A brave woman remembers – reminiscences of Anne Van de Stadt.
The windmill which stands in front of Hickman’s Nursery on Wingham Road, Taree is also a mill of many memories for Mrs Anne Van de Stadt.
The windmill has a plaque commemorating Mrs Van de Stadt’s late husband, Gerry, a Dutch resistance fighte who hid nine Jews from the invading Nazis during World War II. Three were hidden in the loft of the Van dr Stadt house in the Dutch village of Koog-Ad-Zaan and the remainder were hidden across the road at his mother’s house. The decision to help Jewish people meant ever-present danger for a family. The Van de Stadt's had two young children at the time, the second being born while the Jewish people were hidden with them. They looked after these Jewish people for nearly two years
'We would have been shot on the spot if they had been discovered,' Mrs Van de Stadt says. 'When food was getting very scarce because everything had been carried away for the German war machine, we were left with only half a loaf of bread a week and half a litre of milk for the children. Gerry went out to the fasrms to beg for butter and milk for the family. We started bartering and I swapped household linen for food.'
On one occasion they were given 1000 pair of shoes to sell on the black market by a Jewish shoemaker and they were able to barter the shoes for food. Shortly after the shoemaker disappeared and was never heard of again.
As the Germans were pulling out of the village at the end of the war, there was an uprising by the village youth. Some of the bullets fired by the Germans went straight through the Van de Stadt house, narrowly missing their one year old baby sitting in her highchair. There was great celebration when the war finished. Food drops were made by Norway and the USA.
After the war things were still difficult and there was a problem getting new cars for Gerry’s taxi business so the Van de Stadts decided to come to Australia. They arrived in August 1950, looking for a better climate and the opportunities that this nation offered.
They moved to Forster in 1972 and then to Tuncurry in 1983 where Gerry manufactured spare parts for local use. It was while living in Tuncurry that Gerry began the task of building a windmill about one sixth the size of the ones in Holland, When completed it became a part of their home and a Tuncurry landmark. When they moved to Taree in 1992 the windmill was transported to its present location where it is a feature of Hickman’s Nursery. The plaque on the windmill commemorates the heroic work of the Van de Stadts
In 1986 Israel acknowledged their efforts in rescuing Jewish people by honouring both Gerry and Anne with the 'Award of Righteous Among the Nations."
Gerry, a committed Christian, died while attending a Church service in Port Macquarie in August 1995.