with Gerrie Zwanenburg, 16 th September, 2009


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