By: Frank C. Everards, Operator and oral historian of D-Day, Normandy and Beyond –
The Zekelman Holocaust Center was pleased to invite Frank Everards to write a blog post about his Netherlands-based online resource and oral history website: www.normandy1944.info. In return, the Center was invited to provide a blog for his website, which can be found by clicking here.
In 1999, I drove down to Normandy with my wife Anyta for a weekend to visit my parents who were enjoying a two-week holiday there. A visit to the local museum there changed my life forever. A lot has been written about D-Day and the War itself, but I do not have a thing for war. A lot of people can tell you, in great detail, what guns and ammo were used or what paths every division and unit took on their way to Germany. But back then, not as much was known about the experiences of young soldiers, most 18, 19, or in their 20’s, as they literally stepped into hell. That was something that I wanted to know. The human side of WWII. What did it do to people? How did they survive this? So that stuck with me for about a year. I started gathering email addresses (back then the guestbooks of WWII-related sites were coming up) and I stopped when I reached two thousand.
I sent them all an email about what my intention was: to build a website where they could share their stories. Sometimes it helps writing down your memories. I got 1980 replies… all from email addresses that did not exist anymore. But then Ray Aebisher replied. He was an American Paratrooper F Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He wrote me: “But of course Frank I would be willing to share my story.” And that was the first story on my website back in 2000. A big and warm thank you Ray for getting this project off the ground. Ray passed away on 11/9/2003, I still have all his emails and letters. May he rest in peace.
After story number 200 I became more and more involved with another side of WWII, the Holocaust. I started visiting concentration camps. Buchenwald (twice) Dora-Mittlebau (twice), Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Westerbork, Vught, Amersfoort and more. I wanted to visit them because I wanted to be there and see it for myself. How else can you make a website about it? Then I saw a documentary with Robert Cohen, an Auschwitz and Dora-Mittelbau survivor. I had to speak with him, so I found him and drove down to meet him. It was a moment I will never forget. Robert passed away in 2018.
Now, my website has just been completely redesigned and the new framework to record Holocaust history is now done. Remember, this is a one-man project and big labor of love that demands time almost every day. But I will keep expanding my website as I see fit. It now holds overviews of concentration camps, Action T4 places, Holocaust pages, overviews of cemeteries, the most decisive battles, and photographs of WWII, to name but a few.
The website became an important place for historic information. Every story holds valuable information about WWII. Every story has so much to offer to historians, teachers, history scholars, and to everybody who wants to learn what WWII was like for those who lived through it. As they are not edited and kept in the words of the holder of the story, it gives a fresh and new look. The stories will remain as they were given to me, in the words of the veterans and victims of the Holocaust. I am grateful for each and every story that I have ever gotten. I have about 250 in total, all of whom will be featured on this new website in the coming time. I hope you like it. A salute to all the people who suffered under the Nazi regime and the veterans and the people who lived, fought, suffered, and died in WWII. We owe them our future and so much respect.
I would like to thank the Zekelman Holocaust Center for giving me this wonderful opportunity to be part of their website with a blog post and a link. I will naturally return the favor. I would also like to thank the people at the Arolsen Archives, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Dora-Mittelbau, Bergen-Belsen, Vught, Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg, Ravensbrück, and all the others I forgot to mention for their help and support with my website. It only adds dramatically to the historical accuracy and correctness of the texts featured on my website. Thank you all!
And above all I have to thank my two children (I could not be more proud that I can get to see them growing up) and my family who support me by just being them. But the most thanks (of course) and my heart goes to my wife, Anyta. Who supports me in everything I try to do and who backs me up when I want to visit Normandy again or go to a concentration camp because I just want to be there for myself. Love you always!
I hope you visit my website and I am looking forward to hearing from you all. Thank you.
Frank C. Everards