“I don’t remember anything nice about that time”

Karel Budde was born March 1935 in Amsterdam. He lived through the Second World War from when he was 5 until he was 10 years old. The memories of the war still trouble him to this day.

“In 1940 I went to the first class at the Montessori school. Classes consisted of about 40 to 50 children, of which half were Jewish. Anne Frank used to be a student at my school. She was in the sixth and final class at that time, but I didn’t really know her. Around ’42, ‘43, our classes were halved due to the deportation of Jewish kids, and their parents.”

“Life during the war got worse and worse, because of the lack of water, electricity and heat. The occupier had turned it all off and that meant we no longer went to school, but we got homework for a week.”

“I don’t remember anything nice about my school years. Though sometimes we did get into a little mischief. We used to ring bells and run away. And sometimes, when we carried a pin with us, we would ring the bell and put the pin in it so it would keep ringing. Then we would run away really quickly.”

“By that time, we were living in the Boterdiepstraat. My mother was recovering from a major brain surgery. Around that time my father left us. I didn’t know why and that was very difficult for us. I had to take care of my mother and my little sister when I was only 8 or 9 years old. But because of my mothers’ deteriorating health, we decided to move in with my grandparents in the Trompenburgstraat.”

“Food soon also became a scarcity. But I had a little scooter that I got for my birthday a few years back. It didn’t have good wheels anymore, so my grandfather fabricated a garden hose around the wheels to get around. We used this scooter to go to farmers just outside of Amsterdam to try and get some food. The farmers would only trade it for gold or silver, because there was no money, or not really. The German coin wasn’t worth anything.”

“We had little to no food, it was cold, there was no light and we only had water occasionally. For heat, we used everything that we could find and that could burn. People started to cut down trees. And because Amsterdam didn’t have asphalt, trams used to have all kinds of little wooden blocks between the rails. Of course, they were all stolen in no time. So did we. The tram wasn’t working without electricity, so it wasn’t like they would miss them.”

“Close to my neighbourhood in the Rivierenbuurt, there used to be a nice playground. But it was turned into a Jewish market so that it was easy for the occupier to control the Jewish people. Close to the centre of Amsterdam, the Jewish neighbourhood was closed off, so that none of them could leave and they could all be taken away. After that their homes were robbed by Amsterdammers.”

“I’ve seen Jewish people that lived close to us get taken away. Trucks full of them. It’s just incomprehensible that people can be taken away without any possibility of resistance. You wouldn’t think that’s possible. But it sticks with you forever and it troubles me to this day. I think, when you get older, those memories are pushed forward again.”