October 23, 2019
by Louise Lawrence-Israëls
When I was little, I had no idea what hiding meant, not even the game of hide-and-seek, so loved by children. The terms going “into hiding,” being “in hiding,” or “hiding place” were not part of my vocabulary. Even going outside for the first time, when I was almost three years old, I did not associate it with having been in hiding.
My parents just never talked about our life during the war as being in hiding.
When we moved to a house on a street with lots of families with children, we always played outside on the street after school. It was very safe, as almost nobody had a car in those years after the war. For the few families that did own a car, that car would not be home until after six o’clock, when the father returned home from work. We children played with hoops made from discarded bicycle wheels, we played marbles, and hide-and-seek, which was everybody’s favorite game. We used all the backyards on our street to hide.
When I was about nine years old and in fourth grade, we talked about the war in school; we talked about how some people had to go “into hiding.” When I came home, I asked my parents about that. They did confirm that it had happened, but still did not tell me anything about our own circumstances.
The next summer, I asked my friend Selma about our war years. At first she asked me if I had talked to my parents. I answered yes, but I wanted to know more. After Selma’s explanation, I realized that we had been in hiding for almost three years.
Playing hide-and-seek took on a different meaning to me from then on. When my hiding place was found, and it always was, it started to make me afraid. I could not get the thought “what if we had been found” out of my head. It made me frightened, and I stopped liking the game.
The house we were living in then had two attics, with many nooks and crannies. I spent a lot of time looking for possible hiding places. I wanted to be prepared; you never knew, I reasoned, when the time would come that we would have to hide again.
Since then I have moved many times. The first thought is always, will there be a safe place to hide?
Only the times we lived on military bases gave me the feeling of being totally safe.
We moved to our current flat nine years ago. The world has changed so much. Now we all have computers and smartphones. But I realize now that in this changed world, there are no more hiding places. We could be found very fast with detectors and other smart devices.
Even all these years later, this is a very frightening thought for me.
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