Anny Schoeters Robinson was ten years old and attending boarding school in Belgium when WWII started in 1939. When the war broke out, the boarding school sent the children home, and Anny returned to live with her mother. During WWI, Anny’s grandparents fled to England, but during WWII, the family chose to stay in Belgium. For most of the war, she lived with her mother, step-father, and two step-brothers in Antwerp, where she experienced the Nazi occupation. She recalls that, as a coping mechanism, the majority of the Belgian people tried to pretend that the Germans were not even there although some chose passive resistance or more active measures through the “secret army.” Even though the Germans rationed food, and her family was hungry, they learned to survive through creative means. Later in the war, they moved to Wepion, south of Namur, and got to know many American Soldiers who longed to experience family life again. She stated that the Battle of the Bulge only lasted 30 days, but it seemed like a lifetime. After the war, her family decided to come to America. She and her mother immigrated in 1951, and her step-father and step-brothers joined them in 1955. Living on Long Island, she worked for Doubleday Publishing, and felt welcomed by the Americans. She married an Optical Physicist who first worked for the US Space Program, and later for IBM in New York.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood and the German occupation. She describes how the average Belgian citizen reacted to the occupation, while also mentioning the resistance and collaborators. She recalls a painful story of how the Gestapo came for a Jewish family who lived on the floor above them, and elaborates on how her mother tried to help that family, as well as a truck-load of Jewish women who were being deported. She discusses the importance of broadcasts like Radio Free French to learn news of the war, and recalls the German use of V2 rockets against targets in Belgium. She fondly remembers her interactions with American Soldiers, and the Belgians’ joy at being liberated. Finally, she discusses her new life in America after she immigrated.