Living Under the Earth – Remembrance Day Story of Corrie Schoofs

Corrie Schoofs remembers seeing her first Nazi German plane over 78 years ago.

Schoofs, age six at the time, was out in the streets of her hometown of Bladel, Netherlands on a warm Sunday afternoon with one of her girlfriends when she saw a plane coming unusually low towards Bladel.

Suddenly, Schoofs heard her father, Ludovicus, in the distance yelling “come home! Come home!”

She proceeded to run for her life, joining her seven siblings in hiding out by the shrubs in her backyard since Ludovicus thought their home was going to be targeted by the bombs.

But after a ground-shaking bomb exploded three houses down, leaving a hole in the ground the size of their neighbour’s yard, Ludovicus ordered his family to run to their cellar.

That dark, narrow cellar became her family’s hiding spot for years.

Corrie Schoofs lived in a dark cellar in Bladel, Netherlands for the majority of the Second World War before immigrating to Canada with her family in 1953 via boat. NIK KOWALSKI

“From then on that was our life, living in there,” said Schoofs. “We didn’t entertain ourselves, we just cried and prayed.”

“I thought I’d die in that cellar.”

In May 1940, Nazi Germany completely invaded the Netherlands within days, holding occupation for nearly five years during the Second World War. 

With a mindset of a new Europe led by Germany, Nazi Germany, along with Japan and Italy, fought the Allied forces, which included Canada, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, and all members of the United Nations.

The loud engine sound of a plane approaching, followed by taking cover in the cellar became a regular occurrence for the Schoofs family.

Either the plane engine or hearing the sharp whistle of an incoming grenade.

For food, Schoofs remembers her father going upstairs daily to quickly cook for his family who remained down in the cellar.

Not knowing how to cook, he worked with limited supplies such as pancakes, bread, potatoes, and roggevlokken, which is Dutch for rye flakes.

“It tasted good because we were hungry,” said Schoofs. She admits her family never starved.

In 1945, Canadian and British soldiers liberated the Netherlands, freeing the country from Nazi German occupation.

“I knew they were friendly when they started throwing chocolate bars to us kids, and gum,” said Schoofs with a smile on her face.

The constant bombings and grenade explosions left the town residents of Bladel without work, or had them building all the destroyed buildings recalled Schoofs. 

As a result, the living conditions remained poor.

“Only three of us had pairs of shoes, we would take turns going to services on Sundays because you had to wear shoes,” said Schoofs.

In 1953 the Schoofs family immigrated to Canada, living and working at a chicken coop near Portage la Prairie.

Schoofs didn’t think her parents would leave their kids in Canada at the time, but knew they missed the Netherlands, Schoofs saying “my parents would have crawled back.” 

During their first year in Canada, Schoofs remembers her mother crying while sitting on a tree stump out behind the chicken coop.

Asking her mother what’s wrong, she replied saying she was just not feeling good.

It wasn’t until years later that Schoofs’ mother revealed what she was thinking on that tree stump.

“She told me ‘what have I done bringing my children here, living in a chicken coop’.” 

Today, Schoofs attends a Remembrance Day service every year, and via an announcement or prayer, will specifically thank Canadians for liberating her birth country. 

Schoofs and her late husband, who lived in the Netherlands during the Second World War too, are proud to be Canadians.

“My husband would say, ‘I was a real Canadian, but when football came on, I became Dutch that day’.”

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