Dom Boer and Louisa Scioscia Stephens
DescriptionWoman interviews her friend about his job redesigning Dutch governmental forms, being born during German occupation to a Menonite family that hid Jews, education, isolation and rebellion against authority.
- Dom Boer
- Louisa Scioscia Stephens
Recording LocationGrand Central Terminal
StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.
00:00 Hi and Louisa Scioscia Stephens, I'm 58 years old. Today is August 25th 2005. We're in Grand Central Station New York City New York and interviews during my friend Dom.
00:14 My name is Dominic poor. I'm 62 today is also the 25th of August and the location is Grand Central terminal in New York. And Louisa who is going to interview me is a friend.
00:34 Seasons of Designing forms for the Netherlands government
00:38 Am I watching the magazine business and working as a consultant to infect from the United States and for the development of new magazines in Harlem, so I was flying up and down like 14 times a year and I was assisting lady in setting up a new popular medical magazine.
01:05 And somehow I met her husband after while and he had just being a pointed at to be the communications director of The Dutch IRS and He was discussing all the things that should be changed there. And he said the language has to be different than people at the explanation of the tax laws to be different. And so we started discussing that then I told him what I thought I really had to change that has the structure in the logic and the purpose the purpose of us that he thought that you had to explain the law to people to text law and I said no you have to enable people to fill out the form an explanation required and you felt no no, this is just just made it to see what they have to do.
01:59 No did the tradition more states that the civil servants of the IRS won't explain the law and then from understanding the law you were supposed to be able to fill out for vets is an enormous jump that nobody was aware of that. It was that you had to jump over enormous get and so and and watch was very important for me is that that I'm a very logical person and I almost think like a computer so in yes, no and so rebuild. Yes, no algorithms and I happen to be working at a time in New York with the professor Lunde who was the final door in the Soviet Union wants of Linden ethics, which is all based on algorithmic thinking and algorithmic representation of
02:59 4 4 problem solving
03:02 Down under remix Linda Mattox and he still alive he lives in Queens and he's one of the most exciting people I ever met a very interesting person.
03:16 And then from there on Fink's to call friend. We started doing all the forms for the hold that government that the debts Texas had something like 20,000 phones that have to be done by 3 dates the manure bookkeeping for the Ministry of Agriculture reading all those kind of things child allocation forms everything secret. They don't forget or something like that in Thousand forms forms that already existed and you brought Clarity to the forms for being an expert system says so you could fill out the form on a computer now that it's the most normal thing, but this was before the internet and so in a way we reintroduced Holland to internet way of thinking because with the men you shouldn't from the internet
04:16 That is very algorithmic and this approach to confidence and now it's the most normal but fifteen years ago dishwasher or even twenty years ago dishwasher new thing to introduce.
04:35 We ac.
04:39 Myself and my wife Marcia and then the people that we hired first in this country and the Dutch IRS the person who is now the commissioner came to stay in our house to help us do this and then we moved to the Netherlands today and then we hire people and at a certain moment we had eight people working for the company and then all the times the economy went wrong. This was in 1992 to a lot of problems and the government had to cut all the location post dolphins in survey stop doing this and then we had to fire for two people and this happened to be at the moment that I'm in the hospital but I having a bypass operation and so Marcia did the fighting of the 40 people and this was quite dramatic. Of Our Lives.
05:40 But true so you kept a half for Saint and did you stay there in the Netherlands in The Hague state for a while but I physically was not able anymore to run the company and so I sold everything and the end after three years of trying to get started to get in there and we decided to move back to the United States and that's in 96 removed first tutor Becca. And then if the one of the heaviest back to our old house in, New Jersey
06:25 Let's go way back. So how about when you were a little boy you were in the Netherlands you're born in the Netherlands Morse born in 42 shower in the in the most rotten German occupied in the northern part of the Netherlands free stunts. Luckily and dairy farming are so we didn't have the hunger that struck the rest of the country specially in 1944 also because it was agricultural houses for fog apart from each other so tired and a lot of people juice from an end Jewish children from enchantment specially went into hiding in the area where we were my father was a Mennonite.
07:25 Mister and
07:28 With a group of other Mennonite ministers in in the area. They organized the dead people would go into hiding and they would stay for work number of days number of weeks depending on how safe the situation or how unsafe the situation most people staying in our house and for me to do the strange thing is that this was in a way that I look back at it as a very happy time because here I was a little kid like 2 years olds and they're all these people stay in your house Index Fund Avenue, and of course, they weren't all live very happy. One of them. I remember was a little girl laugh about saving who was crying all the time about how they had killed her ends and thinks I got choked bedroom washer negative side, but at the same time I remember
08:28 That's everybody wash drying the dishes washing the dishes drying the dishes after the dinner and singing and making sounds cuz you only went into hiding in the basement and in the attic and the moment that there's somebody you're going to bail or something soak for tarnished. You could normally be in the house as long as the curtains were closed. My mother killed the moment. She died. She was always you have to close the curtain to make see if she unlike other Dutch people. She didn't like it when people were able to look into your windows and see the whole family sitting there because of the board experience where that could be your faithful love her. So
09:16 Bedtime made enormous in person besides the Jewish kids there were also a lot of 18 19 year old boy staying with us because of forced labor in Germany. They were trying to escape from being sent to Germany for forced labor.
09:39 I didn't know that happened so they would stay there and just escape the soldiers what what if they've been found what would have happened if Jewish kids had been found probably.
09:57 Both my parents were Champion shelf. And with the forced-labor. I think they would have just spend a while in in in I came for Reno, Nevada prison time.
10:14 So it's extraordinary dangerous and and I always admired my parents for being so I totally cool gauges at that that. Of time and in many ways I didn't even know. How could I meet you today sir? Boss that at the time of course, it's later on when we heard the stories in that because of you two years old. She don't really know what's going on. I am
10:41 I remembered the Germans leaving the town which was mr. Bean April 12th, 1945. And because I was standing by myself on the outside fence off the front garden that we had and they were leaving and I stuck out my tongue and I was petrified ahead and shoot me for that. They did not the other weird thing that happened in this context when a lot of things in PR and advertising also for the Dutch IRS and one of the things we did for us, thank you for a reorganization and we had the commissioner and the vice Commissioner of of the Dutch IRS like the rug guest workers and
11:41 Organized that they were sitting in the Attic in an attic working illegally and sitting behind those sewing machines that you were with your feet, right and and when they had done that and Eydie off through this was mine, and then when they had done that we had rented these two were treadle sewing machines. I was attached to one and I wanted to hold on to one and so we can move that into the house about this quite heavy and and everybody said what what are you doing with this old-fashioned piece of furniture chest fluttering at the house?
12:28 It a couple of weeks later. I happened to talk to my aunt's and we somehow started talking about the sewing machine and she said oh, yeah, but you know how your father used to make electricity in the house. Most people had a bicycle and by sitting on the bicycle you Roots make a generator work and that's how you created light. But your your dad did it behind one of those sewing machines with his feet? So the conclusion by set for me the sewing machines meant light and
13:11 Associate with your father and my father died at a timely died at that pretty early 1857 and the other weird dark lighten dark did the Dutch word for German is a dancer and the Dutch word for Darkness a sty stock. So you see there's just a little change of two consonants in and you go from one world to another and for me it was Association tournaments and darkness always think together because basically for me for the same work and
13:56 No text before we have a lot of German Prince of things changed. How old were you in the war was over and I have a lot of memories that I know that the real memories because it's not things that my parents told me late cuz I was on my own when I had the experience.
14:31 In many ways. It was a very normal time, of course because it was less intense than normal leaving cuz you could go anywhere. So the only thing you could do worse basically stay home traveling by train in the washer possible, but not the really do all the things you do now to have fun and excitement dose for distinction for taken away in the period.
15:01 So in the way you throw some more normal time then after after the occupation after they marked out and I didn't execute you for sticking your tongue at them. Then those next few years. How how how did the occupation have lingering effects or or was Holland able to snap back into a more normal life dates snap back pretty fast into normal life faster than Germany in Germany already snap back to the amazingly fast. I wish you peace that how how fast a twin bed.
15:41 Denver things like you quotes on when we had to lunch. You could only have three pieces of bread with something on it because like I like cheese or Army Torah because otherwise it would be too expensive show for the list. If you felt like eating 10 slices of bread seven of them had to be playing on have to be playing Brandon or a little bit of butter, but of course not so even in a Dairy Community you couldn't have butter for export to other countries like a five or six year old in Adara community in Northern Holland.
16:33 I'm moved away in 1946. And then we moved to a very industrial area.
16:45 But I think what they say, but for me, it's the most remarkable thing is and I didn't know this comes from that. Is that my mother decided that something was wrong with me that I was something like retarded or something and because I had problems with concentration in I had especially big problems with following orders and very offer Italian person who always said children have no will and who believed only in willpower and so somehow I from a very young age on I was and fighting against authority over me.
17:43 And then it became and so at the moment, it's somebody told me to do something that made it virtually impossible for me to do it. And the funny thing is that I'm more like still have to so when somebody tells me to do something I just cannot do it and that's quite the Recently I walked into the house of old friends of ours and Matheson and looked at him and said you have to promote you didn't talk. I hadn't seen the kit for something like 15-20 years and I knew that he had the same problem with authority and he didn't how we got it because his parents are very nice so which was not that his parents were so off 33rd.
18:37 However, his father has a German background. So he's from Berlin. I would may have something to do with it. But the weirdest thing for me was that just by looking at you. I knew I knew he had a problem. I said you must be unable to do anything when people tell you to do it and he said yeah just this morning. I asked my mother not to ask me to do something because at the moment she asked me I will be unable to do it. Phenomena and that's bet experience shaped almost the rest of my life because it meant that said that in school. I did well, but not by doing what I was told but by doing my own thing and that I was just thinking about that this morning at 7.
19:37 It meant when I went to the first class of the elementary school. I was almost 6 episode 5.
19:51 There was a kid that the teacher said that he should skip a class request and then the teacher said yeah, but then I should do that as well. And so we were together pooped in a separate group in the glass just the two of us and we were in the same space, but we got different learning material. So all the funds ibus
20:19 Irish said group so I was different from the rest and feel more or less the same in in the same room, but nothing really so the rest of the class started treating the two of us as not belonging because
20:42 And the other thing that's that's was that created this kind of a problem is that my mother decided that I should go earlier to nursery school and most of the kids in the class knew each other because they had gone to nursery school together for two years already when you were four and five he would go to this nursery school. And then at 6 you knew each other you had been playing together and I came from very different type of family. My father being the Mennonite Minister my parents were extremely intellectual anti-money making anti-business and extremely probooks. The whole house was filled with books and
21:35 See what you would suffer from the very beginning. And so I respect that you feel that way. I was very young and so here I entered this class and they had all ways of dealing with each other and I didn't know how to do that because I only knew how to deal with my brothers and sisters and dancing combination with setting Your Part from the very beginning as being smarter than the other made for a very strange combination and plus the mother. That was extremely author Teri night that made it impossible for me to do anything at the moment. They've I supposed to do with that combination made my life. Very strange and you see you you see me.
22:26 You seem as if you are, that you're very accommodating toward life. What did something change along the way or
22:33 I mean what characteristics that were formed by filing separate and feeling resistant to Authority are not a parent now why?
22:45 The weird thing is that they still there. I am aware of it in certain situations think that we go again, but I think I
22:58 Find ways to work around at the end and be more social than this would suggest of course.
23:08 Tell me a little bit about your siblings.
23:13 I'm the second child's don't know very important got into third child. My I have a sister who is 3 years older and who was extremely popular being the oldest with her grandparents. So she washed the star of the family which type of tool up with the old he was very pretty.
23:39 Then there was two years later a little girl was born who died when she was 1 years old from smallpox.
23:54 Are you closer to him affection? Yeah, and that must have been just before the German occupation and apparently there was some something and not if you were in the she died because he the infection was introduced by a a shot to inoculate her against it.
24:25 She died because of the inoculation and desperate and I was born something like eight and a half months after she died and story West at my parents were extremely excited that that was born after person the child dying how they got over it. And my father did the service for Dish television distribution to me today that he was able to do that that my mother blamed herself always for defect that says this little girl died because she finally she decided that she should have done certain things different.
25:07 I think that's a normal life, but said
25:13 And inform I thought I was the oldest son but important and then I had a younger brother two years younger who voiced excerpt moments tough competition for me because he was very cute and I was not a cute know I was gone. I didn't feel cute and he was cute felt cute became a soap opera actor and he is and he's he's a cute person and he always build his life around being cute and then my sister Lisa is two years younger than than my brother and she washed East the most in the family and she became really a victim of
26:13 Off from the cheating with in the family because she was not as smart as the rest of the kids and remarkably now, I think she's the most balanced person of all of us and who has the the Nevada most simple and happiest life of all of us and it's in the way wonderful to see that this kind of Justice can can happen. Then there are three years younger than my sister Lisa is my sister, Delphine who was Icarus from a sisterly speaker again was extremely pretty and so my sister leash who was very tall for a girl and just normal pooping a fine but nothing wrong, but when you have a three-year younger sister, that is tough competition and then
27:12 13 gigahertz younger than I am my brother younger washbourne who became the youngest in the darling of the whole family and he was greatly spoiled. But in a in a fine way, he is a whole duck. It's the person who's the most like me we understand each other without many words and for me because she was that much younger. He was in many ways more my child then he was my younger brother cuz I told them around I took him to the big city and suydam and I see if you wash my child instead of my brother and we still have that kind of relationship a little bit. He is Sir an airbrush commercial artist in Minneapolis. He in many ways did similar things that I did he married to an American.
28:12 Come girl from North Dakota and they'll end up in Minneapolis. What was it like growing up in a Mennonite household? What what does that mean? Exactly?
28:26 The type of Mennonite that my father belong I
28:32 Quite different from Mennonites in this country in Hans the Mennonites Elite kind of a church of intellectual people and people with money and they have a lot of things in common in there or rules as the people the Mennonites here like you don't do the old fat and need you are not allowed to lie, and you don't know not to curse to why to swear with you to pledge allegiance to something you and Court you can only say I promise that I will do this you cannot say I swear that this is Therese so and the day the pacifist tradition
29:32 Bear and the anti-government tradition is there with basically a Mennonite School cannot become a civil servant for the board a lot of the smart or Mennonites who had started bitching and were older self pick threes and things like that and there was a storage area in that right?
30:07 Nnn affected my dick.
30:13 Go ahead. The intellectual thing was incredibly important for you at the dinner table. You will do little games like her work play etymological problems. Kennedy stick kind of intellectual challenge all the time and at the moment that the person could not fully participate because they had different interests that I had a different lifestyle. They weren't dumped by the rest of the family and that's what happened to Lisa Lisa.
30:58 So anyway, it was a very cruel intellectual environment where only if you are real smart and and what you do well and had interest interest sitting in traffic GIF pictures. Where did you learn English?
31:27 Awesome in school most of it. I think when I lived in Brussels and we had an Old Hippie staying in our house because we had a very large house and desist do my first married and they and they were all American or British. And so that was the link between Iver had the time a translator from French into Dutch at a bank in Brussels and working for their foreign Department.
32:05 But English what's the language you just spoke and it came automatically, I think also the fact that that's television works with subtitles. So you'll be returning to Sender. You will read the Dutch underneath every one day in English with the with the country's too small doesn't pay to debit Germany. You will have John Wayne speak German and in in Holland, he speaks English with Dutch set titles.
32:47 How about school or actually I get for running a little bit out of time, but I'm interested in school and and went and anything else about the war and coming here. Are there any of those things you'd like to follow up fun?
33:02 School a strange experience because they're being meant for me that I think I always had to struggle off wanting to belong because I always want an outsider. So that meant that I wanted to be part of the group and of everybody at the same time, I didn't like to be part of any group. So I think it's at an early age and Elementary School when I was ten eleven, I must have declared to myself and I've known of course consciously dates. I was going to be never belonged to a group and I vs. And then I found out later on that I belong to the group of people that never want to belong to a group and then I try to escape from that so that this very strange experience that I think those things never.
34:02 Go away completely day. They are always there a little bit then date. They are guiding and stealing in the background if you want to or not. You can refer to people do not always notice that I do. Are you are you know?
34:22 I left books probably because I grew up with them when I was 11. I remember I had to go get all the Dutch books in the house and I asked my father about sell all the green Agatha Christie books that were standing there. And I said they an English Could you teach me English because then I have more to read because I was running out of things to read and so oh that's that's of course and I started reading English then and he helped me in the beginning and after a while I could do by myself. And then I also started doing some translation sir. I think that was later ever something like fourteen when I started translating app for my father a story by Dylan Thomas
35:14 After the fair, I think it was the name of that slavery English into Dutch. And then how did you learn French?
35:24 To go to Paris from where we lift our inexpensive you went to kind of hitchhiking with the trucks with the meat that left at 4 in the morning and arrived about at 8 or 9 in the morning in Paris and internet Network comparison at a certain moment. I started helping there in a chess book store on the roof change occur on the reef coach.
36:05 I think something but the recent jacking it to know.
36:10 And their day you're the worst selling textbooks and I was deep into chest and and everybody there spoke different languages of a lot of Russians that said the old emigration from the tattoo even some of them that had to come over in 1970 1980 and there were just all these are Russian staying in Paris. They all play chess and they all and they were very remarkable people for a Dutch person who grew up with only your regular Dutch people all at once there were decent grade weird personalities that talked into very special ways in and they spoke with very heavy Accents in in French.
37:03 NM being there working. I just picked up the language this this sounds like a Gucci languages, but I'm not it's a lot of work for me and I never I would think that I should have lost my accent and my accent in French is also horrible this
37:29 I can't read Spanish in Italian and and and German, of course, I do really sounds like six languages.
37:45 Anyway, so your college polyglass.
37:49 Yeah, but that is special here. But it's very normal in Where I Come From Where in Olympics in Europe in general. It's a normal thing. I knew people that spoke 25 languages specially people live in Arabic background to be hit a Lebanese friend who spoke 25 languages fluently and
38:13 Westchester that I find amazing, what are the some of the differences? So what are some of the differences between year opened and America?
38:26 All for me, the biggest difference is that this country? So puritanical in so many things that's the bigger the negative difference that's listening to sense.
38:44 Dick's Picks for such a big deal. That was a genocide
38:55 The Jackson girl that took Justin Timberlake can make such a big deal out of it everybody. Everything here is just there is in.
39:08 Holland especially within your in general so much more freedom about sexuality your body and what you can show what you can talk about. So in a way, I always feel Limited in how honest you can be here because the puritanical thing is in everything in this country and its Varitek on inner freedom and and
39:41 Another way to say I like this country far better than anything in Europe because he respects there is far more freedom and I think but the puritanical thing is is where you cannot be honest about what you do what you think and that this is a big difference.
40:17 Anything special you would like to say before we have to cause
40:23 Or not special anything not specially like to say before we have to close.
40:28 I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this. I'll meet you. Thank you so much.
40:37 Yeah, the premise of course that I could just do this for 20 hours. I'm not even sure that the most important or the most typical things are selected in this processor 40 minutes is very short and opportunity to have another couple hours. What would you focus on?
41:09 For me, I did a thing that I'd like to delve deeper in is that whole situation of a person not wanting to be what he is at the circle around. So the defect that you isolate yourself almost while you want to belong so badly and that's that thing is our God our new discovery for for myself. So in a way, I almost in the psychoanalytic little cold way. I would like to explore the deeper and I think if you talk about the right way that you can find remarkable things about it for me.
42:01 Being 62 looking back. I realize that's happiness is not so much depending on circumstances and Society know that but it's just a piece you have with yourself and the piece you have with yourself is for a big deal determined by things that happen for you or 1 2 or 3 years old and at the Moon that you find out about this thing can recognize them you feel a lot more pizza and it's just know the new point of view, of course, but the visceral sort of way and certain discoveries about it. That's still coming all the time and it's very exciting in a way. I opened it about yourself and how things happened.
42:53 So let's talk about it dinner. Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.