WWII survivor talks about the ‘long walk home’

Rudy Timmerman

CRESTVIEW, Fla., April 9, 2023—Many remarkable stories of fortitude, bravery and triumph came out of World War II.

As a young boy, Rudy Timmerman lived one of those stories and will share his saga of survival at the Crestview’s Robert L.F. Sikes Public Library April 21.

Soon after the German occupation of the Netherlands in May 1940, the same year Timmerman was born, invaders separated his family.

His father, a master carpenter, was pressed into service as a skilled laborer. His mother was also forced into service for the occupiers.

When Timmerman was a toddler, he and his older sister were separated from their family and taken to Germany.

While many children similarly removed from their homes were sent directly to extermination camps, two factors saved the Timmerman children: they were blond-haired, blue-eyed perfect examples of Aryan youth so idolized by the Nazis, and they weren’t Jewish.

All they needed was a little “re-education” and were taken to a special labor camp in Rawicz, Poland, to be indoctrinated.

At war’s end, the guards and instructors fled, the gates stood open and the prisoners were simply left to their own devices. Timmerman and his sister walked home to the Netherlands, a trek of 480 miles that took many weeks.

When at last reunited with their mother by the Red Cross, Rudy, then 6 years old, did not know her, having been removed from her at such a young age; she was a stranger to him.

Today, Timmerman, now 82, is a grand master and instructor in Taekwondo. His visit to Crestview is in conjunction with the weekend’s annual Korean Martial Arts Festival at Warriors Hall.

His presentation begins at 6 p.m. and is free. It is presented by the Crestview Cultural Services Division and the Crestview public library. Seating is limited. For information, contact Cultural Services at 850-398-5459.

by Brian Hughes, City of Crestview cultural services specialist

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