Just before a small Memorial Day parade in
It was via an email I forgot to open the past week from a
He's a distinctly refined Dutch native who lives in
"I, quite literally, owe my life to
Sandberg's two emails each included the same three, wonderful photos. One is a front page of the New York Herald Tribune from May 1945, with the headline: "Invasion On,
A second is of many wings and distinctions awarded his father, who fought and escaped the Germans, wound up briefly in
But it was a third photo which caught my attention. It's of the front of a 100-pound bag of flour, made by B.A. Eckhart Milling Co. of Chicago and dropped near his family's house 10 months before he was born, in May 1945, from the cargo doors of a
The flour, he told me, "literally saved my mother's life and thus made my life possible. I still have the front of the bag in our home in
The photo is only of the bag's front since his mother used the back, which didn't have any print, to make clothes during what the Dutch referred to as the "Hunger Winter" of 1944-1945.
"Due to the German occupation, the economy had completely collapsed," Sandberg told me in the note I finally read Memorial Day morning. "There was no food nor coal or wood to burn to keep the house warm. When the allied forces finally liberated
His mother was a member of "de Ondergrondse", the Dutch resistance to defeat the "Moffen" ("'Moffen,'" he wrote, "was the worst swear word, filled with revulsion and disgust the Dutch had for the Germans"). She'd somehow kept her bicycle (most had been confiscated) and would ride to an illegal print shop where they counterfeited food stamps. The son told me that his mom would intrepidly and covertly distribute them to people in even worse shape than her, the son told me.
"If the Germans caught you, the soldiers would routinely put you against a wall and machine gun you down on the spot (I remember seeing bullet riddled walls after the war)."
His mom didn't have anywhere near enough food for her own family, and wound up so malnourished that she developed a dangerous infection in her central spinal cord and became paralyzed from the waist down. But she survived and was able to conceive Job.
After the professional association meeting in
It was a reminder about the frequent complexity of lives and our subsequent, if almost inevitable, penchant to caricature people; as a doctor, lawyer, journalist, politician, banker, nurse, whatever, and then to conjure up, and adhere to, images based mostly on their work.
It was also a reminder, especially on Memorial Day, of how little we may often understand about our individual family stories.
What did mom, dad, granddad or Uncle Joe do in the war?
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