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Hofer shares artifacts of Denmark

Posted: Monday, Dec 24th, 2012

Alie (Boomsma) Hofer spoke to the Wolsey-Wessington fifth grade class and read them passages out of her mother’s diary that were written in the 1940s during World War II. She is shown with Ethan Nelson, who is wearing wooden shoes from the Netherlands. In the next photo, one of the fifth-graders looks at one of the pictures Hofer brought to the class, showing a house in the Netherlands which has a house attached to the barn. PHOTOS BY KARA GUTORMSON/PLAINSMAN

Sandi Ransom’s fifth grade class at Wolsey-Wessington School have been reading the book “Number the Stars,” by Lois Lowry, a book set in the city of Copenhagen, Denmark, in September 1943 during the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II.

Special guest Alie (Boomsma) Hofer visited with the class and shared her unique perspective of what went on in the Netherlands during World War II. Hofer was able to do this because she had a translated version of her mother’s diary and pictures of the time period. “I remember a lot of the things I heard from my dad, my mother, and my cousins about all the horrors of war,” said Hofer.

Hofer’s father and mother were Anno and Helen Boomsma, of Tzun, Friesland — a small village in the Netherlands.

Hofer’s family came to the United States in 1948, when Hofer was just five years old. When they came over in 1948, Hofer’s family was sponsored by the Steve and Elizabeth Boomsma family of Hitchcock. “We came to New York on a ship, and traveled from Ellis Island to South Dakota by train,” said Hofer. At first, Anno and Helen Boomsma lived with Steve and Elizabeth. “We lived with our sponsor, it was to help us get on our feet when we first arrived,” she explained.

Hofer stumbled upon a discovery 11 years ago — her mother’s diary, which contained a glimpse of what life was like in Holland. “She started that diary in 1933,” she said. “It was written completely in Dutch, so it was very hard to read and know what it said.” Three years ago, Hofer asked a cousin to help her translate the diary. “Every night for an hour my cousin would read to me from her diary and I would write it down,” she said. Several portions of the diary were written during World War II, when the Nazi Germans occupied the Netherlands.

Hofer read aloud several of the diary passages her mother had written during the war to the fifth-graders. “The German soldiers went to my mother’s house and just stood in the kitchen, waiting for my mother to make them something to eat,” Hofer said. “So my mother cooked for them. She never argued. If you argued, you were dead. That’s how it was.”

One of the stories Hofer recalled was one involving her grandfather. During the occupation, the Nazi Germans were trying to recruit Dutch boys to join up with their cause. So the Dutch started hiding the boys, and they hid them in the barns, she explained. “In Holland, we have houses and barns that are attached. You can go right from the house into the barn. Many stacks of hay were in the barn, stacked clear up to the top,” she said. “The Dutch boys would hide in those piles of hay.”

In the middle of the night, the German soldiers came to the barns, bringing their long bayonets with them. “They asked my grandfather and the others, “Do you have any boys here?”

“Well, they all lied,” said Hofer. “Because they had to lie. They did it to save lives.”

Even if they said no, the soldiers would take those bayonets and go into the barns and stab at the piles of hay.

“They never found any boys,” she said. “My grandfather hid them in his barn and he helped them get weapons, too.”

Hofer said there was no doubt about it, if her grandfather would have been caught doing such things, he would have been shot.

Hofer explained another reality of war: hunger. “I had an aunt who would paddle her bicycle through Amsterdam, pretending she was pregnant. Underneath her clothes, she was carrying meat for her and the relatives.”

Hofer said she enjoyed speaking to the fifth-grade class and giving them another source of the history of World War II. Ransom said her whole class benefited from the experience. “Hearing her speak brings the experiences into reality,” said Ransom. “It’s just wonderful for the kids to be able to learn about it from someone who grew up hearing stories about the war.”

For the complete article see the 12-23-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-23-2012 paper.

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