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 1944Reached 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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The Nine Sovereigns at Windsor for the funeral of King Edward VII.

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I have often wondered If World War I was nothing else then a family feud gone out of control.

If you look at all the royal families in Europe and even outside of Europe, they are mostly all related  in one way or another. There is nothing more clearer indicating this then a picture which was taken after the funeral of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India occurred on Friday, 20 May 1910.(picture above)

Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway-  the late King’s nephew by marriage/son-in-law and fourth cousin (once removed);Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians-  the late King’s second cousin; King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarve,-the late King’s fourth cousin;Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia- the late King’s nephew;  King George I of the Hellenes(Greece) – the late King’s brother-in-law/fourth cousin and King Albert I of the Belgians- the late King’s second cousin.

Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain-the late King’s nephew-in-law; King George V of the United Kingdom- the late King’s son; and King Frederick VIII of Denmark-the late King’s brother-in-law/fourth cousin.

These nine Sovereigns all had direct connection but most of the other Royal dignitaries also had direct or indirect ties.

Only 4 years later most of the sovereign states these men. were head of state of would be at war.

Two of the main nations at war German and Great Britain had direct blood ties.As a grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm II was a first cousin of the future King George V.

(Wilhelm with his father, in Highland dress, in 1862)

wilhem kilt

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American-Dutch diplomacy

embassy

On April 19, 1782, John Adams was received by the States-General and the Dutch Republic as they were the first country, together with Morocco and France, to recognize the United States as an independent government. John Adams then became the first U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and the house that he had purchased at Fluwelen Burgwal 18 in The Hague, became the first U.S. embassy anywhere in the world.

Johnadamsvp.flipped

In July 1780 Adams replaced Laurens as the ambassador to the Dutch Republic, then one of the few other republics in the world, ironically less then 3 decades later it became a monarchy. With the aid of the Dutch Patriot leader Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol, Adams secured the recognition of the United States as an independent government at The Hague on April 19, 1782. In February 1782 the Frisian states was the first Dutch province to recognize the United States, while France had been the first European country to grant diplomatic recognition in 1778. He also negotiated a loan of five million guilders financed by Nicolaas van Staphorst and Wilhelm Willink. By 1794 a total of eleven loans were granted in Amsterdam to the United States with a value of 29 million guilders. In October 1782, he negotiated with the Dutch a treaty of amity and commerce, the first such treaty between the United States and a foreign power following the 1778 treaty with France.The house that Adams bought during this stay in the Netherlands became the first American-owned embassy on foreign soil.(Medallion given to John Adams in 1782 by Johann Georg Holtzhey to mark United States as an independent nation by the Netherlands)800px-Erkenning_onafhankelijkheid_Verenigde_Staten_foto2

 

Adams liked the country. At an earlier visit to the Netherlands in 1780, Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:

“The country where I am is the greatest curiosity in the world. This nation is not known anywhere, not even by its neighbours. The Dutch language is spoken by none but themselves. Therefore they converse with nobody and nobody converses with them.

The English are a great nation, and they despise the Dutch because they are smaller. The French are a greater Nation still, and therefore they despise the Dutch because they are still smaller in comparison to them.

But I doubt much whether there is any nation of Europe more estimable than the Dutch, in proportion. Their industry and economy ought to be examples to the world.

They have less ambition, I mean that of conquest and military glory, than their Neighbours, but I don’t perceive that they have more avarice. And they carry learning and arts I think to greater extent. The collections of curiosities public and private are innumerable.”

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Sissi- The death of an Empress

annoshow

As a young man I was forced to watch the most boring movies about a young empress called Sissi, usually the movies would be on around Christmas time.

Not only were they boring, they were also extremely long and it was a trilogy.They were made between 1955 and 1957.

The movies were all idyllic and dripping with sweetness. However the real life of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria,was far from sweet and idyllic.

Elisabeth was born on December 24, 1837, from an early age she was called ‘Sisi’ (in the movies they added an extra s to the name)by her family. Elisabeth was never meant to be Empress. That honor was supposed to go to her sister Helene, who had been trained since birth to be an Empress. The marriage was meant to make up for the marital misalliance of her mother, Ludovica, the daughter of Ludwig I of Bavaria. While her sisters had made grand marriages, Elisabeth to the Prussian Emperor and Sophie to the Crown Prince of Austria, Ludovica had married her first cousin, Duke Max, who wasn’t even a Royal Highness until he was elevated to that title.

When she was 15, Elisabeth, her mother, and her sister Helene went to Bad Ischl to stay with their cousin, the Emperor Franz Joseph, so that he could have a look at Helene. Instead, the young emperor fell in love with Elisabeth instead. Although not as beautiful as her sister, Elisabeth had almond shaped brown eyes, and  auburn hair which fell to her knees when unbound.

Amanda_Bergstedt_001

She was shy and awkward around the Emperor but he was entranced. At a ball, he not only gave her a dance bouquet but all the flowers that were meant for all the other ladies. The next day, her mother told her that the Emperor wanted to marry her. Despite her own misgivings about her fitness for the role she was about to undertake, Elisabeth couldn’t dare refuse the honor. And she was fond of Franz Joseph.

Franz_Joseph_of_Bohemia_1861

As a Bavarian princess who enjoyed a happy and unstrained childhood, the extremely strict court life in Vienna was a burden Elisabeth never got used to. She started to travel and wrote melancholic poems, and after the tragic death of her only son Rudolf she disappeared nearly completely from the Austrian court.

When Elisabeth was sixty years old, she followed an invitation from the Rothschild family to Geneva. Together with her lady-in-waiting, the Hungarian Countess Irma Sztáray, she walked the short distance between the hotel and the pier without her entourage, despite warnings of possible assassination attempts.

Luigi Lucheni, a poor man full of rage for the upper nobility, ran towards them as they walked by on the promenade and stabbed Elisabeth directly into her heart with a self-made weapon composed of a small sharp file. But neither the empress nor her lady-in-waiting realised what really happened. Thinking of a robbery attempt, they went on boarding the ship. A few minutes later, Elisabeth lost consciousness and died on September 10 1898

Assassinato_luigi

As Geneva shuttered itself in mourning, Elisabeth’s body was placed in a triple coffin: two inner ones of lead, the third exterior one in bronze, reposing on lion claws. On Tuesday, before the coffins were sealed, Franz Joseph’s official representatives arrived to identify the body. The coffin was fitted with two glass panels, covered with doors, which could be slid back to allow her face to be seen.

On Wednesday morning, Elisabeth’s body was carried back to Vienna aboard a funeral train. The inscription on her coffin read, “Elisabeth, Empress of Austria”. The Hungarians were outraged and the words, “and Queen of Hungary” were hastily added.The entire Austro-Hungarian Empire was in deep mourning; 82 sovereigns and high-ranking nobles followed her funeral cortege on the morning of 17 September to the tomb in the Capuchin Church.

800px-Sarcophagus_Elisabeth_Sisi_Kapuzinergruft_Vienna

The last movie called “Sissi-the Fateful years”did not address the assassination of the empress.

The actress Romy Schneider who played her also had a tragic end, she committed suicide on May 29 1982.

1789723f69020b346398a6ee740eb3de--sissi-film-empress-sissi

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