Wednesday, May 18, 2011

POWs I have known


This past week Jocelyn mentioned on her blog that she was reading
The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie ten Boom was a woman admired the world over for her courage, her forgiveness, and her memorable faith. In World War II, she and her family risked their lives to help Jews escape the Nazis, and their reward was a trip to Hitler's concentration camps. But she survived and was released--as a result of a clerical error--and now shares the story of how faith triumphs over evil. For thirty-five years Corrie's dramatic life story, full of timeless virtues, has prepared readers to face their own futures with faith, relying on God's love to overcome, heal, and restore. Now releasing in a thirty-fifth anniversary edition for a new generation of readers, The Hiding Place tells the riveting story of how a middle-aged Dutch watchmaker became a heroine of the Resistance, a survivor of Hitler's death camps, and one of the most remarkable evangelists of the twentieth century. I read this book years ago and who could not recommend it? So if you haven't (and that would be odd), please stop what you are doing and get a copy. But I mentioned to Jocelyn that her own 'patriarch' had a similar story to tell, altho it's not in book form. I contacted Frans Adeboi's son, Larry (the love of my young teen life) for the details to be sure Robert and I weren't missing any (and boy we missed a lot). Here is Larry's remembrance of the story his dad told him and told us countless times.

Frans Adeboi with thanks to his son Larry for the details.

"My father and mother were born in Indonesia, when the war started, they were immediately captured and imprisoned. My father was in the Dutch army and then captured by the Japanese. My mother was a product of the people in Indonesia and also put into prison camps.

"My dad, Frans Adeboi had a really difficult time in camp. He was a cook, and constantly had one of the guards beating him. As he tells it, he was always scheming to either hurt this guard or kill him. He knew that if he would only hurt him that they would kill him. He came to the conclusion that after he took another hard beating from the same guard that in the morning he would kill him. At that point he really didn't care anymore what was to happen to him personally.

"That night he had a dream....a person came to him and told him not to take matters into his own hands. This person would take care of all his problems and for Frans not to kill him and he promised that he would make sure that the guard would never touch him again. In the morning, Frans still thought about killing this guard and then the thought came to him of what was promised to him the previous night. He put that thought out of his head. As he was cooking breakfast, this guard that would usually strike him that morning, lifted his whip to beat him and all of a sudden stopped his whip. From then on, he never touched him again. This happened over a period of years until all this stopped. I guess Someone had something more important for him to do.

"My father was in Indonesia where he was captured by the Japanese. They were pretty brutal in their dealing with prisoners. He did soften his heart and in later years understood why that dream came to him. When he was baptized, the same day I was, I remember that he changed a lot After the war, President Sukarno of Indonesia kicked all the Dutch citizens out of the country back to the Netherlands. That's how we got there.."

(Interesting sidenote: Br. Adeboi was the 'patriarch' to all my 5 kids and they were fortunate enough to be given their blessings under the hands of this mighty man. Their blessings cover pages of typed words and each point is developed and serves as such a guide to them.)

Currently Larry serves in the Las Vegas temple. Larry added more but I will only share this much: "There are so many times that I am in the temple and miss him so much! I wished that I could have gone to the temple with him when he was alive and been able to work side by side to do the work for our family. I cannot wait to see him again! He always had a gentle demeanor."

Both Frans and Gerda Adeboi are buried up the hill from my folks. So it is with joy and remembrance that each time we visit my folks with flowers, we are also able to stop and chat with the Adebois and bring them flowers as well...because they certainly were flowers along our life's path.


But then I got to thinking about my 'patriarch', Arthur Halvorsen Wilford. My blessing is very short when compared to my children's. Barely one page. Whereas each point in theirs is developed, mine is line after line of instruction and promises. I tend to read mine one line at a time, stop, think about all the implications and then go on to the next. I knew his story as well and was thrilled when I saw it noted at the book of a book I had bought. But in searching for the book, which I KNOW I have, I couldn't find it. Instead I contacted my friend Rebecca Stay who seems to have a pulse on so many things. She lead me to this entry in a blog by a former missionary when Pres. Wilford served as a Mission President. I copy the story here:

Thanks to Scott Hinrich for this.
Resistance Fighters
Many Norwegians worked in the home front resistance forces, which used both active and passive methods. My mission president, Arthur Halvorsen (Wilford)
(here with his wife Shelah) was in the Norwegian underground and engaged in clandestine activities, including smuggling, distribution of illegal newspapers, and message transmission. Eventually he became part of a four-man team that sent secret encoded radio messages to the UK. Arthur’s team often used a secret upper room in a building near the city hall in Bergen. The city hall had been appropriated to be Nazi headquarters in that area. This room permitted a good view of HQ activities. On one occasion, an important German official was visiting Bergen incognito. A member of Arthur’s team was able to get a good photograph of this man along with other German officials standing on the steps of city hall. The film was quickly smuggled to Allied officials in the UK. The next day, a large print of the photo was reproduced on the front page of a British newspaper. Arthur was never sure how or why the photo had been leaked to the press. It was a morale builder that demonstrated the capacities of Allied spy efforts. But the publishing of the photo was a critical mistake that endangered Norwegian underground operatives. It didn’t take the Nazis long to figure out the vantage point from which the photo had been taken. The next time Arthur’s team met in the room to make a radio transmission, they were suddenly attacked by soldiers. Arthur remembered being whacked on the head and losing consciousness.

Prisoners Arthur was one of the lucky ones that survived the attack. But he ended up in a prison camp in another part of Norway. Eventually he and other hard nose prisoners (especially those caught attempting escape) were shipped to a serious prisoner of war camp in the eastern part of Germany. News was hard to get in the camp and often came only when new prisoners were brought in. But as the war wore on, it became apparent that things were not going well for the Germans. The prison guards of prime age were sent out to the front and were replaced by both older and younger men. Food became worse. The prisoners were suffering from malnutrition. One day an officer came and asked for four volunteers that knew how to work a dairy farm. Arthur talked three other Scandinavians into stepping forward with him for the detail. At the time, they didn’t realize that they would never return to the prison camp. They ended up on a dairy farm out in the countryside, where they did all of the work. They were constantly overseen by an armed guard. They slept in the barn, no matter how cold it was. They were prohibited from approaching or having interaction with the residents of the farm house, but they knew that all of the men folk were off to war. In many ways, this situation was preferable to being in the prison camp. They got better nutrition and exercise. They had something to do. They developed a working relationship with many of their guards. As the weeks passed, they began to regain much of their normal strength. The guards were regularly replaced by even older guards. The four Scandinavians began to formulate escape plans. One part of the plan was to gain the confidence of guards and make so that no flight risk would be suspected. They found ways to pick up on every possible tidbit of information because they didn’t really know for sure where they were or what the best route to freedom was. Eventually everything was ready.

On the run
Arthur said that he felt badly about tricking the guard, knocking him out, and securing him in the outhouse, because this particular man had always been kind to them. They then crept up to the farmhouse and disabled its communications. They used the guard’s weapon to hold the residents at bay while they stole as much food and clothing as was feasible. They had already saddled the horses by then. They knew it wouldn’t be long before the residents alerted the authorities, so they made their escape as quickly as possible, driving the horses hard and moving eastward. After many days of traveling by horse (mostly at night), they were running low on supplies. They decided that they would have to trust someone in order to get supplies, so they tied up the horses at what appeared to be a small grocery store and sent two men inside. They discovered that they were in Poland, but the shop owner could speak German as well. He was more than happy to trade supplies for their horses. He also told them all of the news he had about the war. After talking to the shop proprietor, the escapees determined that going further east and into the arms of the advancing Soviet forces was probably not a good idea. Using a crude map provided by the proprietor, they plotted a route westward through remote areas that they figured would steer them as clear of military activity as possible. Traveling by foot turned out to be harsh. Although spring had arrived, there was still plenty of rain, mud, and cold. The men were in good shape at the beginning of their foot trek, but they could carry relatively minimal supplies and those supplies were rapidly expended. The further they got into Germany, the more they had to travel under cover of darkness. Because they stuck to outlying areas, resupplying (even by theft) was difficult. Weeks went by. The four once-hardy men were emaciated, filthy, and clad in rags. One day as they slept in a ditch, their lookout man awoke the others. He could hear the approach of vehicles, including heavy vehicles. It had to be a military operation. The escapees had been out of touch with news, so they didn’t know for sure what this meant. They assayed their options and determined that trying to backtrack away from the area would likely get them spotted, so they decided to lay low in the ditch. Finally it sounded as if the heavy vehicles were very near them. They were afraid that if anyone even stuck his head up above the ditch bank, it would get shot off and would expose the others. But eventually they decided that one of them would have to carefully look. One of the men took a deep breath and carefully raised himself up enough to peer over the bank, and then he carefully lowered himself. “What did you see?” asked the others. “Tanks and vehicles. Each has a big white star on the side,” he answered. It had to be Allied forces. One of the men ripped off part of what had once been a white shirt and fastened it to the end of a long reed. The men slowly stood up with their hands and the flag in the air and started walking toward the road. In very short order they found themselves being fed rations and being checked by medics. It was still months before the men were back home in Scandinavia, but their ordeal as prisoners and fugitives was over. They were safe once again.

So there you have today's entry. I have another friend, Helen Inouye..actually my mom's best friend. She was born in the US but being Japanese, she and her family were relocated during WWII. Hers is another story I ought to get from her. Soon. It's worth sharing.

I wondered to Larry, are there degrees of brutality? I hear about the things that happen in the world today that are mentioned in the news. I think about the brutality done to children, spouses, animals. And I shudder. I think knowing of people like Corrie, Frans, and Arthur...REMEMBERING their experiences could make us a gentler people. If we would only REMEMBER and CHANGE our ways, our attitudes, our words.

2 comments:

Lin Floyd said...

fascinating...

Jocelyn Christensen said...

Thanks for this...I totally agree with your final statement...I think reading the Hiding Place has changed me...hopefully into a more gentle person...

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