Rest In Peace Uncle

Some say that there is no such thing as closure when a loved one passes on.  I think it depends on the circumstances surrounding that passing.  In my family’s case, it took sixty-seven years for the truth about my uncle’s passing to reach his family.

This photo of Gerardus Petrus Zegers, my uncle, lives on a bookshelf in my mother’s bedroom.  My mother told me that in this photo he is about sixteen.  The scarf he’s wearing was knit by my grandmother.  She also told me that every time she looks at it she wonders what happened to her brother.

According to my mother, in 1943, in Driebergen-Rijsenburg, the Nazis began rounding up able-bodied boys and men to work in their camps.  Two of my mother’s brothers were taken.  My uncle Henk managed to escape and was hidden by a german family.  Gerardus was not so lucky.  He ended up in a camp called Mittelbau-Dora which was a satelite camp of Buchenwald, in Nordhausen, Germany.  While researching I scoured the available photos, on the internet, of arriving prisoners for the scarf my uncle was wearing in a desperate attempt to verify that he was among the laborers.

When the allies bombed the German manufacturing facilities that were above ground the Nazis opened Dora in an abandoned mine.  Here they manufactured their V2 ballistic missiles.  The same missiles that were the cornerstone of the American space program after the second World War.  Sixty-thousand prisoners from 21 nations passed through Dora.  In Camp Dora and Buchenwald, an estimated 20,000 inmates died; 9000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 hanged (including 200 for sabotage), the rest died mainly from disease and starvation. In April of 1945 the  104th Timberwolf Army Infantry  and Third Armored Division liberated the surviving prisoners.  Over 1,200 patients were evacuated, with 15 dying en route to the hospital area and 300 then dying of malnutrition.

When news of the liberation reached my family in Driebergen, my grandmother went to the train station daily to greet her son, Gerard, and welcome him home.  He did not come home.  She followed this routine daily for years with the same result.  We didn’t receive any information about the exact fate of my uncle.  Many years later another uncle and brother of Gerardus, Piet, received special permission to cross the Berlin Wall, in hopes of getting information about his brother from the Communist government.  They were not forthcoming.

In March of this year, after researching the internet, I came across a website called the International Tracing Service.  I filled out their application for information about my uncle.  I waited until May and when I heard nothing from them I forwarded my earlier email again.  Finally in September I received a letter from them with the information that my family had waited sixty-seven years to hear.  My uncle Gerardus Petrus Zegers passed away on the twenty-eighth of April 1945 of tuberculosis.  It isn’t clear if he was among the fifteen that died on route to the hospital or one of the 20,000 souls that passed during his imprisonment.  according to civil records he was buried in Nordhausen Cemetery in Grave No. 2.

My mother said that it was too bad that her mom and dad weren’t still alive to finally hear the news of their son.  I reminded her that he is re-united with his mother, father, and two brothers in Heaven.  This Remembrance Day, I honor my uncle, Gerardus Petrus Zegers.

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June Until November – Five months to Remember

We didn’t say “I love you”.
The time was never right.
And now that I can’t touch you,
I say it every night.

We didn’t lie together
before a roaring fire
and gently love ’til morning
and never, ever tire.

We didn’t bond as soul mates.
We didn’t have the time.
Our souls, though, did touch briefly.
So sweet and so sublime.

We didn’t cry together
in sorrow, love or hate.
There would always be tomorrow.
Now, tomorrow’s name is fate.

We didn’t say “I love you”
when fate reclaimed her prize.
She took you as she gave you,
before my loving eyes.

We didn’t say “I love you”.

My Spiritual Arsonist

I think it was around the time my mamma died
I tore my clothes away and cried and cried and cried
I shook the bed, convulsing, side to side
I finally drifted into tortured dreams to hide

My inner soul began to chill, no fire
My heart forgot to beat, and tired
My face grew long, my eyes looked dark and wired
My brain mulled through black thoughts that death had sired

You somehow knew, you called to dry my tears
You came to me, you have through all the years
You’re comforting my heart to melt my fears
You seem to know the time agony nears

Then my spiritual arsonist, hero of my soul
The light inside rekindles, lights, and glows
The heart of me remembers songs of old
The life came back into my eyes like gold

My Spiritual Arsonist, the hero of my soul.

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