My dad’s story is like many untold stories anywhere in the world. It includes my mum as well, as she was involved as well. This story in which they revealed something special to me, is what I value so much in them long after they have gone. It happened at one particular stage in their lives.
The story where people at some stage stood up against what was evil and wrong in their times. The story of people trying to protect the right of others and their own fellow countryman against the pressures of their oppressor’s.
It’s the kind of story still happening in day-to-day life anywhere on this world, where people are shot perhaps or wounded by powers not having justice at heart. People at the wrong side often being used as well as puppets for those groups or powers preying on their victims, – those not being able to make the right distinctions between right or wrong, – but at least responsible for what they did.
Those are story’s as they still unfold in many countries, where people sense the evils of their times and want to change it, – where people see what is wrong and try to make it right. Whatever they do in other areas of life, – the measure of their character is what they did when times were not comfortable or easy anymore , what they did at times of pressure when the risks were high. The times when they showed ‘grace under pressure”, when their inner voice asked to do what they had to do.
Those examples still show ripples of hope to break the walls of oppression, for those suffering the implications of this oppression, – wherever they may live.
Often those story’s as they do occur are not heard, and often people disappear in e.g. the “chambers of hell”, being tortured in countries like e.g Libia (as we watched on television), – but also in many other countries.
The stories are endless and often tragic, – and still it seems that despite the beauties of this world, the many positives and the many opportunities, – the burdens of human kind are as clear as they always have been, – and still human rights at a large-scale are allowed to be obstructed or compromised by those nations allowing to do so.
This is one of those many stories, – as it happened during the 2nd world war, in a place somewhere in that small country called the Netherlands.
Being the youngest with 3 older sisters and 1 older brother, my dad was born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He grew up in a family with very different characters. His parents being well grounded in their beliefs and religion. Though I have not known granddad in person as he died before my time, the stories about him made me think he was the “pioneer” of the family. He had a good character as well, with a strong sense of justice.
One of my dad’s sisters (Sophia) was born in Canada and spent some years in Canada before the family moved back to the Netherlands, being used to the Canadian style of life, – including horse riding.
Dad’s health at young age was not that great and at the age of 7 he had mild TB. For this reason he had prolonged in-treatment and could not attend primary school until he was a bit older. Other members of the family sustained other ailments and setbacks in those years between 1920 and 1930. When my dad spoke later in life at times about his youth, his family and other events, – he always spoke with a degree of respect for his parents. He had to smile on the memory of his own mum (Louise Ploos van Amstel), who once did knit adapted underwear and a bra for a naked little female statue, which he received from some of his friends whilst being a student in Amsterdam. The generations were different and dad was clearly the youngest. Grandma was lovely though, always kind besides being sensitive.
Dad’s older brother Elias died suddenly in 1934, which obviously had a profound impact on the family. It drove grandma actually to total devastation and she needed a long time to recover. After my dad did finish secondary school (“gymnasium”), he decided to study Law in Amsterdam at the V.U.
The 2nd world war however broke out which obviously disrupted his studies, as he decided to join an increasingly active resistance group, operating mainly in both Amsterdam and Bussum. Quite a number of young students were involved. He worked close with Joop Kemper, who started this group called “The Flying Brigade” (FB).
Dad and Joop Kemper became the leaders of the FB. One of the previous members of resistance group CS-6 joined the FB as well, though FB and CS-6 were not the same. FB worked together with CS-6, the “OD”, “Group X” and Professor Oranje.
The first aim of the group was to give shelter and money for Jews, to prevent them from being arrested and moved to the various concentration camps in Germany. For this purpose they tended to meet in the youth chapel in Bussum to discuss strategies and tactics. Besides this they collected information on defence material on coastal areas north of Amsterdam and in the county of Zeeland. Photo’s about harbours and other strategic points were sent to England by couriers. It proved however that providing shelter for Jews was not enough as dangerous Gestapo officers and collaborators compromised the safety of Jews.Many of the last were shot or put on transport to Germany. This was the reason the group (FB) decided to target the most dangerous Gestapo officers and collaborators as well, and they were able to collect weapons from other cooperating resistance groups.
One day FB was planning to liquidate a dangerous traitor called Somer but the Gestapo became aware of the plan and prepared an ambush via infiltrators.
On the 9th of September 1943 the group (FB) decided to meet again in the youth chapel on the Meent weg (Meentway) in Bussum, to discuss the assassination on Somer the next day. Somer was as far as the archives concerned a dangerous spy and traitor, but the Gestapo was already fully prepared.
The meeting was in process but the person being hired for the assassination proved in retrospect to be a Gestapo infiltrant, who managed to get the trust of one of the group members. He was a specialist assassin and seemed to be most suitable for the job, being recommended by “friends”. It was noticed on the 9th of September that various car’s were parked around the chapel place, the last next door to the Reformed Church. It would seem that some people were walking around at the time of the meeting, keeping a close eye on the youth chapel. During the meeting in which the potential assassin was involved, my dad raised technical reservations about certain aspects of the planning and in particular the car being used. The plan was to go ahead with the execution the next day, at a place in Amsterdam. Dad discussed his reservations in detail whilst feeling a degree of uneasiness about the situation. Especially when 2 people in the group, the specialist assassin included, looked at each other in a particular way, – his intuition became on the alert, but he could not pin point the danger as yet. The others were oblivious about the raised concerns. The assassin was as I said introduced by a trustworthy member of FB and nobody appeared to have any suspicion. My dad (who felt that something was not right) decided to go out the room to discuss “some financial issues” in a next door room, and said to get back as decisions needed being made, but to give it an hour or so. He disclosed his concerns to my later mum – who was a courier for the group at the time – and both decided to go outside to discuss the matter with Wim Hille, who appeared the most proper person to discuss the matter as he was a senior member of the group.
They sensed they were followed. When Wim Hille appeared not to be around and dad discovered a particular blue car being parked under the trees, – he became aware of an immediate critical danger and wanted to go straight back to the youth chapel to warn his friends.
Right within the main entrance already, – a car was parked and dad tried to get back via the back yard entrance of the youth chapel, – but he was stopped in the garden by the Reverend’s wife who told him only in a few words what happened. My later mum warned my later dad not to get back in the youth chapel itself, – as it appeared that the Gestapo had fully arrived.
Both managed to escape via the back garden, followed however for a little while by some men. The Gestapo action was obviously fully concentrated on all the people inside the chapel.
With full strength they had invaded the youth chapel and instantly arrested everybody being around. There was not even the time for an exchange in gunfire.
The house of granddad and grandma at 27 Parklaan sustained extensive searches by the police that night, the next day included as well. Dad’s sister was taken to the police station but later released.
Following extensive Gestapo interrogation and torture, – all dad’s friends were shot on the 28th of October 1943. They were accused of assassinations on people in public life including the police president in Utrecht, a police captain in Bussum, but also sabotage, – providing Jews with money and shelter, – besides maintaining close coöperation with the resistance group CS-6. The last group was responsible for both the assassinations on General Seyffardt and Minister Folkert Posthuma.
There was a moving church service after the death sentences were executed. CS-6 was largely liquidated as well. – In memory of those 8 people who died for their country, – on the 6th of November 1943 this church service was held in Bussum. The church was filled with emotions and (Reverend) Ds. J.J. Louet Feiser emphasised in the eulogy on the meaning of those lives being lost, and what those 8 people had to say. They did understand the critical situation and the evils of their time and responded in the way they did, – knowing that life could take an end as result of their joint efforts (>1 Peter 5,6 and 7 < – was at the centre of his reflections).
My dad had to seek permanent shelter until the 5th of May 1945 as he became a prime target of the Gestapo. He always carried a pill with him, which would cause instantly his own death for when he would be caught by the Gestapo.
The war had a lifelong impact on dad, – largely as due to the loss of his group. As an Attorney and staff officer (section arrest) after the war he was able to question those Gestapo officers being responsible for the executions of his friends and he got a lot of information about the 2 traitors being involved.
He started after the war a law firm with a good friend and married my future mother, who survived the war as well.
Years and years went by and after changing profession and being a school inspector for a long time in different area’s of the country, besides 2 unhappy marriages, – he died in 1995, leaving a legacy among his friends in the education system in the area’s where he worked, – but for sure as well within the efforts and choices he made during the 2nd world war.
My dad had his struggles, but he had his victories as well. He was for certain not perfect but looking back he was brave enough to put his life at risk for his fellow Jewish human beings, who had to face the agony of Hitler Germany. In times of real crisis he stood up. Like my mum did in those days, long ago now.
The courage of life in most occasions is less dramatic than the courage in the very last moments of critical decisions we may face, – however it is no less a spectacular mix of both triumph and tragedy, for those who are able to finish their lives. Dad stood up as one with others against the evil systems of oppression during the 2nd world war, – knowing as well that life could take an end.
As Corry ten Boom once said: >”The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration, but it’s donation.”<
My dad’s story at times of crisis in circumstances of war, is one of the many available all over the world in all its many variations, – his story however being trivial perhaps compared with what some others had to endure, those who did not survive as he did. Nevertheless he was no bystander watching how things were evolving, without doing anything within the domain of his decisions.
Many people after the war said: “We did not know!” Many people in Germany said this as well, and in part many indeed in Germany were not aware of the concentration camps..
In history many died in their endeavours for their own people and still many will continue to die, – either at war or in their endeavours to fight for human rights, – or bringing liberation to those being oppressed.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; – Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. –Let us not forget”.
Viktor E. Frankl, a famous Psychiatrist who survived the concentration camps in Germany once said: >>”Each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; – to life he can respond by being responsible. – – Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Let us not forget,- let us never forget!
Paul Alexander Wolf
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