Saturday, 5 May 2012

Liberation day: The life of Angelique Croon and Koos Vlek (Part II)

So, today is Liberation Day in the Netherlands. We celebrate the end of the second world war on the fifth of may because the German Army in the Netherlands capitulated on May 5th 1945. We're the only European country to celebrate this on this day. All others celebrate this on the 8th of may, because that's the day that the whole German reich capitulated.

All over the country people celebrate with musical festivals. Here on Whatsinatreehouse however: we're going to continue our story of yesterday.

After their marriage, Koos Vlek and Angelique Vlek-Croon moved to Maastricht. They had a hardwarestore that sold copper plumbing parts. The store ran well, and Koos and Angelique had many children, the oldest of them being my grandmother, Annie Vlek. When the depression came, the store went bankrupt, but the Croon family from Hasselt saved the hardware store, by paying for the continuation.

Maastricht in 1940, days (or moments) before the German Invasion)
When daughter Annie was fourteen years old (the same age as her mother was when the Great War broke out), the Germans invaded the Netherlands. A boy living in the same street remembers running through the streets of Maastricht shouting: "De Moffen komen! De moffen komen!" ("The Krauts are coming!"). (Later, Annie Vlek would mary this boy, Servé Crouzen).

As copper was a valuable commodity, the German troops confiscated the hardware store. Angelique and Koos did hide a large part of their copper hardware by burrying it in the forest, but after the war they never found it back. Koos Vlek was one of the dutch civilians who joined the resistance. He helped make and distribute illegal newspapers.

Apperantly the third man on the right is my great-grandfather, Koos Vlek.
Comparing this picture to other seems to confirm that, but I have no idea when or what he
was doing in the army

 Eventually he was arrested and sent to a labor camp for political prisoners. The camp he was sent to is supposed to be somewhere 'behind Berlin'. After the war, he was set free from the camp, but had to find his own way home. Like many in the time, he walked the whole trip. When he finally got home, he was so emaciated that Annie still remembers what a shock it was to recoqnize the strange man at the front door.

It's a well known story what happened to collaborator's women. These where either wives of collaborators, women who slept with collaborators or Germans, or females who had worked for the Germans themselves. When the German army fled, the civilians took revenge on these women by shaving them bald and parading them through the streets. Although I learned this in history class, I never saw a picture of this untill I found these pictures, taken by Annie or Angelique.
Female collaborators in Maastricht, 1945

After the war, the Angelique's parents helped restart the hardware store for the second time. Apart from their many kids, Angelique and Koos had also taken in Adrie. Adrie was a boy from Rotterdam who had lost his parents and home during the bombing of Rotterdam. He stayed with the Vlek's untill he was grown-up.

Angelique and a grown-up Adrie

In 1971, Koos was a pensioner. Instead of enjoying his pension he was asked to help with the restoration of the dome of one of the old churches at Vrijthof square. Because he felt honoured to work in such a grande building, Koos set to work. Up in the dome however, he had an heartattack and subsequently fell down. He died 71 years old.

His wife survived him by fourteen years. She died in 1985. Their daughter Annie, who married the boy Servé had five kids. Annie and Servé still live in Stein, the Netherlands. Their daughter Margot is my mother.

Left to right: Annie (my grandmother) and her parents, Koos and Angelique
Annie Vlek and her two daughters. Ange (named after Angelique) and Margot, my mother.


So this is the story of Angelique Vlek, born as Angelique Croon in Lanaken, near Hasselt in Belgium in the year 1900. She lived throught both great wars, married a plumber and gave birth to my grandmother. I hope you enjoyed her tale as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope I'll find out more about her in the near future. For now, enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Angelique on the right, with a friend

2 comments :

Daffy said...

Fantastic social and political history in one story - thank you:)

Anonymous said...

Hoi Nel.

Heel goed gedaan.
Wat kan jij goed documenteren, met een gering aantal gegevens de puzzel compleet maken.
Prima en dan ook nog in het Engels en met een vleugje humor.
Je hebt hier echt talent voor (een van de vele), je moet hier iets mee doen. kan je er later misschien je brood mee verdienen.
Ik ben trots.

Vele groetjes.
Frank