When visiting his mother’s stepaunt in Amsterdam, a young Teade Sysling witnessed something that is still clear as day in his mind some 70 years later.
“Going through the street, the Germans began gathering people in trucks and taking them away,” Sysling said. “We came through the street and there a was truck standing there with a cage on top of it and in that cage there were at least 50 people standing there, all Jewish people.”
As Sysling walked by, he saw Nazis force a woman out of her home, and her last words before the truck drove off are instilled in Sysling’s mind.
“She was talking to the lady who lived above her and the last words she said before the truck drove away were, ‘Tell so-and-so there’s sandwiches in the closet,’” Sysling said. “That was the last thing she thought about.”
“That is in my mind, engraved like the best photography,” the Arvada resident said. “I’ll never, ever forget that. It’s an incident that doesn’t involve your relatives, you just walk by and see it.”
This incident and many more are told by Sysling in his new autobiography, “A Boy From Amsterdam.”
His memoir tells the story of his life — from when he was a young boy growing up in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam while his mother helped save local Jews to riding a bike with tires along the cobblestone and surviving the Winter of Hunger, when the Nazis cutoff food delivery to Amsterdam.
His story goes beyond World War II to when he left Holland to study in Switzerland and France before journeying to America in 1957, just a couple days after meeting his future-wife, to whom he is still married to this day.
“When you start writing, you write about a certain thing you remember, and as you’re writing pictures start to slip into your mind that add up to it,” Sysling said. “It’s amazing how bright your memory is.”
Work with CoorsTek brought Sysling to Golden years ago and he has been a resident of Arvada for 30 years.
It wasn’t until 2000, after a visit to Amsterdam, that he began writing his memoir for his children and grandchildren, and to tell younger generations about the Winter of Hunger, a subject rarely taught, he said.
“The Nazis ordered that the trains could no longer be used to bring food to the big cities, and the all of the big cities on the west part of the country, like Amsterdam, there was no food coming,” Sysling said. “That was called the Winter of Hunger. When you tell that to people who were raised in Colorado, Nebraska, the Midwest, they don’t have a clue where Holland is, but when it comes to this, they don’t know anything about it. That’s what made me want to write a factual history as accurate as I could about what we went through at that time.”
“A Boy from Amsterdam” is available on Amazon for $23.50.