Holocaust Survivor Speaking To Students: 'I Was Being Hunted' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Holocaust Survivor Speaking To Students: 'I Was Being Hunted'

Holocaust survivor Pete Metzelaar speaks to students at Freeman High School on Wednesday Holocaust survivor Pete Metzelaar speaks to students at Freeman High School on Wednesday
ROCKFORD, Wash. -

Just try and put Pete Metzelaar's story into words. It's impossible. Nobody can truly understand what it's like to hide from the Nazi's time and time again only to narrowly escape with your life unless you lived through it. And Pete Metzelaar has.

Speaking to a crowd of students at Freeman High School in Rockford on Tuesday, Metzelaar brought many people to tears. He spent more than an hour recounting his childhood in Holland, the daring actions on the part of his mother to save both of their lives and the many near misses with Nazi officers that he remembers to this day.

He was only 7 when trucks full of Nazis began showing up in his neighborhood, rounding up people in the middle of the night.

"The next day a couple of my buddies in school weren't there," he recalled. "'What happened to them?'"

Next, his aunt and uncle were arrested. Then, his grandparents disappeared. And finally, Metzelaar said:

"Then came the day my mother was rather hysterical and she said, ‘Dad has been arrested, he's gone."

That was the last time they ever saw or heard from him.

Knowing they would be next, Pete's mother contacted an underground resistance group that helped Jewish people find food and shelter. They connected her with Klaas and Roelfina Post, a couple living on a rural farm. Pete and his mother stayed there for two years, never allowed to come outside during the daylight – hiding under the floorboards when the farm was raided.

"They were just walking six inches above my head and all it would have taken was one cough, one sneeze, one hiccup and that would have been it, it would have been all over," he said.

But eventually, even hiding in the floor became too dangerous. Together, Klaas Post and Pete dug a cave in the forest near the farm for them to hide in. When they were in it, Pete and his mother couldn't see out, but they could hear the Nazis and knew what they were after.

"I knew I was being hunted," Metzelaar remembered. "I kept wondering, ‘Is this the time they're going to come get me?'"

Knowing it was time to move to a safer place, Pete's mother again contacted the underground, which connected her with two women living in a city apartment. Pete and his mother hid there until she learned the women planned on turning them in. Again, the underground said there was a safe place for them – but this time, in Amsterdam. The only way to get there was a single road used by the German military.

She had no choice. In the middle of the night, she made a Red Cross nurse uniform out of sheets and took Pete with her to meet the enemy face to face.

Her saving grace? She was born in Austria and spoke German.

They made it to the road and she put out her thumb to hitchhike. A Nazi military truck stopped. Pete's mother, speaking in German, made up a story about Pete being an orphan and British bombs killing his parents, adding that she worked for the International Red Cross and needed to take Pete to an orphanage in Amsterdam.

The officer bought it. Mother and son escaped by hitching a ride with the Nazis themselves.

"Mother sat between the two Nazi officers in the cab, and thank you very much they took us to Amsterdam," he said.

There were many other close calls after that – a time a Nazi put a revolver to Pete's head and a neighbor told his mother she'd witnessed him be picked up. When Pete ran home minutes later, his mother was hysterical, believing that after years of hiding, planning and escaping – the reason she did it was gone.

At the end of the war, Pete and his mother moved to the U.S. He was the 13 at the time, but never spoke about his experience because he thought it was nothing special.

"I thought that's what all the kids had gone through," he recalled.

It was only 20 years ago he returned to Europe for the first time, visiting the Post's farm he hid on all those years ago, finding his old cave in the forest – but learning the Post's passed away only 7 years before his visit.

Not returning sooner to thank them for saving his life remains one of his biggest regrets.

While in Europe, he also arranged to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp. It wasn't until he returned home to the Seattle area he learned that is, in fact, where his own father and grandparents were murdered.

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