“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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Dunes of Death

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Waalsdorpervlakte, in the dunes by the Dutch seaside village of Scheveningen, was one of the most notorious spots during the Second World War. On this desolate sand plain more than 250 people were killed by the Germans.

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Most were members of the Dutch Resistance who risked their lives in the struggle against the Nazi occupier. In their last moments they walked across the sand, were bound to wooden poles and waited for the firing squad to line up. The shots that followed put an end to their lives. The first execution carried out here was on 3 March 1941 when the Germans shot Ernst Cahn, who had organized Resistance activities from his ice cream parlour in Amsterdam.

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In 1945, out of respect and appreciation for the fallen, five large memorial crosses were fashioned from the wooden execution poles. These wooden crosses were replaced by bronze copies in 1981.

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WWII ‘Selfies’ of a member of the Dutch resistance.

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After the February Strike of 1941, in Amsterdam,the sculptor and draftsman Cor van Teeseling joined a Resistance group that printed and distributed the illegal Communist newspaper De Waarheid (Lit. The Truth).

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Six months later, the Germans arrested him. On 10 November 1941, the death sentence was pronounced against him.

While awaiting execution Van Teeseling was first placed in solitary confinement in cell B-1-1 of Amsterdam’s Weteringschans Prison: the death cell.

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But he received permission to draw. Until being moved to the Wehrmacht Military Prison in Utrecht in 1942, he made more than 150 self-portraits that he signed and dated. He also included his cell number.

While imprisoned in Utrecht, he only drew now and again: primarily portraits of the prison guards. On 24 November 1942 his wife received a message that Cor van Teeseling had been executed five days earlier near the Dutch town of Soesterberg, a few days after his twenty-seventh birthday.

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Shortly after his death his drawings were seen as a reflection of the human drama in WWII. Van Teeseling self saw the drawings as a way for his wife to earn a potential income.

The kidnapping of Dr Herrema by the IRA

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 On October 3rd, 1975, Dr Tiede Herrema was driving from his home in Castletroy, Co Limerick, to an early-morning meeting at the Ferenka steel plant at Annacotty, when he was abducted by two republicans, Marion Coyle and Eddie Gallagher.
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Herrema, , had been dispatched by the parent company in his native Netherlands to troubleshoot the strike-ridden factory, Ferenka,which employed 1,200 at a time when the Irish economy was reeling from the oil crisis and six years of Northern Ireland troubles.

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The kidnappers, banking that Liam Cosgrave’s government would quietly cave in, so as not to scare off other foreign investors, threatened to “execute” Herrema in 48 hours unless it released the republican prisoners Rose Dugdale(who had given birth to Gallagher’s son in Limerick Prison), Kevin Mallon (a friend of Coyle’s) and James Hyland.

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Rose Dugdale, An English millionaire’s daughter who took part in an IRA helicopter bombing attempt and an infamous art theft at Russborough House in Co Wicklow.

It was the start of a 36-day ordeal for Herrema and his family, sparking the biggest manhunt in the State’s history.

Two weeks later a tape of Herrema’s voice was released, accompanied by demands for a £2 million ransom and a flight to the Middle East. After 18 days the kidnappers were traced to a terraced house in Monasterevin, Co Kildare.

The Coalition Government of Liam Cosgrave made it very clear from very start that there would be no release of prisoners, no room for compromise.

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A Nationwide Garda operation was mounted with almost half the force engaged in house to house searches and roadblocks. But Gallagher and Coyle had gone to ground in a “safe house” near Mountmellick, Co. Laois.

Days passed and the kidnappers sent taped messages from Herrema pleading for his life. The intervention of a Capuchin monk as a mediator proved fruitless. Gallagher asked for Phil Flynn – a trade union leader and Sinn Féin member at the time – to be brought in as an alternative mediator and while Gallagher began to lower his demands – the Government were steadfast but no closer to finding Herrema. Gallagher & Coyle had moved hideouts – this time to a council house in Monasterevin, Co. Kildare, which was itself searched by Gárdaí but the occupants were tipped off and the kidnappers hid with Herrema in the attic undisturbed. But 1410 St Evin’s Park was to be scene of the final act in this drama when the controversial questioning of accomplices by the Gárdaí exposed the location. 18 days into the kidnapping, a dawn raid on the house failed to release Herrema and thus began the Siege of Monasterevin.

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For a further 18 days, Ireland’s and the World’s press gathered. The Siege of Monasterevin was headline news every day. But behind the scenes what negotiations were going on to bring this dramatic standoff to an end after 36 days? – The longest and most dramatic kidnapping in Irish History.

The pair must have begun to suspect that there was something unusual about their captive shortly into the 36-day odyssey. For the first 14 days of the ordeal he had no idea where he was, confined to a tiny room in a house, in stinking conditions, feet and hands tied, cotton wool pushed into his ears.

Today Herrema is baffled, even irritated, that interviewers consistently overlook this part. “You all start by asking me about the period in Monasterevin . . . But the other part before, nobody talks about it, and that part was even worse for me. I didn’t know where we were. I didn’t even know how many were in the car that took me there.”

Once at St Evin’s Park in Monasterevin, by contrast, surrounded by armoured cars, searchlights, snipers and the hotshots of world media, he knew exactly where he was and what he had to do.

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He set out to create calm, to humanize himself in his kidnappers’ eyes. His eldest son was about the same age as Gallagher. Coyle, he noted, listened to the conversations but never spoke. “For me that was an indication: be careful with her. As long as I can get them talking I learn something. But she didn’t talk at all. I could never reach her.”

The coping mechanisms that seemed second nature to him, a man for whom mental challenges were almost a sport, must have seemed odd to his kidnappers. “When the night is over and you have nothing to eat, you have nothing to do. That is very important to understand, because all you have then is the waiting. You cannot tolerate that all day. So you try to make the day.”

What Gallagher and Coyle didn’t realize is that Dr Herrema had been a Dutch resisttance fighter during WWII.

He was in his early 20s when the Nazis arrested him. He was sent to Prague where he was brutally interrogated after that  he was transported to Ratibor – now the Polish town of Racibórz.

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Where about half of his fellow prisoners were shot, some under 14 years of age. Even after he was freed by the soviet troops he still had to walk 500 KM to be transferred to the US troops. Needless to say he was made out of sturdy stuff.

After several days without food or water they began to accept supplies – as well as underpants and a chamber pot – hoisted up in a shopping basket. On day 18 Gallagher claimed to be getting severe headaches and neck cramps, which Herrema took as a sign that he was seeking a way out. Soon afterwards the kidnappers threw their guns out of a window and surrendered.

It was on this day 41 years ago November 7 1975, Dr Herrema was released.

Coyle was sentenced to 15 years, of which she served nine. Gallagher served 14 years of his 20-year sentence. In 1978 Gallagher and Dugdale became the first convicted prisoners in the State’s history to be married behind bars.