I wasn’t sure what to call this post. I had considered the title “Mission Impossible” but I did go with “Escape to Victory.”
On 8 December 1944, the KP (Knok Ploeg-boxing crew) resistance group in Friesland managed to liberate 51 members of the resistance from the Blokhuispoort, the detention centre in Leeuwarden, without any escalation or any shots. The event is also known as ‘de Kraak’.(the raid The BS in Friesland had already indicated that a plan had to be made for a robbery, but there had not yet been any reason to carry it out. Piet Oberman took the lead here. The plan was well prepared with the help of intelligence from guards about the prison and information about the (reliability of) the guards themselves.
The plan was drawn up by Piet Oberman (resistance name Piet Kramer), Willem Stegenga and Egbert Bultsma. It had to be carried out in such a way that the Germans and their accomplices would not notice. The head office of the Landwacht (a Dutch Nazi paramilitary organization) was a stone’s throw away. The headquarters of the SD was quite a distance away and the Wehrmacht was stationed at Leeuwarden airfield. That is why there were no shots should be fired.
The immediate reason for the operation was the arrest of several resistance fighters in November 1944. One of them was Klaas Leijenaar, who was closely involved in the resistance newspaper De Koerier and had a large network. It was precise because of that network that the resistance fighter was interesting to the Germans. If they got Leijenaar to talk, a large part of the Frisian resistance could be rounded up.
On the nights of 18-19 November 1944, Jurjen Dreeuws, a police inspector who played a major role in the Frisian resistance, was also arrested. It was clear to the Knokploeg (KP), the armed branch of the resistance, that something had to be done. It was known that the arrested resistance members would be tortured in the Blokhuispoort. It soon became apparent that Dreeuws had gone crazy during his first weekend in captivity and had called names. This in turn led to new arrests. The chance that more resistance members would ‘break ‘ under great pressure, which would put the occupier on the trail of other resistance members, was by no means inconceivable.
On December 8, 1944, at a quarter to six, two policemen with three prisoners and a warrant for confinement presented themselves at the prison. The guard of the House of Detention received a phone call shortly before that three black marketeers would be delivered. The policemen and the three prisoners were in reality members of the Frisian gang. Inside the gate, they overpowered the guards and let in other members of the gang. During the raid, 51 people, including many members of the resistance, were freed from their cells. Not a single shot was fired.
Remarkably the Germans were not able to find any of the escaped prisoners. Raids are held, but due to a well-organized network of resistance fighters, the liberated prisoners were never found. There were no reprisals either. Why that did not happen is unclear.
In 1962 the story was made into a movie, titled “De Overval” (the raid) which became one of the most successful movies in Dutch cinemas, with close to 1.5 million visitors.
Dutch actor Hans Culeman who played the German officer Grundmann in the movie was born in Germany and spoke fluent German. He was surprised by this movie. Till then nobody knew of his German descent. Both Hans Tiemeijer ( the doctor) and Rob de Vries (Piet Kramer) had been in the resistance in the Netherlands during World War II.
Although my Mother’s family is from Friesland, I actually was not aware of this story.