How The Book Came About
Ilse Smit and Dorothy Read
A story within the story demonstrates how this book is not just a book – it is living history.
Ilse and Dorothy attend the same church. One Thanksgiving the pastor asked people to share a story in front of the congregation. Ilse got up in front of the audience and relayed her painful childhood experience of being in a concentration camp run by the Japanese during WWII. She was only 9-12 years old at the time and to this very day the emotions are raw and powerful as she speaks. There was dead silence in the church – one could hear a pin drop. There was not a dry eye amongst the congregation. Dorothy was in the audience and immediately knew this story needed to be told to the world. And so it is……
Book Tour of End the Silence
Japanese nationalists have signed a petition to the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. urging to ban the movie “Unbroken” by Angelina Jolie because it exposes the truth about the brutality Japanese inflicted upon their victims in WWII. In honor of Ilse’s horrifying experience and so many other innocent civilians and military POWs, please sign this petition to counter this ban.
PETITION AGAINST JAPANESE BAN OF MOVIE
Oom Bert was Ilse’s favorite uncle–a colonel in the Royal Dutch Indies Air Force. When he visited he brought candy and gifts and the family gathered for a festive meal and a lot of talk around the table. In the summer of 1941 Oom Bert brought dire warnings that Ilse’s family must prepare for Japanese bombs to fall on their city–Bandung, Java. Ilse listened to the conversation and learned that the Japanese did not have any oil of their own and were after the oil that was abundant in her island homeland.
Ilse remembers how everyone laughed when she asked the obvious question: “If Japan needs oil, why don’t we just give them some, and then they won’t have to bomb us?”
In December the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and Manila in the Philippines. In January the Japanese bombed Bandung, and nothing was ever the same for the little girl who understood that diplomacy is better than bombs.
Was there a diplomatic solution to the conflict that led to the horror of December 7, 1941? The world will never know. What we do know is that the war robbed Ilse of her childhood, her mother, and her peace of mind. That’s what war does to the innocent victims who don’t bear arms but get tortured and killed anyway.
Perhaps we should look for world peace through the pure eyes of a child.
You never know who you’re going to meet at the Annual Holiday Bazaar. Ilse was manning the table for most of the day. The location was Snohomish Senior Center in Snohomish, Washington – a quaint historic town about 30 minutes north of Seattle. At noon time she was relieved for a couple of hours by their publicist, Bianca, who also brought her friend Carol. A gentleman stopped by with the most exquisitely carved walking stick. He explained that his father had made it out of a tree root many years ago. Soon his wife joined him and immediately her French accent stood out. She was originally from Poland and her family moved to France, met her future American husband during the war and came to America. Then a lady stopped by looking quite intensely at the book and it turned out she was originally from England and had spent some time in The Netherlands. She knew the history quite well and chatted for some time.
It was a fun festive atmosphere and people were quite curious about the book. Carol was wonderful in letting them know that the story was about “this lady sitting right here, Ilse. Yes, a true story during the war”.
All in all, it was a great day. It is always interesting to see people’s reactions to the book and to listen to their questions and impressions. The military buffs appreciate it immediately as it is about war time and represents a civilian’s perspective. It was a long day for Ilse, but also a good one! Also, thank you Carol for taking the pictures and for your support!
Bianca and Ilse at Snohomish Sr Ctr Holiday Bazaar 2013
Ilse Evelijn Veere Smit
Ilse will be selling copies of the book End the Silence at the Holiday Bazaar of the Snohomish Senior Center. Stop by and say hello and purchase a copy for a Christmas present. It is excellent reading for ages 12 on up.
Saturday, November 16, 2013 9-4pm
Snohomish Senior Center
506 Fourth St
Snohomish, Washington 98291-1426
Ilse and Dot getting ready for presentation
Q&A at AAUW program
Happiness is speaking to a packed house of AAUW members on Whidbey Island. Members came from all corners of the Island on a drizzly Saturday, to hear Ilse’s story. Ilse and I were honored. Such a welcoming, receptive group. Ilse is not always comfortable showing the boot-shaped scar on her shapely shin, but the AAUW got a glimpse. As always, Ilse wrapped up the program with The Handkerchief, her mother’s loving legacy to her four children. As always, we are reminded of Ilse’s and her mother’s courage, and the power of the human spirit.
Ilse and I were also honored by the presence of our invited guest, 90-year-old Robert LeRoy. As a soldier in WWII, Robert helped liberate women and children from a concentration camp in Luzon in the Philippines, much like Camp Halmaheira on Java where Ilse’s story takes place. It was a life-changing experience for the young Robert, and END THE SILENCE brought it all back. He read it twice and couldn’t wait to meet Ilse. It was good to be able to thank Robert for his service.
Ilse and Dorothy speaking at Boise Library
Dorothy Read and Ilse Smit will be giving a book presentation for the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Whidbey Island Branch.
Saturday October 12, 2013 at 10:00 am
Whidbey Island, Washington
Trinity Lutheran Church (Grigware Hall), corner of Hwy 525 and Woodard Ave
18341 State Route 525
P.O. Box 97
Freeland, WA 98249
A brief historical lesson for those unfamiliar with this part of the world. Like the British in India, the Dutch colonized Indonesia for 300 years. During colonization it was called the Dutch East Indies (or Netherlands East Indies). After WWII it gained independence from its rulers severing ties with the Dutch and became the Republic of Indonesia.
It is situated in the Indian Ocean north of Australia and south of Malaysia and the Phillipines. Indonesia has the largest archipelago in the world with 17,508 islands.
Ilse Evelijn Veere Smit and Willem Nijholt meet after 70 years
Willem Nijholt’s childhood, like Ilse’s, was cut short when the Japanese invaded his homeland, the DutchEast Indies. Like Ilse, he survived the war years in a concentration camp and the revolution that came after. Like Ilse, he repatriated to the Netherlands and built a new life. But Willem never forgot his childhood friend, the next door neighbor who danced with him in the school program, who made doll clothes from his mother’s sewing scraps, and who helped him plait flower garlands for her hair.
I bet you’ve already guessed it–Ilse was the childhood friend. Through End the Silence and the reach of social media, Willem found Ilse, and the wheels started rolling toward a reunion. First, Dorothy Read was their email intermediary. Then they wrote letters to send across the ocean. And on August 11, 2013, Willem met Ilse at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport.
The reunion did not go unnoticed. Willem has been a beloved entertainer in the Netherlands for decades. The press was on hand, along with a crowd of Willem’s fans. You can watch the reunion at Telegraaf –all the better if you speak Dutch!
What a story! We will keep you posted on new developments.
Willem and Ilse’s sisters Marijke (next to Willem) and Edith (the baby in End the Silence) join Ilse to “meet the press.”
Ilse's sister, Marijke, visit her mother's grave 60 years after the grobak carried Maria out of Camp Halmaheira.
On August 14, 1945, President Harry S. Truman announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II. The war was over!
On August 17, 1945, Maria Christina Evelijn Veere died in Camp Halmaheira, in Semarang on Java in what was then the Dutch East Indies. She died in captivity, inside the gedek and the barbed wire of a Japanese concentration camp. But the war was over.
Those three days might not have made the difference between life and death for Maria. But how I wish she could have died knowing the war had ended and the captivity was over for her children. How I wish Ilse, Marijke, René and Edith could have followed the grobak that carried their mother out the iron gate and on to her final resting place. How I wish that beautiful woman had not died on this date, sixty-five years ago.
What a difference it might have made in a brave woman’s suffering and her bereaved children’s grieving, had they known the war was over and their freedom was restored. Rest in peace, Maria, knowing your legacy of love and courage lives on.
Maria Fieddeldij and Hendrik Evelijn Veere marry in a happy place and a happy time in pre-war Java, Dutch East Indies.