Jaycee Johanneck, Contributing writer
A survivor of the Holocaust, Peter Metzelaar, shared his experience on May 11 at Pierce College Puyallup on how he lived through the tragedy as a young child.
Metzelaar was seven years old when he had to go into hiding, and he explained how lucky he was to be able to survive and have a happier ending than Anne Frank.
There were about 16 million people in Holland at the time, and 91 percent of the Jewish population were murdered by Hitler.
Metzelaar said that’s equal to about 90 percent of Washington’s population.
During that drastic time period, Jews couldn’t go out after 8 p.m., use radios, boats, participate in athletic activities or have political rights. They also had to wear a yellow star on their outer garments so that they could be identified and dehumanized.
Metzelaar remembers trucks pulling up, yelling for Jews to get out of their homes. As time passed, friends of Metzelaar were disappearing, and family members were arrested. “What do you mean? How do you explain that to a 7-year-old?” said Metzelaar, who recalls not knowing why the people close to him were being taken away.
Metzelaar’s mother sought out underground resistance force people, Klaas and Roelfina Post, who let the mother and son hide out in their farmhouse. If the Posts got caught they would be sent to a death camp, so when “The Final Solution” was decided upon with in 80 minutes, allowing German soldiers to ransack the farms to find hiders, the Posts built an area under the closet floor for Metzelaar and his mother to hide in.
“We were packed in their like a couple of sardine,” Metzelaar said. “One cough, one sneeze, one hiccup—It’d be all over.”
Eventually, they built a hole in the woods about 150 feet away from the barn where Metzelaar and his mom would run to and hide in whenever they heard the trucks coming down the road. They stayed on the farm with the Posts for two and a half years, and could never go outside during daylight.
“We became a non-entity. We didn’t exist,” Metzelaar said. When they left the Posts, they started staying with women who let them hide in a bedroom. Unlike the Posts, these women did not share their food, so Metzelaar and his mother were always hungry.
Metzelaar recalls the stay with these women as much different from the two and a half years on the farm.
Three weeks later, Metzelaar’s mom decided it was time for him to be sent to school, for he hadn’t been in a long time. He went by the name “Peter Pelt.”
He shares pictures of shrapnel, which were pieces of Boeing B-17 bombers that were flown in to attack the Jews. Metzelaar says he and others would collect those pieces of steel and trade with other kids.
Having an activity like that which was similar to the trading of sports cards in more recent times gave Metzelaar and his classmates something they could finally participate in, and shed some light on the dark times that they were experiencing.
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