Josianne Stone's connections to World War II are personal and her memories vivid.

The Ashland resident grew up in Belgium during the war and she and her family were active in the Belgian Resistance. She shared some of her experiences Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Ashland's weekly meeting. Stone is the mother of Steve Stone, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Ashland County.


Stone said growing up in the aftermath of World War I instilled in her a certain level of anxiety. She saw the war's effects on her parents and grandparents and she heard their stories. When rumors of another war began to surface in the 1930s, the anxiety grew stronger, Stone said.

In the late 1930s, she moved in with her grandparents in Brussels. The threat of war was escalating. At 4 a.m. May 10, 1940, her grandfather woke her to tell her that Belgium had been invaded.

Stone remembers that morning hearing "the distant rumbling sounds of war." Within days, she said, much of the area was evacuated, with people leaving by car, bicycle and even by foot.

Over time, she said, it appeared the invasion was not as bad as many had anticipated, Stone said. School reopened and the German military officers were friendly. It was when the SS officers required Jewish residents to attach yellow replicas of the Star of David to their clothing that Stone says things started to change.

Stone said she became good friends with a Jewish girl named Dinah, whose father had been sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. Dinah and her mother eventually were sent, as well. Stone said she never again heard from her friend.

Stone herself has memories of run-ins with Nazi officers, perhaps the most notable was when she and her sister were kidnapped after officers invaded the home of her sister's employer, a Jewish woman. The officers held the girls hostage at the residence, questioning them about various details of their lives. Stone said she was scared at first, but soon a sense of calm came over her. "Something enveloped me. It was calming, a shell," Stone said.

When word got out about the kidnapping, a family friend with influence in the German community was able to arrange for the girls' release.
It was in the early 1940s, Stone said, that she and her family started to hear about an active resistance against the Nazis. Some members of the resistance worked to sabotage Nazi installations and others reached out to the Allies, providing intelligence or more basic forms of help such as food and supplies.

Stone and one of her family members would ride bicycles carrying supplies for Allied forces and resistance fighters. They'd travel through the woods, undetected and then Stone would leave the supplies and ride her bike through a nearby town, past Nazi officers. Stone remembers the first time she made the trip.
"It made my heart pound so loud I thought my chest would explode," she said.

Eventually, Nazis discovered the hiding place and executed those they found. Stone's uncle was among those killed.  Stone and her family moved to the United States in 1949. She said she has always had a deep sense of gratitude for the U.S. and its assistance during the war. She doesn't often share her stories in front of large groups, but when she has an opportunity to speak to children about her experiences, she usually takes it.

"I do talk to children about it, because I think many of them don't have an understanding of what happened," Stone said. "Many adults have a connection or deeper knowledge, but children don't. I think it's important."

This article originally appeared in the June 16, 2011 edition of the Ashland Times Gazette.   Written Courtney Albon who can be reached at 419-281-0581, ext. 243, or