Rotary hears from WWII political prisoner


Milton-Freewater Rotary Club members heard from retired university professor Willem Houwink, who taught international business economics.

A native of The Netherlands, Willem spoke about surviving the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, during World War II. While Nazis occupied The Netherlands , Willem protected Jewish resident and other loyalists from German capture as a member of the Dutch Resistance underground.

He was captured on Sept. 9, 1942, while studying at the University of Rotterdam, Netherlands, placed in a rail car with hundreds of others and taken to Dachau, just north of Munich. He spoke of the unconscionable conditions the thousands of captives suffered.

The camp was originally built in 1933 to contain prisoners from within the country. As the war progressed, prisoners were jammed in there from many countries, separated into barracks by nationality, politics and religion.

Although intended for around 5,000 prisoners, more than 12,000 detainees were put there, he said. They had little to eat, only a few relatively warm clothes in a region that receives very cold winters, and didn’t know from minute-to-minute who would be the next to die.

Being fluent in several languages helped him communicate with other prisoners and their Nazi captors. It also helped him gain some job assignments that were more secure than others.

The world was unaware of the hardships these prisoners endured until the allies invaded the area in May 1945 and began to bring the prisoners back to reasonable health and return them to their home countries, he said.

“The stories he related about just being able to survive such an ordeal were nearly unbelievable,” Rotary member Robby Robbins said.

“For some of the audience it was a first-hand report on what we had seen in newsreel reports in the 1945 era that were hard to even imagine. The pictures of humans who had little more than a thin layer of skin over a skeletal framework left powerful memories,” Robby said.

To enhance the presentation, Willem had one of the white-and-blue-striped prisoner uniforms he was forced to wear.

His uniform bore a logo that indicated he was a political prisoner from the Netherlands.

“But he did survive and went on to a brilliant career teaching international business economics,” Robby said. In later years, Willem held positions on Wall Street and with several universities including University of Nevada, Reno. He has also taught in India, Istanbul, Turkey and Beijing, China.

Milton-Freewater Rotary meets at 11:45 a.m. Tuesdays in the Milton-Freewater Community Building, 109 N.E. Fifth St. For details, online see or contact Robby at 541-938-6523 or .

Camp Fire USA’s WO-HE-LO luncheon is slated for noon-1:15 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, 6 W. Rose St.

Donna Painter, Berney Elementary School principal, will talk about what it takes to build tomorrow’s leaders.

She has seen the impact of Camp Fire programs on the lives of many children throughout her tenure in Walla Walla Public Schools.

This is Camp Fire’s main fundraiser for and benefits its local After School Camps and the Super Summer in the Park program.

Proceeds also provide scholarships for children and help with curriculum/supplies for both programs.

The cost is $35 per plate for a lunch featuring either Columbia River king salmon or a grilled vegetable hummus plate.

Reservations and payment can be made by July 30 at the Camp Fire office, 414 S. Park St.

For more details, contact Peggy Needham, communications coordinator, at 509-525-3180 or see

Adam Newbold of Walla Walla made the spring quarter 2013 dean’s list at the Savannah (Ga.) College of Art and Design.

Full-time undergraduate students who earn a grade point average of 3.5 or above for the quarter receive recognition on the dean’s list.

Grace Ehrhardt is in liftoff mode. The Milton-Freewater Central School fourth-grader applied to U.S. Space & Rocket Center Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

She received some financial assistance to cover some of the program expenses courtesy of the Milton-Freewater Rotary Club 294.

She, her mother Mary Beth and sister Hannah were guests at a recent Rotary meeting to accept the check.

The selective five-day program for kids in fourth grade through high school seniors has participants fill positions for a simulated space flight and activities with Mission Control.

Members of the astronaut corps work with students to give them the opportunity to take command of a simulated space mission, fly jet aircraft simulators and experience some of the training exercises needed to qualify for actual missions, according to Rotarian Robby Robbins, who provides reports on club meetings.

“Grace told us she would like to be part of the mission control team. When she returns she will present a program to the club about her activity at the camp,” Robby noted.

Details about Space Camp are at

Madison Louise Elmenhurst received a $1,600 Bellingham Business Forum Scholarship and a $2,000 Wells Fargo Annual Scholarship for the 2013-2014 academic year at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Both the scholarships are awarded to incoming freshmen and transfer students with outstanding academic achievements.

A WWU freshman, Madison is a June graduate of Walla Wall High School plans to major in English and math secondary education.

She is the daughter of Brian and Joan Howton of College Place.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Contact Annie Charnley Eveland at or 526-8313.


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