Photo by Julia Hart
California author Edward Boersma, right, chats with Mike Kenard of Sunnyside following Boersma’s book discussion at Sunnyside Museum Wednesday. Also pictured is Sharon teVelda, who attended the afternoon program.
SUNNYSIDE World War II was over and the Fokke and Antje Boersma family had emigrated to the U.S. to escape worn-torn Europe.
They left behind their work as resistance fighters and the many dangers their family unknowingly faced.
The secrets were left to be discovered as the family set up housekeeping in California in 1947 when they left their homeland.
Some of those stories turned to be quiet horrific when recalled from a 12-year-old boy’s perspective.
But telling the story of his father’s work as a double agent and his mother’s efforts to hide Jews has become the life work of author Ed Boersma of Visalia, Calif.
Boersma, 81, freely admits that writing a book based on childhood memories is not ideal.
So, he and his wife, Betty, set out on a journey to discover the truth about the family’s life during the war. They made many trips to the Netherlands to retrace his parents’ steps.
This week, the couple was in Sunnyside to visit with the
Herman teVelde family and to share his book Courage Born of Faith – An account of survival under the Nazi Yoke.
Boersma has written the story of his parents’ involvement in the Netherlands Resistance during World War II, adding family photos from the period. Boersma has sought to tell the story truthfully with the advantage of more than 70 years of research.
On Wednesday, Boersma met with the Daybreak
Rotary Club and later in the day hosted a discussion of his book at the Sunnyside Museum.
He told how he and teVelde had lived a short walk from each other during World War II in the Netherlands.
Over the years, the men have kept in contact. When teVelde learned that Boersma’s book was complete, he purchased copies for members of his family, since his family had been as affected by the occupation as Boersma’s family.
But what neither man knew in their youth was that Boersma’s parents were harboring Jewish refugees.
“My mother would have upwards of six to eight Jewish people living in the crawl space. We children never knew about it,” Boersma said. “They were told to be very quiet and they were.”
During the years that followed, memories of events that occurred during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands surfaced.
The stories of the Boersma’s work in the Dutch underground became a part of the family dialogue.
Boersma’s parents joined the underground resistance movement “almost as soon as the German occupation began in May 1940,” he said.
“My parents were convinced they were called by God to be a part of the resistance movement.”
“That conviction included the rescue of God’s chosen people – the Jews,” he said.
Boersma’s father has been a Dutch prisoner-of-war before being allowed to return home.
He then worked for the Dutch government which put him in a position to become a double agent.
Boersma said his father and his friend were involved in illegal activities such as finding hiding places for the Jews to falsification of documents for those who needed new identities.
They even helped American and British pilots get out of German-occupied territory.
Boersma’s childhood memories includes traveling by bicycle with suitcases strapped to the handle bars in order to escape the Gestapo. They include knowing that his family was in hiding from the Nazis, which lasted for more than nine months.
In the introduction of his book, Boersma said he started thinking about writing the story of his parents in 1988. The book was finally published in 2010.
Both of his parents died before the book was finished.
Boersma’s mission these days is to share his parents’ story of courage.
He makes frequent presentations at schools and to service organizations, Betty Boersma said.
He is among the last generation to know what truly happened during World War II.
“I don’t want people to forget,” he said.