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Saturday, May 5, 2018

HOLLAND | The WW2 Honorary Graves Revisited

This is the section (33) of the cemetery that includes the executed
Resistance fighters who were referred to in Jan Campert's poem,
"De achttien dooden" ("The Eighteen Dead"). The graves of Gi and
 Janka are at the far end of the row. I have posted the poem at the end.

When I visited the Honorary Cemetery, the Eerebegraaf-plaats, in 2015 with Charles Boissevain (b. 1934), few other people were in the cemetery.

Yesterday, I went with many others to the cemetery, because it was May 4, Remembrance Day.

New Stories – Hans Nieuwenhuijzen

Since 2015, Charles has passed on to me during the period since he and I visited.

In particular, he wrote to me about a talk that Hans Nieuwenhuijzen gave to the Verzets Museum.

Starting Point to Cemetery. Road closed
to motor traffic.
Like Charles (and my eldest sister Olga), Hans was born in 1934. His father was in the Resistance together with Walraven "Wally" van Hall, about whom a Dutch film has just appeared. It won a prize, Aad van Hall told me on Thursday (May 3), for the first Dutch movie in 2018 to sell 100,000 tickets. He thinks they are now past 350,000 tickets and closing in on 400,000. That is a lot of tickets in Holland.

The movie, which is in Dutch, shows how Wally and his brother Gijs had two main ways of raising money.

One was borrowing money from Dutch people and giving them worthless old bonds – there would have been many of them after the Occupation – in exchange, keeping careful track of the numbers for use after the war. The Queen promised on Radio Orange to honor these debts and after the war every penny was repaid.

The other way they raised money was to rob the Nederlandsche Bank (the Dutch Central Bank).

They stole for the Resistance an enormous amount of money, perhaps the largest bank heist in history, by printing up counterfeit money or bonds [I am still trying to find out exactly what was done], and substituting them for those in the bank vault, while taking out the genuine cash or bonds for distribution to Resistance workers and onderduikers (literally "under-duckers" or "under-divers") such as Jewish refugees.

Dutch flag at half mast, before
 the silence.
Wally, along with the father of Hans and others, was caught in January 1945 and they were shot on February 12, 1945. They are buried at the Eerebegraafplaats Bloemendaal, which although named after nearby Bloemendaal is accessed only from the long road from Overveen. Charles and I visited the graves together in 2015.

Hans knew Charles Boissevain’s uncle Jan “Canada” Boissevain and his aunt Mies and their five children, who were living at Corellistraat 6, base of the deadly CS6 armed-resistance unit. His sons Janka and Gi, caught working for CS6 on Oct 1, 1943 and shot by the Nazis.

Hans told the story that Janka and Gi tried to escape to England on a home-made boat in the summer of 1940. At the Waddensea, just west of Friesland, they were caught by the Germans. They could have been killed for this.

Bell ringing started the remembrance. The
participants stood in silence for several
minutes. At the end, the nationally observed
minutes of silence. (Trains were stopped.)
Fortunately, their uncle Tom de Booy (married to Hilda Boissevain, sister of my grandmother Olga and Charles' grandfather Charles E. H.)  worked for the Dutch Boat Rescue Society at the place where Janka and Gi arrived as prisoners.

Uncle Tom had the presence of mind to tell  the Germans, laughing loudly, that this was just a student joke, that the boys had a bet that they could reach one of the Wadden islands on their home-made boat. Now they had lost the bet, and would have to pay for a lot of beer for their friends. The Germans saw this was plausible and they let Janka and Gi free.

Visiting the Eerebegraafplaats in 2018

On the way from the Overveen station to the Eeregraafplaats, I met a well-known Dutch (and German) actor, Chiem van Houweninge, and his wife Marina. Chiem is writing a script about another Resistance leader, Cees de Jong. He is a friend of Cees's son Jan. I wondered whether Loe de Jong, who wrote the 24-volume history of World War II in Holland, was related, and was told not to their knowledge.

Flag restored to top of the mast after the
minutes of silence.
Chiem wrote several film scripts that were made into movies, including:
  • "Storm en Mein Hoof" (Storm in My Head)
  • "Die Inbreeker" (The Burglar)
  • "Dear Boys" (about Central Heating[?])
Chiem also wrote perhaps 500 situation-comedy scripts for Dutch and German television, many of them centered around a female doctor.

Chiem and Marina's son is also named Chiem and is also an actor. He played the part of the bad guy in the Walraven van Hall movie, Ross von Tonningen, the collaborator who headed the Nederlandsche Bank for the Reichscommissar Seiss-Inquart. After the war, von Tonningen was hanged and his wife was called the "Black Widow."

Two Brothers (Gi and Janka) and Their Co-Worker,
Walter Brandligt. Under Janka's name is the family
motto, which he scrawled on the wall.
"Ni regret du passé, ni peur de l'avenir."
Then I met Dr. Hildebrand de Boer, who gave me a lift up to the Eerebegraafplaats and also gave me a copy of his fine book of poems, one for each year he has been volunteering to drive older people some or all of the 4-km. trip to the Eeregraafplaats.

At the cemetery, I took a lot photos and show some of them here. In front of the graves of Gi and Janka, I was informed that the grandson of Walter was there, and we shook hands, took some photos and said we would be in touch!

The Poem by Jan Campert – Song of the Eighteen Dead

The poem by Jan Campert (1902-1943) is probably the most famous poem in Holland about World War II. He was a journalist and did theater reviews. After his country was invaded in 1940 and occupied by the Nazis, he helped Jews in trouble. He was arrested and taken to the Neuengamme concentration camp, where he was killed or died in 1943. 


With the grandson of Walter Brandligt.
Published illegally in 1943, his poem, “De achttien dooden” (“The Eighteen Dead”), tells of the execution by the Nazis of eighteen resistance fighters. These Eighteen, I was told, refer to those shot with Gi and Janka Boissevain. 

Jan Campert was the father of today's  popular Dutch novelist and poet, Remco Campert, who said: "Resistance starts not with big words but with small deeds."

The following English translation of Jan Campert's poem is by Cliff Credo; it is the only one I could find.

A cell is but six feet long
and hardly six feet wide,
yet smaller is the patch of ground,
that I now do not yet know,
but where I nameless come to lie,
my comrades all and one,
we eighteen were in number then,
none shall the evening see come.

O loveliness of light and land,
of Holland's so free coast,
once by the enemy overrun
could I no moment more rest.
What can a man of honor and trust 
do in a time like this?
He kisses his child, he kisses his wife
and fights the noble fight.

I knew the task that I began,
a task with hardships laden,
the heart that couldn't let it be
but shied not away from danger;
it knows how once in this land
freedom was everywhere cherished,
before the cursed transgressor's hand
had willed it otherwise.

Before the oath can brag and break
existed this wretched place
that the lands of Holland did invade
and for ransom her ground has held;
Before the appeal to honor is made 
and such Germanic comfort
our people forced under their control
and looted as a thief. 

The Catcher of Rats who lives in Berlin
sounds now his melody,—
as true as I shortly dead shall be
Graves of Hendrik de Jong and Walraven van Hall.
my dearest no longer see
and no longer shall the bread be broke
and share a bed with her—
reject all he offers now and ever
that sly trapper of birds. 

For all whom these words think to read
my comrades in great need and those who stand by them through all
in their adversity tall,
just as we have thought and thought
on our own land and people—
a day does shine after every night,
as every cloud must pass.

I see how the first morning light
through the high window falls.
My God, make my dying light—
and so I have failed
just as each of us can fail,
pour me then Your grace,
that I may like a man then go 
if I a squadron must face.

Comment by JTM: "Squadron" on the last line doesn't seem to be the right word. It was used of cavalry or airplanes, not firing squads...