Semmy and Joop Woortman-Forgotten Heroes

In the past I have been very critical of my fellow Dutch men and women, in relation to the role they played during World War 2. While most opposed the Nazi occupation, they did very little to resist. Of course it is very easy to be critical looking back. In all honesty if I would have been put in that position I would not know how I would have reacted.

I have also written many pieces about the Dutch who collaborated with the Nazis and even joined the SS, for them there is no excuse.

However there were brave Dutch citizens who did resist. Sometimes by just spreading around leaflets, other times in more militant actions. When captured there was a big chance that the death penalty would follow.

Semmy and Joop Woortman were active members of the resistance, they were part of the NV group.

The NV (Naamlose Vennootschap or the Limited) group, was one of several Dutch underground cells involved in rescue efforts to find shelter for Jewish children living in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Between 1942 and 1943 approximately 4,000 Jewish children were funneled through an assembly center located in the former Jewish daycare center known as the Creche.

The Creche was situated across the street from the Hollandse Schouwburg, the Jewish theater that served as the main holding area for the Jews of Amsterdam prior to their transfer to the Westerbork concentration camp. When Jewish families reported to the theater, children were separated from their parents and sent to the Creche to await deportation. The NV group under the leadership of Jaap Musch and Joop Woortman, focused its efforts on rescuing these children. Since the Creche was not guarded, it was possible for members of the Dutch underground to pick up small groups of children who had been prepared by Jewish staff members inside, and wisk them away by streetcar or other means. The children were then taken to private homes in Amsterdam until they could be transferred to host families elsewhere. Alternatively, the children were taken directly to the railway station and escorted by couriers to their new homes outside the city. They were sent to homes as far north as Friesland and as far south as Limburg. After depositing their charges, the couriers made a point of visiting them periodically to check on their situation. The attitudes exhibited by the host families to the Jewish children ranged from loving to indifferent, and many children had to be moved repeatedly. It is estimated that as many as 1000 Jewish children in the capital were rescued by the combined efforts of all of the underground cells. The NV group is credited with having saved about 250. Sixteen members of the group were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

Joop and Semmy became increasingly involved in the underground resistance movement. Joop would often go to the train station to look for Jews to take into hiding. When they learned that the Germans had plans to deport all Jewish children to concentration camps, Joop and Semmy concentrated their efforts on saving the Dutch children. They organized a network of people who were willing to hide Jewish children in their homes. Semmy remembered a day in 1943, when the German’s launched a surprise raid of homes in Amsterdam in an attempt to capture Jewish children. Semmy and Joop quickly instructed the children to go to safety at a local day care center, which was run by a German born Jewish nab , Walter Suskind. On the day of the raid, a terrified little boy came to Semmy’s home and she offered to hide him in one of the cupboards in her kitchen. When the Germans searched her house, she pretended to be virulently anti-Semitic and even invited the Germans to share coffee with her. The deception worked and the Germans never found the boy.

Joop Woortman used the pseudonym Theo de Bruin. He was betrayed in 1944 and via Kamp Amersfoort ended up in Bergen-Belsen, where he died on March 13, 1945. Following Joop’s arrest, Semmy carried on his mission. Using the register he kept of the 300 children he placed in hiding, she made sure all of his charges received their monthly stipends and ration coupons. A year after the war the Red Cross confirmed Woortman’s death in Bergen-Belsen. He was posthumously recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations in 1981.

After the war Semmy recalled
“It was difficult to just walk out of the nursery with children because on the other side of the street there were soldiers on guard in front of the Hollandse Schouwburg. But the head nurse at the nursery, Virrie Cohen, would stand in front of the door and tell us if tram 9 was coming.

We’d walk out of the door each carrying a baby under our arm. We’d run alongside the tram down the Plantage Middenlaan and at the next tram stop we’d get in, huffing and puffing. And all the people in the tram would start laughing because naturally they’d seen us, but they never said anything. Well, that’s typically Amsterdam for you…”

Semmy Woortman walks along a street in Amsterdam with her stepdaughter Hetty (left, Joop’s daughter) and her Jewish foster child, Rachel (right).

Semmy married again after the war. She died on February 22,2004 aged 87.

When I come across stories like this, it makes me proud to be a Dutchman.

sources

Semmy Riekerk, The Netherlands

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa21486

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/photo/dutch-rescuer-semmy-woortman-glasoog

https://www.verzetsmuseum.org/en/kennisbank/help-1

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The Organ attic-A secret hiding place

A good Church has an organ, it is not just a musical instrument but sometimes also a statement of grandeur.

During WWII one of these organs also became a hiding place for 3 Jewish families, well more the attic above the organ.

During the Second World War, the Breeplein Church in Rotterdam harboured a secret: three Jewish families were in hiding in the two attics high on both sides of the organ. What began, as was envisaged , as a temporary shelter for six weeks became a refuge for three years. The story of the Breeplein Church is one of courage, hope and trust, a story full of wonders and even the birth of a perfectly healthy baby.

On May 29, 1942, Maurice Kool and Rebecca Andriessen knocked on the door of the sexton of the Breepleinkerk in South Rotterdam. After they both had received a letter from the Nazi authorities telling them to report for ’employment in Germany’, they decided to go into hiding.

The seventeen-year-old Rebecca Andriesse and her 25-year-old fiancé Maurice Kool thought that they could stay together if they were married, so they did so as soon as possible. Rebecca’s grandfather arranged for them to go into hiding in the Breeplein Church. The sexton, Jacobus de Mars, created a hiding place in the attic behind the organ, which could be accessed by a ladder and an “invisible” trapdoor.

Three weeks later, Maurice’s parents called to the church . They too had received a letter and wanted to go into hiding. Shortly afterwards, the pharmacist De Zoete and his wife were hidden in the second attic behind the organ. It became their hiding for 34 months.

The organ will have been quite loud, when it was played. Which probably gave the hiding families some chance to make some noise of their own. However this would only be the case on Sunday mornings, the other days they would have to remain very quiet.

Meijer and Ida Kool, Maurice’s parents, owned a textile shop on the in Rotterdam. Because they were Jewish ,they were not allowed to run a business anymore. Because they had received a letter from the Nazi authorities they also decided to go into hiding. After an unsuccessful attempt elsewhere, they also ended up in the organ attic.

During the day the refugees sometimes left the attic an would go downstairs, but for most of the time they were in their hiding place , where it was very cold in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer.

Six months after the arrival of Meijer and Ida, two more people sought refuge in the attic . The sexton built one one on the other side of the organ, for the pharmacist Chaim and his wife Fifi de Zoete. Their three daughters were placed in other safe houses. Hadassah, one of the girls, was placed with the Van der Leer family, who attended the Breeplein Church services every Sunday. The Brillenburg Wurth family ,Reverend and his wife, made sure that Fifi and Chaim could see their daughter after the service, without Hadassah knowing that this was happening. I think because they may have been afraid that she would say something to others in her enthusiasm.

Thanks to the Resistance in Rotterdam, there was enough to eat for all the refugees as also for all the people helping and protecting them.

Rebecca became pregnant in spring 1943. This may sound like a strange thought but they must have been anxious having sex, to make sure they didn’t make too much sounds .Early January 1944 Rebecca had a baby boy . The Surinamese ophthalmologist Dr. Leo Lashley, the reverend’s wife Gerda Brillenburg Wurth and nurse Riet Dekkers assisted Rebecca during the childbirth. This too must have been nerve wrecking because this also had to be done in silence or at least as silent as possible.

The baby son was named after his grandfather and the sexton but was generally called Emile. The stays with the sexton and his wife.

Their adult daughter came to live with them with her newborn baby. To ensure that the crying baby would not attract attention.

April 14,1945 just three weeks before liberation , Nazi troops raided the church. Someone had told them that there were weapons in the church. The soldiers searched, but found nothing. At that time one of the refugees was playing a game with the sexton and quickly hid under the sexton’s bed. However, the soldiers were so fixated on weapons that they overlooked the rest. The people in hiding were therefore not found.

However the sexton was arrested “Even if they beat him to death, my husband would never betray you” said the sexton’s wife determinedly; and indeed, he did not.

Each person involved in this would definitely been sentenced to death, if they had been caught, luckily they weren’t and they all survived the war

I just want to mention Dr. Leo Lashley the ophthalmologist, who quickly had to become gynecologist, by reading a book on the subject.

He was born on March 24, 1903 in Nieuw-Nickerie, Surinam. He moved to the Netherlands, studied medicine in Utrecht, and obtained his doctorate in 1930 as an ophthalmologist. A little later he married and settled with his family in Rotterdam as an ophthalmologist.

During the war, he joined the resistance and helped a number of people go into hiding in Rotterdam; he also collected food for people in hiding. He successfully delivered baby Emile , the son of Rebecca and Maurice Kool . He went into obstetrics because no other doctor wanted to help Rebecca. Dr. Lashley had eventually go into hiding himself

After the War, he briefly remained active in Rotterdam and in Surinamese associations, but disappointed by racism and discrimination, he moved to Curaçao in 1948. He passed away in 1980.

A report of the Dutch Homeland security stated.

“Immediately after the liberation he fulfilled a very prominent function in the construction of the municipal council here. Being colored, he would have been forced out of this position to a certain extent, which has deeply hurt him,”

A book titled “Invisible Years” was written about this forgotten event. Currently a documentary for the Dutch public broadcaster is also made.

sources

The story of the Organ Attics

https://www.theblackarchives.nl/blog/leo-lashley-een-surinaamse-verzetsheld-die-joodse-mensen-hielp-onderduiken-maar-vervolgens-zelf-werd-gediscrimineerd

https://eenvandaag.avrotros.nl/item/de-orgelzolders-zijn-het-achterhuis-van-rotterdam-drie-joodse-gezinnen-zaten-bijna-3-jaar-achter-he/

http://www.breepleinkerk.nl/orgelzolder

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Dutch Olympian Athletes Murdered during the Holocaust

It is strange sometimes how one thing can draw your attention to another. I did a piece recently on the German national anthem, that led me to look at the Dutch national anthem. “Wilhelmus van Nassouwe”, usually known just as “Wilhelmus” is the national anthem of the Netherlands. It dates back to at least 1572, making it the oldest national anthem in use today.

I mostly associate it with sporting events like the Olympics. It still give me the goosebumps every time I see the Dutch flagged being raised and the anthem is played during the Olympics, or any other sporting event for that matter. Although the Dutch do punch above their weight when it comes to sport, considering the size of the country. it only hosted the Olympic games once, in 1928. It was held from 28 July to 12 August 1928.

It was the first time that female athletes were competing in the field of gymnastics. Five women on the Dutch Olympic gymnastics team were Jewish: Helena-Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, Estella-Stella Agsteribbe, Judikje-Judik Simons and Elka de Levie. The team’s trainer, Gerrit Kleerekoper, was also Jewish. The team won the gold medal for women’s gymnastics at the 1928 Olympics, and the Dutch press elevated the women to the status national heroines.

“Everything was taken care of down to the last detail. Nice practice material – not too heavy – logically composed, neatly executed in class, wonderful order and leadership, in one word sublime. …The jury was also enthusiastic and awarded the Kleerekoper corps a total score of 316.75 points, leaving the other teams far behind. With their well-deserved success the gymnasts were the first female Olympic champions in the Netherlands. At a quarter past five, the Dutch flag fluttered above the Olympic Stadium and the National Anthem sounded over the central area. However, the cheers rose when HRH Prince Hendrik stepped forward and shook hands with each of the participants. …and then they, our ladies, to whom we owe the first victory, disappeared under the grandstand to their dressing rooms.”

The Dutch Olympic women’s gymnastics team at the Amsterdam Olympics, 1928. The team won the gold medal. The coach was Jewish, as were five of the team members.The Jewish team members are standing on the first row: From left: Helena-Lea Nordheim (second), Anna Polak (third), Estella Agsteribbe (fourth), Judik Simons (last) and Elka de Levie (second row, first from right). Courtesy of NOC-NSF Gelderland collection

Less then 12 years later that status was forgotten. On May 10 German troops invaded the Netherlands and a few days later the country was fully occupied by the Germans who quickly found collaborators and a Nazi regime was put in place.

Leah, Estella and Elka trained at the “Bato” sports club in Amsterdam, which had been established in 1902 and was one of the largest Jewish sports clubs in the city. In September 1941, the Germans banned Jews from all sports activities, but even after the club’s closure, Jews continued to train and exercise illegally until 1942. From the summer of 1942, Dutch Jews were deported to the East.

Judik Simons married Bernard Solomon Themans in 1935, and they had two children, Sonja (b. 1937) and Leon (b. 1940). After the team’s win, Simons and her husband ran an orphanage in Utrecht, where they lived with their own two children. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the family was given a chance to escape deportation to the death camps, but Simons and her husband refused to leave the orphans. On March 3, 1943, the entire family and dozens of children from the orphanage were gassed at Sobibor.

Helena Nordheim married Abraham Kloot, and their daughter Rebecca was born in 1933. Lea and Abraham were both hairdressers. In 1943, they were arrested and sent to Westerbork. On 29 June 1943, a deportation train left Westerbork, arriving at Sobibor three days later. The deportees included Helena Kloot, her husband and their ten-year-old daughter, and Gerrit Kleerekoper-the coach of the team- his wife Kaatje and their 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth. They were all murdered. There were no survivors from this deportation. Gerrit and Kaatje’s 21 year old son Leendert was murdered on 30 July 1944 at Auschwitz, according to the Totenbuch des KL Auschwitz-Monowitz (death register)

In 1936, Anna-Ans Polak married Barend Dresden, a tailor, and in 1937 their only daughter Eva was born in Amsterdam. In May 1943, the family was arrested and sent to the Vught concentration camp in the Netherlands. Approximately one month later, Anna and Eva were transferred to Westerbork. On 20 July 1943, a deportation train left Westerbork, arriving at Sobibor three days later. Among the deportees were Anna Dresden and her six-year-old daughter Eva. They were both murdered. There were no survivors from this deportation. Anna’s husband Barend was deported from Vught to Auschwitz on 15 December 1943. He survived the selection, and was sent to forced labor in Auschwitz III: Buna-Monowitz. On 30 November 1944, Barend was murdered at Auschwitz.

In 1928, Stella Agsteribbe competed in the first ever Olympic gymnastics competition for women. Despite placing 13th in the Dutch team selection event, she was elected to compete in the group competition. The Dutch quite comfortably earned the gold in the five-team competition. Individually, Agsteribbe placed 3rd at the Dutch all-around championships in both 1930 and 1934. At the latter event, she competed as Stella Blits, having married Samuel Blits, also a gymnast with her club BATO. Like several of her team mates (Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, Elka de Levie, alternate Judikje Simons and coach Gerrit Kleerekoper, Agsteribbe was Jewish. During World War II, she was deported to Auschwitz with her husband and children. She was killed shortly after arrival on 17 September 1943, along with her six-year-old daughter Nanny, and two-year-old son Alfred. Her husband, Samuel Blits, died at Auschwitz on 28 April 1944.

Elka de Levie managed to evade the tragic fate of her fellow Jewish teammates, and survived in the Netherlands. She passed away in Amsterdam in 1979.

Mozes Jacobs competed in the men’s gymnastics team. He didn’t win any medals, I believe he came 8th. He taught physical education. He joined the resistance and participated in acts of sabotage and helped those in hiding. On 1 April 1943 he was caught in Vierhouten and held at the house of detention in Arnhem. From there he was deported to Germany via Westerbork. He was murdered on July 9,1943 in Sobibor.

Cornelis Compter was of Jewish descent. He was a truck driver by profession. He competed in the featherweight weightlifting event at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, where he achieve the 19th place. Hewas a memer of the the Hague communist resistance. He was involved in the distribution of the resistance magazine De Vonk. He was arrested on August 4, 1941 by Johannes Hubertus Veefkind, a member of the Hague Police Intelligence Service before the war. Compter was arrested as a result of an infiltration action by Johannes Hubertus van Soolingen, ordered by Mayor De Monchy in May 1940. In March 1942 he was transferred from the Oranjehotel to Kamp Amersfoort. The same month he was transferred to Buchenwald. In 1944 he was transferred to the Nacht und Nebelkamp Natzweiler. In September 1944 he was transferred to Dachau and shortly afterwards to Mauthausen, where he died of exhaustion on 23 February 1945.

Elias Hyman Melkman was a member of the gymnastics association Plato in Amsterdam. He took part as a gymnast in the Olympics of 1928 in Amsterdam. He was murdered in Auschwitz on January 3,1942.

Israel Wijnschenk was also a member of the Dutch men’s gymnast team. He competed in seven events at the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was murdered in Auschwitz on January 31,1943.

Pierre Marie Robert Versteeghwas a Dutch horse rider who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics and in the 1936 Summer Olympics. In the 1928 Summer Olympics he won the bronze medal in the team dressage with his horse His Excellence after finishing ninth in the individual dressage. Eight years later he finished fifth with the Dutch team in the team dressage and placed eighth in the individual dressage.

Pierre Versteegh trained for the Dutch military, enrolling at the Royal Military Academy in Breda in 1906. In June 1909 he was appointed second lieutenant and assigned to the Third Division in Ede. In the years before World War I, and also after the conflict, Versteegh became an active equestrian participant, winning numerous local competitions. In 1925 he was promoted to captain and in 1936 to major in the Army. In 1931 Versteegh had been awarded the Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords.

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Versteegh held the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was also concerned because his wife was Jewish. After the Dutch Army surrendered, Versteegh joined the Dutch Underground, working with the Ordedienst (OD), a fusion of several underground groups. On 2 May 1941 Versteegh was arrested after being found to be a member of the OD. He and several other OD members were kept in the state prison in Scheveningen, later called the Oranjehotel. In March-April 1942 Versteegh and many of his compatriots were tried in Amersfoort, and all were found guilty, and sentenced to death.

On 1 May 1942 the convicted OD members, among whom were included Richard Schoemaker, a Dutch fencing Olympian, were taken by train to Oranienburg, near Berlin, and then transported by truck to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. On 3 May 1942 all of the convicts were executed by firing squad, in groups of 12 each. Pierre Versteegh was among them.

Jan Geert Ankerman was a Dutch field hockey player , he was born in Wommel in Friesland, the Northwest of the Netherlands. He competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was a member of the Dutch field hockey team, which won the silver medal. He played all four matches as halfback.

He did not die in any of the Nazi deathcamps. He was murdered in another concentration camp, by another axis power. He died on December 27,1942 in a Japanese prisoners of war camp in Burma.

Although the Japanese camps were not to the scale as the Nazi camps, they were nonetheless horrific and inhumane and often described as hell on earth

sources

https://www.olympedia.org/lists/3/manual

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/535112/about-elias-hyman-melkman

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/158818/israel-wijnschenk

https://peoplepill.com/people/pierre-versteegh/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-jewish-olympians-among-hitlers-victims/

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/sport/dutch-gymnastics-team.asp

https://peoplepill.com/people/jan-ankerman

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Jan Gies-Miep Gies’s Husband

The saying goes “Behind Every Great Man There Is A Great Woman” but of course it can also be said that behind every great woman there is a great man.

The Anne Frank foundation said about Miep Gies’s husband. “Jan was not a person to stand in the limelight, not even amid all the publicity surrounding Anne Frank. He was throughout his lifetime a man of few words, but many deeds.”

Most of us will have heard about Miep Gies. But probably not so much about her Husband Jan Gies.

He was a member of the Dutch Resistance who, with his wife, Miep, helped hide Anne Frank, her sister Margot, their parents Otto and Edith, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer from Nazi persecution during the occupation of The Netherlands by aiding them as they resided in the Secret Annex. Helping Jews brought the risk of severe punishments, even death, if you were caught.

Jan met Otto Frank and his family through his fiancée, Miep Santrouschitz. From 1936 onwards, he would frequently visit them on Saturday afternoons, when the Franks invited friends and acquaintances. When Jews were no longer allowed to own or even rub businesses, Otto Frank was grateful for Jan’s help. Together with Victor Kugler, Jan founded the company Gies & Co. to take over Otto’s company Pectacon, and Jan took on the role of supervisory director. This was a way to keep Otto’s business safe from the Nazis and to avoid it to fall under the control of the Nazis.

Miep had been living in the Netherlands since December of 1920, she had always kept her Austrian nationality. However because Austria no longer existed due to its annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, Miep tried to obtain the Dutch nationality in 1939 by writing a letter to Queen Wilhemina.

Jan and Miep married on July 16,1941. Otto Frank was a witness at their wedding and Anne accompanied him. Edith did not attend because both Margot and Grandmother Holländer were ill. The wedding celebrations took place at Otto’s business premises. On behalf of her family and the office staff, Anne presented them with a silver plate.

Jan became involved in the resistance during the war. Because of his work as a social worker , he could easily visit people and thus, for example, distribute illegal papers. His contacts also helped him to obtain distribution coupons, and securing British newspapers free from Nazi propaganda. The couple also hid a Jewish man in their own home, and Mr. Gies provided ration coupons to members of the underground resistance. All of these activities were punishable by death.

The exact nature of his work for the resistance is unclear. Jan kept quiet about it. During the war it was a matter of course that he could not talk about what he did, and after the war he did not feel compelled to discuss it in detail.

When Otto Frank arrived on Miep and Jan’s doorstep in the summer of 1945, he would continue to live with them until 1953. His wife Edith and daughters Margot and Anne had died in the camps. Miep who had found and kept Anne’s diary safe was able to give Anne’s diary to Otto , and he saw to it that they were published in 1947. Jan and Miep’s son Paul was born on 30 July 1950.

Otto Frank, Miep and Jan Gies with son Paul, January 1951, Amsterdam

They continued to live in Amsterdam until Jan passed away in 1993.Jan died on January 26,1993.

The date January 26 has a personal meaning to me and it also has a special meaning in the context of the Holocaust victims of the Netherlands. My mother passed away on January 26,1996, and the Dutch government issued a formal and official apology on January 26,2020, to the family of the Holocaust victims in the Netherlands.

Today marks the 116 the Birthday of Jan Gies, and I often wonder how many lives could have been saved if there had been more people like him and his wife.

sources

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/main-characters/jan-gies/

https://www.miepgies.nl/en/biography/jan%20gies/

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The Doctors resistance

I have written quite extensively about the failure of the Dutch to protect their Jewish neighbours, and even resist the Nazi occupiers in general. However on February 24th 1941, the Dutch communist party had called for a nationwide strike to protest against the treatment of Jews as well as the forced labour in Germany. The Communist Party of the Netherlands, made illegal by the Germans, printed and spread a call to strike throughout Amsterdam the next morning. The first to strike were the city’s tram drivers, followed by other city services as well as companies like De Bijenkorf and schools. Eventually 300,000 people joined in the strike, bringing much of the city to a halt and catching the Germans by surprise.

Though the Germans immediately took measures to suppress the strike, which had grown spontaneously as other workers followed the example of the tram drivers, it still spread to other areas, including Zaanstad, Kennemerland in the west, Bussum, Hilversum and Utrecht in the east and the south. The strike did not last long. By 27 February, much of it had been suppressed by the German police. Although ultimately unsuccessful, it was significant in that it was the first and only direct action against the Nazis’ treatment of Jews in Europe.

In May 1941 it was decided that the Dutch society of Physicians would be equalized to the German regime. This equalization meant that the Dutch Society for the Promotion of Medicine would have work under force, for the Nazi regime. Reluctantly and despite some protestation the society agreed to this. Doctors who were members of the NSB, the Dutch Nazis, would become the board of the society. The members of the society did not agree to this though.

On August 24,1941 at 3 pm In a coffee shop at the train station of Zutphen, Doctors ,Roorda, Brutel de la Rivière and Eeftinck Schattenkerk, and also some other members if the Society met, to set up a resistance group.

The name of this group would be “Medisch Contact” Medical contact. About 5000 of the 6500 Physicians joined the group. Initially the resistance was only aimed against the Society of Physicians

In March 1943 the group informed the German run Chamber of Physicians, that they will remove their signs from the door and will no longer fulfill their duties as Doctors. 42000 Doctors signed the letter. They also took in consideration that their Jewish colleagues could not sign, because they were not even allowed anymore to work as Doctors, most of the Jewish Doctors had already been in transition camps or deported at that stage.

The NSB would paint the word Arts(Dutch for physician or doctor) on the wall or doors of the Doctors of the Medisch contact.

There were also individual acts of resistance from some Doctors. Like Doctor Allard Oosterhuis

Allard Lambertus Oosterhuis (19 July 1902 in Delfzijl – 1 January 1967 in Killiney) was a Dutch resistance hero during World War II.

In 1922, Oosterhuis went to Amsterdam to study medicine and after his study he became a doctor in Delfzijl. Thanks to his work as a cruiser, with his ships Cascade and Libelle, he was able to put up a smuggling route for the resistance between the harbour of Delfzijl and Stockholm. An important colleague of his in the Dutch resistance was the coaster-captain Harry Roossien who made many trips during the war. Due to these activities many people and materials left occupied Netherlands, and radio transmitters, photos from the Dutch Queen and money for the resistance were shipped into the country.

He was the leader of the resistance group ‘t Zwaantje (The Swan) from Delfzijl. The name comes from a pub named De witte Zwaan (The White Swan]) which Oosterhuis regular visited. He used the name Zwaantje as a codename in the illegal documentation he sent to the resistance and the allies.

On 12 July 1943 the German Sicherheitsdienst rolled up the resistance group after they were betrayed. Despite a collective death sentence on 23 June 1944, most of the members survived the war in captivity in German camps. They were liberated in autumn 1945.

After the war, Oosterhuis, due to health reasons, quit his profession as a doctor and became a cruiser with his ship MS Stientje Mensinga, a rebuilt landing vehicle from 1943. The ship sunk during a heavy storm on the Irish coast by Erritshead in 1961.

In 1952, he settled permanently in Ireland and received the Bronze Cross for bravery against the occupier during World War II. He died age 64 in Ireland and was buried in Delfzijl.

sources

https://web.archive.org/web/20070311005856/http://www.oorlogsmonumenten.nl/omn/getuigenverhalen2/5217?nav=detail

https://www.medischcontact.nl/nieuws/laatste-nieuws/artikel/het-medisch-contact-in-verzet.htm

https://www.vpro.nl/speel~POMS_VPRO_380479~artsenverzet-tijdens-de-tweede-wereldoorlog-het-spoor-terug~.html

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A single act of resistance

The Dutch word ‘Moffen’ is a slur or derogatory term for Germans, pretty much in the same way as Krauts in the English language.

Where the word ‘moffen(or mof singular)’comes from is not clear but it had been around since the 16th century. It more or less disappeared from the Dutch vocabulary for about 100 years or so but it made a comeback in 1940.

This was due to the German invasion and occupation of the Netherlands. The Dutch Queen, Wilhelmina, often used it in her broadcasts on Radio Oranje, while she was in exile. Her son in law, Prince Bernhard, was also a German. Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, aka Soldier of Orange, a decorated war hero, said the following about Prince Bernhard.

“For Bernhard, the Prince of the Netherlands, the war was a frustrating business. Born a German, he had married Queen Wilhelmina’s only child, Princess Juliana, and in due time made a conscious and meaningful transition of loyalties to his new homeland. Because of this, and in view of the doubts his background initially evoked among some Britons, he longed more than anyone for a chance to get at Holland’s aggressors.”

Publishers of the ‘Koenen’ dictionary removed the word mof and related words from 1942 onwards.

The Nazi occupiers gradually started to impose laws against the Dutch Jews. One of those laws was to make it illegal and eve a criminal offence for Jews to enter public places, such as parks. Signs were posted all over the country with the text “Forbidden for Jews” like the sign at the start of the blog.

One day in 1941 , a defiant Dutch citizen, more then likely a member of the resistance painted another text on 6 signs which were erected in “Het Gooi” ,which is is an area around Hilversum, in the centre of the Netherlands.

This time the signs read “Forbidden for Moffen”. The following day the signs were repainted again. However this bit of ‘graffiti’ would have definitely resulted in the death penalty for this brave unknown artist.

Sources

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Forgotten heroes- Risking their lives to oppose an evil regime.

I would be lying if I would say that all Dutch opposed the Nazi occupiers, because there were many who were happy enough, to follow the rules of the new lords of the land.

However there were also many who opposed the evil regime and especially opposed the way they treated their Jewish friends and neighbours.

Organisations like ‘Het Derde Front” ,the third front- a Marxist resistance group, called to boycott all businesses who refused Jews. There was a national strike on February 25 and 26,1941, organized by several groups like the CPN)Communist Party Netherlands) and also the third front.

Both actions were announced by using posters and flyers. Anyone who would have been caught carrying these posters, would face severe punishments including the death penalty.

A few dozen organizers and participants of the strike were arrested and executed. Two of them died in Dachau. This did instill fear in the population of the Netherlands, because prior to that the Nazis hadn’t been too harsh against the Dutch, with the exception of the Jewish citizens of course.

However there were several acts of bravery throughout the war.

Approximately 75% of all Jews in the Netherlands were murdered during the Holocaust, an estimated 105,000. This is the highest number per capita of all occupied countries. In retrospect it is easy to judge those who didn’t act, but unless you have been in a situation like that yourself, you can’t

It is true that many collaborated with the Nazis and some of them made a living out of it, additionally the Dutch had a very sophisticated and effective civil service, combined with very accurate and up to date records of all citizens. This of course did help the Nazis greatly.

Despite all of that there were thousands who helped their Jewish fellow citizens, in many ways, again facing severe punishments and even the death penalty if they were caught.

Yad Vashem puts the number of the Dutch ‘Righteous among the Nations’ on 5,851. This is also the highest number per capita of all righteous.

The Righteous Among the Nations, honored by Yad Vashem, are non-Jews who took great risks to save Jews during the Holocaust. Rescue took many forms and the Righteous came from different nations, religions and walks of life. What they had in common was that they protected their Jewish neighbors at a time when hostility and indifference prevailed.

One of these brave people was Pieter Bosboom.

Pieter (Piet) Bosboom was responsible for rescuing around 1,000 people, Jews as well as Allied airmen and other fugitives. He was born in Zaandam, North Holland, to a religious Calvinist mother and socialist father, from both of whom he got his deeply humanistic character. As the Nazis tightened their grip on power in Germany, Piet became involved in bringing illegal refugees over the border to Holland. He quickly learned “laundering” techniques to provide escapees with new identities and visas to third countries.

In May 1940, he began organizing Resistance cells in and around Zaandam and prepared the local community to host Jewish fugitives. In August 1943, the director of the Bergstichting, a home for wayward children, was warned of an impending raid.

The institution, which was run by a non-Jewish couple, the Reitsemas, was home to many Jewish children and counselors. The director turned to the Resistance group run by Piet and Marietje Overduin and hiding places were found for the Jews. Among those in danger was Ruth Donath (later Neuberger), an immigrant from Vienna whose entire family had been deported. She was determined to leave her fate to chance and refused to go into hiding. Piet did his utmost to persuade her to change her mind, although she pointed out that nobody would have her because of her Jewish looks. Ruth finally gave in and was found a hiding place in Friesland and survived the war.

On November 3, 1970, Yad Vashem recognized Pieter Bosboom as Righteous Among the Nations.

It would be easy to judge those who did nothing, but I prefer to honor those who did act, and let them be my example. Because although the war and the Holocaust maybe over, the ideology that was at the foundation of this is still around, For decades it has been simmering in the background but in recent times it has be coming more and more to show itself.

Love still lingers on but so does hate and if we give in to that hate, history will repeat itself.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/653/berg-stichting

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/about-the-righteous.html

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Cycling in WWII-The story of 2 cyclists, one hero, one traitor.

German troops invaded the Netherland in May 1940. The Nazi regime stayed in power in the the Netherlands until May 1945. Although the southern provinces had already been liberated in the autumn of 1944.

Despite the occupation, for many life went ahead as usual, at least to an extend. Sporting events were still allowed by the Nazi occupiers. I have often wondered why that was, but of course sports were ideal for propaganda purposes. It created an illusion to show the citizens that the Nazis weren’t all that bad. Also sports functioned as a distraction.

Cycling has always been popular in the Netherlands. Many Dutch still use the bicycle as their preferred means of transport. But also in a sporting sense it has always been popular and there have been many successful Dutch cyclists throughout the decades.

It is no wonder therefor that the Dutch continued to organizes cycling events like the Cauberg Criterium, which was an annual race in the most south Eastern part of the Netherlands , the province of Limburg, in the town of Valkenburg.

Two cyclists who would have competed in these races were Jan van Hout and Cor Wals.

Jan van Hout was a professional cyclist between 1933 and 1940. He was born in Valkenburg on October 17,1908.

He made quite a good living as a cyclist. With the money he earned as a cyclist he was able to but a pub in Eindhoven. When the Nazis occupied the Netherlands he closed his pub, he did not want to serve any drinks to the Nazis. He was a fervent anti Nazi. After he closed the pub Jan and his wife Anneke decided to join the Dutch resistance. They were involved in providing aid to refugees and people in hiding.

A few months before liberation Jan was arrested during a raid. He was sent to Neuengamme concentration camp where he died on February 22nd 1945.

Cor Wals was a Dutch cyclist, born February 26, 1911 in The Hague.

As early as 1931 Cor got contracts for the six-day races in Chicago and New York and made a name for himself as a six-day driver in the following years. Because of his unparalleled sense of balance, which stopped him from falling of the bike , he was nicknamed “Slingerplant” (Dutch: creeper). He took part in 39 races, of which he won seven, five of them with Jan Pijnenburg . In addition, he was three times Dutch master of the stayers(aka The pacemaker race, an endurance discipline of track cycling)

He was a fan favourite. However on July 21, 1941 during one of those stayers races, he took off his jacket and to the shock of the spectators ,they saw he was wearing a shirt with the SS symbol. He also gave the Hitler salute.

After winning the championship, he was whistled and booed during his lap of honor and cushions were thrown at him. He decided after that not to race again and to focus on a military career with the SS.

Initially he fought at the eastern front but he ended up working as a guard in several concentration camps. There was a rumour that he worked in Neuengamme when Jan van Hout was there, but this has never been verified.

After the war he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but he was released in 1952.

He opened up a clothes shop in Eindhoven . One day Anneke van Hout-Louwers walked into the shop to buy some clothes for her son, Cor chatted with Anneke and cupid struck. The couple got married. Anneke van Hout-Louwers was the widow of Jan van Hout, there was a public outrage about the newly married couple. People were disgusted that Anneke married a traitor. The couple moved to Belgium soon after, they returned to the Netherlands in 1981.

sources

https://www.nu.nl/sport/2415527/sser-won-nk.html

https://amp.de.googl-info.com/5381126/1/jan-van-hout.html

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A unique act of resistance

Nowadays we take it for greanted that we can coduct in peaceful protest, as a means to highlight our grievances.

However in Nazi occupied Amsterdam during World War 2 any form of protest could be and would be considered an act of resistancewhich could lead to being jailed and even death.

On August 5,1940 in order to preserve textile, the Dutch were given 100 textile points/ The measure was to last for 6 months. This would mean if you had spent the 100 points you could not get any news textiles, ie clothing etc.

40 of those points had to be used before November 1,1940 the remaining 60 points were to be used between November 1940 and February 1941. Additional to the points you still had to pay with regular money.

The picture above is of a man who had a novel way of protesting agasinst the measures, in order to show he had no longer any textile points he walked naked over the Leidsche Plein(Leidsche square) .

Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the man nor what happened to him. But I would like to salute him for his bravery because not only could this act of defiance cost him his life, the fact he walked around naked on a busy square is a brave act at any time.

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source

Paying the ultimate price for helping others.

Maastricht is one of my favourite cities. I grew up only about 10 miles away from it and would have visited it numerous times. It is, the most south eastern city in the Netherlands and is well known for its close proximity to Belgium and Germany. It is also the the home of violin virtuoso Andre Rieu and his Strauss Orchestra.

In Europe it is known for the treaty which was signed there on February 7,1992. It shaped the future of the EU.

But I am not going to talk about any of that. I want to add a name to the Maastricht narrative and would love it if in years to come people would say “Maastricht, oh yes that is the place where Derk van Assen and his wife Berendje are from”

Derk and Berendje van Assen were heroes in every sense of the word. They paid the ultimate price for helping their neighbours.

Derk was active in the underground resistance from the beginning of
the war, in May 1940. Initially without being part of an organised group, but later he joined the Versleyen group, a group of tax officials
within the L.O (National Organisation for help to those in hiding); he
was also a member of the Trouw group, the national Christian
resistance group.

In Derk’s Christian believes and humanist principles, all people were equal and he was prepared to risk everything to save the lives of Jews and others. Using his many talents Derk contributed during the war to illegal newspapers, organized national information networks and offered professional document forgers a place to work in his home. Derk and Berendje were friendly with Isidore and Frederika Schaap, who had come to Maastricht in 1939, together with their daughter Hetty. Isidore headed a branch of a Ladies fashion firm that was based in Rotterdam and Berendje was one of his customers.

The Shaap family had totally integrated; in the ways of the more the more Burgundian lifestyle of the southern Netherlands and sometimes they even went with Derk and Berendje to the Reformed Church on Sunday mornings.

In the summer of 1942, the Schaaps received orders to report for deportation ,Derk helped them find a place to hide. They spent their first couple of nights hiding with a family who owned an optician’s shop in Maastricht. During this time their identity cards were altered and the “J” removed, which gave them the freedom to travel with less risk. The next following day, the Schaap family took a train to Utrecht, to the home of one of Derk’s cousins. They soon moved to a family in Hillegom, South Holland, also relations of the van Assens. The Schaap family then had to split up Isidore and Frederika moved to Amsterdam, where they were later arrested.

The Police Commissioner of Maastricht had requested that Isidore Schaap and Frederika Roza Schaap-Kamerling, both residents of Maastricht, be located, detained and brought to trial. They were suspected of having changed their place of residence without the required authorization. This description referred to Jews who had gone into hiding.

On 26 July 1943 Derk was arrested in Maastricht after having been
under surveillance shadowed for some time by the SD (Sicherheitsdienst). The SD had recruited “Blonde Mien”, a resistance activist. Mien was tasked to gather information about Derk’s contacts, but before she could do so Derk was apprehended and incarcerated in the local prison. In this prison, Oberscharfuehrer Richard Nitsch interrogated Derk for seven weeks, during which time Derk’s colleagues were planning his escape. However, the authorities discovered the plot and to abort it Nitsch and two other SD men executed Derk in Horst, Limburg, on September 14, 1943.

In the meantime, Berendje was also arrested and imprisoned, first in
Maastricht, then in Haaren and finally in Vught. From there she was
deported to Camp Ravensbruck in Germany where she died on 2
February 1945.

Two heroes who gave their lives for others. After the war Derk and Berendje were decorated by the Air Chief
Marshall and Vice Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces for
“assistance to officers of the marine, land and air forces to escape
from imprisonment, or to avoid being taken prisoner by the enemy”.
On 6 September 1989 Derk van Assen and Berendina van Assen –
Grolleman were awarded the honorary title of Righteous among the
Nations by Yad Vashem.

Frederika Roza Schaap-Kamerling born Wildervank, 28 February 1894 – Murdered in Auschwitz, 28 January 1944.Reached the age of 49 years.

Isidore Schaap ,born Rotterdam, 24 April 1894 – murdered in Auschwitz, 8 April 1944. Reached the age of 49 years.

I could not find out what happened to their daughter Hetty.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/130959/isidore-schaap

https://www.tracesofwar.nl/sights/67272/Monument-Derk-van-Assen.htm

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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