“Dear all, I have to tell you the worst – today I and my friends got the death sentence”

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Hitler expected very little resistance from the Dutch because he saw them as kindred spirits and fellow aryans. When he decided to invade the Netherlands he expected a similar reception as he got in Austria, but he was wrong.

Although the invasion only took 3 days the Germans suffered heavy losses.

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As in the other occupied countries there were some who embraced the German occupation and were more then willing to comply to the laws imposed by the Nazi regime.

However there were many who did not and were willing to give their lives for it.

On March 9, 1943, Dutch policeman Hendrik “Henk” Drogt refused to comply with an order to arrest seven Jews in Grootegast.Drogt and 11 fellow Dutch police officers refused to participate in the round-up of Jews.

The Nazis gave the local Marechaussee(-the Marechaussee is a police force with Policing the military and also with border control as well as other civilian police matters-) officers orders to bring the Jews to the nearby city of Groningen, but the 12 officers tasked with the duty refused. At first they gave excuses, saying the Jews in the area were sick, and they even brought a doctor to authenticate the story on their behalf .

Failing to convince their superiors, the higher command  started  pressuring them one-on-one and even threatened them with deportation to concentration camps.

The officers wouldn’t give in , however. All of them refused and were taken to the Kamp Vught concentration camp.

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All except one. After abandoning the police unit, Drogt managed to escape and subsequently joined the Dutch resistance. During his time on the Nazi regime’s wanted list, he helped smuggle downed Allied pilots to the Belgian border where they could escape to Britain. Additionally , working at night around the towns of Grijpskerk, Kommerzijl and Pieterzijl – in between the main northern cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden – Drogt helped move Jews to safety by taking them from hiding place to hiding place.

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Not long after, however, the Nazis tracked down Drogt and other resistance members in August 1943. After being held up in the Oranjehotel prison in Scheveningen, the 24-year-old was put on trial and sentenced to death.

Before his execution on April 14, 1944, he wrote to his family:

“Dear all, I have to tell you the worst – today I and my friends got the death sentence. It is terrible that we have to part from all those who are dear to us in this way… I always had hope that I could be with you for one more time, but the Lord wanted differently…”

Decades after the war, in 1988 Yad Vashem recognized the officers as Righteous Among the Nations, but because Drogt had managed to escape he wasn’t on the list submitted to the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous.

Twenty years later, El Al pilot Mark Bergman met Drogt’s son, Henk Brink, on a flight to South Africa. Brink told Bergman the stories that he had heard from his mother about the father whom he had never met, and Bergman in turn advised Yad Vashem of the former military police officer’s courageous deeds.

Finally, on Monday September 22, 2008, Yad Vashem posthumously named Drogt as a Righteous Among the Nations, recognizing the brave acts he had done to save members of the Jewish faith.

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It’s because of men like Hendrik Drogt I feel immensely proud to be a Dutch man. I know there were plenty of fellow Dutch country men who were just too eager to please their Nazi masters and did evil things, but the majority of the Dutch did not subscribe to the Nazi point of view.

 

Many thanks to Norman Stone for drawing my attention to the story.

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Source

Jerusalem Post

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