Born: June 2, 1926
When Adolph Hitler’s forces invaded The Netherlands, Marta Rodenhuis was a teenager living there with her parents and a younger sister. Invading troops forced the family to Germany where they were put to work on a Nazi dairy farm.
“They had no choice,” said Mrs. Rodenhuis’ daughter, Patty Hildebrand of Indianapolis.
The battle started May 10, 1940 and lasted four days. Paratroopers filled the sky, raining down on the cities to occupy the city centers. Bombings killed nearly nine hundred civilians. Mrs. Rodenhuis heard the bombing, she said. More than 30,000 people became homeless.
Altogether during World War II, about 12 million people, most of them Eastern Europeans, were forced to work in labor camps. Their country remained occupied until the end of the war.
Mrs. Rodenhuis’ job at the work camp was to milk cows and clean barns, she said. Her parents also worked on farms. All was not gloom because she met her future husband at the labor camp.
“He had heard there was a Dutch family there and he went to visit them,” said Mrs. Hildebrand. “That’s where he met mom.”
While dementia has robbed Marta Rodenhuis of memories, history says those who were in The Netherlands during the occupation experienced misery. Occupation lasted five years.
After the war was over, The Dutch were part of an exodus to America. Mrs. Rodenhuis couldn’t go with her boyfriend Everett when he left the camp. She had to wait until she was of age. Six months after their wedding on May 11, 1950, Mrs. Rodenhuis arrived in America.
“That’s when she saw the Statute of Liberty for the first time,’’ said her daughter.
It would be five years before the Rodenhuises would become citizens of the U.S. They took classes. They studied. They prayed and they were awarded citizenship after passing the exam.
The family moved to Whiteland, Indiana for more opportunity. She went to work at a tomato canning factory in Franklin while he farmed and worked construction. She cleaned houses and worked for a veterinarian. They adopted a son and a daughter.
Mrs. Hildebrand says her mother studied hard to learn English and to be a good citizen. Today, Mrs. Rodenhuis, who is 87, lives at Washington Healthcare Center. One of her best friends there is a Japanese woman. The two women share a warm friendship.
Both women have said that though they were on different sides of the war, their sacrifices and pain were similar.
“We are good friends,” said Mrs. Rodenhuis.