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
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
Two heroes who gave their lives for others. After the war Derk and Berendje were decorated by the Air Chief
Marshall and Vice Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces for
“assistance to officers of the marine, land and air forces to escape
from imprisonment, or to avoid being taken prisoner by the enemy”.
On 6 September 1989 Derk van Assen and Berendina van Assen –
Grolleman were awarded the honorary title of Righteous among the
Nations by Yad Vashem.
Frederika Roza Schaap-Kamerling born Wildervank, 28 February 1894 – Murdered in Auschwitz, 28 January 1944.Reached the age of 49 years.
Isidore Schaap ,born Rotterdam, 24 April 1894 – murdered in Auschwitz, 8 April 1944. Reached the age of 49 years.
I could not find out what happened to their daughter Hetty.
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