Witlof¹ and Sheer Curtains
By George Frans Callenbach (

All sorts of things became progressively harder to procure in the years ’40-’45. As a result one was forced to become very creative. That was also the case underneath the buildings of the Publishing Firm in 24 Hoogstraat in Nijkerk. Those buildings also housed the book binding factory. That meant stocks of carton board, book binder’s linen and gauze, not the gauze used in bandages but the gauze that book binders use in the spines of books. Large rolls of it. This creativity resulted in this gauze being manufactured into sheer curtains to dress up some windows. This was in great demand particularly in April and May of 1945, after the shelling of Nijkerk resulted in many curtain being shredded by shards of glass from the broken windows. Book binding business had seized and the gauze had no better purpose at that time. Many gratefully accepted the generosity of the management in making the gauze available.
There was a substantial amount of space under the floor of the offices of the Publishing Firm, which was about one metre deep. (Or high, if you were in it. It all depends on your point of view.) That was very useful in the period ’40-’45; it was a good place to hide things. First we put personal things there that needed protecting. Later we put things there like brassware and........radios. If my informant has advised me correctly then there were six of them at one stage. It was also used on limited occasions to hide some allied soldiers particularly after the battle of Arnhem. One Pole and two or three Englishmen, who were literary “under ground”.
But more often then not the spaces under the floor were used for........the growing of witlof. Witlof develops its colour and flavour best under well ventilated conditions, in most but well drained soil, and most importantly in darkness. There was only one hatch cover in the floor. When the crop was ready, the harvesting would done on a Saturday afternoon when the staff was home. The carpet would be folded back and the hatch cover removed and the crop would be brought up and divided.

This last part of the story was told to me by one of the storemen, when, in the eighties, the space was opened up again to allow for computer cabling and rotten planks were encountered. These were the leftovers of the witlof beds.

¹ Witlof is a white vegetable.