Rugby woman who hid from Nazis in Holland publishes childhood memoirs - The Rugby Observer

Rugby woman who hid from Nazis in Holland publishes childhood memoirs

Rugby Editorial 23rd Oct, 2015 Updated: 27th Oct, 2016   0

A SURVIVOR of the Nazi occupation of Holland who now lives in Rugby has published her compelling story – describing the writing process as ‘a release’.

Dutch-born Thea Coleman, formerly Tielrooy, and her family were wanted by the Gestapo for joining the resistance movement and hiding Jews at their home in The Hague.

When she was a young girl, the family had to split up after her father was betrayed to the SS – and the family spent the rest of the occupation on the run and in poverty.

Thea as a young girl, during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

Now she has put her story on paper and published it as a book, Evading the Gestapo in Holland, after being told that not to do so would be ‘a crime’.

The idea came about after she began giving public talks – which were so successful, she found she never had a free evening, such was the high demand for her stories.

“I did talks for schoolchildren and they were dumbfounded,” she said. “One headmaster’s class was so absolutely absorbed, he told me it would be a crime not to write it down. He was shocked at seeing the kids that interested.

“Then I was told that it was too good not to be published. Several people told me it was a book that should be in all schools.”

Keeping this vital chapter of history alive was not her only motivation, though.

“All the fear that I had – because, by jove, I wouldn’t wish my life on anybody – by writing it down, it was a release. Very satisfying.

“To see it in black and white, then it didn’t look so bad as it did in nightmares or memories.

“We really went through the thick of it because there was a price on my father’s head. No school, because that was too dangerous for me.

“Then we had the hunger winter when we ate cats and sugar beets and stinging nettles and nothing else. We had no heat, no lighting, so it was tough.

“But we survived, and that is why, I think, this book is so necessary.”

Evading the Gestapo in Holland by Thea Coleman-Tielrooy is available at or by searching

Thea was 11 years old when Operation Manna took place between April 28 and VE Day on May 8 1945 – which saw RAF bombers drop thousands of tons of food into starving areas of Holland.

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