Grant that I may remain brave,
Your servant for always,
And may defeat the tyranny.
Which pierces my heart.
—The Dutch National Anthem
The weeks before us will be the most difficult in the existence of our nation.
[The Dutch people] have been called on to endure sufferings probably worse than those so far inflicted on any other country in Western Europe.
—The Times (London)
November 11, 1944
Bam! Bam! Bam!
Dirk Ingelse's eyes flew open, and he raised his head off the pillow. Who could be knocking on the front door? Gestapo? His insides turned to ice.
The pounding resumed, the sound carrying easily up the stairs into Dirk's bedroom. It didn't sound like the rap of knuckles—it was more like the thumping of an angry fist. Or the butt of a rifle.
It had to be the Gestapo. They had been doing more raids lately, and they often came at night. Who else would pummel the front door of the Ingelses' farmhouse in the middle of the night and risk getting arrested?
Dirk rolled out of bed and crept to his bedroom window. Easing the curtain open just a bit, he kept his face away from the window, like Papa had taught him. He couldn't see a vehicle. But what if they hid their car? Dirk's right hand shook.
He couldn't hide. They would tear the place apart to find him. And he couldn't run—they would have the place surrounded. He'd heard stories. His right hand shook harder. It had been doing that a lot ever since—
The assault on the door resumed, even louder this time. "Open up!" growled a deep voice.
Dirk turned from the window and crept down the stairs. "I'll peek outside," he said under his breath. "If it's the Gestapo, I'll say I have to grab the key to let them in." He ran his fingers through his short blond hair. "Then I'll dash through the house and burst out the back." They would catch him for sure, but maybe they would leave his little sister alone.
The banging got faster. "Open up, Dirk!" the voice demanded above the battering being inflicted on the door.
Have the Gestapo come because of Papa? Have they arrested him?
How long would they wait before they broke into the house? Dirk scurried into the kitchen and grabbed a sharp knife. Weighing about forty-eight kilograms and standing a little over one and a half meters tall, he was average weight and a bit tall for his age, but if the Germans thought they would capture him easily, they were dealing with the wrong thirteen-year-old boy. Waving the knife would keep them back so he could sprint out the rear of the house. And lead them away from Anna. He edged toward the window closest to the front door.
Dirk swallowed hard and squeezed the knife handle harder. He pushed the curtain aside a few centimeters, gasped, fumbled with the lock, and swung the door open.
"Mr. van Nort!"
Why would his neighbor leave his farm at this hour of the night to come here?
Mr. van Nort hurried in, looked back at the street, and closed the door behind him. His chest heaved.
Dirk stared at the barrel-chested man, who took off his hat and fingered it nervously. "How did you—?"
That has to be two kilometers!
"I had to come right away to warn you."
Dirk gulped. Mr. van Nort stared at the knife.