“Sometimes people ask me whether I wish I could skip that whole part of my life, if I could live my life over,” she said. “I tell them that I do not. That part of my life was very, very difficult; I cannot think about it today without crying, even though I never cried much at all for most of that time. But I tell people that those years of my life were very special, the time when I was very close to God – so close, in fact, that I not only knew that he kept his promises. I actually experienced his faithfulness.”
Diet Eman – Holding on to God’s Promises
For Dutch Christians like Diet (pronounced Deet) Eman and her family, the German invasion of the Netherlands generated new, urgent questions. Queen Wilhelmina had left for England, taking her whole government with her. What were the Dutch supposed to do? Stay loyal to her or obey the new German government?
Christians were split between two opinions. Wilhelmina was the appointed queen, crowned in a religious ceremony “by the grace of God,” and had not abdicated her powers. But many felt she had betrayed them by leaving, and the Germans were, in fact, the new “powers that be.”
Soon, the reasons for the queen’s voluntary exile became clear. For one thing, by taking the state’s treasury with her, Wilhelmina had ensured that these riches wouldn’t fall into the enemy’s hands. Most importantly, from England she could still communicate with her people by radio.
But when the Germans banned the Dutch from owning radios, those who felt loyal to the queen had to commit their first act of civil disobedience, hiding radios inside their walls and covering the openings with pictures or mirrors. Disobedience was usually paired with lying, if anyone was questioned about owning a radio.
Eventually, even those who thought that submitting to the Germans was a Christian duty were faced with a new and greater challenge. Should they support, even tacitly, the cruel persecution of Jews that was clearly underway? If not, how should Christians react?
These are questions that burned in the mind of Diet Eman. “We felt that it was our duty to act in some way. But it took some time for us to know exactly what, when, and how we could do something.”
“What can we do?” is a question she and her close friend Hein frequently pondered and discussed with like-minded people. Diet was 21 at that time. Her family had taken in Hein Sietsma, about a year older than Diet, while he worked at their city of residence, The Hague. Initially, she had opposed the presence of this stranger in her home. Eventually, Diet and Hein became good friends. With time, they planned to get married.
The answer to their question became evident when the Germans started to forcibly pull the Jews from their homes and send them to unknown destinations. ”Our objective became very clear,” she said: “to find places for Jews wherever we could.”
They started with a friend, Herman, who had worked with Eman at a bank. Since Hein was originally from a rural area, where German soldiers didn’t usually travel, he was able to persuade a farmer to take in Herman. Soon, Herman’s sister, mother, and fiancée asked them to hide them too. Within weeks Diet and Hein ended up hiding sixty people.