Saturday, 5 May 2012

Liberation day: The life of Angelique Croon and Koos Vlek (Part II)

So, today is Liberation Day in the Netherlands. We celebrate the end of the second world war on the fifth of may because the German Army in the Netherlands capitulated on May 5th 1945. We're the only European country to celebrate this on this day. All others celebrate this on the 8th of may, because that's the day that the whole German reich capitulated.

All over the country people celebrate with musical festivals. Here on Whatsinatreehouse however: we're going to continue our story of yesterday.

After their marriage, Koos Vlek and Angelique Vlek-Croon moved to Maastricht. They had a hardwarestore that sold copper plumbing parts. The store ran well, and Koos and Angelique had many children, the oldest of them being my grandmother, Annie Vlek. When the depression came, the store went bankrupt, but the Croon family from Hasselt saved the hardware store, by paying for the continuation.

Maastricht in 1940, days (or moments) before the German Invasion)
When daughter Annie was fourteen years old (the same age as her mother was when the Great War broke out), the Germans invaded the Netherlands. A boy living in the same street remembers running through the streets of Maastricht shouting: "De Moffen komen! De moffen komen!" ("The Krauts are coming!"). (Later, Annie Vlek would mary this boy, Servé Crouzen).

As copper was a valuable commodity, the German troops confiscated the hardware store. Angelique and Koos did hide a large part of their copper hardware by burrying it in the forest, but after the war they never found it back. Koos Vlek was one of the dutch civilians who joined the resistance. He helped make and distribute illegal newspapers.

Apperantly the third man on the right is my great-grandfather, Koos Vlek.
Comparing this picture to other seems to confirm that, but I have no idea when or what he
was doing in the army

 Eventually he was arrested and sent to a labor camp for political prisoners. The camp he was sent to is supposed to be somewhere 'behind Berlin'. After the war, he was set free from the camp, but had to find his own way home. Like many in the time, he walked the whole trip. When he finally got home, he was so emaciated that Annie still remembers what a shock it was to recoqnize the strange man at the front door.

It's a well known story what happened to collaborator's women. These where either wives of collaborators, women who slept with collaborators or Germans, or females who had worked for the Germans themselves. When the German army fled, the civilians took revenge on these women by shaving them bald and parading them through the streets. Although I learned this in history class, I never saw a picture of this untill I found these pictures, taken by Annie or Angelique.
Female collaborators in Maastricht, 1945

After the war, the Angelique's parents helped restart the hardware store for the second time. Apart from their many kids, Angelique and Koos had also taken in Adrie. Adrie was a boy from Rotterdam who had lost his parents and home during the bombing of Rotterdam. He stayed with the Vlek's untill he was grown-up.

Angelique and a grown-up Adrie

In 1971, Koos was a pensioner. Instead of enjoying his pension he was asked to help with the restoration of the dome of one of the old churches at Vrijthof square. Because he felt honoured to work in such a grande building, Koos set to work. Up in the dome however, he had an heartattack and subsequently fell down. He died 71 years old.

His wife survived him by fourteen years. She died in 1985. Their daughter Annie, who married the boy Servé had five kids. Annie and Servé still live in Stein, the Netherlands. Their daughter Margot is my mother.

Left to right: Annie (my grandmother) and her parents, Koos and Angelique
Annie Vlek and her two daughters. Ange (named after Angelique) and Margot, my mother.


So this is the story of Angelique Vlek, born as Angelique Croon in Lanaken, near Hasselt in Belgium in the year 1900. She lived throught both great wars, married a plumber and gave birth to my grandmother. I hope you enjoyed her tale as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope I'll find out more about her in the near future. For now, enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Angelique on the right, with a friend

Friday, 4 May 2012

Remembrance day: The Life of Angelique Croon (Part I)


Today it's Remembrance day in the Netherlands. Traditionally this day was used to remember and honour the victims of World War II and the holocaust.. We now use this day to remember all Dutch civilians and members of the Dutch military who have died during every war or peacemissions since 1940. Every year there is a huge ceremony in Amsterdam on Dam Square, involving the Queen, veterans and lots of flowers.

I thought this would be a nice moment to speak how this day relates to me, by telling a story of one of my own family members. There are a lot of family stories to tell on this topic, but for today I choose to tell the story of my mothers grandmother, or my great grandmother, Angelique Croon.
This is by no means a story to tell you who was wrong and who not, this is simply a story of one of the many people that lived through that time and what happened to her.

 Since highschool I've been intriqued by her, when I went throug a hard time my mother put a picture of her in my room, saying she would "help me". The resemblance in appearance between her and my mother is striking. Propably this moment combined with the resemblance first sparked my interest in her. Later when my interest in my families history really took of, I started asking for pictures and stories, and this is what I found out.

Angelique Vlek (born Croon) 
(Pronounce "Crow -n)

Angelique Croon was born in Hasselt (Belgium) in 1900 to a relativly wealthy family. This enabled her to go to a girls boarding school, at a very young age. The picture below shows her at school in 1905 or 1906. What makes this unique is the fact that education wasn't made compulsory for all children untill 1914.
Angelique aged 5/6 at school.

We can also assume the boarding school was Catholic. Although liberal governments in the 1870's and 1880's had tried to secularize education, by 1884 this was reverted by a confessional government with great popular support.

At boarding school, in 1914. My greatgrandmother is the third from the left in the back row.

Angelique was fourteen years old when the Great War broke out. Unlike the Netherlands, which remained 'neutral' throughout the war, Belgium bore the brunt of the German invasion and the whole  trench warfare that followed. Hasselt was quickly captured after the first line of defense, the fortresses around Liège, fell.

This is the Croon family celebrating Carnaval in the spring of 1918. Angelique is the one
on the left, middle row. The one in the middle is Andree, Angelique's younger sister.


When she was nineteen years old, and the war ended, Angelique's parents had arranged a wedding between her and the son of Hasselt's(?) mayor, a boy who got crippled in the trenches. However, Angelique Croon choose otherwise, and married Koos Vlek, an independent plumber from a family that owned a liquor-brewery.

This to her parents dismay as he was much poorer then they had wanted her upcoming husband to be. However they did wed and moved to Maastricht (The Netherlands) soon after. She wasn't the only controversial one of the Croon-daughters however: her sister Andree had an extra-marital child with an unknown father. Although this made her the 'black sheep' of the family, she doesn't even seem that bad off in this 1919-picture:

Andree Croon with her child, Monique. I do not know if Andree found a husband later in life.


Tomorrow I'll post about her time after the first Great War and especially during the Second World War tomorrow. On the fifth of May when we celebrate Liberation Day, to remember the liberation of most of the Netherlands by Allied forces. Some powerful war photo's coming up.

Nisse