Gabrielle Weidner-Forgotten Hero

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The more I do these WWII stories the more I realize how littIe I  actually know.. It was by chance I came across the name Gabrielle Weidner. Today when I tried to open a page on her it came up blank, just like my brain.I never heard of her or her brother Jean nor had I heard of the resistance group he had founded “Dutch-Paris” a group of Dutch,Belgian and French resistance fighters.

But this blog is about Gabrielle Weidner although she was Dutch she was born in Brussels, Belgium on  17 August 1914.

The second child born to a family that included her older brother Jean, and younger sister Annette. Her father was a minister who taught Greek and Latin at what is now Saleve Adventist University in Collonges, France, .

As a devoutly religious girl, she was living and doing church work for the Seventh-day Adventists in Paris at the outbreak of World War II. With the ensuing German occupation of France, she fled with her brother Jean , South to Lyon, in the unoccupied part of France. Following the 22 June 1940 signing of the agreement with the Nazis to create Vichy France, she returned to Paris while her brother went to Lyon where he established the “Dutch-Paris” underground.

In Paris, she resumed her work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, from which she secretly with the help of her brother and other volunteers coordinated escapes for Dutch-Paris. As a significant contributor to the French resistance she has been responsible for the rescue of at least 1,080 persons, including 800 Dutch Jews and more than 112 downed Allied airmen.

On February 26, 1944, the Gestapo arrested Ms. Weidner and was sent to Fresnes Prison.

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Ms. Weidner was forced to endure physical and mental torture at Fresnes prison in Paris. Shortly after she was moved to a Ravensbrück sub-camp where she passed away on February 17, 1945 due to malnutrition

 

Her arrest had come about after a female courier who against all rules carried a notebook with a great number of names of the resistance in it. After being tortured extensively the courier did succumb to pain and divulged the names.

On 24 May 1950, Gabrielle Weidner posthumously received the Dutch Cross of Resistance for her efforts in the war. On the Dutch Orry-la-Ville honorary cemetery (north of Paris), her name is recorded on a plaque dedicated to the Dutch resistors.

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Sources

Adventistreview.org

Raoulwallenberg.net

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The wooden shoes of Jan Smit-AKA Lt. Claude C. Murray jr.

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Every once in a while you encounter a story which puts you in conflict with yourself. You wonder “can I really tell the story?”

For me this is one of those stories. I am not going to use the word ‘Hate’ because that would be too harsh of s description, but I do really, really,really dislike Jan Smit, He is a Dutch ‘singer’ he would be the Dutch equivalent of Justin Bieber but with even less talent and even more annoying.

Thankfully the Jan Snit in this story is not that Jan Smit, but Lt. Claude C. Murray jr. pilot with the Eight Air Force.

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Claude C. Murray jr  born in Spokane,Washington USA. He graduated in November 1943 at  the Wiliams Field Army Advanced Flying School in Chandler, Arizona. He had enlisted after the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941.

During World War II he served with the 8th Air Force, 7th Photo Recon Group as a photo reconnaissance pilot, flying P-38s, assigned to Mount Farm, England.He was a crew member, 2nd Lieutenant,of “Dot & Dash” a well known aircraft within the 7 Photo Reconnaissance Group. This because it was used on the so called ‘shuttle missions’, trips from England, over Berlin, landing in Russia for fuel and back again. This until it was shot down by an Me-262 jet and came down in Lake IJsselmeer (Old Zuyder Sea), in the Netherlands.

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After a night at drift rolling along with the waves,  Claude C. Murray drifted ashore in his small rubber boat on the unmanned fortress island ‘Pampus’. He took a look in the abandoned bunkers and spend the night there, but left next morning in his dinghy again to the nearby mainland. Underway he encountered a small fishing boat with three young men inside: Jan Dobber, Jacob Dobber and Jan Bijl. He was handed over by them to resistance leader Joh. (Johannes) Rozendaal in Muiden. He spend a week there and received false papers with  the name ‘Jan Smit’. A deaf and dumb sales man

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In Naarden he was in hiding at Mrs. Dietz-Kluyver’s for 2 months until 15 December 1944. This was on the Paulus Potterlaan no. 35. Because the front line stabilized on the big rivers in the centre of Holland and could not be passed, the resistance had to hide Murray until liberation, that came on May 5, 1945. The last 5 months of hiding  was  at a farm in village Weesp. This was the farm of Gijs Regtuyt on the Korte Muidenweg C.34, where he wore wooden shoes with his new name on them.

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On the 9th of May 1945, Murray was brought to the villa of medical doctor Kruize in Blaricum. Here he met a group of other airmen in hiding and together they joined up with the Canadian troops. The others were 1Lt. John H. Quinn and 2Lt. Mel O. Simmons of B-24 42-95180 “Satans little Sister” 446 BG, crashed south in the Lake 21 November 1944 and Captain Gene Maddocks of B-24 42-51495 crashed in the Northeast Polder on 24 February 1945, Eddy Kryskov (RAF) and Captain Dick Jones (RCAF).

The irony is although the singer Jan Smit was born decades after this, there is some resemblance between the two!

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PS .Anyone who knows me. knows what a true sacrifice this is for me even to look at Jan Smit’s(the singer) face, as I said I am not a fan to put it mildly.

Claude C. Murray Jr died age 87 May 13, 2009, in Phoenix, Arizona

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The Dutch Jews who fought back

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In the Netherlands, the only pre-war group that immediately started resistance against the German occupation was the communist party. During the first two war years, it was by far the biggest resistance organization, much bigger than all other organizations put together. A major act of resistance was the organisation of the February strike in 1941, in protest against anti-Jewish measures.

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In this resistance, many Jews participated. About 1,000 Dutch Jews took part in resisting the Germans, and of those, 500 perished in doing so.

Among the first Jewish resisters was the German fugitive Ernst Cahn, owner of an ice cream parlor. Together with his partner, Kohn, he had an ammonia gas cylinder installed in the parlor to stave off attacks from the militant arm of the fascist NSB, the so-called “Weerafdeling”(“WA”). One day in February 1941 the German police forced their entrance into the parlor, and were gassed. Later, Cahn was caught and on March 3, 1941 he became the first civilian to be executed by a Nazi firing squad in the Netherlands.

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Benny Bluhm, a boxer, organized Jewish fighting parties consisting of members of his boxing school to resist attacks. One of these brawls led to the death of a WA-member, H. Koot, and subsequently the Germans ordered the first Dutch razzia (police raid) of Jews as a reprisal. That in turn led to the Februaristaking, the February Strike.

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Bluhm’s groupBluhm-Benny was the only Jewish group resisting the Germans in the Netherlands and the first active group of resistance fighters in the Netherlands. Bluhm survived the war, and strove for a monument for the Jewish resisters that came about two years after his death in 1986.

Numerous Jews participated in resisting the Germans. The Jewish director of the assembly center in the “Hollandsche Schouwburg”, a former theatre, Walter Süskind, was instrumental in smuggling children out of his centre. He was aided by his assistant Jacques van de Kar and the director of the nearby crèche, Mrs Pimentel.

Within the underground communist party, a militant group was formed: de Nederlandse Volksmilitie (NVM, Dutch Peoples Militia). The leader was Sally (Samuel) Dormits, who had military experience from guerrilla warfare in Brazil and participation in the Spanish Civil War.

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This organisation was formed in The Hague but became mainly located in Rotterdam. It counted about 200 mainly Jewish participants. They made several bomb attacks on German troop trains and arson attacks on cinemas, which were forbidden for Jews. Dormits was caught after stealing a handbag off a woman in order to obtain an identification card for his Jewish girlfriend, who also participated in the resistance. Dormits committed suicide in the police station by shooting himself through the head. From a cash ticket of a shop the police found the hiding place of Dormits and discovered bombs, arson material, illegal papers, reports about resistance actions and a list of participants. The Gestapo was warned immediately and that day two hundred people were arrested, followed by many more connected people in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam.

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The Dutch police participated in torturing the Jewish communists. After a trial more than 20 were shot to death; most of the others died in concentration camps or were gassed in Auschwitz. Only a few survived.

The trail left behind by Dormits also let ti the textile factory Hollandia Kattenburg where soem of the suspects were arrested and sentenced to death. Additionally 367 Jewish labourers of the factory were deported together with their families to Westerbork transit camp, in total there were 826 persons.

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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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The forged identity cards that saved lives.

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Most of the Holocaust related stories are bitter tragedies,however every once in a while a positive tale of survival during the world’s darkest era pops up.

On 8 October 1941, the Jewish cattle dealer Salli Schwarz narrowly escaped a roundup on Molenstraat in the town of Winterswijk,the Nerherlands.. Sneaking through backyard after backyard, he embarked on a journey that would last the rest of the war. Salli, followed by his wife Betty and daughter Ria, went from one hiding place to another.

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Sadly Ria could not stay with them, she had to be hidden elsewhere. Salli and Bettie left their daughter behind with the Resistance. Members of the Resistance provided them with ration coupons and fake I.D. cards, which were needed whenever they changed hiding places.

The members of the resistance would put their lives at risk for doing this. Being caught with false papers was punishable by death,leave alone creating them.

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Salli was given a false identification with the name Pieter de Graaf. Salli and Bettie survived the war and found Ria safe and sound in the care of a childless minister and his wife, with whom they kept in contact for many years.

 

Ernst Cahn- the Koco affair.

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Ernst Cahn, a German-Jewish refugee,son of Salomon Cahn and Rosa Katzenstein. He married in 1914 and had two children who survived the war.

He lived with his family from 1924-1928 in Amsterdam. In 1936 he returned to the Netherlands, to Huizen, from Germany because of the persecution of the Jews.

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Ernst Cahn co-owned ice-cream parlour Koco in the Van Woustraat in Amsterdam with business partner Alfred Kohn.They  were well liked by both Jews and gentiles of Amsterdam. After the Germans occupied the city, several customers purchased weapons for the owners and installed a 20-inch ammonia flask to the parlor wall to ward off unwanted visitors. When a German police patrol was sprayed with ammonia, a riot ensued. The event became known as the Koco affair.

On Wednesday, 19 February 1941, a patrol of the Nazi Ordnungspolizei carried out a raid on the ice-cream parlour. Inside, a bunch of heavies were waiting for them, as they had expected an attack by pro-Nazi Dutchmen. Ammonia was squirted from the ice-cream parlour. Ernst Cahn and Alfred Kohn were arrested and condemned by a Nazi court after they endured serious physical abuse in Amsterdam and in the penal barrack in Scheveningen’s prison.

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Despite being tortured ,Ernst Cahn did not divulge the name of the technician who had designed and installed the ammonia flask. Ernst Cahn was condemned to death. He was executed on 3 March 1941. Ernst Cahn was the first person in the Netherlands to die in front of a firing squad.Alfred Kohn died in Auschwitz in April 1945.

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The “Koco Affair” in Amsterdam instigated the Nazis’ first roundup of Dutch Jews. German troops entered the Jonas Daniel Meyer Square in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam on February 22, 1941.

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They arrested and physically abused approximately 400 Jews, most of whom were then deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

 

June Ravenhall- Forgotten Hero

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I often ask myself the question “Would I risk mu own life to save another?” and the honest answer is “I don’t know” I think I would but when it comes to it I don’t know.

However there are so many in History who asked themselves that same question. One of these brave souls was June Ravenhall.

Ravenhall was born Elsie June Stickley in 1901. She was a native of Kenilworth who moved to The Hague with her husband, Leslie Ravenhall, whom she married in 1925.The couple left Coventry for the Netherlands due to Les Ravenhall’s business, and started a business importing Coventry Eagle motorbikes.

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Their house and business were expropriated when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. As a British citizen, and since Britain was then in war with Germany, June’s husband was sent to a prison camp in Poland, and she relocated to Hilversum.

Mrs Ravenhall was approached by the Dutch Resistance and asked to hide a young Jewish journalist called Levi(Louis) Velleman. She agreed and he lived with the family for three years.

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When, in the summer of 1942, the first orders were issued for Jews of the Netherlands to report for “work in the East”, Levi Velleman, born in 1919 in Haarlem, was in a hospital in Hilversum (prov. North-Holland) with tuberculosis.
As not enough Jews did report, the Germans started to round up Jews. As Velleman was a well-known journalist and radio reporter in the Netherlands going by the less Jewish sounding name of Louis., he feared that he would be sought too. He thus turned to one of the physicians in the hospital who contacted the adjacent recuperation center asking if someone there could take him into hiding. June Ravenhall, who was living in the immediate vicinity of this center, came forward even though she had some initial hesitation to take in a person with a contagious disease. June had the lone responsibility for her three young teenage children after her husband Leslie had been arrested. Both originally from Britain, they had come to live in The Hague where Leslie had found a business opportunity importing motorbikes. Three days after the capitulation of the Netherlands in May 1940, Leslie was taken as a prisoner of war to a camp in Germany, where he remained until the liberation some five years later.

June gave Louis Velleman the room of her oldest daughter, where he stayed all the time. Since sunshine was considered favorable for healing, Louis sat in the garden when the weather was nice and June thought that there was no immediate danger. However, when the Germans learned that many Jews were in hiding in the town of Hilversum, many house searches were carried out, among them in the Ravenhall home. The Ravenhall children were well instructed to keep the Jew hunters delayed for awhile, so that Louis could get into his hiding area. Once he escaped by jumping out of a window at the back of the house. When the policeman found some men’s clothing and confronted June with it, she feared immediate arrest. It turned out that the policeman had only come to warn her of a pending house search.

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The winter of 1944-1945 was especially difficult in the western parts of the Netherlands, as food supplies from the rural eastern parts of the country were forcefully stopped by the occupier. Moreover, there was no electricity or gas. Many Dutch had to survive on flower bulbs and many more died of starvation. The Ravenhall family could not support an extra mouth, and thus Louis was taken to Wieger and Sijbrig Beks, living close-by, who were able to feed him. Once a week, Louis ate at the Beks: “I could eat in one day more than during the entire week with the Ravenhalls”.

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The Beks were heavily involved in a local resistance cell, among other things by delivering false identity papers to Jews in hiding in the area.
Louis Velleman survived the war thanks to June and the Beks. He stayed in touch with all until his passing in 2000.

 

April/May strike- Death Penalty

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On 29 April 1943, Wehrmachtbefehlshaber (Wehrmacht Commander) General Friedrich Christiansen announced that Dutch soldiers who had fought against the invading Germans in May 1940 would again be taken as prisoners of war and sent to Germany to work in factories and on the land.

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A wave of anger engulfed the country. A spontaneous protest strike broke out in the Stork Machinery Factory in Hengelo. This was followed by the so-called April-May Strikes that swept the rest of the country, except for some cities in the west of the Netherlands. SS and Police leader Hans Rauter tried to stop the action using violence: he instituted martial law.

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Twenty-year-old Jochum van Zwol from the village of Leens, who hadn’t even gone on strike himself, was the first to be summarily executed.

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He was shot in front of a firing squad on 1 May 1943 in Groningen and buried somewhere in an unmarked grave. When his worried father cycled to the city of Groningen a day later to look for his missing son, he encountered a group of men standing around this placard: an official announcement that his son had been executed by the German occupier.

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This massive act of resistance in the Netherlands ultimately resulted in 175 deaths.

 

Source: Stichting Oorlogs- en Verzetscentrum Groningen

Last words of Martin Zellermayer

43.-zellermayer002A planned sea crossing on 21 March 1942 of the  Austrian born Jewish Engelandvaarder (Lit. England-farer) Carl Martin Zellermayer and eight others failed because they were betrayed. In the ferry boss’ house in the Dutch harbour village of Simonshaven they awaited nightfall. Once it was dark, they could embark on their journey to England. But before that happened, the Germans surrounded the house and arrested the would-be Engelandvaarders.

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Zellermayer was executed by the Germans on 15 August 1942. A few hours before his sentence was to be carried out he wrote this letter to his fiancée Annie Koningsbrugge.

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His farewell letter begins: ‘I was just informed that my death sentence is confirmed and will be carried out this very afternoon at ½ 3. So I have just 4½ hours to live and then I must die.”

Below is a picture of the death notification of Carl Martin Zellermayer in the  Jewish weekly newspaper, which ran from the 11th of April until the 28th of September of 1943 by the Jewish council in the Netherlands but was under censorship by the German occupiers.

I don’t know what happened to the brother of Martin Zellermayer ,who placed the notification on the 19th of August 1942.

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Han en Willem Peteri WWII Canoe journey to England

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During the war around 1700 Dutch men and women who tried to reach freedom in England, over land or by sea, were given the honorary name: Engelandvaarders (Lit. England-farers). They hoped to actively take part in the Allied struggle against the Germans. Two brothers, Han and Willem Peteri, managed to escape from the occupied Netherlands in this canoe.

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On 19 September 1941, in the pitch darkness, they pushed their canoe into the North Sea near the Dutch town of Katwijk.

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It almost went wrong: in the breaking waves the canoe filled with water. But they remained calm, emptied the canoe and embarked on the crossing – with only one compass aboard. After fifty-six hours of paddling they arrived on the beach in the small village of Sizewall England. Han joined the Dutch Marines and Willem enlisted in the British Navy. Both survived the war.

 

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Of the thirty-two people who embarked on this dangerous crossing by canoe, the information available indicates that only eight made it to England. Some drowned; others were intercepted by the German patrols. Such as the Engelandvaarder Dick van Swaay who was found in May 1942 on the beach with a noose around his neck