As children, the rules our parents make often seem arbitrary and pointless. Yet once we become adults, we finally see the reasons for those rules.
As children, 3 Dutch siblings could never understand why their parents told them they could never touch or open an old suitcase. At the time, it seemed like a ridiculous rule. But once they finally saw what was inside the old piece of luggage, they finally understood why their parents kept it locked away for decades…
For as long as 3 Dutch siblings can remember, their parents had a suitcase, which they kept locked and out of sight. According to the siblings, their parents told them about the suitcase and warned them that they were not allowed to open it.
When they were young, the children wondered what was inside the old suitcase, but knew better than to break a rule set by their parents, especially 1 that was so serious. However, as the kids got older, their curiosity about the off-limits luggage started to grow…
Respecting Their Wishes
While they were desperate to know what was inside the suitcase, they didn’t dare go against their parents’ wishes and never touched the suitcase or pestered their mother or father with questions about the mysterious contents of the suitcase.
A Seemingly Silly Rule
“As children, we knew that there was a suitcase that we wouldn’t touch. We weren’t allowed to,” the couple’s son explained. However, when his father passed away in 1979, he decided to ask his mother seriously for the first time about the suitcase…
A Decades-Old Secret
When André Boers approached his elderly mother, Mimi Dwinger, after his father, Barend Boers, passed away, he asked her permission to open the suitcase. He couldn’t understand what could possibly be inside that needed to be kept a secret for decades.
Unfortunately, she refused to give her permission and insisted it wasn’t important. “No, no need, there’s no time,” Boers said about what his mother told him that day. “I eventually understood, of course, that it was hard for her to deal with what was in the suitcase…”
The Family’s History
According to Boers, his parents met as children as their families were both in the textile business and were friendly with one another. At 14, Barend became an apprentice under Mimi’s father. When he was 28, he asked Mimi, who was 21 years old, to be his wife.
1 Year Of Marital Bliss
The couple got married in 1939 in Mimi’s hometown of Leeuwarden at the local synagogue. After that, they settled down in Amsterdam. Just 1 year later, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and, according to Boers, his parents both miraculously survived the Holocaust…
A Miraculous Escape
The Nazis arrested and imprisoned Mimi, and normally, she would have been sent to her death at a concentration camp. However, Barend managed to save his wife. “He may have been assisted by the Dutch underground. He may have paid money to have her freed. I don’t know,” Boers said.
A Refugee Camp
After that, the couple fled through Belgium, France, and Spain. Eventually, they made it to Jamaica where there was a camp for Dutch Jewish refugees. Sometime after that, Barend left for Canada to fight with a Dutch battalion. After being trained, he was sent to England and fought in the war…
Returning To Holland
When Barend returned to the Netherlands, he discovered his brothers had been murdered but his mother, who had hidden in a closet for 3 years, was still alive. On May 5, 1945, Barend sent a telegram to his wife, who moved to England a year after arriving in Jamaica. “Holland is liberated. You can return,” Barend wrote.
Starting Over Alone
Barend and Mimi resettled in Amsterdam, where Barend reopened the family textile factory and started his own family. Sadly, however, their 3 children would never meet most of their family members and friends, as they were tragically murdered during the Holocaust…
A Painful Past
Mimi and Barend never spoke to their children about the war and the horrific way their loved ones were taken from them. It wasn’t until after Mimi passed away in 2007 just before her 91st birthday, that Boers and his siblings realized how much it still weighed on them.
Opening The Suitcase
Together with his sisters, Boers finally opened his parents’ suitcase after they had both passed away and found peace. As the siblings carefully looked through the contents of the suitcase, they realized why their parents had kept it locked away for decades…
The Family’s Treasures
Inside, the suitcase held letters, documents, and even war medals that their father earned for fighting in the war and participating in the invasion of Normandy. At the bottom of the suitcase, however, the brother and sisters found the real treasure.
The Wedding Film
“On the bottom of the suitcase, I found little boxes that had the name Kodak written on them,” Boers explained. The 8 mm film was his parents’ wedding video from April 18, 1939, and the siblings immediately watched it…
The Faces Of Strangers
As the film played, Boers and his sisters watched his parents get married at city hall and then in the synagogue. After that, the film showed the newlyweds celebrating their nuptials with all their closest friends and family. To the siblings, however, the film was full of strangers.
A Sad Realization
As the siblings watched, they were struck by the fact that they barely knew anyone in the film because they sadly never got the chance to meet them. “I saw so many people in it that I didn’t know, aunts and uncles that I couldn’t identify,” said Boers, who finally realized that his parents would have found it too painful to see the faces of all the people torn from them…
An Archival Treasure
“Most of the people that you see in this wedding movie were not alive a few years later,” said Boers. “All of them were murdered in the camps. I never met them.” After watching the wedding film, however, it occurred to Boers how rare and priceless the footage was and wanted to share it with the world. Yet he struggled knowing his parents never wanted the film to see the light of day. “My parents never spoke about the war and didn’t want to deal with what happened.”
Sharing The Film With The World
Boers, who immigrated to Israel and is now the chairman of the Center for Research of Dutch Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, decided the archival treasure needed to be shared. Boers shared the footage on YouTube as well as with the staff at the film archive of the province of Friesland. “They fell off their chairs. They had been looking for years for documentation of the life of the local Jewish community and had reconciled themselves to the fact that it didn’t exist,” Boers said.