One out of every five inhabitants of the town of Aalten located in the Achterhoek, the so-called back corner in the east of the Netherlands bordering Germany, was in hiding there during the Second World War. The occupier was on constant look out for people on the run, Jews or young men trying to avoid work in the labour camps. Even the churches in town were not safe.
On 30 January 1944, two were raided simultaneously: the Westerkerk (Western Church) and the Christian Reformed Church. The catch was considerable: forty-eight young men were arrested and transported via the Dutch city of Arnhem to the Amersfoort Concentration Camp or to the prison in Scheveningen: Oranjehotel (Hotel Orange). Gerrit Hoopman (19) was the only person who managed to escape from the Westerkerk, thanks to the help of a Mrs Visser-Taal, who had been evacuated from the Dutch seaside village of Scheveningen when German forces seized the city for strategic purposes. She discreetly passed her cape, this bonnet (picture above)and her traditional overskirt to him. Disguised as a fisherman’s wife, Hoopman left the church arm-in-arm with her and rode off on a men’s bike
(picture below Mrs Visser -Taal ,on the left, and her daughter,-Neeltje)
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