Memories of My Father-In-Law and Freedom

The recent election with the nasty ads and the issue of citizen rights to vote on debt prompted GUARDIAN reader Victor Van Durme to pen the following message. As you read it, imagine the thick Flemmish accent of this proud American as he recounts memories from WWII.


1938–German kids are joining the Hitler Youth movement in droves and 90% of Germans support the Nazis. The stiff armed Nazi “Heil Hitler” salute is seen in church and school and the kids wear belt buckles emblazoned with “God is with us.”

May 10, 1940–The Germans invaded my native homeland of Belgium. My father-in-law was a courier for the Belgium forces and sails across the English Channel with documents from the Belgian generals to Dover where he and his commrads were refused entry by the British.

The men returned to Europe where they landed at Calais, France and taken prisoners of war by the Nazis and imprisoned for 18 months. His wife was told he had died at sea.

Upon release from prison, he was sent to the docks to work as a POW loading and unloading ships. Suddenly one day Dad and 600 others were loaded on trucks and locked up for two days bouncing along the roads of Europe. When they were unloaded it was at the infamous concentration camp of TREBLINKA in Poland.

The group was divided in half. About 300 were immediately killed. The second group which included Dad were assigned to slave labor. Just for kicks one day a Nazi decided to beat him to death and left him in a farmer’s field. But the tough old Belgian refused to die that August night in 1943.

Dad and a buddy traveled for two months, hiding by day and moving at night. Finally, he made his way home. He rang the door bell and when his wife opened the door she was confronted by a gaunt bearded man who looked like a living skeleton. He slept on the roof to avoid the Nazis.

When the war ended in 1945 Dad was without identity and unable to get work or assistance. Finally in 1953 he got his identity squared away and applied for immigration to the USA. He made it to America in 1955, thanks to my wife’s aunt who was already living in Boise. She sponsored the entire family.

Dad got work with Morrison Knudsen as a steam cleaner and lived the best 10 years of his life, fishing at Cascade during his spare time. He died in 1965 a happy man.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Lucky for him (and you) the president did not feel compelled to apologize to Hitler.

  2. Anyone interested in just what was laid on the line by American troops in WW2 needs to read D-Day by Stephen Ambrose Eisenhower put all the chips on the table for that invasion and there was no Plan-B. The body count and equipment losses were staggering. It must have been as close to HELL as a living person can experience.

    The sacrafice and bloodshed in WW2 is hard to comphrehend. We have a backdoor draft fighting our wars today with people at the bottom of our economic stata doing the heavy lifting.

  3. They were certainly the “greatest generation”! My grandfather was captured on Corregidor and made the Bataan death march and subsequently the next 4 plus years as a pow. I have spent my life trying to be as good of a man as he and my father were. Victor, I would wager that your family was as close as mine. I was taught very early what was “expected” of the men in my family. To be respectful in order to get respect. Defend your family first and your country second. Always try to do the right thing. I wonder why so many families today have lost that cohesiveness that was so pervasive in prior generations.

  4. Perspective that many Americans don’t seem to have anymore

  5. To all my family and friends — especially my late father, late father-in-law, brother-in-law, late nephew, great-nephew and my son’s father, who are either active duty or veterans — Happy Veterans Day. Bring home our troops and provide them with jobs and the respect they are due.

    Thank you.


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