The Dutch Resistance
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1942

In April 1942, Dutch Jews had to buy many yellow stars – to be sewn on the left breast of every outdoor garment, pullover, jacket, coat or dress. The star was marked Jood, the Dutch for Jew, an ostentatious mock-up of Hebrew lettering though reading from left to right.

Each star cost four cents and a quarter of a clothing coupon.

In May 1942 all Jews were ordered to deposit their total financial assets – cash, stocks and shares, life policies, and investments – with Rosenthal & Co (ultimately, inevitably, liquidated). In June Jewish businesses were placed under German supervision. Property was confiscated. A curfew was imposed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. In July all non-Jewish shops were closed to Jews, except between 3 and 5. By that time rationed food was sold out.

Hairdressers were absolutely out of bounds.

In July call-up papers were issued: Jews between 16 and 45 were to report for re-settlement in the east or forced labour in Germany. Anyone refusing, or failing to wear the yellow star, or changing address without permission, were sent to Mauthausen. Jewish houses were cleared by A. Puls Removals.

Gerda Meijer’s father was a Jewish smallholder in Leiden, buying and selling cattle for a living. His supervisor, Verwalter Himmelreich was a fat, friendly German who enjoyed schnaps on his frequent visits. The Meijer property was listed and taken over. Gerda’s father was paid a salary and the family were charged rent for what had been their own house.

In the early summer of 1942 Gerda decided to escape. She, two cousins and a friend were to meet at night on the beach at Katwijk where the fishermen would give them a boat. Gerda’s father forbade her to go. The others were caught. Although her friend ran away, the cousins were deported and never heard of again.
In July call-up papers arrived, summoning them to the labour camps. Gerda was nearly 18, and her brother Harry 16. Gerda cut the yellow star off her clothes. Leaving behind her ID papers with their indelible J, she set out to see what friends were doing. The De Wijzes at Nijmigen were in a panic. The Cohens at Deventer felt secure: their uncle, David Cohen, was one of the heads of the Joodse Rad. They were protected by preferential guarantees. For them, going into hiding seemed rash and pointless.

Gerda returned home. The family decided to disperse. In August the house was closed. Neighbours were told the family had gone abroad. Her father got himself into hospital on a ruse. Her brother Benny was sent into hiding in Amsterdam. Harry and Gerda planned another escape. Harry was to bribe his way out of the country and Gerda was to join him in Switzerland. For 5,000 guilders he was smuggled across the border into Belgium by night but his group of five was caught. Harry was sent to the concentration camp at St. Michielgestel.

Now the family had to act quickly. Her father walked out of hospital. They went into hiding with the Liebetons, farmers in Friezekoop. Verwalter Himmelreich, her father’s overseer, paid Gerda her father’s last salary when she explained that the family had left home to avoid deportation. Himmelreich offered her a job in his own office, and promised her help, should she need it.

The Liebetons couldn’t take Gerda in so she cycled round the Haarlemmermeer looking for work as a maid. The Boogaards’ house was teeming with Jews of all ages – walking about the yard, playing in the fields in broad daylight, crammed round the table at mealtimes, sleeping at night in dugouts under piles of hay. It was an extraordinary place, but seemed unsafe. After a few days she cycled on. The De Kokers had a big farm, but were afraid. Their son gave her refuge. He lived in a small house on the village street with his wife and two children. Gerda had to hide in the tiny spare-room by day, creep about in her socks and only venture downstairs at night when no guests were expected. She hated it. Hiding was not for her. She would have to get false papers and think again.

Cor van Stam and his young wife Trijntje were a devout Protestant couple who, covertly defiant, became engaged on Queen Wilhelmina’s official birthday in August 1940. They, too, lived in the Haarlemmermeer – flat polder-land reclaimed from the North Sea, a maze of waterways, high dykes, the few straight roads neatly lined with trees. Rare farms and woods sharp against the broad sky.

They were approached by a relative from Amsterdam whose daughter had fallen in love with a Jew. They agreed to shelter him. Within a fortnight the house was full. The girlfriend, the man’s brother, the brother’s wife and children also turned up and were hidden. In the evenings the adults were let out to play hide-and-seek with their children. With the arrival of more and more fugitives, the van Stams became a distribution point, and turned to the Boogaards for help.

Like many farmers, old Boogaard was spurred on by his faith to help the increasing numbers of Jews, but he was exceptional – still remembered as an Old Testament figure, unafraid of the Germans, haranguing them in their offices for their godless ways. Surviving photographs show a small man, squat, square-jowled with a little goatee and unkempt fringe.

One day a fugitive couple carrying five suitcases arrived at the Boogaards’ village by bus from Amsterdam. They missed the right stop, and the bus driver called out – ‘You two – you’re looking for the Jewish farm, aren’t you? Hop off at this corner.’ Everyone on the bus laughed. The Boogaards were famous. They hid up to a hundred and thirty Jews at a time. Their farm was a warren of disintegrating hayricks, abandoned farm vehicles half covered in straw. The place was riddled with hiding places and the cellar was a crammed dormitory. Some children slept under a tarpaulin stretched over a dry ditch. Many were ‘nephews’ and ‘nieces’ from fictional relatives in the south. They were expected to help Metje and Aagje, two of Boogaard’s daughters, with the endless cooking and washing. Fortunately, the farm was large and productive.

Cor van Stam was a traveller in grain and agricultural supplies with extensive contacts over the province. There were plenty of sympathetic people. When he scrupulously admitted that the company car, a little Opel, was being used for other business, his boss gave a tacit blessing. He soon became the chief co-ordinator of Resistance operations in the Haarlemmermeer.

The Boogaards’ farm was raided a second time in November. The first time they were betrayed by the father of an old Boogaard Sunday School pupil – but no-one was found. Now they had three minutes warning. Everyone hid according to the drill. Most of the children piled into a large chicken coop – ‘The Doll’s House’. There were deep dug-outs under the dung heap and the hayrick. Others crowded into the cellar. The Dutch police – the Grune Polizei – searched from noon till dusk, without success. Then a four-year old girl started crying in the cellar. Eleven were seized. Old Boogaards, clutching his Bible, wouldn’t let them go. ‘Shut up or we take you too,’ the police shouted. So he went with them.

The Jews were deported. Old Boogaard was held for ten weeks in the prison on the Amstelveenseweg in Amsterdam. The Germans were nonplussed. He refused outright not to take in more Jews, saying they were God’s people – ‘and you Germans don’t belong here either’. In the end he was sent home.

That winter was cold and miserable. Food was rationed. City dwellers could go out of town in search of country produce. But the Jews were cooped up in Amsterdam. Eve, Paul and Ruzzi’s younger sister, had been born in England. As a British citizen she didn’t have to wear a yellow star. Her brothers took her to the food shops in the mornings, when they were closed to Jews. But she was only six, frightened and often confused. Her brothers waited anxiously on the pavement outside, ready with reminders and praise, on the look out for soldiers. They rowed, too, over the Amstel, to barter their few remaining possessions for food in neighbouring villages. At night they listened for the inevitable knock on the door. Their bags were packed. They had rejected going into hiding.

1943

People going into hiding were known as onderduikers. ‘Divers’ is the literal translation. ‘Ducking under’ is less accurate and more graphic. People would duck under and surface several times because many Dutch hosts were compassionate, but nervous. The vast majority of divers passed through many hands. People would take you in – as an emergency, for a little while. It took great courage and conviction to see it through. At the same time, however, the law-abiding culture that had initially inhibited the God-fearing Dutch created dogged opposition.

Edith Veerman was fifteen at this time. Her aunt and her three sisters were single women living in a large house together. The baker had a Jewish couple in hiding, but felt it was too risky. Could his neighbours help? It would be a difficult decision. He would come back for their answer in a few days. They discussed it backwards and forwards. Their brother, a farmer, only lived across the ditch separating their houses. They took milk from him. Concealment seemed impossible. ‘When we have extra milk, Cornelius will ask us why, and we’ll have to tell him. When we hang the washing out, people will see the men’s clothes. It’s too dangerous.’ So they decided to refuse.

It was a Calvinist family. Edith’s aunt read the Bible, as they always did. That evening’s portion was about Justice. She said, ‘If we don’t have them, I’ll not read the Bible any more. If we believe what we read, we must take them in.’ They did.

By this time, not only Jews were hiding. As German fortunes failed, increasingly comprehensive conscription orders were issued. The first Arbeiteinsatz came in the spring of 1942. In April 1943, 300,000 former Dutch soldiers – released as prisoners of war in the summer of 1940 – were recalled as forced labour in Germany. There were spontaneous strikes throughout Holland. Farmers refused to deliver milk. Eighty strikers were executed, their names published as a deterrent. A month later, the Verstarkter Arbeiteinsatz called up all men between 18 and 35. Hiding was the only alternative to conscription.

Rein Posthuma had qualified as a doctor at the beginning of 1942. His fiancée’s brother Klaus was an unwilling conscript working in a Gereman Zeppelin factory. Rein advised him to simulate a stomach ulcer. He was to eat any form of blood he could – black pudding, for instance – before going to the doctor. It would leave traces of blood in his faecal sample. The ruse worked and Klaus was sent back home as unfit.
In the Verstarkter Arbeiteinsatz of May 1943 the Germans netted only 54,000 men instead of the anticipated 170,000.
All doctors were ordered to become members of the Dutch Nazi Party Doctors’ Union, the NSB Artsenkamer. The vast majority refused. They gave up their official status as doctors instead. All over Holland, enamel name-plates were cancelled with an elastoplast cross – Rein’s among them.

Ivo Schöffer was twenty-one, a history student in Amsterdam. He avoided conscription by posing as a fifteen-year-old, always wearing shorts. When faced by officials, he talked childishly – ‘I don’t know; I’ll ask my father’. Peter, his elder brother by a year and a half, pretended to be his twin. Every year the birth dates on their papers were adjusted by their elder sister Lidia, a graphic artist who specialised in modifying registration cards for those going into hiding.
Attendance at Amsterdam University had become dangerous. There were German raids and students were seized from lectures. In April 1943 all students were ordered to sign a declaration promising not to take action against the occupiers. The majority refused. Many students ducked under. The student house belonging to Ivo’s university fraternity, Unica, was deserted. With its tacit consent, he filled the house with Jews.
The house, Rejuliersgracht 34, was a typical Amsterdam canal-side warehouse. At 5 o’clock the offices closed. The upper floors were for the students. A trustworthy carpenter cut a false panel behind the shower in the bathroom – allowing access to a loft above the kitchen. Twelve to fourteen people could hide here when necessary. Neighbours thought the house was still full of students. Ivo got his sister, his friends, his cousins – a company of about eight trusted people – to visit regularly, maintaining the impression of a lively student hostel. They also acted as couriers for the divers and brought food.
The place was called the Canal House – the Grachtenhuis. Ivo was an autocratic warden. No one was allowed out, day or night. One person once a month was allowed one walk outside after the ground-floor emptied – difficult to arrange in summer, easier in early winter dusk. A trusted family doctor attended the ill. A battery-powered alarm system connected the upper rooms in the house. Ivo or another Gentile was always on duty. When the front door bell rang, the caller was checked by a system of mirrors on the outside of the house. If necessary, warning was sounded. Ivo’s strictly-rehearsed drill took two minutes – all twelve inmates queued up, squeezed into the hiding place, pulling the panel flush behind them. The elderly ladies were particularly slow and flustered. At night it was difficult carrying all their bedding with them. Nothing with tell-tale body-heat could be left behind.

Cor van Stam always slept away from home now. The Germans generally raided at night, when the curfew kept everyone in. They were always being searched. There would be a banging at the door. Cor’s wife, Trijntje, would get up and pick the baby out of his cot. Waking him made him cry. That discomfited the soldiers. When she let them in, the soldiers would go straight to the bed, to feel if the sheets were warm on both sides. Nothing. ‘Where is your husband?’ She was surprised at her own boldness. ‘If I knew that, d’you think I’d be here on my own?’

The deportation of Jews accelerated. The main collection point was the elegant Hollandsche Schouwburg Theatre on Plantaage Middenlaan. German soldiers guarded the entrance. A fine old building opposite was used as a nursery for the smallest children. Between them ran – and still runs – the Number 9 tramline. In the nursery Semmy and Joop Woortman would grab a baby each and run alongside the tram, concealed from the guards. At the next stop they clambered aboard. Grinning passengers pretended total ignorance. Many babies were saved in this way.

There were big round-ups in Amsterdam as the last Jews were herded up, arrested on the streets and taken from their homes. Some ten thousand were seized in the razzia of May 26. In the razzia of 20 June, another ten thousand. It was a sunny day. Bags were clearly marked in white lettering with first and last names, date of birth, and ‘Holland’. They had been packed according to the Joodse Rad’s instructions:

1 pr. Work boots Towel
2 pr. socks 2 sets bed-linen
2 pr. underpants 1 eating bowl
2 shirts 1 drinking mug
1 pullover 1 set cutlery
2 woollen blankets Toilet articles
Food for 3 days
No pets

Papers were kept in small cloth pouches around the neck. Most were double-dressed in their warmest and best. It was rather hot. There was a lot of standing about, waiting. Everything was very orderly. There was little talk.
They were put into trams – usually forbidden to Jews – and taken to Muiderpoort railway station. Thousands crowded the platforms. The cattle trucks were waiting.

The last razzia took place in July. Officially, Holland was virtually Judenrein. In August the entire Joodse Rad was also deported.

In October 1942 Gerda Meijer came to Amsterdam, where she was taken in by a social worker called Tante Ko and given false papers. With her new identity, she began to work for the Resistance. In spring 1943, Gerda was sent by Tante Ko to help in a large summer-house at the edge of Nunspeet woods where a number of students were hiding. They looked on it as a game. Inside the woods were a number of serious Jewish fugitives, looked after by an elderly couple named Bakker. Mr Bakker was a retired railway employee. By the time Gerda joined the Bakkers, they had built thirteen huts in the woods, above and below ground, housing some 90 Jews. Mr Bakker could dowse for water; the encampment had two pumps. There was bottled gas for smokeless cooking. The Bakkers’ helpers brought food on bicycles, their heavy panniers of provisions making the woodland paths difficult to negotiate. Gerda was joined by her brother Harry – who had scaled a high wall in the St Michielgesteel camp. He too started working for the Bakkers. Stopped by a German patrol, he said his saddle-bag of powdered milk was tree fertiliser, and was allowed to cycle on.

In October 1943 the Boogaards’ farm was raided a third time. A local farmer had illegally butchered a bullock and his son was caught with the black-market beef. Interrogated, he said he’d got the meat from Boogaard – a common name in the Haarlemmermeer. At 9 a.m. next day, an SS policeman called van Duyn arrived, in civilian clothes, at the Boogaards’ farm with four more SS. Willem, one of Boogaard’s sons, was on a tractor in the yard with Cees, a diver. Van Duyn started towards the orchard, where some of the children were. Cees had a revolver in his pocket. When Van Duyn opened the orchard gate and walked in, Cees fired. Van Duyn fell on to the children’s merry-go-round and was carried round half a turn. The other SS-men fled.

Everyone on the farm went to hide. Some of the children panicked and ran to the neighbours instead of going to their hiding places. Metje, Boogaard’s daughter, pushed them under a pile of chaff in a shed and hid with them. Willem collected together twenty more terrified children and ran with them to the canal.

By four in the afternoon, four hundred soldiers had arrived in tanks and trucks. They fanned out and searched methodically, using dogs.

Thirty-four Jews were found on Boogaard’s farm. They were made to lie in two semi-circles, men and women separate, their hands stretched out on the ground, while the search continued. From above the steep canal banks, Willem heard dogs, soldiers’ voices and told the children to get as deep into the canal as they could and stand still. The water was bitterly cold. When it was dark he led them barefoot across a ploughed field to a haystack. They stood there, shivering, while he went for bread – and a ladder. Before they could dig down and get warm, they needed to be up in the hay.

Old Boogaard, one daughter and one son were arrested. Cees calmly, innocently, scythed the grass verge throughout and wasn’t questioned. The survivors – Cees, Willem and his twenty children – went to hide with a neighbour, Mrs Dekker. When Cor van Stam visited the little children were playing and the older ones were doing their homework. They were tough. And they didn’t know their parents had been taken to the extermination camps.

Mrs Dekker was arrested for hiding Jews at the beginning of 1944 and gassed at Ravensbrück.

Teun Boogaard died at Oranienburg. Another son, Pieter, died at home after maltreatment at Vught.

Old Boogaard was interrogated in the Weteringschans Prison in Amsterdam; sent to Vught, recalled to Weteringschans. He was gassed at Sachsenhausen on February 15, 1945.

The farm was left in ruins.


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