Wednesday, May 20. I’m back.

Written by Jack van Ommen on May 20th, 2015

I actually returned on Saturday, May 9th. from the three week trip to Holland and Belgium. But the web site was in intensive care in Holland, it is repatriated and back up running again as of this morning. I had attempted to consolidate my various sites with a hosting service I have been using for the Dutch version of The Mastmakers’ Daughters, in Holland. But when I transferred this site everything went wrong.

A couple of young boys are swimming here in the marina. Summer is here. It has been in the mid seventies (25C) all week after the fog burns off.

Slide Show on June 3rd at the GHYC : Presentation starts at 7 p.m. Bar is open from 6 p.m. address: 8209 Stinson Avenue, zip 98332. Everyone is welcome. This will most likely be my last opportunity before I head south the end of the summer.

A year ago I presented a slide show of part of my circumnavigation at the Gig Harbor Yacht Club. This time I will show other parts of the voyage. And a repeat of the shipwreck, which is short and spectacular. Because the Gig Harbor Maritime Gig Festival is the weekend that follows June 3rd, I will show my visit to Croatia in 2012. Since the festival has its roots in the, predominant, Croatian heritage of Gig Harbor. In 2012 I attempted to find connections between Croatia and Gig Harbor, aboard “Fleetwood”, and possibly a church connection for the 2014 centennial celebration of my parish St. Nicholas, which was founded by the Croatian community. I found a number of related families, particularly in Sumartin on the island of Brac.

I will have “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” (see right margin for details) book for sale and signing for $15. I need the money otherwise you’ll have to put up with me for another year, before I can have the boat ready to continue my interrupted itinerary. I also will have DVD’s of my entire trip’s slide show videos, with text and audio, for $5  and for interested GHYC members one which includes a short slide show of GHYC events of the eighties. The book is the biography of my mother, a major part of it tells the story of her involvement in the resistance and her captivity in several concentration camps. My visit to Holland was to attend the 70th annual memorial of the liberation of Dachau. Mother was one of the survivors remembered in a theater performance by high school students on May 4th. See my blogs on May 4th for details and pictures.

The book I wrote about the nine year circumnavigation, “Soloman”, is finished in Dutch and now I am writing the English version. While in Holland I called on several friends to help me with the editing and I found the right designer for the cover. Here is a preview of a possible cover.




Monday May 4th. “Names instead of Numbers”, the 70th anniversary of the Dachau liberation.

Written by Jack van Ommen on May 5th, 2015

This was literally and figuratively la pièce de “Résistance”, the main reason for my three week visit here in Holland. Eleven High School seniors, 8 girls and 3 boys formed the cast for the stage show in the “Bellevue” Theater in Amsterdam. They shared, with the sold out house, their experiences in putting names with the Dachau prisoner, mostly Resistance members, numbers. How they became involved and affected through their discoveries. Their visits to Dachau and the preceding camps most of the prisoners had been through before Dachau.

The presentation started at 9 p.m. due to the fact that every year on May 4th a two minute silence is observed from 8 p.m. I went with two of my cousins to the Noorder Markt to observe the event. A brass band played just before the silence. They played “Abide with me”. This brings back strong emotions because this was the hymn the women, our mother was with, sang when they were stuffed in the box cars, on their way from the camp Vught in Holland to the hell of Ravensbrück on the 5th of September 1944. : (Blijf bij mij, Heer, want d’ avond is nabij)

Abide with me, fast falls the even tide.

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

 Henriette Schulze, a German student, wrote the biography of our mother in the “Names instead of Numbers”. My twin brother who lives in Germany  assisted her with the information she used. I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with her last Saturday, together with the only other German student in the eleven students cast, Anne Krombacher. Henriette did an outstanding biography. And I am sure that our mother will be very pleased, when she gets to read her copy. This was well worth the long journey. I feel proud, grateful and honored to have had a mother and father who stood their ground and acknowledged their strength and survival to have come from God.

Nineteen numbers have been changed in to names in the book that Jos Sinnema put together with these students stories, including the one of our mother. In addition it is also a very good history of concentration camp Dachau by the details and historical photos that were added to these nineteen biographies. It is available at:

Projected Rennie de Vries-van Ommen

Projected Rennie de Vries-van Ommen

the cast

the cast

Henriette receives her rose from Jos Sinnema

Henriette receives her rose from Jos Sinnema

Willemijn van Gurp-Petroff

Willemijn van Gurp-Petroff

Willemijn, the 96 year old, the last ambulant AGFA Commando Dachau survivor tells her story and shares her advice to all of us but particularly the students.


Sunday May 3rd and Monday Morning. Whirlwind winding down.

Written by Jack van Ommen on May 5th, 2015

On Saturday one of the choir members told me that she had seen me in the Amsterdam Central Station. That was no accident, because I have gone through the station so often since my arrival that I have lost track.

Yesterday, Saturday, I met the German student, Henriette Schulze, who did the biography in “Names instead of Numbers” of our Mother. She and her German friend Anna Krombacher, who has done the “Name” on Kiky Heinsius (one of my sources for the story in “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”) are here a few days ahead of the Monday evening presentation to rehearse their roles in the performance. In the afternoon I attended the general rehearsal of the choir I sang with in 2012/2013. They are giving another concert on Memorial Day, May 4th. They are once again singing parts of Fauré’s Requiem,  parts of it and the soprano solo brought goose bumps and emotions once again. It was a real treat to see my friends again and have a drink afterwards.

Sunday morning I attended church in the English Reformed Church in the Bequinage. My new friend Christa from the consulate teaches Sunday School and she brought her uncle Bert van Ingen Schenau, who was one class below me in my elementary school. We had lots of memories to share and to exchange our ways since grade school.

Rev. Dr. Lance Stone and another USA flag, like previous blog, away from home.

Rev. Dr. Lance Stone and another USA flag, like previous blog, away from home.

In the afternoon I took the train to Culemborg to visit my cousin Karel and his wife Ankie in Eck en Wiel. You might recall my previous visits to their farm house where I house sat, the chickens and cats. The Storks are expecting in a week or so.

Ankie and the other chicks.

Ankie and the other chicks.







The tulips and even the daffodils are still in bloom. The Skagit Valley is over a month ahead of the Dutch bulb growers.








If you are a smoker on a Dutch railroad station look for your designated area. It apparently works judging by the popularity. Maybe we need similar designated areas for the food and smart phone addicted.



April 30 2nd edition. Small World.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 30th, 2015

On Saturday’s posting I show the US Consul, John Wilcock, laying a wreath at the Dachau monument. I brought to his attention the American role in the liberation of the Dachau women prisoners, which my mother was a part of. He invited me to the consulate today to tell him more about the details. Much of which is incorporated in the book I wrote “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”.

But what was so unusual about this visit was, when I mentioned to his assistant Christa, that I grew up in the Rivierenbuurt, it turned out that her mother was two classes higher in my elementary school and that my sister remembers her mother, Hannie van Ingen-Schenau,  well, they were in the same high school class. Christa is born in Southern California after her parents immigrated from Holland.

With USA Consul, John Wilcock, in Amsterdam consulate

With USA Consul, John Wilcock, in Amsterdam consulate



April 30 2015. 40 years since Fall of Saigon, 70 years since US 7th Army liberated Wolfratshausen

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 30th, 2015

On April 30 the Russians liberated the infamous women concentration camp Ravensbrück. The next day, May 1st 1945, the German commander of the AGFA Commando, a Dachau satellite camp, turned the 600 prisoners over to the US army commander in Wolfratshausen, where the women were intercepted on their Death March. There are many events scheduled here in Europe to remember these important dates.

Our mother was part of the 200 Dutch women in the AGFA commando who had been sent to Dachau in October 1944 from Ravensbrück. See:  

Yesterday I had a chance to visit the “Groote Beer” botter yacht in Spakenburg and meet the new manager of the Nieuwboer botter yard, Marco Venendaal. She is scheduled to be relaunched in May after a thorough repair from the damage suffered when she fell out of the crane in Elburg in 2011.

Keel repairs "Groote Beer"

Keel repairs “Groote Beer”




Tuesday April 28. Found Rose Marie’s long lost Godfather.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 28th, 2015

I had been searching for years, while I spent time on “Fleetwood” in and near Belgium, on the internet and Facebook for the Claeys family, dear friends we had when we lived in the Brussels section of Forest in 1966/67. We lost contact after we returned to the United States and the difficult years of our family splitting up in 1972. Last week I visited the old neighborhood where we lived on Rue Henri Maubel and I walked past the house of the Claeys family, which brought back many fond memories. Their son Claude and his sister Colette are the “Pareins” godparents of Rose Marie, our second oldest daughter who is born in Brussels in 1968. Claude was then 15 or 16 and his sister a few years older. So, he has to be close to sixty four now. Today I received a comment on this web site from Claude. He has been living in Argentina for the last 33 years. We will have lots to catch up. How and where his sisters are, I may need to make another trip to Brussels before I leave and introduce my granddaughter Corrine to them. Corrine’s mother was two years old when the Claeys family met her, nearly fifty years ago.

L.R. Claude, Joan with Rose Marie, Colette, Jack, Mme. Claeys at Baptismal Feb 1968 St. Pie-X Forest (Bruxelles)

L.R. Claude, Joan with Rose Marie, Colette, Jack, Mme. Claeys at Baptismal Feb 1968 St. Pie-X Forest (Bruxelles)


Same location, picture taken last week

Same location, picture taken last week




Sunday/Monday April 25/26. King’s Day.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 27th, 2015

Sunday morning was high mass at the Augustinus church where I used to attend regularly. The choir “Cantate Dominum” in which I sang in 2012 and 2013 sang at the mass. What a treat and privilege. The envy of many churches in the United States, yet apparently taken for granted here judging by the sparse church attendance. Most of the liturgical songs were from Missa Princeps Pacis by Lloyd Webber, Communion song: O Saluaris Hostia from Edward Elgar and the recessional hymn “King of all ages” from Paul Isom. After the service I visited in the Parish Hall for coffee with the choir members who I have dearly missed since I returned to Gig Harbor. I will see them again next Saturday when they are having the general rehearsal for the May 4th concert on Memorial Day. I will not be ale to attend the concert because of the “Names instead of Number” presentation that evening.

Pastor Tom Buitendijk wih choir in background.

Pastor Tom Buitendijk wih choir in background.

In the afternoon I visited with my longtime elementary school class mate Jeannette and her husband Henk in Bosch en Duin.

Today is the national holiday in honor of the new King’s birthday. This is the second time that I got a chance to be here on this day, you might recall the report and the crazy pictures in the same week in 2013.  This time it was a lot cooler but sunny and festive.

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Saturday April 25. 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of C.C. Dachau.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 26th, 2015

Every year, on the Saturday on or before April 29, this day is commemorated at the National Dachau Monument in Amsterdam. On May 29th., 1945 the Rainbow Division of the 42nd Infantry Brigade of the U.S. 7th Army entered the gates of Dachau. This ended 12 years of Nazi terror in the first SS concentration  camp, “home” to roughly 200,000 prisoners, of which 41,566 lost their lives in Dachau. 550 of the 2,000 Dutch political prisoners died in Dachau. Our mother Rennie de Vries-van Ommen survived as part of a group of 200 Dutch prisoners in the AGFA Commando, a Dachau satellite camp. See

The very first time that I had an opportunity to attend the annual commemoration was in 2013, see   where I met Willemijn van Gurp-Petroff. She is now 96 years old and the last ambulant survivor of the Dutch political Dachau women prisoners. She gave a moving speech in which she emphasized the lessons she has for all of us. They were forced into survival by becoming a very close unit. In Ravensbrück they slept in bunk rows three high, two women per bunk under one thin blanket. They had to wash together, five naked women shared one water bucket. No privacy, no shame, no intolerance of each other. Willemijn was dragged, with high fever, by two of her friends, into the box cars that brought the 200 women out of the hell of Ravensbrück to Dachau, where, as it turned out, her chance of survival increased ten fold. She told us of how she only began sharing her war experiences in the last five years and how this has set her free. The two high school students who set her name in the project “Names instead of Numbers” ,  Job Bruin en Jelle Braaksma, were again with her. Next week, on May 4th, the national annual 2nd WW commemoration, our mother will also be remembered in this same program by a German student, Henriette Schulze. This is one of the main reasons I am in Holland until May 8th. The Dutch king opened the special exhibit on this program in the Dutch National Resistance Museum in Amsterdam on Wednesday. I went to see it yesterday right after a program given by the Dutch Dachau Committee in which Jos Sinnema was honored for his work in bringing the program into the Dutch schools, from where it started in Dachau. Thus far Jos Sinnema is only the third person to receive this distinction, after Dr. Barbara Distel, the former president of the International Dachau Commitee and German chancellor Angela Merkel. The biographies of the individual prisoners are also making a tour through the United States, see above link.

For those who have missed it: The only complete published story of the 200 AGFA Commando prisoners is incorporated in “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”

Jos Sinnema receiving the General-André-Delpech prize from the International Dachau committee. Left Sonja Arendsen-Holz right Dr. Barbara Distel, ex-president of the I.D.C.

Willemijn sticking flower in the monument, with Job Bruin and ex Dachau inmate Wim Velthuizen

Willemijn sticking flower in the monument, with Job Bruin and Dachau survivor Wim Velthuizen


Mrs. Willemijn van Gurp-Petroff address at Dachau Monument

John Wilcock, U.S. Consul General laying wreath with local elementary school students.

John Wilcock, U.S. Consul General laying wreath with local elementary school students.


Tuesday April 21 Brussels. A sentimental visit.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 21st, 2015

Yesterday I drove early in the morning from Amsterdam to Bruges where I picked up my Gig Harbor friends Andy and Maggi. It was a perfect warm Spring day. The trees are just starting to bud, the bulbs and flowering fruit trees are in bloom. I showed my friends some of my favorite spots where  we used to live from 1965 until 1970. Tomorrow I will be picking them up in Antwerp and show them some of the sights along the way in Holland on the way back to Amsterdam. While having lunch in Halle, yesterday, the lady in the picture, sat down, as a blonde, two tables away from us. After the third glass of Kriek Lambic, a typical Belgian beer (see ), this is what happened to her hair. This is NOT photo-shopped.







Yesterday was my oldest granddaughter, Corrine,’s 25th Birthday. So, glad to be able to celebrate with her and her husband Euan. Today I went searching for the apartment we rented in Brussels from 1965 until we moved to a larger home in Ittre, when Rose Marie was born in February 1968. I paid a visit to the St. Pie X church where we went to church in Brussels and where Rose Marie was baptized. Walked by the office I worked in on Ave. Louise and to the Grand Place where the Guildhalls were freshly Gilded.








This evening Corrine and Euan took me on a long hike through the Cinquantenaire to Place Jourdan where the best ever Frites (French Fries) are made. Every Belgian daughter in law has to be able to pass the rigid test on frying frites before she is approved. The surrounding cafés allow you to eat the frites from the stand at their tables.


Corrine and Euan playing quatres mains.

Corrine and Euan playing quatres mains.


Sunday April 19. In Holland

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 19th, 2015

I flew yesterday from Seattle via Edmonton, Alberta, Reykjavik to Amsterdam. Reasonable good flights, except on the last leg I was squeezed in the center seat between a nice obese lady and a jerk guy in the window seat who stuck his left elbow and knee in my side and would not budge, agonizing 4 hour flight. On my way early Monday morning rental car drive to Brugges to meet Gig Harbor friends and celebrate the 25th birthday with Granddaughter Corrine in Brussels. Returning Wednesday to Amsterdam. Then a busy program next weekend around the 70th anniversary of the Dachau liberation.