War Diary of Anny Velthuis

Vetlhuis family Anny (2nd left) – 1943

Anny Velthuis was born on the Grotestraat in Ootmarsum, on 2 October 1924 as the first child of Jan Velthuis  and Hendrika Sleiderink. In 1926 she moved with her family to the Almelosestraat. When she stood on the sidewalk in front of it, she could barely see her birthplace, which she was still very homesick for in the beginning. Her parents were both very gentle people, her mother was a severe asthma patient and died at the age of 52 in 1951. Her father could not kill a rabbit he received from a hunter. In the end my grandmother had to kill so they could have something for dinner. I remember walking with my grandfather, he stopped at any beautiful tree in adoration and praised God that nature was so beautiful. During the war he regularly suffered from stomach ulcers as he did not handle the war anxieties very well. Anny grew up in an environment that did not immediately call for rebellious activities. (See also Life in the Netherlands between WWI and WWII)

Anny was 15 years old when the war broke out. After she had finished her high school exam in Oldenzaal, she started to work at the Council in Ootmarsum

At the age of 17, on January 2, 1942, she started writing a war diary, which she continued with a few interruptions until the liberation on May 5, 1945. The diary, which was later bound, consists of 208 handwritten notebook sheets.

When I asked her why she had started it, she said: “I suddenly had the feeling: I must write this down, so that they know later what war is.”

Anny’s diary in the news – 2002
Book with the publication of Anny’s diary. Photo with local historian Ben Morshuis – 2002

Together with her father, she listened every morning (illegally) to Dutch Radio Oranje (broadcasted from London) at the attic of the carpentry workshop where they had hidden their radio set. She then told the latest news from London to the Mayor H.F.M. Baron Schimmelpenninck van der Oye and alderman J.B. Reuwer, who both could be trusted. The diary describes the acts of war in Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. As the war passes, she absorbs more and more ‘local’ news and it is this personal touch that makes the diary so unique. Because she worked at the council office, she was aware of the situation in Ootmarsum. She sat there, as it were, at the source where important messages came in, where decisions were made and where conversations took place between the city council on the one hand and the police, the occupier, the citizens and later the liberators on the other side. Anny experienced everything up close.

Although Herman and Anny were not dating. Herman is mentioned several times in her diary. It is remarkable that, after Herman was arrested in 1943, she interrupted her notes for four months. She probably got scared and realised at that moment that she too could be arrested. A few times she reports that she has hidden her diary, especially when raids were held. Also around that time one of her sisters had thrown the diary notebooks on the dunghill as she was dead worried that the family would be caught. The stains of that affair are still visible in the diary.

Jan Velthuis, Anny’s father whith whom she listend to Radio Oranje.

Both she and her father listening to the radio and passing on the news was of course a serious offence, but she, like Herman, had an

The radio was hidden on the attic of the carpentry workshop.

enormous urge for freedom that was stronger than fear. Fortunately, she was never caught and therefore never experienced the same desolation as Herman at first hand, but she is therefore, in her own way, no less a freedom fighter.

On one occasion she narrowly escaped arrest. The local constable Rorink had found a note from her on the stairs of the town hall. Anny smuggled her notes, which she made during the radio broadcasts, into the cover of her sleeve to the town hall. It had fallen out of her sleeve and was found by de Rorink. Rorink was a cowardly man, not a real NSB member (the Dutch Political Party of Nazi collaborators), but nevertheless he was tried for collaboration after the war.

However, he did not betray Anny, she came off with a reprimand: “You have to help your mother, stop stockings and not participate in that nonsense“. From that moment on, she became a lot more cautious. Rorink regularly brought an apple for Anny (Antje as she was called at the town hall), which she received from him when she brought him coffee. It shows the two faces of people in war situations.

NSB (Dutch Nazi Party)
The National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (Dutch: Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland, NSB) was a Dutch fascist and later Nazi political party that called itself a “movement”.

As a parliamentary party participating in legislative elections, the NSB had some success during the 1930s. Under German occupation, it remained the only legal party in the Netherlands

The reason for writing her diary (I must write this down, so that they know later what war is.) was fulfilled in 1990 when a partial publication of the diary was published in the book: “Ootmarsum 1940-1945“. Attention was also paid to the diary at an exhibition. In part II of “Ootmarsum 1940-1945” she was again extensively quoted from her diary and it was again an important part of an exhibition. A newspaper headline in regional newspaper Tubantia describes her as the ‘Anne Frank van Ootmarsum’. She was a bit offended by this as she felt that this was over the top. Yes, she also wrote a diary but the fate of Anne Frank gave her diary a totally different dimension.

The local historian Ben Morhuis wrote that it is of great importance for Ootmarsum to have a description of everyday life in a town, where the acts of war often passed most of them by, but where that life was heavily influenced by that war. How residents suddenly got a different view of each other, because one group remained “good” and another group chose the “wrong side”. How some residents suddenly couldn’t trust each other anymore. Men and women who had gone to school together, who lived in the same street, who met almost daily, looked at each other with different eyes. And that in a community of about 1800 inhabitants, where people knew each other from oats to grit.

Acknowledgement from Anny Velthuis

These notes were written down by Anny Velthuis in preparation for her acceptance speech after the opening of the exhibition.

Anny Budde Velthuis 1924 -2018

I would like to thank you for this invitation to receive this first copy. I didn’t think when I kept the diary late at night during the war, that this would get so much attention. I do remember that I wrote with the thought, this should be known later when this rotten war is over.

Every morning at a quarter to seven, I went up the ladder with my father to the carpentry attic where the radio was set up concealed. Those sounds ‘ta-ta-ta-ta-ta’ that every broadcast started with, gave us a feeling of freedom, always reminding me of those moments in the attic on the 5th of Beethoven. I then made some notes, which I passed on at the city hall, where I worked, to colleagues and mayor Schimmelpenninck, who always asked me about the latest messages from Radio Oranje. If I had written the diary in the evening, father would take it and hide it in a pipe between the building materials, because in a possible raid this diary was life threatening to the whole family. But mom and dad thought I should do it. All in all, I am happy that it was not for nothing and that posterity can also read how it was in Ootmarsum in wartime and what else happened in the world. Experienced by me at the age of 17.

I would like to thank Ben Morshuis and his Foundation for the initiative he has taken to bring this period of Ootmarsum back into the limelight and thus preserve it for posterity.

Next: The war archives of my father