Photo Credit: Dave Ellis
On January 25 Inge Meijer, originally from the Netherlands, became a United States citizen, together with 50 other people from 21 countries.

Meijer was asked if she would be willing to talk about the war and encourage people to vote. Here is what she shared at her naturalization ceremony

I was just six years old when the war started. I was playing in my sandbox singing a song about the queen, when my mother, in total panic, lifted me out of the sandbox and said, “You can not sing this. It is dangerous because we have traitors next door”.

The following week my mother took me to a meeting place where we had to give up our radio. Radios were absolutely forbidden. In the next few weeks the Germans had total control over everything. Gasoline was only for the Germans, cars were confiscated unless one was able to hide them. Stores closed. All food was only available on points, the amount dependent upon family size. Curfew was installed immediately and by eight o’ clock everyone had to be indoors.

This lasted for all five years. The Germans meant business. Once I was a few minutes late, thinking I could sneak through the bushes, when I got a warning shot over my head.

The town I grew up in was between two canals so things were usually a distance away. It was an agricultural town with potatoes and sugar beets as its main products. Several factories did the processing and my father had one of the factories. The Germans would close a factory if the owner would not be willing to produce for the Germans. Nobody wanted to work for them, but the alternative was that everyone would be sent to Germany in order to work in the war factories. There was not really any choice. We were not hungry because of the potatoes, but there was just very little else. For my eighth birthday my father had obtained with great effort one egg and one ounce of raisins. I was to have a cake for my birthday. However after one slice I fainted. The food was too rich.

We were lucky that my father had potato flour to trade, but we were not so lucky that my retired grandfather had settled in our town. He was German and a hard core Nazi and a highly unpleasant man. This situation sometimes made people suspicious of my family.

My role in the war was running those errands that my parents could not do. I was more invisible as a child.  My school was half an hour away. On a bike that is nothing, but early in the war my father took the bike away. Things were getting worse and he had the foresight to know we might need this bike in the future and getting new bike tires would be impossible.

When my mother became pregnant we needed milk. My father made a deal with a cousin farmer quite a way out of town and it became my frightening job to get the milk every week. It was forbidden to get milk from farms and very close to the farm there was always a soldier lifting his loaded gun.  This trauma stayed with me long after the war was over.

And so we struggled along in those horrifying years. There was nothing, no toys, no stores, no candy. There were not even the basics, like toilet paper, soap or shampoo. All playing was indoors.

All this changed very drastically when the Allied forces hit the beaches in Normandy. The German occupiers changed into enemies and there was tension everywhere. My father was a member of the resistance and nobody was hated more by the Germans than the resistance. If they found out somebody was a member, they searched their house. If they could find proof, they took the person out and shot him by the front door. One winter evening my father came home with a bunch of papers to distribute. He was unhappy and pacing the house and finally threw the whole bundle of papers into the fireplace. Two minutes later the Secret Service rang the bell. They made a thorough search throughout the house, but did not look at the burning fire. We were saved! 

Finally came the day when my father woke me up at 5:30 a.m. because the Canadians were coming through town in big tanks, throwing out oranges and Lifesaver candies.

The war was over, but the misery would take some more time. After the liberation, the local government sprang into action. All traitors were rounded up and put into a jail, all girls who had flirted with German soldiers got their hair shaved off, and people who had had any connections with the Germans were put into a camp.

My Grandmother fell into that category. My grandfather had biked to Germany the day before the liberation and was out of the picture. His only son was put away for five years and later was put out of the country. My father was held for five days but was entirely cleared.

Since we had been isolated from the rest of the country we now learned that people in the west of the country had no food anymore and were surviving on tulip bulbs.

But of course nothing was as shocking as the news that came through of the death camps the Allied forces found. Five million Jews had been killed in the gas chambers. It was horrifying. There was a Jewish family in our street and they were gone one day. Nobody associated this with them being Jewish because other people had also disappeared. All boys 15 years and older were rounded up and sent to the war factories in Germany. So many of them were hiding out on farms and attics just like the family of Anne Frank did.

The aftermath of the war was awful and very frightening. There were many incidents between Dutch people and     Germans in the first few years after the war and the death camp story stayed with us for a very long time. When the diary of Anne Frank was published and made into a play that every one wanted to see, there never was an applause, just ten minutes of deep silence.

In these times, when I listen to the rhetoric of the current president I am reminded of my experiences during the war. As a new citizen of the United States it is my right and privilege to vote and I encourage everyone to also PLEASE VOTE. It can make a difference.