1945 After the liberation,

Those first few weeks, after Holland was liberated, were filled with joy and pride, with dancing on the streets and kids waving little orange flags. Swaggering Anglo soldiers with keen girls on arms. Loudspeakers, urging us in English, to come out of hiding and that the war was over.

One of the worst problems of the war which caused my dad untold misery and almost brought my mother’s ingenuity to breaking point, was the tobacco problem, or rather, the lack of it. My father was hopelessly addicted to tobacco smoking. The chance of having tobacco during the occupation was not unlike and perhaps even on par with the chance of becoming obese. The shortage of tobacco was worse than shortage of food, at least for my dad. It must have been at its worst just shortly after liberation.

My mother urged me to walk the streets and follow those smoking Canadian and English soldiers who were our liberators.  ‘Put the cigarette butts in this little box’, she urged me. What a wonderful wife my dad had. What a magnificent woman. The problem was that there was stiff competition from bigger and stronger kids who were sent on the same mission. I was faster though and managed to get many cigarette butts and came home feeling a bit like a soldier myself.

Dad soon unpicked the butts and rolled his ciggies, lighting up the secondhand Camel and Lucky Strike like a king, tomorrow would never come. it was the first time that awareness seeped in my psyche that taking action could have rewards and a world of possibilities had opened up.

I was almost 6 years old.

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19 Responses to “1945 After the liberation,”

  1. auntyuta Says:

    I think this tape is quite interesting:


    Liked by 1 person

  2. rangewriter Says:

    What a wonderful vignette! I guess I’d heard of American soldiers handing out packs of cigarettes and candy, but I’d never heard of the kids running behind soldiers to pick up their discarded butts. Thanks for a whole new perspective on liberation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    This is a wonderful write, Gerard, and so interesting! I’ve never heard of this before.
    Thank you for sharing your memories with us!
    (((HUGS))) 🙂 ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    • auntyuta Says:

      I had two younger brothers at about Gerard’s age. I think they had a great time after the war with a lot of freedom and exploring among the ruins and in the rubble! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Even though I was very young I do remember a lot about that period. Lack of food was the worst especially during the last winter and after. Soup kitchen were set up, but the soup was boiled peelings and scraps.
      Oddly enough my mum had several children during 1940/45. The hunger did not affect fertility. (nor libido)

      Liked by 2 people

      • doesitevenmatter3 Says:

        So interesting and memories that need to be shared.
        Your last two sentences of your comment made me smile.
        I met a lady who grew up in Belgium and she told me about how the war affected them…especially the lack of food. 😦

        Liked by 2 people

  4. shoreacres Says:

    I wasn’t born until ’46, and of course we were geographically isolated in this country from the war’s actual battles and destruction, but I heard the tales of various privations. I still have some of my grandfather’s gas ration coupons, and I learned some of my mother’s tricks for stretching meals. Her mother died during the depression, when mom was only sixteen, so she raised her siblings; as she said, she was better prepared for wartime limitations because of it.

    I’m thinking that the cigarettes you collected might have been mostly non-filter. That would make the effort even more productive — more leftover tobacco for the taking. When I was a kid, our scavenging took place along the railroad tracks. There were coal mines around my grandparents’ town, and they shipped the coal out in open rail cars. Some would spill, of course, and we’d go collect the spillage, carry it home, and put it in the coal bin to be used in the furnace.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. gerard oosterman Says:

    Exactly, no filters. The butts were fully smokable when unpicked and rolled into a fresh one. Well fresh…, one never knew whose mouth they came from, but it was war.

    Yes, coal was in short supply too, and the tramrails were ripped up because they were laid on beds of coke which could still provide fuel for cooking and heating. My mum had a spirit cooker which one had to pump up to get enough heat.

    Dad used to provide light by putting his bike on a stand and paddle like mad with the bike’s dynamo on the back wheel giving power and light, while mum was cooking some broth or other.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Forestwood Says:

    What a throughly different world that was. People so desperate and waste was evil.


  7. doesitevenmatter3 Says:



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