School During War

German Occupation and Education

“I still remember me sitting on the curb resting because I was so tired.”

“During the war, we only had part-time school. I remember having to go quite a distance to go to a school that was still available, but it had to be shared by other schools that had also been taken over by the Germans. And I believe I went to school, maybe, two days a week. And I also remember that it was quite a distance like I said, and I was extremely weak. I still remember me sitting on the curb resting because I was so tired to get to the school, but I believe near the end we hardly ever went to school.”

Editor’s Note: Three generations of Van Driel’s family have attended the same Catholic school in Schiedam. The educational system in the Netherlands allowed the school to be subsidized by the government even though it was also affiliated with the Church. In the early years of the school’s existence, boys and girls were not taught together; they were separated by a wall. During World War II, German soldiers removed the wall and occupied the building, using it as a headquarters. They painted a red cross on the roof so that the Allies would think that the building was a hospital. The Van Driel children were not able to attend this school during the German occupation, but they returned after the war was over and the wall was rebuilt. Years later, gender segregation ended at the school. Members of the Van Driel family continue to live in their family’s home in Schiedam, and Hank and his brother have given lectures about their wartime experience to students at the school.