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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

WW2 | 5. Dutch Resistance Groups (Updated Mar 16, 2017)

Charles Boissevain at the graves of our 
cousins Gi, Janka and Louis Boissevain. 
Note Dutch flag, belltower. Photo: JT Marlin.
Feb. 17, 2015—On Sunday, Feb. 15, I visited the Eerebegraafplaats—the Honorary Cemetery high on the dunes in Bloemendaal near Zandvoort on the North Sea—with Charles Boissevain.

We went to the Eerebegraafplaats 
 Plot 33, where three of our cousins—Gi, Janka and Louis Boissevain—are buried.

Charles and I have two great-grandparents in common - Charles and Emily Boissevain. We also share a keen interest in the Dutch Resistance to the Nazi Occupation.

The Honorary Cemetery

The Eerebegraafplaats Cemetery honors those who died fighting the Nazis in the Dutch Resistance. During the summer after the Netherlands was liberated in May 1945 from the Nazis, the bodies of those who had been shot on the dunes were exhumed.

The general sign at the cemetery.
 Photo by JTMarlin.
The mood of Holland was exuberant because the unprecedented evils committed in the country under Hitler were ended.

But families continued to get bad news about relatives who had been missing and were now known to be dead. During the war years it was known that the Nazi authorities executed without trial many Dutch patriots in the dunes west of Haarlem called Overveen, Bloemendaal. Many men and one woman were executed. The exact number will never be known–who they all were and what happened to their bodies.

Eerebegraafplaats, Feb. 15, 2015. Graves
of Louis, Gi and Janka Boissevain. Behind
 me, the grave of Walraven van Hall
 in Plot 35. Photo by Charles Boissevain.
In the summer of 1945, in the dunes and elsewhere, the remains of more than 100 Resistance fighters were found. Others were found in Amsterdam, 422 in all.

Some of the executed fighters were reburied by their families in graves of the families'  choosing. But the majority–372 victims–were given their own graves in the dunes.

The gravesite is managed by "The Eerebegraafplaats Bloemendaal" foundation which was established in May 1946. On the website is information about all the people buried at the site. On the site itself is a dedicatory text and a listing of the graves.

Hannie Schaft

One woman is buried here, Hannie Schaft. She was the first of those executed to be buried in the Eerebegraafplaats when it was opened.

She and her Resistance co-workers blew up Wehrmacht trains and hid Jewish students. She was betrayed and shot in Overveen, Bloemendaal by two soldiers. The first one only wounded her and she told him: "I'm a better shot than you are." The second soldier was then more accurate.

She was the sole woman out of the 422 Resistance fighters whose bodies were found in the dunes at Bloemendaal after the war. She was awarded the Resistance Cross and her picture has been on an East German stamp.

Background on the Dutch Resistance

Resistance newspapers flourished,
though strictly banned by the Nazis.
The Dutch Resistance was most active and successful in transporting and hiding people who were hunted by the Nazis, and in disseminating news.

The central problem of the Resistance was how to
  • Maintain an organization, while
  • Keeping secrets from the Nazis.
The best way to control information - as I discovered was the practice when I worked many years ago with a Top Secret clearance - was by limiting distribution of information to those who absolutely positively had to know.

I once asked someone in the NYPD about what a "perfect crime" would look like, and he answered quickly: "A perfect crime does not require an assistant." No one else to turn you in. The only possible exception he would allow to know about your crime would be your mother. For everyone's protection, Resistance groups tried not to meet in very large numbers and when they met everyone had a nickname.

Individuals working in the Resistance were told only what they needed to know. In a bureaucracy the words were, when I handled such papers, "Limited Distribution" or LIM DIS. Ian Fleming used the term as a title for one of his James Bond stories, "Your Eyes Only".

The Resistance helped move and hide Jews and other individuals targeted by the Nazis, such as pilots from the Allied Bomber Command who bailed out over the Netherlands. It also distributed forbidden underground newspapers, forged and distributed documents, obtained money to support their efforts, and in some groups fought back against the Nazis through sabotage and assassination.

The Occupation Government

After the Queen and top government officials escaped to Britain and capitulated on May 15, Hitler installed as his personal governor in Holland, the Reichskommissar, an Austrian–Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

An early supporter of the Austrian-German Anschluss, Seyss-Inquart actively supported the Gestapo's hunting down Resistance men and women. The following edited excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica describes the nature of the Gestapo:
The Gestapo–Geheime Staatspolizei (“Secret State Police”)–were the original political police of Nazi Germany. The Gestapo ruthlessly eliminated opposition to the Nazis within Germany and its occupied territories and was responsible for the roundup of Jews throughout Europe for deportation to extermination camps. When the Nazis came to power in 1933: 
  • Hermann Göring, then Prussian minister of the interior, detached the political and espionage units from the regular Prussian police, filled their ranks with thousands of Nazis, and, on April 26, 1933, reorganized them under his personal command as the Gestapo. 
  • Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, the Nazi paramilitary corps, together with his aide Reinhard Heydrich, similarly reorganized the police of Bavaria and the remaining German states. 
  • In 1934, Himmler was given command over Göring's Gestapo. In 1936 he was  made German chief of police. ...
  • In 1936 the Gestapo—led by Himmler subordinate Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller—was joined with the Kriminalpolizei ("Criminal Police”) under the umbrella of a new organization, the Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo; “Security Police”). 
  • Under a 1939 SS reorganization, the Sipo was joined with the Sicherheitsdienst (“Security Service”), an SS intelligence department, to form the Reichs sicherheitshauptamt (“Reich Security Central Office”) under Heydrich. Although the Sipo was phased out, people still used the name.
The Gestapo and its allied police operated without civil restraints. They had the authority of “preventative arrest,” and its actions were not subject to judicial appeal. Thousands of leftists, intellectuals, Jews, trade unionists, political clergy, and homosexuals disappeared into concentration camps after being arrested by the Gestapo. 
The political section could order prisoners to be murdered, tortured, or released. Together with the SS, an race-based elite control group, the Gestapo managed the treatment of what the Nazis considered “inferior races,” such as Jews and Roma (Gypsies). 
During World War II the Gestapo suppressed partisan activities in the occupied territories and carried out reprisals against civilians. Bureau IV B4 of the Gestapo, under Adolf Eichmann, organized the deportation of millions of Jews from other occupied countries to the extermination camps in Poland.
It was said at his trial that Seyss-Inquart approved the execution of at least 800 Dutch nationals, including 117 people in a reprisal for the killing of SS Lt. Gen. and Hanns Rauter, police leader.

The Dutch Resistance was organized around individuals who took huge risks to serve as the hub of the groups they led. The more public they were and the more violent they were, the earlier they were infiltrated and wiped out by the Occupation authorities.

Earliest Resistance - Communist Partisans - CPN and RSAP

Early organized resistance to Hitler in Holland came from two Communist groups fiercely opposed to Hitler. They appear to have followed the lead of authorities in Moscow, and so long as the Hitler-Stalin pact was in place, they did not mobilize. A recent U.S. official history says the Communist groups waited to move into action when Hitler sent three million German troops into Russia on January 22, 1941.
  • The CPN (Communist Party of the Netherlands). On May 15, 1940, the day after the Dutch capitulated following the bombing blitz on Rotterdam, the CPN met to organize its resistance to the Nazi occupiers. Bernardus Yzerdraat printed flyers that protested the occupation and called for resistance. He started building an organization called De Geuzen, "The Beggars", named after a Dutch group that rebelled against Spanish occupation in the 16th century. But the group was quickly suppressed by the SS, which ferreted out and executed some 2,000 communists by firing squads, in torture rooms or in concentration camps.
  • The RSAP (Revolutionary Socialist Worker's Party) was led by Henk Sneevliet, a Communist resistance fighter who came out of the trade-union movement and Dutch politics. He was known all his life as "Maring". He had the foresight to disband the RSAP on May 14, 1940 after the Nazi invasion of Holland, knowing that they would suppress his organization. Sneevliet became an onderduiker, first hiding and then emerging as an active Resistance fighter. He was allied with his union colleagues, the Marx-Lenin-Luxemburg Front. He and his wife were arrested two years later in their hiding place and he was shot with seven other RSAP workers on April 13, 1942 at Leusderheide. He was awarded the Resistance Cross (information from the award site, translated from the Dutch).
The Communist groups' initiatives were very effective but were aggressively countered by the German SS and did not survive past 1942, when another group, the RVV, discussed below, became active.

The Main Resistance Organizations - LO, LKP, OD and RVV

As of mid-1944, four major Resistance organizations did the work of matching refugees and onderduikers with transportation and homes in which to hide, and providing backup in the form of intelligence and forged documents. Individual families  hiding onderduikers often did not know how they were being helped. Communication was necessarily tightly controlled, and networks operated independently of these four main organizations:
  • The LO,  for Landelijke Organisatie voor Hulp aan Onderduikers, the National Organization for Help to People in Hiding. It was the most successful underground organization in Europe, created in 1942 by (1) Mrs. Helena Rietberg Kuipers, referred to as Tante Riek and (2) Frits Slomp, known as Frits de Zwerver. The LO looked after about 275,000 people as of July 1944 — i.e., about 2.5 percent of all Dutch residents. The group was outlawed on pain of immediate execution or deportation to the death camps. Of the 13,000 participants in the LO, 1,104 were executed on discovery or died later in the camps.
  • The LKP (Knuckle Gang) for Landelijke Knokploeg, literally "country thugs", but commonly translated as the National Assault Group, also called the KP or "the Knuckle Gang". Its 750 members (as of the summer of 1944) engaged in sabotage and assassinations of the Nazi occupiers or Dutch collaborators. The LKP provided ration cards to the LO through raids on police stations and other government offices — the raids both obtained materials for forgery and destroyed  records of Jews and other Nazi targets. In 1943, Hilbert (Arie) van Dijk, Jacques (Louis) van der Horst and Leendert (Bertus) Valstar put together local Assault Groups within the LKP that picked up on the aggressive practices of the shorter-lived CS6. The LKP grew in the summer of 1944 and there were 2,777 documented members in September 1944; of them, 514 died and only one of the top LKP members survived, Liepke (Bob) Scheepstra.
  • The OD (Orde Dienst, Order of Service) prepared for the return of the exiled Dutch government and the GDN (Dutch Secret Service), OD's intelligence group. This group is frequently referenced in Herman Friedhoff's memoirs, Requiem for the Resistance (Bloomsbury, 1988).
  • The RVV (Raad van Verzet, or Council of Resistance) was a partisan group pursuing sabotage, assassinations, and hiding of people wanted by the Nazis. Mrs. Rietberg Helena Kuipers was a member as well as a founder of the LO. She  was betrayed and died in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Although many members of the RVV were Communists, its most famous member was not. She joined the RVV because it was the most active group she could find. Her name was Johanna (Hannie) Schaft, about whom a movie was made, The Girl with the Red Hair. 
Hiding and Transporting Jews and Others Wanted by the Nazis

Perhaps the most effective activity of the Resistance in Holland was hiding and transporting Jews, bailed-out pilots and other people sought by the SS, especially:
  • German (and Austrian) Jews who had fled to the Netherlands before 1940 and knew right away what evil to expect from Hitler's occupation. They immediately went into hiding. Anne Frank's father was one of these - he left Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power, only to be trapped in Holland. Bert Jan Flim says that of the 25,000 Jews who went into hiding, 18,000 survived the war. 
  • Dutch Jews who survived the early roundups, which were effective because Dutch taxes were allocated by religion. Of the 107,000 Jews who were deported by the Nazis, mostly to concentration camps, only 5,000 survived the war. More than half of the deportations occurred during the 10 months July 1942-April 1943. In May 1943, 33,000 Jews remained in Amsterdam, which was the primary concentration. Of them, 8,000 were protected by having a non-Jewish spouse - by and large, the Nazis did not deport Jews married to Christians.
  • British soldiers who could not get back to France to the retreat from Dunkirk, and hid with farmers in Holland. 
  • French and other escaped prisoners of war who in the winter of 1940/1941 passed through the Netherlands. One single family in Oldenzaal helped 200 men. In total about 4,000 ex-POWs - mainly French, some Belgian, Polish, Russian and Czech - were aided on their way south in the province of Limburg.
    Assassination of Key Collaborator–CS6 (Chapter 6)

    The bravest (some even say "reckless") single organization, which attracted top-level attention from the Nazi occupiers, may have been CS6, which stands for Corellistreet No. 6 in Amsterdam. It was wiped out before 1944, to be continued by the LKP or KP.

    According to official Dutch war historian Dr. Louis ("Loe") de Jong (1914-2005), CS6 was the deadliest of the Resistance groups in killing individual targets, successfully killing 20 traitors or Nazis they identified. It was started in 1940 by Gideon ("Gi") and Jan Karel ("Janka") Boissevain, two sons of Jan ("Canada") Boissevain, both of whom are in the List of the Fallen in the Resistance (2010). CS6 grew quickly to 40 members and involved Dutch communist surgeon Dr. Gerrit Kastein. They collected military information, sabotaged German machines, and targeted top Dutch collaborators and traitors.

    They successfully killed (1) Dutch General Seyffardt, whom the Germans put at the head of the Dutch SS-legion; (2) Assistant Minister Reydon; and (3) several police chiefs. CS6 played a crucial role in the rescue of Jews, but failed to carry out a plan to kill the best-known Dutch traitor, Nazi Party leader Anton Mussert.

    Their activities prompted the 1943 "Silbertanne" covert murder reprisals by the SS, after CS6 was betrayed by a collaborating Dutch spy, Anton van der Waals. Some of their activities are described by Loe de Jong in Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (see Vol. 6, pages 158, 159, 546, and Vol. 7, pages 924 and 933). In 1943, many members of the group were arrested after betrayal. Jan "Canada" Boissevain (1894-1945) died in Buchenwald (NP 55) and his sons Jan Karel (Janka) Boissevain (1920-1943, NP 56) and Gideon Willem (Gi) Boissevain (1921-1943, NP 56) were shot in the dunes of Overveen with 12 others, including their cousin Louis Daniel Boissevain   (1922-1943, NP 128), who was an active member of CS6. Many other members of CS6 died. A full list is provided in the chapter on CS6.

    Financing the Resistance–The NSF (Chapter 9)

    The NSF, for Nationale Steun Fonds (National Support Fund), was a crucial group that financed all the others. It received some money from Queen Wilhelmina's government in exile to fund operations of the LO and KP, and then through some brilliant schemes it generated other money. The financial group was run by Walraven ("Wally") van Hall. It paid money throughout the war to all families in need, including relatives of sailors and people in hiding. The NSF supported a variety of other resistance groups and underground papers like TrouwHet Parool and Vrij Nederland, which were distributed by the other groups. Wally set up some large-scale scams never discovered by the Nazis, involving the Netherlands national bank and the tax service. Because of Wally, the Dutch Resistance as a whole was never short of money. He is one of the few people with a place both in the Memorial Cemetery at Bloemendaal and on the Yad Vashem's List of the Righteous.

    Sources for this post include:

    Bentley, Stewart, CIA historian.
    de Jong, Loe, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog14-volume history of World War II in Holland. A complete copy is on the shelf on the ground floor of the Amsterdam Stadsarchief (Archives) on Vijzelstraat between the Herengracht and the Keizersgracht.
    The Eerebegraafplaats Bloemendaal Stichting web site.

    Related posts

    The above post is a draft chapter of a book I am writing: The Boissevain Family and the Dutch Resistance, 1940-45