Operation Bernhard


This story had all the makings of a great spy movie and no wonder that in 2007 ,film director Stefan Ruzowitzky made the movie “The Counterfeiters” which won the Oscar for best movie in a foreign Language.

Operation Bernhard was the name of a secret German plan devised during World War II to destabilise the British economy by flooding the country with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes, which was named after the SS officer who ran it.

Only a fortnight after the start of World War II, at a meeting that has remained a secret for more than half a century, officials of German finance and Nazi espionage approved an audacious plot to bring down the world’s financial system. Hundreds of millions of forged British pounds were to become a weapon of war. Operation Bernhard not only became the greatest counterfeit scheme in history but the most wide-ranging and bizarre, with its own gallery of rogues.

It  was the code-name of a secret Nazi plan devised  by the RSHA (Reich Main Security Office)  and the SS to destabilize the British economy via economic warfare by flooding the global economy and the British Empire with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes.

It was the largest counterfeiting operation in the history of economic warfare, and the first that employed the full technical/scientific and management expertise of a sovereign state to produce and deploy bogus currency with the aim of destabilizing an enemy belligerent’s economic standing with its allies, as well as its acceptance by neutral powers.

Britain was especially vulnerable because its war effort was founded upon – and sustained by – its global and Imperial economy. That economy was built upon directly-ruled colonial possessions, self-governing Commonwealth Dominions and the Empire’s currency zone, the Sterling Preference Area. These worked in commerce with neutral powers to acquire the manpower and material necessary to fight a global war. Each of these trading partners accepted the British currency for the exchange of goods and services and maintained their own reserves of it for transactions with, and within the Empire. Confidence in the integrity of this (then global) currency, both in and outside of the Sterling Preference Area, was essential to sustaining the vitality of the Empire, and through it, the war effort.

Major Bernhard Krueger, a meticulously correct SS engineer, ran a production line of Jewish prisoners in Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. The millions of forged notes they printed were laundered through a Nazi confidence man with the help of Jewish agents who concealed their origins. Toward the end, one of Europe ‘s most accomplished professional forgers, the only career criminal in the operation, was brought in to counterfeit dollar bills.

In London, the arrogant grandees at the Bank of England could not believe their pound notes could be forged with such expertise and in such quantity. In one of the crowning ironies of many, after the war Golda Meir protected a millionaire Jewish money-launderer from British authorities in what was then known as Palestine.


The plan was to destabilize the British economy during the war by dropping the notes from aircrafts, on the assumption that most Britons would collect the money and spend it, thus triggering inflation. This scheme was not put into effect: it was postulated that the Luftwaffe did not have enough aircraft to deliver the forgeries, and by that time the operation was in the hands of SS foreign intelligence. From late 1943, approximately one million notes per month were printed. Many were transferred from SS headquarters to a former hotel near Meran in South Tyrol, Northern Italy, from where they were laundered and used to pay for strategic imports and German secret agents operating in Allied countries. It has been rumoured that counterfeit currency was used to finance the rescue of Benito Mussolini in 1943.

The plot was hatched in Berlin on September 18, 1939, behind the imposing stone facade of what had once been Kaiser Wilhelm’s Finance Ministry. Walther Funk, a pudgy former financial journalist whose principal task was keeping German industry in Hitler’s camp, was the only one to register the least objection because he feared the counterfeit notes would upset his task of milking Hitler’s conquered territories. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, was not present but feared the “grotesque plan” might be turned against Germany ‘s own fragile finances by the Allies. In fact, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt toyed with the idea of counterfeiting enemy currency but their advisers rejected it.

Nevertheless, the second-rate minds of Nazi espionage believed they could weaken the pound as the trading standard and store of value underpinning the British Empire. Bullies and incompetents were at first put in charge of the operation. After several false starts, Krueger, a textile engineer, figured out how to match the paper, printing, and design of the impressive British notes. He found his forgers in Jewish death camps on the orders of SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler.


Krüger set up a team of 142 counterfeiters from among inmates at Sachsenhausen concentration camp at first, and then from others, especially Auschwitz. Beginning in 1942, the work of engraving the complex printing plates, developing the appropriate rag-based paper with the correct watermarks, and breaking the code to generate valid serial numbers was extremely difficult, but by the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, the printing press there had produced 8,965,080 banknotes with a total value of £134,610,810. The notes are considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being extremely difficult although not impossible to distinguish from the real thing Some were plucked from Auschwitz by Krueger himself, who courteously addressed them with the formal German Sie.

The SS planned to keep the operation secret by killing them when the job was done. The prisoners worked with the knowledge that they were marked for death when they had finished their jobs. ” From the start, they wondered whether they should stretch out their work and risk execution for sabotage, or perform efficiently and thus hasten their own deaths. No one ever knew for sure where Krueger stood, but by keeping the operation going, he kept himself from being sent to the Russian front. What all these men said and thought as they lived under this sword of Damocles makes chilling, personal drama.

The pound counterfeiting operation ended in 1944. Not wanting to go to the Eastern Front, and mindful of the fate of the concentration camp prisoners in his employ if his factory were closed, Krüger succeeded in establishing a new operation to forge American dollar notes. Instructing his workers to work as slowly as possible, he managed to stall the operation until the war ended, permitting the prisoners to be liberated after they were transferred to camps in Austria in May 1945.

One of the forgers, Adolf Burger survived the war and stated that “Major Krüger was in no way like Oskar Schindler. He was a murderer just like everyone else, six weeks before the war ended he had six people shot just because they were sick. He couldn’t send them to hospital in case they said something about the operation, so he killed them.”

After the war, Major Krüger was detained by the British for two years, then turned over to the French for a year.


He said they asked him to forge documents but that he refused. He was released in 1948 without any charges being pressed, and returned to Germany. In the 1950s, he went before a denazification court, where inmates under his charge at Sachsenhausen provided statements that resulted in his acquittal. He eventually worked for the company that had produced the special paper for the Operation Bernhard forgeries. He died in 1989.

Following the evacuation of Sachsenhausen, the counterfeiting team was transferred to Redl-Zipf in Austria, a subsidiary camp of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. At the beginning of May 1945, the team was ordered to transfer again, this time to the Ebensee subsidiary camp where they were to be killed together. Their SS guards, however, had only one truck for their prisoners, so the transfer required three round trips. The truck broke down during the third trip, and the last batch of prisoners had to be marched to Ebensee where they arrived on May 4. The guards of the first two batches of prisoners fled when the prisoners at the Ebensee camp revolted and refused to be moved into tunnels where they would have probably been blown up. The counterfeiters then dispersed among the prisoners at Ebensee. The delayed arrival of the third batch therefore saved the lives of all. As a result of the order that all the counterfeiters be exterminated together, none were actually killed.

The Ebensee camp was liberated by US forces on May 6, 1945. One of the prisoners, the Jewish Slovak printer-turned-counterfeiter Adolf Burger, later contributed to the awareness of Operation Bernhard with several versions of his memoirs published in the languages of Central Europe and in Persian.


It is believed that most of the notes produced ended up at the bottom of Lake Toplitz near Ebensee from where they were recovered by divers in 1959, but examples continued to turn up in circulation in Britain for many years, which caused the Bank of England to withdraw all notes larger than £5 from circulation, and not reintroduce the denominations until the early 1960s (£10), 1970 (£20), and 1980 (£50).


It is also rumoured there is quite a substantial amount of Nazi gold in the depth of Lake Toplitz. A few years ago an Austrian farmer and one of his family members played a prank on a local town councilor. He claimed that he had found a box full of gold bars which he and his friend had found whilst diving in the lake. He had actually just painted a few bricks gold and had forged a Nazi stamp.

The area still sees a lot of tourists and divers who hope that one day they will find the real’mythical gold’ which was dumped in the lake.


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Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema-Soldier of Orange

Today marks the 77th anniversary of Queen Wilhelmina arriving in the United Kingdom to take charge of the Dutch Government in Exile.

Koningin_Wilhelmina_Radio_Oranje_IIInitially I wanted to do a piece on that event but rather then focusing on the Queen, I decided to focus on Adjudant to the Queen,Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema.

Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema(3 April 1917 – 26 September 2007) was a Dutch wartime RAF-pilot, Dutch spy and writer.


Acclaimed in the Netherlands as one of the nation’s greatest World War II heroes.He was a Knight 4th class of the Military William Order and also received a Distinguished Flying Cross.

In the Netherlands he became famous as the writer of the 1970 book Soldaat van Oranje(Dutch: Soldier of Orange, also know as Survival Run) in which he describes his experiences in World War II, and which was made into a 1977 film directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring Rutger Hauer.

Hazelhoff was born in Surabaya, on Java in the Netherlands East Indies (now Indonesia), the son of Siebren Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema, senior, and Cornelia Vreede. His family moved to The Hague in the 1930s, and then Wassenaar. He travelled to the US in 1938, writing a book of his experiences in 1939, Rendezvous in San Francisco.

When the war broke out, Hazelhoff, was a law student at Leiden University, enjoying life to the full and keeping study to a minimum. As war loomed, he joined the army reserve. The university catered mostly for an upper and middle-class elite and stoutly opposed the German invasion. After the country was overrun, students seized a train loaded with supplies that was destined for the occupation administration and held a wild party, dressed up in stolen Nazi uniforms. However, the fun did not last long. The Germans closed the university.

Hazelhoff  managed to escape to the United Kingdom as a crew member aboard the SS St. Cergue, a Swiss merchant ship in June 1941, together with Bram van der Stok, Peter Tazelaar, Gerard Volkersz. and Toon Buitendijk

(No pictures available of Gerard Volkersz. and Toon Buitendijk)

In London, Hazelhoff Roelfzema, with the help of general François van ‘t Sant, director of the Dutch CID (Central Intelligence Service) and Col. Euan Rabagliati (Secret Intelligence Service) set up a secret service group known as the Mews, after Chester Square Mews where they lived in London.

The goal was to establish a contact with the Resistance in the Netherlands. Several agents were parachuted, others were put ashore at the beaches of Noordwijk and Scheveningen. Their actions included dropping off broadcast equipment for the Dutch resistance at the Dutch coast and also pick up people from occupied Netherlands, who were needed in the UK. They would motor gun boats from the UK Royal Navy to get as close to the coast as possible and use row boats for the last bit of the journey.Motor_Gun_Boat_314

Roelfzema did not receive much cooperation from the Dutch government.

The Mews was subsumed into the CID, the official Dutch central intelligence department, eventually led by Colonel MR de Bruyne.

de bruyne

This combined the SIS-style function of intelligence gathering with the SOE one of sabotage. The two elements were later separated and, later still, recombined, and the CID and its components passed through a series of not always competent chiefs and sets of initials.

De Bruyne did not do a good job. He failed to recognize the fact that his agents were arrested and continued to broadcast messages – for the Germans. The usual procedure for transmitting messages was to include small errors. If an agent was forced to work for the Germans, he would leave out the errors. The result should be that contact was aborted immediately. De Bruyne, however, concluded that the agents simply forgot to use the security-checks and even sent messages to remind them. Other intelligence blunders were the maps he had attached to the wall in his London office, showing the landing sites of Noordwijk, Scheveningen and Walcheren in full detail.

Hazelhoff, strong-willed and outspoken, often fell out with de Bruyne. The colonel threatened to have him court martialled for insubordination in summer 1942, but he was saved by the award of the William order, the Netherlands’ highest decoration. Ultimately, the impatient Hazelhoff became disenchanted with the infighting and joined the air force as a pilot in 1944..

He returned to England in 1944, and joined No. 139 Squadron RAF, part of the elite Pathfinder Force, tasked with illuminating targets for the night bombers of RAF Bomber Command. He made 72 sorties in Mosquito bombers, of which 25 went to Berlin, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.


In April 1945, Hazelhoff Roelfzema was appointed adjudant (assistant) to Queen Wilhelmina.


He accompanied her back to the Netherlands in May 1945, and piloted the airplane in which Princess Juliana, Prince Bernhard and their daughters Princess Beatrix and Princess Irene flew back to the Netherlands. Hazelhoff Roelfzema helped Beatrix walk her first steps on liberated Dutch soil.

Hazelhoff Roelfzema led a fairly restless life after the war, including a stint in Hollywood as an actor and then a writer. During the 1950s he worked as a writer for NBC’s Today Show and Tonight Show in New York City. He later wrote for Dutch newspapers. He was appointed director of Radio Free Europe in Munich in 1956. Later he was involved in a failed attempt by the CIA to support the South Moluccas Republic’s bid for independence from the rule of Indonesian dictator Sukarno He was involved in the creation of Racing Team Holland, attracting sponsors using his fame. His book Soldier of Orange (Soldaat van Oranje), published in 1970, relates his adventures during the war and the political turmoil of the Dutch government in exile. It attracted a lot of attention, even more so when it was made into a film by Paul Verhoeven in 1977, starring Rutger Hauer as Hazelhoff Roelfzema. The film brought Verhoeven, Hauer and Hazelhoff Roelfzema to wider public attention outside the Netherlands, and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

In 1980, Hazelhoff Roelfzema played a ceremonial role as one of two kings of arms at the coronation of Queen Beatrix. He was close to Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, whom he entertained frequently at his home in Maui.

He moved to Hawaii in early 1973, and joined energy company Barnwell Industries Inc. as a director in 1977. He wrote a second autobiography, In Pursuit of Life, in 2000. He died on 26 September 2007 at his home in Āhualoa near Honokaa, on the Island of Hawaii, at the age of 90.He was survived by his wife, Karin Steensma, daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter and great grandson.

His ashes were brought to the monument “Voor hen die vielen-for those who fell” in Wassenaar.

In November 2015, it became known from the upcoming biography of François van’t Sant , a trusted advisor to Queen Wilhelmina, that Hazelhoff Roelfzema together with others had planned a coup in 1947 to overthrow the democratically elected Dutch government out of disagreement with the Linggadjati Agreement, an accord between the Dutch government and the unilaterally declared Republic of Indonesia recognizing Republican rule over major parts of Indonesia under the Dutch crown.


The Other Hitlers

I will only be highlighting 2 other Hitlers .Alois Hitler Sr ,Father of Adolf and Heinrich (Heinz) Hitler ,nephew of Adolf.

The name Hitler should actually never have existed. Alois Hitler, Sr. (born Alois Schicklgruber; 7 June 1837 – 3 January 1903)

Born 7 June 1837, Alois Schicklgruber was the son of a 42-year-old unmarried farmhand by the name of Maria Anna Schicklgruber. The identity of his father remains uncertain: on Alois’s birth certificate the space for the father’s name was left blank and the word illegitimate was scrolled across the certificate.

When he was five-years-old, Alois’s mother married Johann Georg Hiedler. Five years later, following his mother’s death, the 10-year-old Alois went to live with his stepfather’s brother, his uncle, Johann Nepomuk Hiedler.

At the age of 13 he left the farm in Spital and went to Vienna as an apprentice cobbler, working there for about five years. In response to a recruitment drive by the Austrian government offering employment in the civil service to people from rural areas, Alois joined the frontier guards (customs service) of the Austrian Finance Ministry in 1855 at the age of 18.

As a rising young junior customs official, he used his birth name of Schicklgruber, but in mid-1876, 39 years old and well established in his career, he asked permission to use his stepfather’s family name. He appeared before the parish priest in Döllersheim and asserted that his father was Johann Georg Hiedler, who had married his mother and now wished to legitimize him.


Three relatives appeared with him as witnesses, one of whom was Johann Nepomuk, Hiedler’s brother. The priest agreed to amend the birth certificate, the civil authorities automatically processed the church’s decision and Alois Schicklgruber had a new name. The official change, registered at the government office in Mistelbach in 1877 transformed him into “Alois Hitler”. It is not known who decided on the spelling of Hitler instead of Hiedler. Johann Georg’s brother was sometimes known by the surname Hüttler.

Alois Schicklgruber openly admitted having been born out of wedlock before and after the name change. Alois may have been influenced to change his name for the sake of legal expediency. Historian Werner Maser claims that in 1876, Franz Schicklgruber, the administrator of Alois’ mother’s estate, transferred a large sum of money (230 gulden) to him.

Supposedly, Johann Georg Hiedler, who died in 1857, relented on his deathbed and left an inheritance to his illegitimate stepson (Alois) together with his name.Some Schicklgrubers remain in Waldviertel.

He was married 3 times. His first wife in 1873 to Anna Glassl, 14 years his senior. In 1880, Alois and Anna separated and Alois set up home with Fanni, 24 years his junior. But, as a Catholic, Alois was not permitted to divorce. Fanni bore him his first child, Alois Junior, out of wedlock. His wife Anna conveniently died in 1883 and within a month Alois and Fanni were married. A daughter, Angela, was born two months later. But within a year, in August 1884, Fanni had died of a lung disorder, aged only 23.

Almost immediately, following his second wife’s death, Alois made his 16-year-old household servant, Klara Pölzl, pregnant. Klara was also his cousin (once removed), and Alois had to apply to the church for permission to marry his pregnant relation, 23 years his junior.

With the necessary permission, Alois Hitler married Klara, his third wife, in January 1885. Four months later, their first child, Gustav, was born and Ida, a second child, a year later. In 1887, Klara gave birth to Otto but the child lived for only three days. Further tragedy was soon to follow with the deaths of both Gustav and Ida within weeks of each other.

Six months after the death of her third child, Klara was pregnant again. Although sickly, this child, born Easter Saturday, 20 April 1889, lived. They named him Adolf.


On the morning of 3 January 1903, Hitler went to the Gasthaus Wiesinger (No.1 Michaelsbergstrasse, Leonding) as usual to drink his morning glass of wine. He was offered the newspaper and promptly collapsed. He was taken to an adjoining room and a doctor was summoned, but Alois Hitler died at the inn, probably from a pleural hemorrhage. Adolf Hitler, who was 13 when his father died, says in Mein Kampf that he died of a “stroke of apoplexy”.

Heinrich Hitler (nickname Heinz; 14 March 1920 – 21 February 1942) was the son of Alois Hitler, Jr. and his second wife Hedwig Heidemann and the nephew of German dictator Adolf Hitler.

When World War II started he joined the Wehrmacht and served on the eastern front, where he was captured and died in prison in 1942.

Unlike his half-brother William Patrick Hitler, whom Adolf reportedly called “my loathsome nephew”.

MoS2 Template Master


Heinz was a strong Nazi and his uncle’s favorite. He attended an elite Nazi military academy, the National Political Institutes of Education (Napola) in Ballenstedt/Saxony-Anhal. Aspiring to be an officer, Heinz joined the Wehrmacht as a signals NCO with the 23rd Potsdamer Artillery Regiment in 1941, and he participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa. On January 10, 1942, he was sent to recover communications equipment from a forward position. This was one of the things that worried Adolf Hitler, who did not want his nephew to serve on the front line because of the risk of death. Heinz never returned. He was sent to retrieve radio equipment from near the front lines where he was captured by the Soviet Union January 10. He was sent to VIP Russian prison camp Butyrka where he was tortured to death.

On 10 January 1942, he was ordered to collect radio equipment from an army post. He was captured by Soviet forces and was tortured to death at the Butyrka military prison in Moscow, aged 21.

Former classmate Hans-Wolf Werner describes how he benefitted from his family connection with Adolf Hitler:

“One of the lads had a car. They tore through Magdeburg without a license. The police stopped them and he showed his ID “Heinz Hitler” [and] the police just saluted and let them drive on (laughs).”

Isn’t it funny that a name which really only came about by a clerical error did become synonymous with the most evil ever committed.

Bataan Death March


The Bataan Death March was the forcible transfer from Saisaih Pt. and Mariveles to Camp O’Donnell by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60,000–80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war which began on April 9, 1942, after the three-month Battle of Bataan in the Philippines during World War II.About 2,500–10,000 Filipino and 100–650 American prisoners of war died before they could reach their destination.

The reported death tolls vary, especially among Filipino POWs, because historians cannot determine how many prisoners blended in with the civilian population and escaped. The march went from Mariveles, Bataan, to San Fernando, Pampanga. From San Fernando, survivors were loaded to a box train and were brought to Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.


The 60 mi (97 km) march was characterized by occasional severe physical abuse. It was later judged by an Allied military commission to be a Japanese war crime.


The day after Japan bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese invasion of the Philippines began. Within a month, the Japanese had captured Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and the American and Filipino defenders of Luzon (the island on which Manila is located) were forced to retreat to the Bataan Peninsula. For the next three months, the combined U.S.-Filipino army held out despite a lack of naval and air support. Finally, on April 9, with his forces crippled by starvation and disease, U.S. General Edward King Jr. (1884-1958), surrendered his approximately 75,000 troops at Bataan.


Starting on April 9, 1942, prisoners were stripped of their weapons and valuables, and told to march to Balanga, the capital of Bataan. Some were beaten, bayoneted, and otherwise horribly mistreated. The first major atrocity occurred when approximately 350 to 400 Filipino officers and NCOs were summarily executed near the Pantingan river after they had surrendered.A recent historian has dismissed the Pantingan massacre, (in acceptance of General Homma’s defense counsel’s argument that no bodies were ever found), however, the bodies were disinterred in mid-1946, well after the conclusion of Homma’s trial. This massacre has been attributed to Japanese army officer, Masanobu Tsuji, who acted against General Homma’s wish that the prisoners be transferred peacefully. Tsuji intended to kill many of the prisoners, and he gave orders to this end.


The American and Filipino forces fought from an untenable position until formally surrendering to the Japanese on April 9. The Japanese immediately began to march some 76,000 prisoners (12,000 Americans, the remainder Filipinos) northward into captivity along a route of death. When three American officers escaped a year later, the world learned of the unspeakable atrocities suffered along the 60-mile journey that became known as the Bataan Death March.

Japanese butchery, disease, exposure to the blazing sun, lack of food, and lack of water took the lives of approximately 5,200 Americans along the way. Many prisoners were bayoneted, shot, beheaded or just left to die on the side of the road.

US Soldier waiting

“A Japanese soldier took my canteen, gave the water to a horse, and threw the canteen away,” reported one escapee. “The stronger were not permitted to help the weaker. We then would hear shots behind us.” The Japanese forced the prisoners to sit for hours in the hot sun without water. “Many of us went crazy and several died.”

The ordeal lasted five days for some and up to twelve days for others. Although the Japanese were unprepared for the large number of prisoners in their care, the root of the brutality lay in the Japanese attitude that a soldier should die before surrender. A warrior’s surrender meant the forfeiture of all rights to treatment as a human being.

POWs received little food or water, and some died along the way from heat or exhaustion.Some POWs drank water from filthy water buffalo wallows on the side of the road. Some Japanese troops, products of a culture that prized order above all, lost control during the chaos that defined the March and beat or bayoneted prisoners who began to fall behind, or were unable to walk. Some POWs, however, were allowed water and several hundred rode to Camp O’Donnell in trucks.Once the surviving prisoners arrived in Balanga, the overcrowded conditions and poor hygiene caused dysentery and other diseases to rapidly spread. The Japanese failed to provide the prisoners with medical care, leaving U.S. medical personnel to tend to the sick and wounded (with few or no supplies).

Trucks drove over some of those who fell or succumbed to fatigue,and “cleanup crews” put to death those too weak to continue, though some trucks picked up some of those too fatigued to continue. Some marchers were randomly stabbed by bayonets or beaten.

From San Fernando, the prisoners were transported by rail to Capas. At least 100 prisoners were pushed into each of the trains’ un-ventilated boxcars, which were sweltering in the tropical heat. The trains had no sanitation facilities, and disease continued to take a heavy toll on the prisoners. After they reached Capas, they were forced to walk the final 9 miles to Camp O’Donnell Even after arriving at Camp O’Donnell, the survivors of the march continued to die at rates of up to several hundred per day, which amounted to a death toll of as many as 20,000 Filipino and American deaths.Most of the dead were buried in mass graves that the Japanese had dug behind the barbed wire surrounding the compound.


A complete mortality rate of the march is difficult to pin down because although captives were able to escape from their guards, many were killed during their escapes. Most significantly, it is not accurately documented how many anonymous soldiers were disposed of by massive burials and other general Japanese “clean up” strategies.

It was not until January 27, 1944, that the U.S. government informed the American public about the march, when it released sworn statements of military officers who had escaped from the march.Shortly thereafter the stories of these officers were featured in a LIFE magazine article. The Bataan Death March and other Japanese actions were used to arouse fury in the United States

General George Marshall made the following statement about the march:

These brutal reprisals upon helpless victims evidence the shallow advance from savagery which the Japanese people have made. […] We serve notice upon the Japanese military and political leaders as well as the Japanese people that the future of the Japanese race itself, depends entirely and irrevocably upon their capacity to progress beyond their aboriginal barbaric instincts.

In an attempt to counter the American propaganda value of the march, the Japanese had The Manila Times claim that the prisoners were treated humanely and their death rate had to be attributed to the intransigence of the American commanders who did not surrender until their men were on the verge of death.


America avenged its defeat in the Philippines with the invasion of the island of Leyte in October 1944. General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), who in 1942 had famously promised to return to the Philippines, made good on his word. In February 1945, U.S.-Filipino forces recaptured the Bataan Peninsula, and Manila was liberated in early March.

After the war, a U.S. military tribunal was established and charged Lieutenant General Homma Masaharu for the atrocities committed during the Bataan Death March. Homma had been the Japanese commander in charge of the Philippines invasion and had ordered the evacuation of the prisoners of war from Bataan.


Homma accepted responsibility for his troops’ actions even though he himself never ordered such brutality. The tribunal found him guilty.

On April 3, 1946, Homma was executed by firing squad in the town of Los Banos in the Philippines.




Forgotten History-Irish WWII Losses

Even though Ireland was a neutral country during WWII it didn’t escape the war completely unscathed.

It was especially it’s mercantile marine which was affected by the German Navy.

Ireland, unlike the majority of more recent independent nations, made no attempt to encourage the development of her own mercantile marine. Each year the fleet declined: from 127 in 1923, until in September 1939 they had only 56 ships flying the Irish flag, none ocean-going, all designed for the short sea trades.


This tiny fleet increased with the formation of Irish Shipping Ltd. in March 1941 when, under great difficulty, 15 ocean-going dry cargo ships were purchased or chartered.

16 Ships were lost in unprovoked actions. I will not be talking  about all 16 but I will focus to the ones which were registered in my hometown of Limerick.

The City of Limerick


City of Limerick was the first Irish ship to be sunk by German aircraft in World War Two. Owned by Palgrave Murphy Ltd. and commanded by Captain Robert Ferguson she departed Cartagena, Spain for Liverpool in early July 1940. At 8 a.m. on 15th July, when 100 miles west of Ushant, she was attacked from astern by an aircraft with machine-gun fire. As the plane roared overhead it dropped a stick of bombs which hit the ship but failed to explode. It returned for another attack and this time two men were killed. The ship was now stopped and disabled and the captain gave the order to abandon her. As the crew pulled away in lifeboats more German planes appeared and following further attacks the ship sank. After a cold night in the boats the survivors were rescued next day by a Belgian trawler and landed at Penzance, Cornwall.



On 4 Sep, 1940, the un-escorted and neutral Luimneach (Master Eric Septimus Jones) was stopped by U-46 with two shots across her bow west-southwest of the Scilly Isles and was sunk at 20.00 hours by gunfire. There are differences in the accounts given by the captains. Endrass claimed that Capt Eric Jones and his crew “lost their heads completely” with one man jumping into the water, at the shot across the bows by his U-boat. But Jones was an experienced captain. The Luimneach had survived twelve aerial attacks during the Spanish Civil War. He took the ship’s papers with him and they are now in the Dublin Public Records Office. Following an inquiry, on 4 March 1941, Dönitz concluded that the U-boat acted correctly in sinking an “abandoned ship”. Endrass did not converse with the Luimneach, who were of the opinion that he was Italian. Endrass said that the flag was “British or Irish”. There were two lifeboats, One was picked up by a Spanish trawler and brought to Spain. The other was picked up by a French trawler. Those landed in France were detained by the Nazis. Two of the crew were British and were imprisoned. The Chief Officer, from Belfast, also had British papers, but because of his advanced age was allowed to live in Paris. The Second Engineer was Dutch and was allowed to go to Antwerp. The remainder returned to Ireland via Portugal.

The Crew

Captain E. Jones, Wales Captain’s Boat Returned
Chief Officer J McKelvey Belfast Mate’s Boat Paris
Second Officer C. Meriditt, Dublin; Captain’s Boat Returned
Chief Engineer R. Spence, Dublin; Captain’s Boat Returned
Second Engineer H. Madsen Antwerp Mate’s Boat Antwerp
Cook S. Tice, London; Captain’s Boat Returned
Steward R. Wilkes, London; Captain’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman A. Robert­son, Limerick; Captain’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman B. Quirk, Kilmore Quay, Captain’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman M. Carrol, Dungarvan Captain’s Boat died
Able Seaman J Moran Tarbet, Kerry Mate’s Boat Returned
Able Seaman M Curran Tarbet, Kerry Mate’s Boat Returned
Fireman M McCarthy Tarbet, Kerry Mate’s Boat Returned
Fireman L O’Neill, Glasgow; Captain’s Boat Returned
Fireman E. Richards Bristol Mate’s Boat imprisoned
Fireman N. Bartello Malta Mate’s Boat imprisoned
Fireman T. Conway Dublin Mate’s Boat Returned
Fireman John. Confrey Dun Laoghaire Mate’s Boat Returned



Notes on event At 23.31 hours on 22 August 1941, U-564 fired a salvo of four torpedoes at the convoy OG-71 west of Aveiro, Portugal and observed four different detonations and three columns of fire, later lifeboats were seen. Suhren thought that he had sunk two ships and damaged two others. However, only two ships were hit and sunk, the Empire Oak and Clonlara.

The Clonlara (Master Joseph Reynolds) had picked up 13 survivors from Alva on 19 August. The master, ten crew members and nine survivors were lost. Eight crew members and five survivors were picked up by HMS Campion(LtCdr A. Johnson, RNVR) and landed at Gibraltar on 24 August.




Kyleclare was built at Dundee in 1932 for the Limerick Steam Ship Company and up to the outbreak of the war mainly traded from ports in the west of Ireland to Liverpool. The morning of 21st February 1943 saw her departing Lisbon for Dublin as she steamed down the Tagus and into the Atlantic. Two days later she had made good progress northwards and was at 48 50 north, 12 20 west when sighted by U-456 (Kapitanleutnant Max Teichert).


He manoeuvred into attack position; wind was south-south-west, force 3, sea smooth, gentle swell, good visibility. He later claimed that he had not seen Kyleclare ’s neutrality markings as she was so low in the water, listing to starboard and his periscope was awash. From a distance of 500 metres he fired a fan of three torpedoes. The moment of firing was logged; 2.38 p.m. Central European Time, 23 February 1943. As the torpedoes left the tubes, the submarine rose higher in the water and at that instance Teichert saw the double inscription EIRE on the ship’s side. Seconds later a double explosion echoed throughout the submarine. He proceeded to the position of the sinking but found nothing except wreckage; Kyleclare had disintegrated in a massive cloud of brown smoke. Eighteen Irish lives were blasted into eternity with her.

The crew that perished at sea

Barry, Edward, Wexford Morgan, John, Dublin
Brannock, Patrick, Dublin Mooney, Daniel, Dublin
Brady, Thomas, Galway O’Brien, L., Dublin
deBurca, Diarmuid, Dublin O’Brien, Richard, Dublin
Grimes, Richard, Dublin O’Brien, Daniel, Dublin
Hamilton, A.R., Galway O’Neill, P., Dublin
Hopkins, Philip, Ringsend, Dublin Ryan, Thomas, Rush, Co. Dublin
Larkin, John, Dublin Simms, W.J., Kildare
Lynch, T., Clogherhead, Co. Louth Todd, Ultan,; New Ross

Anton de Kom, son of a slave and resistance fighter.


It is a well known fact that the Dutch like the British, French and Portuguese were a colonial power for centuries. The Dutch influence is still noticeable around the globe.

One of the Dutch colonies was Surinam a small country (but yet considerably bigger then the Netherlands) in South America between Guyana(former British Guyana) and French Guyana.

A fact that a lot of Dutch historians appear to overlook or ignore that the Dutch were also one of the biggest slave traders in the world.Slaves were also used in Surinam by the Dutch for the rich colonial occupiers, this was until 1 July 1863 when the Dutch, like other European countries abolished slavery.

Cornelis Gerhard Anton de Kom Born  22 February 1898 (1898-02-22) Paramaribo, Suriname. Died  April 24, 1945, Sandbostel, Germany.Was the son of a former slave.

A Surinamese resistance fighter and anti-colonialist author.

De Kom was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, to farmer Adolf de Kom and Judith Jacoba Dulder. His father was born a slave. As was not uncommon, his surname is a reversal of the slave owner’s name, who was called Mok.

De Kom finished primary and secondary school and obtained a diploma in bookkeeping. He worked for the Balata Compagnieën Suriname en Guyana. On 29 July 1920 he resigned and left for Haiti where he worked for the Societé Commerciale Hollandaise Transatlantique. In 1921, he left for the Netherlands.


He volunteered for the Huzaren (a Dutch cavalry regiment) for a year. In 1922 he started working for a consultancy in The Hague. One year later he was laid off due to a reorganization. He then became a sales representative selling coffee, tea and tobacco for a company in The Hague, where he met his future wife, Nel. In addition to his work, he was active in numerous left-wing organizations, including nationalist Indonesian student organisations and Links Richten (Aim Left)

De Kom and his family left for Suriname on 20 December 1932 and arrived on 4 January 1933.


From that moment on he was closely watched by the colonial authorities. He started a consultancy in his parents’ house.Where the people from Surinam could complain about the poor living conditions they were subjected to. The colonial occupiers saw him as a threat and were afraid he might cause a revolt.



On 1 February he was arrested while en route to the governor’s office with a large group of followers. On both 3 and 4 February his followers gathered in front of the Attorney General’s office to demand De Kom’s release. On 7 February a large crowd gathered on the Oranjeplein (currently called the Onafhankelijkheidsplein). Rumor had it that De Kom was about to be released. When the crowd refused to leave the square, police opened fire, killing two people and wounding 30.

On 10 May De Kom was sent to the Netherlands without trial and exiled from his native country. He was unemployed and continued writing his book, Wij slaven van Suriname (We Slaves of Suriname) which was published in a censored form in 1934.


De Kom participated in demonstrations for the unemployed, traveled abroad with a group as a tap dancer, and was drafted for Werkverschaffing (unemployment relief work), a program similar to the American WPA, in 1939. He gave lectures for leftist groups, mainly communists, about colonialism and racial discrimination.

After the German invasion in 1940, De Kom joined the Dutch resistance, especially the communist party in The Hague. He wrote articles for the underground paper De Vonk of the communist party, mainly about the terror of fascist groups in the streets of The Hague (much of their terror was directed against Jews). On 7 August 1944, he was arrested. He was imprisoned at the Oranje Hotel in Scheveningen, and transferred to Camp Vught, a Dutch concentration camp.

In early September 1944, he was sent to Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen, where he was forced to work for the Heinkel aircraft factory.


De Kom died on 24 April 1945 of tuberculosis in Camp Sandbostel near Bremervörde (between Bremen and Hamburg), which was a satellite camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp.

He was buried in a mass grave. In 1960, his remains were found and brought to the Netherlands. There he was buried at the Cemetery of Honours in Loenen.

De Kom was married to a Dutch woman, Petronella Borsboom. They had four children. Their son, Cees de Kom, lives in Suriname.


The University of Suriname was renamed The Anton de Kom University of Suriname in honor of De Kom.



The University of Suriname also erected a statue in honor of Anton de Kom on the campus.


Anton de Kom was listed in De Grootste Nederlander (The Greatest Dutchman/Dutchwoman) as #102 out of 202 people.

In Amsterdam Zuidoost a square is named after him, the Anton de Komplein. It features a sculpture of Anton de Kom as a monument to his life and works, sculpted by Jikke van Loon.


The  Surinam government print money bills in honor of De Kom .

kom geld

Pictures courtesy of the Family archive.

VE Day-Victory in Europe


Today marks the 74th anniversary of VE Day, Victory in Europe day. Of course if there is victory there is generally also someone who loses. It can be debated if Germany and its allies lost the war, because I think the majority of their citizens were also victims of the Fascist regime.

Many people in Europe forget that the war still continued until 2 September 1945 in the Pacific.

But to remember VE Day  I will do something similar as my post on the Dutch liberation day and post pictures of the day. Because a picture paints a thousand words.
















Happy VE Day!!!!


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


Mildred Gillars AKA Axis Sally-Hitler’s American voice


Mildred Elizabeth Gillars (November 29, 1900 – June 25, 1988), nicknamed “Axis Sally” along with Rita Zucca, was an American broadcaster employed by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany to proliferate propaganda during World War II. She was convicted of treason by the United States in 1949 following her capture in post-war Berlin.

During World War II, the Allies and the Axis powers made heavy use of radio for propaganda purposes. Most of this spin was aimed at their own populations, but some was tailor made for consumption by enemy soldiers and civilians. Both sides recruited native speakers to broadcast radio messages to the opposition in the hopes of spreading disinformation and sowing discontent. These mysterious radio personalities became minor celebrities during the war, and some were even arrested and branded as traitors when the fighting ended. Find out more about six World War II broadcasters who used the radio waves as a weapon.

Several American Nazi sympathizers worked as broadcasters for German state radio, but perhaps none was as famous as Mildred Gillars. Born in Maine, Gillars was a former Broadway showgirl who moved to Berlin in 1934. She remained in Germany after the war broke out, and eventually became one of the Third Reich’s most prominent radio personalities with “Home Sweet Home,” a propaganda show directed at American troops. Gillars broadcasted under the radio handle “Midge,” but American GIs soon gave her a more infamous nickname: “Axis Sally.”

Gillars’ Axis Sally spoke in a friendly, conversational tone, but her goal was to unsettle her listeners. One of her favorite tactics was to mention the soldiers’ wives and girlfriends and then muse about whether the women would remain faithful, “especially if you boys get all mutilated and do not return in one piece.” Prior to the Allied invasion of France, she also starred in a radio play, called “Vision of Invasion,” as an American mother whose son needlessly drowns during the attack. Like a lot of propaganda, Gillars’ radio shows rarely had their desired effect—many GI’s only listened because they found them funny—but she was still considered a traitor by the U.S. government. When the war ended, the voice of Axis Sally was arrested and eventually spent 12 years behind bars.

American Mildred Elizabeth Gillars had moved to Germany in the 1930s and found a job at Radio Berlin in 1940. During World War II, she broadcast pro-Nazi propaganda designed to sow dissent in America and to demoralize Allied troops, earning the nickname “Axis Sally.”

She was arrested in 1948 and taken back to the U.S. to face treason charges. While on trial, she claimed that she had only agreed to do the broadcasts out of love for her husband, German foreign service officer Max Otto Koischwitz.

She blamed the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for taking away her passport in 1941, which she said forced her into a position where she had to sign a German oath of allegiance. She also apparently tried to gain sympathy by painting a picture of herself as a woman who struggled through life in the United States.

Gillars’ trial was of great interest to the American public. The New York Times described her life and love affair with Koischwitz as having “soap-opera quality.” Gillars herself was described during her trial as “a theatrical figure in tight-fitting black dresses, long silver hair and a deep tan. She had scarlet lips and nails.”

Gillars was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison. Upon hearing the verdict, she remarked, “I wish those who judge me would be willing to risk their lives for America as I did.”

The US attorney general dispatched prosecutor Victor C. Woerheide to Berlin to find and arrest Gillars. He and Counterintelligence Corps special agent Hans Wintzen only had one solid lead:


Raymond Kurtz, a B-17 pilot shot down by the Germans, recalled that a woman who had visited his prison camp seeking interviews was the broadcaster who called herself “Midge at the Mike”According to Kurtz, the woman had used the alias Barbara Mome. Woerheide organised wanted posters with Gillars’s picture to put up in Berlin, but the breakthrough came when he was informed that a woman calling herself “Barbara Mome” was selling her furniture at second-hand markets around town.A shop owner who was found selling a table belonging to Gillars was detained, and under “intensive interrogation” revealed Gillars’ address.When she was arrested on March 15, 1946, Gillars only asked to take with her a picture of Koischwitz.


She was then held by the Counterintelligence Corps at Camp King, Oberursel, along with collaborators Herbert John Burgman and Donald S. Day, until she was conditionally released from custody on December 24, 1946. However, she declined to leave military detention.She was formally re-arrested on January 22, 1947 at the request of the Justice Department and was eventually flown to the United States to await trial on August 21, 1948.

Gillars was indicted on September 10, 1948, and charged with ten counts of treason, but only eight were proceeded with at her trial, which began on January 25, 1949. The prosecution relied on the large number of her programs recorded by the Federal Communications Commission, stationed in Silver Hill, Maryland, to show her active participation in propaganda activities against the United States. It was also shown that she had taken an oath of allegiance to Hitler.The defense argued that her broadcasts stated unpopular opinions but did not amount to treasonable conduct. It was also argued that she was under the hypnotic influence of Koischwitz and therefore not fully responsible for her actions until after his death. On March 10, 1949, the jury convicted Gillars[15] on just one count of treason, that of making the Vision Of Invasion broadcast. She was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.and a $10,000 fine. In 1950, a federal appeals court upheld the sentence.

Gillars served her sentence at the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, West Virginia. She became eligible for parole in 1959, but did not apply until 1961.She was released on June 10, 1961.


Having converted to Roman Catholicism while in prison, Gillars went to live at the Our Lady of Bethlehem Convent in Columbus, Ohio, and taught German, French, and music at St. Joseph Academy, Columbus.

In 1973 she returned to Ohio Wesleyan University to complete her degree.

Gillars died of colon cancer at Grant Medical Center in Columbus on June 25, 1988

Ben Ali Libi- the Magician of Sobibor


In all honesty the title of this blog is likely to be incorrect, but it is an intriguing title nonetheless.Ben Ali Libi was the stage name of the Dutch Jewish magician Michel Velleman  (5 January 1895 – 2 July 1943).  I believe it is an important story that needs to be told.

The reason why the title is intriguing is because although there is quite a bit documented about this man there is still little known about his life and especially his time in Sobibor.

But in here lies the power of his story . For the Nazi’s he was just a statistic, a number a creature not even fit enough to eat Adolf Hitler’s dog Blondi’s food. A subhuman as they called him. However he wasn’t a statistic or a number but a human being of flesh and blood just like you and me.

The only things we know is that he was a Magician and I believe a very accomplished one, the Dutch Magician Hans Klok (from Vegas fame) said in an interview, he had heard about Ben Ali Libi and I understand he has his book of magic tricks which was published in 1925.

The other thing we know for certain is that he was picked up during a raid in Amsterdam in 1942 and that he ended up in Sobibor where he was killed.

He was killed because the Nazi regime had no use for his skills. Jews were only good to die or for slave labour not to entertain people. However I would like to believe that Ben Ali Libi would have still entertained his fellow victims, with his magic, in the darkest hours of their lives, to still let a bit of light shine in their hearts and bring a glimmer of hope.


The Dutch poet and writer Willem Wilmink wrote a powerful poem about Ban Ali Libi, there is only a Dutch version of the poem. I have attempted to translate it or at least tried to ensure the essence of the poem did not go lost in translation. Both version are below 1st the Dutch version below that the translation of it.

Ben Ali Libi

Op een lijst van artiesten, in de oorlog vermoord,
staat een naam waarvan ik nog nooit had gehoord,
dus keek ik er met verwondering naar:
Ben Ali Libi. Goochelaar.

Met een lach en een smoes en een goocheldoos
en een alibi dat-ie zorgvuldig koos,
scharrelde hij de kost bij elkaar:
Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

Toen vonden de vrienden van de Weduwe Rost
dat Nederland nodig moest worden verlost
van het wereldwijd joods-bolsjewistisch gevaar.
Ze bedoelden natuurlijk die goochelaar.

Wie zo dikwijls een duif of een bloem had verstopt,
kon zichzelf niet verstoppen, toen er hard werd geklopt.
Er stond al een overvalwagen klaar
voor Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

In ‘t concentratiekamp heeft hij misschien
zijn aardigste trucs nog wel eens laten zien
met een lach en een smoes, een misleidend gebaar,
Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

En altijd als ik een schreeuwer zie
met een alternatief voor de democratie,
denk ik: jouw paradijs, hoeveel ruimte is daar
voor Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar.

Voor Ben Ali Libi, de kleine schlemiel,
hij ruste in vrede, God hebbe zijn ziel



On a list of artists who were killed in the war.

I see a name I hadn’t heard of before.

So I look in wonder

Ben Ali Libi ,the Magician


With a smile, a fib and a magic box.

And an alibi carefully chosen,

he barely managed to make a living

Ben Ali Libi ,the Magician


Then the friends of Widow Rost figured,

that he country had to be rid of the,

global Bolshevik Jewish danger.

They meant of course Ben Ali Libi, the Magician


Who had so oft hid a flower or pigeon,

wasn’t able to hide himself when there was a loud knock

A police van was already waiting outside

For Ben Ali Libi, the Magician


In the concentration camp perhaps,

he showed his most delightful tricks,

with a smile, a fib and a misleading gesture.

Ben Ali Libi, the Magician


And always when I hear a loudmouth.

with an alternative for the democracy.

I think,” how much space is there in your paradise,

for Ben Ali Libi, the Magician.

For Ben Ali Libi, the little schmuck

May he rest in peace, God rest his soul


The widow Rost who is mentioned in the Poem is Florentine Rost van Tonningen, the wife of Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, the second leader of the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (NSB) and President of the National Bank during the German occupation (1941–1945). Because she continued to support and propagate the ideals of National Socialism after World War II and the death of her husband, she became known in the Netherlands as the “Black Widow”.

black widow

Two lines in the last verse of the poem are poignant and are basically current with the rise of extreme right ideologies in Europe and other parts of the world.

“And always when I hear a loudmouth.

with an alternative for the democracy”

It is our duty to ensure that this alternative for democracy will NEVER happen again.





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




Jules Schelvis -Sobibor survivor


I was actually doing research on a Sobibor victim called Ben Ali Libi which was the stage name of Michel Velleman , a Dutch Jewis magician who died in Sobibor on July 2nd 1943, But although there is a lot of mention of Ben Ali Libi there is actually little information. However I will do a piece on him in the near future. One name that did come up a lot during my research was the name of Jules Schelvis, I believe the last Dutch Jewish survivor of Sobibor.He died last month on April 3.


Jules Schelvis (7 January 1921 – 3 April 2016) was a Dutch historian, writer, Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter. He lost his wife and most of his family during The Holocaust. Schelvis was a plaintiff and expert witness during the trial of John Demjanjuk.

1389.9 Holocaust A

Jules was the second child of Jewish parents. His parents were not religious instead they devoted their lives as humanists and members of the Social Democratic Labor Party (SDAP). Some of their Jewish traditions were kept in the family in a natural way. Later in his life Jules still had warm thoughts when remembering ‘kesause mangelen‘ (unshelling peanuts from the Island of Curacao) at the dinner table on a Friday night. The sweet pastry from the Jewish bakery. He remembered his youth as happy, warm and educational. Despite the difficult financial circumstances of the thirties there was always food and an interest in culture and science.

After high school Jules was able to get an education to become a printer. He was grateful to his parents, who made this happen, for the rest of his life. Jules graduated in 1939, at the Printing Office Lindenbaum in Amsterdam. At this Office Jules made a quick career. However due to an anti Jewish measure, Jules was fired from the Lindenbaum Office during the war. He returned working for the Lindenbaum Office after war. He realized this only with the help of a legal decision. Not much later Jules switched to the newspaper ‘Het Vrije Volk.’ After the merge with the newspaper ‘Het Algemeen Handelsblad’ in Rotterdam, Jules achieved the position of manager of the technical division of the newspaper.

schelvis 1b

In the spring of 1940 Jules met with the seventeen year old Rachel Borzykowski through the youth labor organization ‘Arbeiders Jeugd Centrale (AJC). Due to the existing anti-semitism Rachel’s parents fled Poland shortly after the First World War. Jules was welcomed in the Borzykowski family with great enthusiasm and warmth.

Jules Schelvis was put on transport from Westerbork on 1 June 1943 with his wife and in-laws. He brought his guitar as a ‘welcome distraction to take our mind off things’.



On arrival in Sobibor he managed at the last moment to join a group of men who were selected for labour in the peat camp of Dorohucza.After he’d arrived he addressed one of the SS guards as officer in German, because he didn’t know the SS ranking.It may have played on the vanity of this guard because he asked Jules of he actually knew German. Jules replied “Jawohl offizier” (yes officer). The guard then told him to join the men who were going to the peat camp. In an interview he gave last year he stated that this bit of knowledge of the German language had been the difference between life and death

Jules Schelvis was one of the eighteen Dutch Jews who survived Sobibor.

On 26 May 1943 there was a raid in the city centre of Amsterdam in which more than 3,000 Jews were rounded up. Among them was 22 year old typographer Jules Schelvis, his wife Chel and her family. The couple had considered going into hiding, but had dreaded the problems this would present. Like so many others they expected to be put to work in German camps and they had decided to let themselves be rounded up. ‘Very calmly,’ wrote Schelvis after the war ‘we got our rucksacks and haversacks, that had been long ready just in case.’ By tram they were taken to a site near Muiderpoort train station, and from there, after hours of waiting, transported on a special train to Westerbork on June 1st. After six days they left the barracks with bag and baggage and were put on a train to Sobibor.

sobibor rails

After four days the victims arrived at the camp. The reception did not bode well. They were beaten out of the carriages by men with truncheons and whips. ‘I remember very well’, said Schelvis, ‘how my father-in-law was struck very hard across his back with a whip’. The prisoners had to walk towards a large barracks and throw all the haversacks and rucksacks, coats and overcoats on big heaps. ‘Before I knew it the women were separated from the men. I didn’t even have a chance to kiss Chel and we weren’t allowed to look back’. Schelvis never saw his wife again.

“emaciated people with death in their shoes passed us”
From among the men a group of eighty young men were selected for, so it seemed, the Jewish camp police and Schelvis managed to get included in the group. As it turned out the men were chosen to work in a nearby camp. An SS-officer told them they could return to their family and friends in Sobibor every night, to eat and relax. Those who stayed behind in the camp, so they were told, would first bathe. Separately of course, as that is why the men and women had been kept apart. Later, when Schelvis was put to work in Radom, he was told exactly what had happened to those who stayed behind. After the men and women had undressed, they were led to special chambers where they were gassed. After that their corpses were checked for gold teeth; these were knocked from their mouths by members of a Jewish Arbeitskommando. After that the corpses were dragged to the crematorium and burned.


Schelvis and the other young men were moved to labour camp Dorohucza, a peat camp where conditions were abominable. Prisoners slept in a draughty barracks, on the floor, no blanket. The Poles and Dutchmen who had been here longer were covered in lice. As there was no place to wash, the prisoners washed themselves in the creek in the morning. The work consisted of cutting peat. In the afternoon everyone received one litre of soup, made of sauerkraut, rotten apples and sometimes dog meat. ‘When we return to the barracks in the afternoon and at night, we are always beaten a lot by the Ukrainians. We are never quick enough and allegedly not disciplined. When you receive a beating like that, usually a series of blows, you’re not very happy, and you continue to feel it for days’, says Schelvis. He also witnessed the execution of two Dutchmen who had tried to escape. Together with another Dutch printer Schelvis applied for work in a print-shop outside the camp. But he and the group of men he was part of ultimately ended up in Lublin-Flugplatz, a labour camp a stone’s throw from the concentration and death camp of Lublin-Majdanek. There was no trace of a print-shop, but Schelvis did see men lugging heavy tree-trunks: ‘Emaciated people with death in their shoes passed us, spurred on by SS and Ukrainians with whips and sticks.’ Schelvis and the others from Dorohucza, including the Dutchman Jozef Wins, were forced to build barracks in the camp, among other things.

After several days Schelvis and the other typographers were taken to Radom, west of Lublin. Radom was an actual Jewish ghetto, where part of the population worked as tailors. Conditions were good and Schelvis rarely saw any SS in the ghetto. Here were the printing presses and a typesetting machine that had survived the ghetto uprising in Warsaw intact. The machines had been disassembled and transported to Radom where Schelvis and the other printers first had to reassemble them. The relative calm in the ghetto was shattered on 8 November 1943, when the SS, the Grüne Polizei, and their Ukrainian helpers carried out a raid in the ghetto. Schelvis, who together with the other typographers was among those who were spared, saw it happen: ‘The sick who couldn’t walk were shot’. Children and old people were murdered also, while the others were taken away to the nearby Szkolna concentration camp to, as would Schelvis eventually, work in the weapons factory.

When the Red Army advanced in the summer of 1944, the camp leaders were struck by indecision.‘There was huge panic among the German leadership,’ Schelvis stated in 1947, ‘SS on the run from the front passed us and they didn’t know what to do, surrender or flee.’ The order of the Sicherheitsdienst to kill all Jews when the Russians approached, was ignored by the camp command. The prisoners were told to prepare to walk to Tomaszow-Mazowiecki, over one hundred kilometres to the west, where they arrived after four days of walking. Here they were locked up in a rayon factory and they survived on potato peel broth; they did not work. A short time later the prisoners were put on a train to Auschwitz, where a selection took place on the platform. Some women, who were sent to the ‘good’ side, stayed behind to work in the camp, while the men who had a lucky escape – Schelvis among them – were loaded back onto the train. Further west they went, and the train finally arrived in Vaihingen near Stuttgart, where Schelvis was liberated by the French army on 8 April 1945.

On April 2016 Jules Schelvis died at age 95 in his residence Amstelveen.

It gives me hope and comfort knowing that Jules lived a long life after the horrors he had witnessed and had live through. Until recently I felt it was only evil people who lived a long life, if you look at the war criminals who escaped or hadn’t been executed,most of them reached 90+

RIP Mr Jules Schelvis, we salute you.