The Execution of Three Heroines

Nel Hissink aka Cornelia van den Brink-Kossen

On October 27, 1943, two Dutch resistance women—Nel Hissink, and Truus van Lier were executed in Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, Reina Geerlings, was executed less than a month later, on November 24, 1943. All three women were shot. This was done in secret as it was not customary to shoot women.

Cornelia (Nel) Hissink (Amsterdam, June 13, 1897 – Oranienburg (Germany), November 24, 1943) was a resistance member during the German occupation of the Netherlands. She was active for the Personal Identification Central (PBC), which provided people in hiding and resistance members with forged documents, and the resistance group CS6, an organization for the armed resistance. In the summer of 1943 she was arrested and interned in prisons Weteringsschans and Kamp Amersfoort she was executed on October 27, 1943, in Kamp Sachsenhausen.

Nel van den Brink-Kossen was a communist. She distributed communist pamphlets, regularly took part in left-wing demonstrations, and was active in the anti-fascist movement. Her husband left for the Dutch East Indies in August 1929 and in 1935 the divorce was officially pronounced in Jakarta. Not long after, Nel Kossen got into a relationship with the extravagant actor and writer Coen Hissink. She probably moved in with him with her two daughters, first in his house in Bussum and later in a nice big house in Blaricum. Although she was not married to him, from then on she called herself Nel Hissink.

Nel and Coen Hissink became involved in the resistance soon after the war broke out. As an artist, Coen Hissink refused to register with the Kultuurkamer. (Culture Chamber) He was arrested in 1941 and deported to the Neuengamme concentration camp, where he died on December 17, 1942. His house was confiscated and Nel Hissink went to live with her daughter Marianne Helen in a garden shed in Blaricum. Shortly afterward she moved to Amsterdam, where the half-Jewish Rose Lopes de Leão Laguna moved in with her. Nel Hissink then got into a relationship with Dio Remiëns, who was more than twenty years younger, at a riding school in Laren. With Gerrit van der Veen and Maarten van Gilse, among others, she worked on the illegal magazine De Vrije Sterren, a ‘religious and politically independent body for Dutch artists’. They also made false identity cards for artist friends who wanted to circumvent the compulsory registration at the Kultuurkamer.

Nel Hissink was also involved in the illegal organization CS6, which offered armed resistance to the German occupier. Her daughter Marianne, who now called herself Keesje Hissink and with her narrow face resembled her mother, was also active in this. Hissink and the other members of this resistance group also offered help to people in hiding and carried out attacks.

Truus van Lier

Geertruida (Truus) van Lier was a Dutch resistance fighter during World War II.

Around the start of the Second World War, Van Lier started studying law at Utrecht University. Shortly afterward she became a member of the Amsterdam student resistance group CS-6. On September 3, 1943, Van Lier shot the Utrecht NSB chief of police G.J. Guys dead. Reichskommissar Seyss-Inquart, the Utrecht mayor Van Ravenswaay and NSB leader Anton Mussert held a meeting the next day in which it was suggested that, among other things, ten Utrecht residents should be executed as a reprisal. The first two mentioned rejected this retaliatory measure. Instead, the Landwacht (Landwatch) was created.

In 1943 Truus van Lier managed to infiltrate the NSB and the Wehrmacht in Amersfoort. She took pictures of Soesterberg airport and passed them on to the resistance. In addition, as a courier, she delivered messages, weapons, and illegal literature and accompanied Jews to hiding places. At the time, Truus van Lier led a nomadic life and stayed at various shelters. After a long preparation, she shot the acting chief commissioner (‘police president’) G.J. Kerlen dead, near his home on the Willemsplantsoen. SD leader Willy Lages put a bounty of ten thousand guilders on her head. On September 14, Van Lier was in a restaurant in Haarlem when two Dutch detectives arrested her, after a tip from a traitor. She was convicted of murder, possession of weapons, and the status of ‘half Jew’. Together with CS-6 members Reina Prinsen Geerligs and Nel Hissink, she was deported to Germany.

She ended up in concentration camp Sachsenhausen, where she was executed on October 27, 1943.

Reina Prinsen Geerligs

Reina Prinsen Geerligs born in Semarang, Indonesia October 7, 1922, was a Dutch writer and resistance fighter.

Reina Prinsen Geerligs was born as the eldest in a family with two children; she had a brother two years younger. Shortly after her birth in Semarang, the family moved to Amsterdam. Reina was a member of the Youth Association for Nature Study and wrote poetry and prose. At the Barlaeus Gymnasium, she met the later writer Willem Frederik Hermans and Guido van Suchtelen, with whom she started dating. At the beginning of the war, she published her first work: the story “Justice,” for which she won the essay competition of the literary magazine Contact. As the war progressed, her literary aspirations faded into the background due to her resistance work. At school, she was one of the most combative students. For example, during the February strike (1941) she tried to bring about a strike with some fellow students. Although she Jewish descent, this background played no role in the family. Moreover, through the years in the Dutch East Indies, the family felt more Indonesian than Jewish.

In 1941 her parents moved to Laren, but Reina continued to live in Amsterdam. Her house became the meeting place for the resistance group CS-6, which she had joined. During her resistance work, she used the pseudonym Leentje Vandendriesch. She initially performed courier work in the resistance.

Reina Prinsen Geerligs is believed to have been involved in at least two attacks. On the evening of July 2, 1943, she and CS-6 member Louis Boissevain wanted to liquidate the police officer Pieter Kaay in Enschede. He was in favor of arresting the twelve members of the resistance who had been involved in the attack on the Amsterdam population register in March 1943, in which Reina also allegedly played a role. When they rang the bell at Kaay’s house and he was sitting in the living room with a child on his lap, they decided against the attack. The day after, Kaay was still liquidated, allegedly by Prinsen Geerligs and Louis Boissevain. The Germans appointed Boissevain as a gunner. However, new research indicates that Geerligs and Boissevain had nothing to do with this. The attack of 3 July is said to have been committed by a resistance group from Enschede.

On July 23, 1943, Reina Prinsen Geerligs was arrested when she brought a pistol to a CS-6 building in Cornelis Krusemanstraat (no. 79-1) – an arrested member of CS-6 must have given the address. Reina was taken to the House of Detention II on the Amstelveenseweg and probably confessed her resistance activities there, to protect the other members of the resistance group. She did not appear to have been physically abused. Alone in her cell, she scratched her motto on the wall: “Right through the world burst.” In prison, she encouraged other inmates through the heating pipes. One of these fellow inmates was Rose Lopes de Leão Laguna, who also worked for CS-6. They did not know each other, and it was only after the war that Lopes de Leão Laguna understood that it must have been Reina Prinsen Geerligs who encouraged the others. Prinsen Geerligs managed to smuggle a few messages out of prison with the laundry. Her last message to Van Suchtelen was, “I am proud of what I have done.”

After a few months, Reina Prinsen Geerligs was taken to Germany together with Nel Hissink-van den Brink and Truus van Lier, both also members of CS-6.

It is women like these Three Heroines that make me feel proud to be Dutch.



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