|De Knipoog ("The Wink of|
an Eye") by Mily Weisglas.
The meeting was to talk about the Engelandvaarders (literally, “England sailers”). After the Nazis invaded Holland in May 1940, they sealed the borders of the Netherlands with land patrols on the German and Belgian borders, bunkers on the shoreline, and marine patrols of the North Sea.
About 1,700 Engelandvaarders made it to England. The most dramatic escapes were by boat, but the majority of escapees, says Charles, traveled via Switzerland or Spain; some even escaped via Sweden. Of these escapees, the great majority, nearly 1,400 people (mostly men), went on to serve in the Allied armed forces or the Dutch government in exile.
For their Engelandvaart, many were awarded the Dutch Bronze Cross (BK) or Cross of Merit (KV) for bravery. The BK was usually for those who crossed the North Sea, which was more challenging; it is the third-highest Dutch decoration for bravery. The KV was usually for those who went by land via Sweden, Switzerland or Spain; it is the fourth-highest decoration for bravery.
The principal founders of the Engelandvaarders Museum were Eddy Jonker, who crossed the North Sea in 1943 and became an RAF pilot, and historian Jos Teunissen, Board member of Erfgoed Leidschendam. A key partner in this effort was Pauline van Till, with whom Charles Boissevain has spoken several times.
(Apr 24, 2017: Pauline has written to me to say that Eddy Jonker, now 96, still comes to the Museum every few weeks. Jos Teunissen and Pauline are involved in the museum in some way every day, in person or by phone. Open now for 19 months, the Museum has welcomed more than 10,000 visitors.)
She described how she and her parents and brother planned their escape. She was helped by a young man, Max Weisglas, with whom she was a student at the Amsterdams Lyceum.
Another classmate of hers was our cousin Charles, son of Menso Boissevain (brother of Bob who was the father of Charles from Leidschendam). This Charles escaped during the war to Switzerland and then to London.
(I knew well Menso's daughter Sacha, who died on Valentine's Day in 2009. Sacha headed the KLM flight attendants' union and upon retirement received a lifetime ticket to travel on KLM on a space-available basis. She used this ticket to visit the Marlin family frequently in Montreal, Washington, D.C. and then Berkhamsted, England).
Sadly, Mily's father was caught by a traitor at the Swiss border and she never saw him again.
She married Max Weisglas and their son Frans, born August 8, 1946, later became Chairman of the Dutch House of Representatives (Voorzitter van de Tweede Kamer).
Charles swims in the North Sea, which in March is still cold, 8°C (46°F). The icy water would not have dissuaded him from swimming to England; what did it was Britain voting for Brexit, he says.