Man behind memorial has personal Holocaust survival story
Memorial aims to evoke feelings, convictions
Born in Amsterdam in 1938, Teeboom came into the world as Adolph Hitler was preparing for war. His father was in the diamond trade, and his mother's family owned a grocery store until Holland was invaded in 1940.
“Everybody stuck around,” he said. “They all hoped things would get better.”
By June of 1943, the end came for many of the Dutch Jews.
“Just about my entire family got picked up and we traced them back to Auschwitz,” he said, “and they got killed in Auschwitz.”
Before that, his father had managed to escape, first to France, then Spain, then Aruba where he scouted a place for his family to stay. But when it was time for Teeboom to leave, just before the final deportation, the smuggler who was hired to transport him into France with his mother and brother never appeared.
They returned to Amsterdam, ridden with Nazis and devoid of most Jews.
Teeboom, who was 5 at the time, said they rode around on a city tram aimlessly, knowing they couldn't return home. Somehow, Teeboom can't recall, his mother recognized a home.
They got off the tram and knocked on the door. A man answered, a Christian member of the Dutch underground, who agreed to shelter the family.
“It's a miracle how (my mother) did that,” he said. “It's an absolute miracle how she was able to come back, two little kids, desperately riding on the tram, spotted this place, the guy opened the door, and they saved us.”
The man brought the three out of Amsterdam to the province of Utrecht, where Teeboom said his mother joined the resistance.
He was separated from her, and when they would meet, she was forced to say she was his aunt. In Utrecht, hidden from the Gestapo, Teeboom lived out the rest of World War II.
When his father returned to Holland after the war, he decided to again leave when tensions were heating up in East Germany.
“(My father) said it ain't gonna happen again,” Teeboom recounted. “'We stayed around these stinking Nazis until 1943 and got out by the hair of our chinny chin, chin. It ain't gonna happen again.' ” After the war, they joined his father in the Dutch territory of Aruba around 1947 before finally landing in America in 1953. In Miami Beach, Teeboom saw his first television—and he still recalls the episode of I Love Lucy that was playing.
From there he left for California, where he studied at UCLA and received a master's degree in electrical engineering from USC.
Teeboom's career brought him to some of the most important projects of the time — from the Minuteman missile program, to the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, to Boston's Big Dig — and in 1972 he moved to Nashua, where he lived with his wife and some of his five children.
A staunch fiscal conservative, in 1993 Teeboom was elected Alderman at-large. His crown achievement was to pass an ordinance limiting the growth in city government expenditures.
Teeboom described his politics. “You're talking about a guy who talks about limited government, limited spending. There's no organization more wasteful than the government. Everything the government does is over the top.”
Though he's a Republican, he breaks with the party on much of the platform. Teeboom said most Americans have never witnessed the hell of war.
“That's why people are gung-ho about going to war, that's why people are unreal about what happens in the war,” he said.
This is also why he has dedicated much of his retirement to the erection of a Holocaust memorial in Nashua. He said there is a potential for fascism everywhere, at all times.
An acquaintance once proposed to him the idea of a mass deportation, by train, of illegal immigrants from the United States..
“I said you might as well paint swastikas on the car while you're doing it,” Teeboom said.
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