This is how the landscape looks
like in the region where my grandfather was
born. Though the Netherlands are densily populated, you won't notice it
here. Not then, not today.
Right behind the dike lie a pub and several farms, whose owners work
the newly gained land from the waddensea. That's the village of "Zwarte
If the wheater's bright, you can see the isle of Ameland in the
Sjouke and his brothers Jacob and Klaas were born in this region, and
the first years of their lives. In later life, Sjouke named two of his
sons after them.
Then, disaster struck the young family: Dad Jacob Jacobs Postma died,
at the young age of only 38 years old.
Set aside the grief, this posed the mourning widow Frouwkje
Postma-Polstra also for great economic problems, as social benefits as
we know it today of course did not exist.
A few years later, she met another man called David Sluiter, who
wanted her, but - alas - not the two oldest children. Problem.
Jacob and Sjouke, both about 12 years old, went to Sneek, to
Grandma took good care of them, but sadly enough she died a few years
later. Again the boys had to find new homes, and this time the boys
were split up. Jacob went to his uncle in the city of Leeuwarden, who
milk-distributor. Sjouke went to a cousin, who had a hotel- and
restaurantbusiness in Meppel.
There he learned this trade too. The hard
way. Scrubbing, cleaning, washing dishes. No more school for Sjouke
from then. Just work, work, work, from dusk till dawn.
He met a girl, Janna Jans, from a
small village nearby called Ruinerwold. They
Jacob, was born in 1901
Being entrepreneurial people, they
grabbed the chance to work in
their own business, in Steenwijk, right across the trainstation.
They moved there. Story goes, Sjouke helped out his cousin once a week,
on the market in Meppel. After work, the men drunk a bit of booze, and
often more than that.
Janna, being a stern women, quickly made him stop this weekly habit.
He did not drink a drop for the rest of his life.....
A view years later, they moved back to Meppel. Hendrik Jan - Hennie - was born, Klaas was born.
Another chance: Sjouke and Janna were offered the possibility to run
the hotel of Hendrik Anthonius Meijer in Emmen, a town nearby. And
Emmen was the place they both lived for the rest of their life.
After a view busy years the couple wanted a business of their own. On
fallow ground, next to the newly built traintrack and -station hotel
Postma arose. All on credit from the bank.
While Janna was very nervous about this, Sjouke strongly believed in
themselves and his christian god. This was 1909. Frouwkje was already born in 1906.
In 1910 Johan Sjouke - Joop - came.
As business thrived, Sjouke got an interest in politics and became a
member of the liberal party. He also became chairman of the local
chamber of commerce later on. Being the vain man he was, he loved
the attention posed on him. A characteristic some of his kids, like
Bert and my dad Joop inherited.
He ran his business, in practical matters strongly leaning on Janna for
many years in a row, while the children grew up. World war I made a lot
Belgian refugees come the hotel, and return home again in 1918.
In the afterwar years, Sjouke became a representative for the liberal
party for the three northern provinces Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland
in the Hague. He did well, loved his family and was a succesful man in
Little Bert was born in 1922, the
elder boys all moved out and went their way. Sjouke had taken in his
And showed her the love and care she could not give them when he and
brother were small. To me, this shows the man had a great heart. She
died, 3 weeks after Bert was born in Emmen, in 1922. Her
grave still is on the same graveyard Sjouke and Janna were buried later.
Sjouke grew older, and finally in 1932 wanted to retire from the
business, or at least slow down. The Kolhoop
was built, he and Janna moved out of the hotel, but still helped out
their son Jacob and his wife Frieda.
Nazism rose in the east, in Germany. To his great grief, Sjouke saw
his son Jacob grow sympathetic to their ideology, at least the Dutch
version. Sjouke did not agree, but what could he do?
Times became more and more grim. Sjouke's health declined. In 1940 the
nazi's marched in, and made the hotel he founded to one of their
headquarters in Emmen.
His son welcomed them, in the uniform of the Dutch national socialist
movement, the NSB.
Klaas was far away in Utrecht, opposing the occupators with his
resistance activities. Mother and father Postma also had to help Joop
financially, who was
succesful as a Mennonite referend but got TBC and went for cure
Davos, Switserland. And Bert signed up for the Waffen SS.
It all became to much for him, he couldn't cope, couldn't stop them,
On the 4th of may 1943, Sjouke Postma from Zwarte Haan, at the age of
67, died of a poor condition and grief over the deep political division
amongst his own children.
He was a good man, most likely not perfect, vain perhaps, and left a
lot of practical work to his wife and others. The bad fate he got, was
Rest in peace, dear grandpa. I would have liked to have known you.
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