Excerpts from

Things We Couldn't Say

by Diet Eman with James Schaap

Lighthouse Trails, 2008



Introduction from Lighthouse Trails: "This is the true story of Diet Eman, a young Christian woman who joined the resistance movement in the Netherlands during WWII. Together with her fiancé and other Dutch men and women, 'Group Hein' risked their lives to save the lives of Jews who were in danger of becoming victims of Hitler’s 'final solution.'

"Things We Couldn't Say is an endearing and moving love story that occurs in the midst of extreme danger and often unbearable circumstances and loss. Before the war ends, Eman, her fiancé, and several in their group are arrested and sent to concentration camps—many of them lose their own lives.

"This story will help us remember a time in history that should not be forgotten and will inspire us to live more courageously and stand for what is right, doing so by the power and grace of God. Things We Couldn't Say is a beautiful illustration of II Corinthians 12:9, which states:

"He [the Lord] said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

The Prison at Scheveningen

When I first arrived at the Scheveningen prison, I had to stand with my face to the wall.... I was ordered to undress, and they searched me, straight up and bent over. Thank God, I had got rid of everything. Then I was sent to cell 306 in the A-corridor, where I was the fifth prisoner in a one-person cell, three meters long and two meters wide.  ...there was only one bunk, a hard bed in the back with a thin mattress...

One of the prisoners, Lies Karel, was a nurse who had done a lot of good Resistance work before she was arrested, I eventually grew to trust her, though at the very beginning I trusted no one. I had heard that there would be informers, and there were criminals in the prison too, not just political prisoners....

On the nights the guards brought Jews in, we always heard the children crying all through that place. It was bad enough for us to have to suffer through a place like Scheveningen, but it was terrible to hear those poor, innocent children crying.

...our only light other than a small lamp was the daylight that came in through a very small window up high toward the ceiling. ... The prison stood in the
dunes, right at the end of the last road of The Hague... at the North Sea, where the constant rush of waves could be a consolation, as could the cry of the seagulls.... In the middle of all the suffering, it seemed pure, untouched....

About quarter to six or so the guards would start yelling in the corridors, waking us up. They would open the door just a bit, and each of us would be given a little bucket of water, the size that children play with on the beach — five of them per cell, We had no washcloths, no towels, and no soap; we simply had to splash the water on....

...some of us scratched marks into the wall to count the days we were there, The others would keep an eye on the door, stand against it to cover the peephole.... I had managed to save a bobby pin in my hair when I was arrested, and I used it to scratch a Bible verse into the wall, It was a verse that always brought me comfort, even though I had no idea what would happen to us: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.”...


Then lunch finally came. It was something like soup... a mishmash of something boiled in water. Prisoners were cooking it, and they did their very best, but it was awful....

[One day] the guard told us that those in our cell would get an opportunity to take a shower.... When I got to that shower, a guard gave me a half-inch piece of something that looked like brown putty -- only stone hard. That was the soap. And I received a rag: it looked to me like be a bath towel a hundred years old, all frayed and limps but I didn’t care because finally I was going to get a shower. When I stand under the warm water, I thoughts it will be wonderful.


I undressed and stepped in, and just at the moment I began to turn the handle, I heard a loud voice: “Get out. Get back to the cell! You’re finished.” I never got a drop of water on me! It was a game -- a psychological trick.

New prisoners were coming into our cell all the time, and others were leaving.... In early May, the guards brought in another new girl... Beatrix Terwindt -- "Trix" we called her....  [After months of solitary confinement, she had been] taken out of the prison at Haaren and transported to Scheveningen.

“I don’t know why the Germans moved me from Haaren," [she said] "but I know they don’t want me to fall back into the hands of the Allies. Just remember, my leaving here means that I will go to Germany, but it also means the invasion has finally happened.”....

[A few days later] Trix was called out and sent to Germany. The following is a poem she wrote anticipating her transport to Germany:


[Actually, these are only excerpts -- heart-breaking thoughts, fears and episodes -- from her long poem. Whether or not she really knew God when she wrote it, her hope seemed to be limited to this world. Perhaps He, who reigns in spite of such human depravity, drew her to Himself and assured her of His eternal love before her life was snuffed out.]

They told me my chances were fifty-fifty.
It was up to you, 0 God, to decide
whether I would land [the airplane] on the left or on the right....
I was strong, healthy, and young,
and to die for a goal in which one believes is not so difficult....

But it did not turn out to be a balance of figures,
neither to the left or to the right.
It became something nobody counted on:
being imprisoned... and God, I felt you had deserted me.
In my lonely cell.... I paced from wall to wall, from pail to door,
my teeth clenched, my eyes squeezed shut, my cheeks wet.
And I called, my head swinging from left to right:
God, 0 God, where are you...?
God, where were you when the hours dragged and
insanity appeared tormentingly on the ceiling?

Where were you when a young woman in her cell
below me was being tortured and murdered
because she, standing on the table,

tried to see something of your sky through the air slot overhead...
to smell it and to search for some contact with a fellow human?
God, where were you when her death agony’s scream
faded out of her body?
When I pounded on my cell door and cursed the guards...


And later in Ravensbrück, when we stood for hours

for morning roll call, work roll call, evening roll call,
or, out of nowhere, punishment roll call, until our backs were breaking:
I was standing next to Sigrid from the far north.

Sigrid’s look was serenity

as she gazed beyond the gray wooden barracks
and the stinking, black cinder paths
(paved with crematory oven ashes?),
it was as if she saw the most beautiful trees
with leaves and a wealth of flowers.
And I said: “Sigrid, what are you thinking about?”
And Sigrid answered: “I’m thinking about God.”
My brain wondered how she could think about God
after they had put thumbscrews on her in Oslo
and had tortured her in other ways.

“Do you think about God?” she asked,
“No, Sigrid, no. God has gone away, God is dead,
Just smell the stench of the burned people,
look at the smoke rising day and night from the ovens."...

I walked, a slow-motion film just like all camp skeletons move,
maybe a little slower because the
shoes were pressing on my swollen insteps,
and the weekend suitcase of the female guard was so heavy.
I felt the lukewarm pus run down my legs.
...the train was waiting.
I staggered up the stairs to the platform, and I called:
God, 0 God, heal my wounds before I die,
They hurt so much I can hardly walk,
Give me my last wish, that I can walk erect and die a brave death...

They say that you are dead, God, what should I believe?
What can I hope for?

Excerpts from pages 177-184, 186, 189-196

Barracks No. 4, Vught Concentration Camp

June 6, 1944, the day of the Normandy Invasion, came. That afternoon, all of the prisoners at Scheveningen, sixteen hundred people, were told to gather all the belongings we had because we were going to be moved right away. We had no belongings, of course, so I was ready in a moment.


We were called out, cell by cell, and we had to line up in long rows and be loaded onto those trucks, some of which were covered with canvas. The soldiers were standing all around us, bayonets on their rifles....

Some people on those trucks were so desperate that they were nearly out of their minds with fear.... I had already thought that there was no point in jumping out of that truck: you couldn’t really run in the sand, and soldiers were all around, so where could you go? Even if you didn’t break your leg or get a concussion jumping off the train or truck, you couldn’t run very fast up steep hills of dry sand in forbidden territory full of land mines. But some were so desperate that they were jumping out.

At two in the afternoon we came to a tiny railway station.... There all sixteen hundred of us were crammed onto the platform, arranged in blocks, and again surrounded by armed soldiers. We stood there in deadly silence for hours.... And it was during those silent hours of standing there that Corrie and Betsy ten Boom (whose story was told in The Hiding Place) first saw each other....

As we were standing there, the two sisters started worming their way toward each other, which you could do very slowly without being spotted in that mass of people surrounded by the Germans. Finally they stood beside each other and could whisper a few words when no one was looking.


After several hours a train pulled up.... As we were being loaded onto the train, the Germans walked up and down very menacingly.... It was maybe 6:oo or 7:oo by now, and getting dark. Every train at that time was equipped with blackout curtains inside, so that the whole train would appear perfectly dark from the sky — thus the Allied planes could not see them.


As the train lurched forward, I was praying that we wouldn’t go to Germany, because I knew that if we crossed that border our chances for survival were not good.... But I wasn’t as afraid as I had been before we got to that tiny train station.... That we had even got on the train at all meant, to me, that there would likely be no executions. They wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of loading us up and burning all that coal to take us somewhere else to be executed....

I saw a woman jump off the train. ...  It was dark already, and....I said a prayer, "Lord, protect her." The rails there are situated mostly on the dike. German soldiers were sitting on the roof of the train with machine guns, but it was very late on the 6th or early on the morning of the 7th of June and quite dark. She knew that curve was coming.....

When the train stopped and we got out, we were in the middle of a woods.... Many German soldiers were stationed all around, still with their bayonets mounted, holding Doberman Pinschers on leashes. We were told to form rows and march into the darkness because the train couldn’t carry us any closer to the camp. If some fell — if they stepped in a hole in the pitch darkness, say — there was screaming and pushing and a couple of whacks. But people quickly got up and marched again on the uneven ground. After a while, we came to the front gate of Vught.

*     *     *

At the camp, we were all put in an enormous reception hall: it had no windows, except maybe a few very high up, and it was still quite dark.... Suddenly and unexpectedly the officials at Vught had received sixteen hundred people from Scheveningen — and perhaps from other prisons as well. The leadership did a lot of running around there, and the Germans left us standing in that hail with no beds, no blankets, nothing. But I had a rain coat and I put it over my head and got down on the concrete floor. I felt blessed: at least I had something....

In the morning someone high up said that the prisoners all had to undress — the men gave us the order ... I was scared, standing there naked. Those soldiers started walking back and forth, laughing and making remarks about what they saw....

We finally got our underwear back, put it on again, and got into our prison gowns. They were... as heavy as denim, and gray with dark blue stripes. For a very long time after the war, I would never wear stripes — never.

They called off the list of names, and slowly we were all placed in the barracks.... We weren’t to converse with each other; they thought we would plan strategies. They watched• us like hawks....

When we came to our barracks, we found a big “4” painted on it. Around that group of barracks stood a tall barbed-wire fence, and outside lay a large open space, then another very high barbed-wire fence, just like you see in pictures of all the concentration camps. That fence was hot with electrical current. On the corners stood towers, and in the towers were guards with machine guns.

Right away they made a big announcement: “There is another fence with barbed wire, and there are mine fields between, and we have trained dogs. So don’t ever try to escape. You will be shot, or killed by the current, or ripped to pieces by the dogs, or else you’ll step on a mine.”...


Inside our barracks were rows of metal bunk beds, three high, with a little space in between. The beds were stacked so close together that you scarcely had room to move your arms. On the other side of this large room sat wooden tables and seats where we ate — lots of benches, but not enough for the 175 women who occupied our barracks. If you wanted to sit and eat, you took turns or sat cramped up together.

...there were windows on both sides— and across the room was the bathroom with ten toilets, five on each side, no divisions between them. In another corner the guards had their place... they could drink coffee there and keep an eye on us.


Outside the four corners of the building stood four soldiers with rifles. The windows were all open, and outside the windows the clouds looked so beautiful.... They were just clouds, but they were God’s consolation to me.... I would stand there at times and remember how beautiful God created this world, and then I would be reassured that He would certainly take care of me and all of my loved ones....

In a corner they had a little group in which Corrie actually taught a Bible class. She had her own Bible in prison, the tiniest little Bible, perhaps just a New Testament or a part of the Bible. At night the pages of that Bible circulated among the women who could be trusted; everyone got one part of that tiny Bible. You could have it for about five minutes of reading under your grey blanket, and then you had to hand it on to the next person.... Reading anything [from His Word] was precious!

Excerpts from pages 197-206, 210


"If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.... If they persecuted Me they will persecute you... for they do not know the One who sent Me." John 15:19-21

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This remarkable book can be ordered from Lighthouse Trails

Excerpts posted with permission.

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