Strange really, when I think back over the months that I got to know him I always think about him as Klaas. I don’t know what name my sister Pum uses when she is thinking of him. She was madly in love with him. If the times had been different, no German occupation, how would it have ended? Naturally, under the circumstances it was impossible that it could have ended up well. But you didn’t think about that at the time. Now that there even is a museum, set up especially for him, it must be strange for Pum to hear and read all about him This time under his real name, not as we then knew him.
Of course I did know that Klaas was not his real name. For me however he will always be Klaas. Not that I gave much thought to what his real name was at the time. There were so many more important things going on. Also there were many people who went through their lives under a pseudonym. It was almost the normal thing to have an alias.
The first time that I heard his real name was during interrogation. I had been picked up by two known traitors, Slachter and Poos, and locked up in an “Einzelhaft” (isolation cell) in the “Oranje Hotel” (the Military Prison) in Scheveningen. I was taken several times to be interrogated at the “Binnenhof”, formerly the seat of the Dutch Government in the centre of the Hague where now the German Sicherheitdienst had their Head Quarters.. During the first interrogation Herr Bartels of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) asked me if I knew Aart. “You must know him”. “He regularly comes to your home”. “Never heard of him”, was my answer.
It carried on like this for a bit. He spoke in German. I played dumb as if I couldn’t understand anything, while he interrogated me. A woman, probably his secretary, translated his questions into Dutch. Then it was my turn in Dutch. I had explained that I understood practically no German nor could I speak it. This had its advantages because it gave me more time to think about my answers. A disadvantage was that it was difficult not to show that I understood German very well. Also it was difficult when the translation was totally incorrect, I had to reply to the translation and I could not correct anything when my answers got mangled.
Finally Bartels said “Aart Alblas, your sister’s fiancée”. That was the first time that I had heard his real name.
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Gerard Hueting’s identity card.
What I want to write is my story about Aart Alblas as I knew him and what we experienced together. It is also my way of telling about my admiration for a young man who was prepared to sacrifice everything for his fatherland. Someone without any pretensions and an example to us all.
It is a long time ago, I was sixteen then, so that is more than sixty years ago. Since then a lot has happened in my life. I have forgotten many names. But some episodes however are imprinted on my memory. But then I can’t remember what happened immediately before and after these episodes. May be my memories will become clearer when I begin to write.
This true story is thus about Aart Alblas, but as I said, I could only think about him as Klaas. Klaas de Waard.
Pum, Gerard’s sister
It was winter 1941. My mother and I lived alone in our house at the foot of the dunes number 214 Laan van Poot in The Hague. Pum, my sister, five years older than me, was a nurse at the city hospital and only came home on her free days.
Father had been locked up in the prison in Scheveningen since summer. How he became imprisoned and eventually paid with his life for resisting the Nazi occupation of his country is an other story of someone bravely acting according to his principles It was an extremely cold winter. Heaps of snow and ice lay on the road. I came back from the prison on my bicycle. We called it the “Oranje Hotel” because so many people were imprisoned there who had risked their lives for their fatherland and the House of Orange (the Dutch royal family). For a long time already we had not been allowed to visit my father. We were only allowed to bring him some clean underwear and some times fruit, books and that sort of thing.
It wasn’t easy cycling with a case of dirty washing on the back and the road uneven with snow and ice was so slippery that you skidded from one side to the other. Fortunately there was almost no one else on the road. There was practically no car to be seen. Coming home I ran into Vas Dias, together with a young man, they were visiting my mother. Klaas; is what Vas Dias introduced him as. He needed accommodation and also some clothes, so he asked mother. Now I don’t know if we had been told at that stage that Klaas was a secret agent, who had come over from England. Probably, why else would he need clothes?
I took him upstairs to my room, where he selected this and that. He could choose one of my ties, whichever one he wanted. He chose my favourite one, but I said nothing.
Vas Dias used to come by fairly regularly since my father had been arrested. I don’t know much about him, he had a typically Jewish appearance and was a journalist with the paper Het Patrool - a paper, which at that time was published underground. He could tell many amusing stories about his work. I knew also that he had worked many times together with my father gathering intelligence useful for the Allies. From that day Klaas used our house as his base. He came and went as it suited him. My mother encouraged him and gave him hospitality. As a result of this our place became a gathering place for those in the resistance against the German occupiers. Broer-Moonen, Goedhart, Van Heuzen-Goedhart, Dogger, Peter Tazelaar, Hazelhoff, Jan Iedema and Krediet. These are names that immediately come to mind.
How could my mother allow this? She was surely aware of the risks we ran. An extract from the last letter from my father in the “Krigswehrmachtsgefangnis”, (“War army prison”) in Utrecht gives an idea. This letter was written immediately before his execution. When he wrote this, Klaas was in prison in Haarlen; Mother, Pum and I in Scheveningen.
“Only a few hours and then I will have to take my leave of you for this life. I don’t want to use many words and we have never been sentimental”. And a little later in his letter: “It upset me at your most recent visit to hear that you three are also in bondage, but I know your strong characters and trust that you will come through this unscathed. You suffer for your people and country, for all that which is good in this world. I am convinced that good will overcome and that our sacrifice is not in vain.”
Both my parents had strong characters and came from families in the Reformed Church. They were modern in their attitudes, they took dance and English conversation lessons and read a lot. My father worked in the Nederlandse Inlichtingen Dienst (The Netherlands Intelligence Service) and he had performed various special services. He spoke fluent Scandinavian languages and studied Spanish and Italian. Before the war my parents travelled a lot with my father’s work. They had strong feelings against the German Nazis, just like Pum and I. To give you an example I remember when a German soldier was billeted in our house. As soon as we heard about this, everything in the spare room, except a chair and a bed were removed, the stair runner wasremoved and the German soldier was totally ignored by us when he rang the bell. The door was opened, he mumbled a greeting, we looked past him, he stamped up the stairs to his room. Sometimes he wanted to have a chat but we did not answer, he lasted a week with us. We never had any more German soldiers billeted with us.
Klaas found a home with us where he was always welcome. He had a decent and honest face and was easy to get along with. He fitted in easily and he was probably very attractive to the girls. Mother saw possible problems and she took me into her confidence and suggested that we did not tell anything about Klaas to Pum, it was better that she did not get to know him. Of course this went wrong. Pum came home unexpectedly while Klaas was there; it was love at first sight.
Klaas had a birth defect, one ear was folded over and malformed, this was a handicap especially as it was his left ear and this was the one that had to be shown on the photo of his identity card. Due to this the Germans Security Service (SD) knew about his handicap. With the help of friends we arranged a private operation in the Bronovo Hospital in The Hague. The surgeon was aware of the circumstances, Pum would be the nurse, and this was fortunate as we were afraid that Klaas might talk too much while still under the affect of the anaesthetic. You couldn’t trust anybody. The operation was a complete success. Now an identifying mark that could have betrayed him was now gone But also the relationship between Pum and Klaas became stronger.
We also managed,,with the help of a police officer from the village Monster - to obtain a new identity card for Klaas. This was a particularly courageous man who always was willing to help as long as it helped the struggle against the Nazi occupation. I soon found ways that I could help Klaas with his work. He had many contacts throughout the whole of the Netherlands, who could pass on information about troop movements and other military information that could be important to the allies. Once or twice a week I would go off on the train to Zwolle, Deventer or Haarlem. I rang at the address I was given, received an envelope of information in my hand and I headed off to the location where Klaas had his radio transmitter. Sometimes I helped him with the setting up of the transmitter or the coding and decoding of the messages, whilst Klaas was in contact with England with his headphones and Morse key. Klaas told me about his training in England, how he together with a friend had crossed to England in a stolen motorboat and had after a period of questioning and mistrust been offered a choice of what he wanted to do for his country and the allies. This is what he chose. Gathering intelligence in the occupied area, this is how he thought that he could service his country the best way. It was very intensive training. For his parachute training he had to jump from a balloon, he also spent a lot of time learning Morse code. At the end of his training he was flown back to the Netherlands by night.
Klaas told me that there was another agent together with a radio operator on the same plane. I believe the radio operator was killed during his landing in any case the transmitter was wrecked, Klaas himself landed in a different place from what the plan was, however he managed to hide his parachute and with some difficulty he reached his contact address. Klaas was one of the first secret agents in the Netherlands and for a while he was the only working agent. Later more agents arrived and the cat and mouse activity later known as the ‘England spiel’ (England game) began. One of the stories that did the rounds at the time was about an agent who jumped from a plane near Utrecht, he was on a very important mission and everything was planned and organised in minute detail, he had an identity card, money in his pocket and even a key for the lock on the bike that was waiting for him by the church tower. At the right moment he pulled the rip cord to open his parachute, nothing happened, he kept falling so he pulled the cord on his reserve parachute, still no luck. Because he was on such an important mission he even had an extra reserve parachute but that didn’t work either, where upon the agent said “I bet that key doesn’t fit the key on the lock on the bike either!”
There was not much trust in the organisation of the Dutch Resistance, there were many enthusiastic amateurs but very few professionals: my father became a victim of this amateurism.
Klaas managed to build up a circle of informants who regularly supplied him with intelligence; one of his transmission addresses was in the Bezuidenhout in The Hague. He told me how one day he was transmitting sitting on the edge of his bed in his pyjamas when suddenly the electricity was cut off. He called to ask what was going on and was told to get out of there immediately – t Germans had tracked him down. It was difficult, particularly in built up areas, to precisely track down a transmitter. For that reason the Germans had parked a specially equipped truck in the street to do the final locating. While they listened to the transmitting they sent someone to go from house to house to cut off the electricity. When they did that where Klaas was, the transmission stopped and they knew exactly where to find him. Klaas managed to escape out the back door, just in time. His helpers were less lucky and were taken prisoner. When I got to know Klaas they had been released and they lived in Zandvoort. I remember they were prepared to help Klaas again.
Due to the fact that Klaas only had one or two frequencies to transmit on and the Germans were aware of these frequencies, the work became increasingly dangerous.
After my school finals I was supposed to go to the technical college in Rotterdam but due to shortage of places and the fact that my marks were not so great I missed out and I filled in the year by going to a radio school. This worked out well, because one of my fellow students worked in a factory where they cut crystals for radio sets. Thus I managed to obtain a new crystal for Klaas, which enabled him to transmit on another frequency. The transmitter and receiver was pretty primitive, it was in a wooden box that fitted into a little leather suitcase of about 60 x 40 cms. The crystal was in the right top corner and there was a big Bakelite knob for adjusting the frequencies. Unfortunately it only worked on 240 volts, if only it had been battery powered it would have been so much easier. There were head phones and a Morse key, the antenna was about twenty five metres long and had to be strung up outside.
By changing the place of transmission regularly it was harder to be tracked down. Klaas never used our address for transmitting. One of his transmission addresses was at my Uncle Han and Aunt Riek’s home in Bosch en Duin. One of the toilets in their house was on the stairs halfway between two storeys, this was the ideal place for transmitting. The aerial could be put through the window and strung up onto one of the trees outside.
The members of the resistance often talked about the dangers they ran. As Klaas was asked, “what would you do if you were transmitting and the Germans invaded the house?” Typically Klaas answered “that’s okay I’ll pull the bolt on the toilet”. This became a popular saying in his circle.
Nearly everyone who had anything to do with the resistance seemed to have a pistol or a revolver, which they would bring out whether it was appropriate or not. There were many conversations amongst the resistance members on the advantages and disadvantages of the various calibres and types.
Not long after the German occupation Father taught me everything about the use of light firearms. Being a boy I found this very interesting, and I had got myself an air-rifle and air-pistol. I know Mother did not like this. In any case I became a good marksman, and when later, after the liberation, as a volunteer in Indonesia, I took part in firearms practice I was definitely one of the best.
During the period I worked together with Klaas, most of the resistance fighters knew little about their weapons. On one occasion I was at the home of Doctor and Mrs Krediet in Wassenaarm running some message or other. There were four or five army officers in hiding there. The conversation turned to firearms, and soon the whole arsenal was gathered together. When it turned out that some didn’t even know how to disassemble, clean and reassemble their firearms, I was able to demonstrate this for them. I felt rather important then.
Klaas too had a pistol, I didn’t know the model. He wanted to give it a good overhaul. Up in the attic we pulled it apart, oiled everything thoroughly, and back together again – unfortunately not in the right order. One of the parts was a long steel shaft with a sort of knob at each end, one side slightly longer than the other. We inserted it the wrong way round, where it jammed and we were unable to get it back out again. Eventually we put it in a vice, and by force, and bending of the shaft we eventually managed to extract it. We were quite unable to straighten the shaft properly, and I was afraid the pistol would never work again. Fortunately Klaas never needed to use the pistol, I don’t know what would have happened if he had.
We often discussed what we would do if we were about to be captured. The usual answer was to sell ones life as dearly as possible – keep shooting till the last bullet! The truth was however quite different. Many were eventually captured, and most of those I have written about were finally executed, all without themselves firing a shot.
There was one exception, the policeman from Monster – a small town on the dunes just south of The Hague. I did mention him before. He probably had a fairly high rank, as he was able to supply identity cards and obtain petrol. Everything he did was literally for Queen and country, he was always ready to help, no matter how dangerous his tasks were. I learned much later, that before he died he defended himself to the last bullet, shooting dead several enemies of his country, before himself being mortally wounded.
Klaas never had such heroic tales to tell. Besides, his instructions were clear: in the event that he was captured he was to cooperate with the Germans, who would naturally make the agent keep on transmitting false information.
However he was then to make a small change at the beginning of the code, during the transmission of his message. This could not be discovered by the Germans, but in England they would know that their agent could no longer be trusted. For the Germans it was essential that the agent carried on sending messages himself – as everyone has there own “handwriting” when sending Morse – the agent could not be replaced without the British knowing. In this way the agent had a chance of surviving, as long as the Germans believed he was working for them. Also there was an opportunity to send false information from England, this gave them the opportunity to manipulate the Germans’. This was the theory, actually the Germans managed to outwit the other side and eventually nearly all the original agents, dropped and landed in the Netherlands, were caught and shot. This is the so called “Englandspiel”. There is still a lot of controversy over who is to blame and who fooled whom.
The encoding of the messages was rather unwieldy. First the message was written out, subsequently a page out of a special book was chosen, this gave a set of numbers .The letters of the message were then replaced by numbers as determined by the page in the book. This gave a series of numbers that were then further manipulated – by squares of 5 by 5 blocks. The result looked like a page from a puzzle book. Klaas spent a lot of his time in the train travelling from one place to another and sometimes used the time to encode his reports. His fellow passengers assumed he was doing puzzles.
Though Klaas was an extremely self-controlled person, he was always under tension, however little he let it show. He once told how he stood in a queue in a bank, when someone behind, tapped him on the shoulder, quite innocently, to get his attention. Klaas reacted in total surprise, turned around in a jerk, then managed, just in time, to control himself and observe what was really happening. He had nearly knocked the man down and run for it. He was shocked that he could have reacted in such a tense and unthinking manner.
Of course, life wasn’t always serious in the resistance, and there really was a lot of humour. This was probably necessary to reduce the tension. Somewhere in Amsterdam, on one of the canals, there was a secret meeting, I believe of the “Patrool”. This gathering was on an upper storey. Below was a garage where the Germans had stored drink and other luxury food. In some way, one of those present had managed to break into the garage, and supplied the party with the best drink, and nicest food. This led to great hilarity for all, and this remained a conversation piece for time to come.
Peter Tazelaar and
Christmas 1941 and New Year – these were certainly no celebrations for us. That’s probably why I cannot remember anything about them.
Klaas’ task was to gather military intelligence, thus not political intelligence. However he has close contact with Vas Dias and Frans Goedhart – both closely associated with the underground newspaper “Het Patrool” (The Patrol”). It was thus difficult for Klaas when he was asked to send political messages. For example Frans Goedhart and Wierda Beckman were convinced that the Dutch government in exile (in England) had no idea of the actual situation in the occupied territory. They had unsuccessfully tried several times to explain this to the government, and in a last attempt has decided to risk the crossing to England themselves.
VasDias was one of Klaas’ most important helpers, and at that time there was no-one else who had contact with England.
In this way Klaas became the middleman in organising this. A lot of what occurred in the next few days was very confused, and remains in my memory as independent episodes and anecdotes. One thing I do know for sure – the truth was very different from that depicted in the film “Soldaat van Oranje” (Soldier of Orange). I really don’t think that Roelof Hazelhoff , after he had been hiding from the German patrols, up to his neck in the ice-cold North Sea, , would have much inclination to dance the tango. Funny maybe, but not believable.
The morning after this disastrous landing, I cycle to Dr Krediet’s house to find out how the operation had gone. All three – Chris Krediet, Peter Tazelaar and Hazelhoff were sick in bed, being treated by Dr Krediet. The operation had completely failed, they were lucky to escape through the dunes. The Krediet family lived in Wassenaar, at the edge of the dunes, and as Chris was familiar with the terrain, despite the cold and exhaustion, they were able to reach his family home. This was not shown in the film. At the beginning of January 1942 it was extremely cold. The beach at Scheveningen was totally frozen with snow and ice. I can still envisage the piles and the iron supports under the pier with their thick coating of ice.
After a lot of signalling back and forth, regarding when and who should come to England, Klaas received a message that a small group could make the voyage across the North Sea. Franz Goedhart and Wiarda Beckman, amongst others, would be picked up from the beach, just above the pier at Scheveningen. The first attempt was cancelled, due to some misunderstanding. It was now necessary, to establish a code, so we in the Netherlands would know if the landing was going ahead or not. In later years this became normal procedure – each news bulletin from England would be preceded by various code messages. At that time we did not yet know anything about it.
I suggested that we requested, if in place of playing the national anthem “Wilhelmus van Oranje”, it could be read out at the beginning of the transmission of the Dutch news from England. In retrospect not such a good idea of mine. They probably didn’t have anyone available in the studio to read it out. In any case, we all stood in our living room around the radio – those who were to make the crossing in heavy coats – listening to the news on the 25 metre short-wave band. The news started with the singing of the “Wilhelmus” – not the normal playing nor yet the reading out. What now – was it going ahead or not? We gambled on it going ahead. Everyone disappeared into the night. Klaas, Mother and I stayed behind. How would it work out?
The next morning I cycled over to Wassenaar, where I heard that it had gone wrong. Broer had seen what happened. A German patrol discovered the England-voyagers. Frans Goedhart and Wiarda Beckman were captured and taken to the prison in Scheveningen. The boat sent to fetch them had landed much further north than expected.
In the following week Peter Tazelaar managed to escape to Switzerland. We heard he was unable to continue on to England immediately – he had broken his leg while skiing.
Frans managed to escape while being transported to another prison. For a while he was left alone at a police station. He strolled onto the street and was free. Fortunately few police officers were on the side of the Germans. But whom could you trust or not?
Vas Dias decided a lot later to escape to England, via Paris and Portugal. This was a well-known route for him, but in Paris he ran into a trap. But I only heard that when Klaas had already been in the hands of the Sicherheitdienst for months. Had Vas Dias capitulated during his interrogation? Had he told where Klaas might be found?
By that time I had already been in prison for months. I knew how the Jews in the prison were treated during their interrogations – opposite and beside my cell were interrogation rooms and I could hear everything that was going on during these interrogations. Could I judge Vas Dias – who was a Jew?
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A German soldier on guard at the beach in
It was now spring. My parents owned a holiday home halfway between Dalfsen and Ommen. It was time to check if everything was still ok there. Klaas and I decided to cycle to the holiday home as a respite from The Hague. We took several days. The idea was that we might gather more information along the way that would be of use to Klaas to send through to England.
Along the way we came across the concentration camp at Amersfoort. High walls and barbed wire. Father was locked up somewhere in there. Here I cycled, I was free and I could do nothing to help. In one of the letters smuggled out of there, father wrote how the whole camp was punished when one of the prisoners had stolen food. Therefore everyone had to stand at attention all day. Then they were told they had to punish the “wrongdoer” themselves! This must have been terrible.
It was now cherry season and we bought 2 baskets of cherries from an orchard. The baskets were hung from the handlebars. Never have I eaten so many and such delicious cherries! There are probably still today many cherry trees along the road we cycled.
In one of the places we had spent the night in a hotel, we went to the cinema. Since the German occupation, up till then I had not been to the cinema. There were only German films and in protest my family would not go. The film Klaas and I saw was a war film, with Stukas diving from high in the air, towards allied ships. It was a typical propaganda film. We took much pleasure in criticising the film.
Upon arrival at our holiday home, we first visited the neighbours. At Farmer Timmerman’s we were given milk, and at Mijerink’s, eggs. Though in 1942 there was not yet famine, this was still luxury. We fancied making pancakes, and all we still needed was flour. I looked in all the drawers and cupboards. Eventually I found a bag of flour in the bottom of a kitchen cupboard. Well it’s not so difficult to make a pancake mix, but it just didn’t work. More eggs I thought, no go. More flour, no go again. Eventually we gave up. When I got home I told my mother about it. It turned out that the “flour” was not flour at all, but whiting for tennis shoes!
Months later, I sat, imprisoned in the “Oranje Hotel”. I was cold and hungry. I could not really appreciate the bowls of thin soup, or mashed potatoes with nettles. I kept thinking about all those eggs, milk and butter we wasted trying to make those pancakes.
On Sunday, Klaas wanted to go to church in Ommen. For me this was a first– I had never been to church. Klaas came from a Christian home and felt himself at home in this environment. On leaving the church the minister stood at the door, chatting to the parishioners. It was clearly unpleasant to Klaas to have to lie about who we were, and why we were here on holiday.
Afterwards he was quiet, and thoughtful. Probably he felt homesick and it was very difficult for him that he could not make contact with his family. We spoke about this a few times. Did he now have a premonition about the future? He was an optimist but also a realist.
My cousin Jenny was engaged to Piet de Vlieger a ship’s engineer on one of the ships that, prior to the war, sailed to Indonesia. This ship was now moored at Rotterdam or perhaps Schiedam. In any case, there was a lot of shipbuilding taking place in that town. The German high command still had plans to invade England, and was busy assembling an invasion armada. Thus many flat-bottomed landing craft were being produced – out of concrete. The ship where Piet was now on board had a good view over the many wharves, and Piet was able to give a lot of information.
Although we didn’t tell him why we were so curious about all this shipbuilding industry, I suspected he had a good idea about why we were so interested. Klaas was completely at home in this environment. He had been in fact a first mate on merchant ships..
We lived at the foot of the dunes. An area above the highest dune, exactly opposite our house, was enclosed by barbed wire. German soldiers stood on guard there. First a rather large concrete foundation was poured, and then a large square framework was constructed on top of this. Seeing as I had learned this and that about short-wave radio at radio school, I gathered this was some sort of instrument for radio location. Thus Klaas was able to transmit precise details on what was later to become known as a radar antenna.
One day in order to view everything up close, I crept a little under the barbed wire to a place where the guard could not see me,. I found a fountain pen there amongst the marram grass. This was prior to the invention of the ballpoint pen. The fountain pen was of the best German quality, and served me for years afterwards. I lost it in 1950 on the immigration ship on which I came to New Zealand.
Speaking of locating – Klaas wanted to work only once more from a transmission address in the polder, somewhere in South Holland – perhaps near Woerden. In any case this was a two-storey house with an attic that had a view over the whole polder. Klaas believed that it was becoming dangerous here, and this was to be the last time he used this address. Transmitting too long from the same location was, according to Klaas, stupid, as it gave the Germans the chance to precisely determine his location. He was absolutely correct in that.
On our way to the transmission place we passed a German military car, and some sort of camouflaged van with an antenna on top. Clearly they had just arrived – there was much shouting and giving of orders. It was clear what was going on. It looked like they were shortly going to start locating.
The messages Klaas had to sent were important, and had been pre-coded so would not take long to send. We gambled on it. We cycled past the military without being stopped. Up in the attic, where Klaas had his transmitter, we had a clear view of the dike and the locator vehicle and all the activity there. Klaas started his first transmission. What we did not expect was that he was asked for more information, which had yet to be encoded. England wanted an immediate reply. So I coded and decoded while Klaas was transmitting – all the time anxiously keeping an eye on what was happening on the dike. When we were done, we packed up our stuff as quickly as possible and fled through the backdoor, which was not visible from the dike.
But there was not always so much tension. Klaas had a transmission address in Loosdrecht. Here he could do his work and at the same time have some relaxation. He was mad about boats and sailing. Pum was able to take a holiday from her work as a nurse and so they had a sailing holiday together. I too came over for a couple of days sailing. Those were good times and I have very fond memories of them.
One of Klaas’sgroup of helpers had heard of an another agent, who had come from England and wanted to make contact with him as his transmitter had been lost. Was this an attempt to infiltrate by the Sicherheitsdienst? Some strange happenings had taken place in the last few days – the telephione would ring often, but there was no one on the other end of the line. Finally a few Resitance members , including Broer-Moonen and about three others, decided to ring a particular number. But they did not do it from our house; this was too dangerous as the conversation might be intercepted.
The group went to a public telephone box in central The Hague to make the call. But was this safer? They were all apprehended. The SD seemed exceptionally well organised – or were there traitors in the Dutch Police? Was this an omen of what would be coming?
We were now truly convinced of the hazards we ran. Still we had not made a proper arrangement of what we would do if one or more of us were captured. For example: how could we make it clear that a house was no longer safe? If only we had.
One time when we were discussing this, Klaas said, more in jest than earnest, that if one of us was captured then the front window must be bashed in as a sign. The front room in Laan van Poot had a window that stretched the whole width of the room, and looked out on the garden and the dunes. No one had a better idea, and it was not spoken of again.
Despite all the espionage activities, secret meetings, illegal papers and dangers, ordinary life just went on. I studied at radio school and would soon do my MTS exams. Also I played tennis, at least if I had time for it.
The window Gerard
I came cycling home one day from tennis. A few houses away a car was parked. Although few cars were still around, there were enough on the road that this did not seem unusual. Nothing strange thus, but I still felt creepy. Two men sat in the front of the car, one reading the paper. Why did I feel danger? There was nothing, everything looked normal. Still I decided not to stop at our house. I cycled on and felt very foolish. I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong. I rode around the block, and again passed the car, I took in everything, but there was still nothing remarkable. At home I got off my bike, opened the gate and pushed my bike to the front door. “Click” I heard the gate open behind me, and turned around. Right behind me stood two men, one had a pistol pointed at me – right at my chest. They were Dutchmen and they told me that they wished to speak with me, and that I was to come with them.
How could I now warn Klaas and my mother? I said I wanted to put my bike by the window, so it wouldn’t be stolen. I didn’t wait for an answer but did it immediately. They didn’t prevent me. Now I had to let my bike fall against the window so hard that the window would break. The window didn’t break; I should have banged it harder against the window. Was I too afraid? It is more than sixty years ago and still I mull over it in my thoughts how I could have done it better. Was I afraid the man with the pistol would shoot me if I clearly and intentionally broke the window? If I had succeeded in breaking the window would Klaas then not have ended up in the hands of the SD? Had he not seen that my bike stood, where there never was a bike? How hard would you have to throw a bike against a window to break it? These thoughts still go through my head!
Also I ask myself why I had not listened to my premonition. After this event I twice more had there these ominous premonitions. Those times I listened to my premonition, and it turned out that if I had not, I would surely not have survived.
Only much later, when we three – Pum, Mother and I – were released, did I hear how Pum had been used as bait. Mother was the first to be picked up, and then Pum. Pum was taken to the railway-station in the hope that Klaas would come by train, and would come running to her. This plan did not succeed, and a second attempt was made. Pum was placed in bed at our home in the role of a patient, and a guard, disguised as a nurse by the bed. The trap for Klaas was ready.
In the meantime, Klaas had smelled danger. He was with relations of ours in Iris Street, about a quarter of and hour by foot from our place. It was decided that my aunt would go and see what was the matter. On returning she said she saw Pum lying in bed, and that there was a nurse present. Klaas was now very worried, and against all advice he went to look for himself. The trap sprang shut.
During the first weeks in prison I was interrogated several times. A German guard told me that I must prepare myself and then I had to run through the corridors with a guard after me on a bicycle shouting “Schnell mensch, lauf, lauf!”
Subsequently I was brought to the Binnenhof (Government Buildings) Sometimes I was questioned by the two men who had arrested me. Slachter and Poos, they were police detectives and traitors. At other times I was questioned by Herr Bartels or Schreider.
The interrogations were more of a challenge than a threat and I was never physically mistreated.
Early in the interogation I was asked about ”Aart, Aart Alblas”. Easy to answer,,”Never heard of him”.
This went on for a while till they mentioned “Your sister’s fiance
My answer, “Oh ,you mean Klaas, they are not officially engaged, but they are in love with each other”. Other than that I knew nothing. “No I can’t remember when he first came to our home”. “I know nothing of other names, never heard of them”.
So this was the first time that I heard Klaas’ real name.
During the interrogation Bartels pulled a pistol from his desk. It was a Luger with silencer. He played with it for a bit. Was this to frighten me? Surely not, I knew he wouldn’t shoot me dead, not on such a lovely rug. I showed my interest for the gun, and asked him how accurately he could shoot, and how far. “Is it loaded?” “Yes indeed!”.
Suddenly he said, “You know that Klaas is a spy, for the English!” He said this in German. The translator translated into Dutch and I acted as if I was shocked. Bartels barked then “See, you’re shocked at that, you blush, now you know that we know everything. This tells me that you have worked together with him” I let him know that I was shocked. If it was true what he said, then we had sheltered a spy. That promised only the worst. Bartels had no answer for that.
Bartels tried to convince me to tell everything. Klaas and my mother had according to him, confessed everything. But I knew for sure that neither my mother, nor Klaas would betray me. Also I knew for certain that they trusted in me. I would never say anything, just like them. So strong was the trust between us four: Klaas, Mother, Pum and I. There was no question of giving in to the interrogators.
About a fortnight after my arrest I was again interrogated. Many of the prisoners in solitary confinement gave up their resistance after a few weeks. Fortunately I could keep faith. Subsequently came a long time without interrogation. The time passed slowly because I had no one to talk to. Also you saw everything more sombrely when you must deal with everything alone. Everyday I scratched another stripe on my calendar on the wall. Had they forgotten me?
Gerard managed to retain this token after a visit to his father in prison. He had the romantic idea of using it in an escape.
My cell had little furniture. One stool, a table and a cot, all made of planks. On the wall by the door was a list of rules in German. "Es ist nicht genemigt!. Es ist verboten! Man darf nicht! Man sollst nicht!" etc. Twelve or thirteen prohibitions in a cell of two by three metres, how is that possible? It is remarkable how many ways German has of saying that you may not do something. The days were long, especially during solitary confinement. I used several ways to pass the time. I first tried scratching a sundial on the wall, but the sun only shone for a short time on the cell wall, and not every day, this was thus too difficult. I had a cardboard cup. I made a hole in the bottom and filled it with water. It wouldn’t be an hourglass, but a water clock, but that also failed as the cup emptied too fast. Eventually I began a more ambitious plan. Every day I saved a little of my bread, which wasn’t easy when you were hungry! I kneaded it until it was like a thick paste, this could be shaped and then when it dried was very hard. I had already made some dice in this way, but now I made a cogwheel and escapement with pendulum.! For axles I found bits of straw in the mattress and the cup proved of use too. For weights I used bits of concrete I scraped out of the wall. All very ingenious, but unfortunately it never ran more than a few seconds – still this task helped me to pass the time.
How did I pass an average day? In the morning on waking I would try to remember as many of my dreams as possible, and this kept me busy for a while. Then I got dressed, but that was quickly done, as I slept in my underwear. In my cell I wore my tennis shorts over my long white underpants (prison issue) a shirt and my tennis shoes. It must have been a lovely sight. Then I would have a wash. There was no soap, toothpaste or toothbrush and water was only available in a jug and a little bowl. In a corner of the cell stood a stinking bucket with a lid. This was the toilet. In the distance I heard the rattle of the dinner carts. A guard walked past all the cells and opened the hatch in each door. This gave me a chance to see into the corridor, but that was not allowed. The guard growled that I was to get away from the door. Then came the cart, a piece of bread was shoved in, then I had to hold out and enamel mug which would be filled with a hot drink. The hatch closed until lunch, then opened once more for dinner.
In the morning the emptying of the toilets was also on the program. My door was opened a chink, my bucket had to be put out, and the door was closed again. I was never allowed out of my cell. ‘Einzelhaft’ was written on my cell door – I saw it when I returned from my interrogations. This inscription was not as bad as the one on the cell of the man opposite. On his door as well as ‘Einzelhaft’ was ‘Schwein Jude’. This meant that whenever the drunken German guards wanted some fun they could mistreat him. Sundays seem especially popular to do some roughing up of helpless prisoners. I had a few visits from guards myself. Fortunately these were only short visits and I did not get hurt too much, unlike the man opposite. It was more of a jolly for the two German soldiers.
One time a guard forgot to bolt my door, after I hat put the toilet bucket outside. I left my cell and joined the row of prisoners, each with his bucket in hand. Thus we all walked one behind the other through the corridors, into the yard where we, one by one, had to empty our barrels. Up on the walls soldiers stood with rifles at the ready. We walked a couple of circuits of the yard and went back to our cells. The warder who had forgotten to bolt my cell was clearly afraid his superior would find out, and did and said nothing. I never got another chance like that.
I had made a game from a sheet of toilet paper in the shape of a draughtsboard. I had no pencil to draw the lines, so I had to make folds. It was a battle between soldiers and tanks that were depicted by pieces of straw. On my side I had to choose where to put my soldiers, the enemy positions were determined by throwing dice. The game was so well balanced that it could take hours to reach an outcome. In the evenings it was quiet and my neighbours heard my dice and couldn’t understand what I was doing. Sometimes we could talk through the crack in the wall above the tabletop. I could just hear them talking if I put my ear to the wall. Usually I just listened. On the other side of the wall were three prisoners that talked a lot to each other. One of the three was especially talkative, apparently a schizophrenic, he told of an asylum where he has spent much time. Also I heard sexual discussions, I was just eighteen and very innocent in that regard. I could only listen at night as during the day there was too much noise, and also the guards could catch me when they spied through the peephole. Usually I could hear if a warder approached. They stopped, with a click the peephole opened and you were observed. The peephole closed and the warder walked on to the next cell. Some guards were out to surprise you. They tiptoed from cell top cell hoping to find a reason to enter your cell and giver you a beating.
Most days were repetitions of previous days. Because I was not allowed a book, I invented my own “illustrated” stories. Each day I added a couple of pages. Everything only in my mind. In the same way there were other ways to keep myself busy, keep my courage up and not to give up. I memorised all the square roots and could eventually give the square of any number and the reverse. I pulled threads out of my sheets, and spent hours making a muddled knot out of them. The following weeks I was busy undoing it again. Eventually I received some more clothes and toilet articles and could look after myself a bit better. I got an eye infection, probably due to an ingrown eyelash. I had no mirror and couldn’t do anything about it. My eye was sore for weeks.
After several months I was taken to another cell, which I shared with two other prisoners. I was allowed books to read, and even, once every three days, was allowed out of the cell to empty the sloshing, overfull bucket. However it was all much better than solitary confinement for me.
A couple of days before this transfer two important events took place. The second event was yet another interrogation at the Binnenhof, but shortly therefore I had been able to say my farewell to my father.
Gerard Hueting’s father.
The farewell to my father was a very unreal experience I was informed that I should put on my best clothes and make myself neat and tidy. A barber even came to cut my hair
After that I was taken to the main entrance to the prison. Mother and Pum were there waiting. Also a car and chauffeur stood ready, and Herr Bartels or Schreider (I can’t remember which) was present. Papers were filled in and signatures placed. The great doors opened and we rode out.
We were on our way to my father. Father who after various prisons and court cases now was sentenced to death. Now he was held in the prison in Utrecht, awaiting his execution.
On the way we could share our experiences. None of us three had admitted anything to the Germans.
The farewell from my father was very emotional. He knew nothing of our arrest, and during these incredibly difficult times for him, he had not been able to get any support from us, and was naturally very worried about the lack of news.
During the whole journey to Utrecht and back, and during out farewell, we were very aware that all this was the consequence of the German rule. The Germans were the enemy and we let this show. However we were thankful that we had been given the chance of taking leave of Father. Our feelings were very mixed.
On the return journey our chaperone let the chauffeur buy us a bag of cherries. The cherry season was nearly over. How long ago had Klaas and I cycled along the dikes with a basket of cherries on the handlebars?
After months of solitary confinement it was strange to have people around me again, and to be able to talk to them. But it was not easy to live in such a tiny cell with three men together. As well, they all came from very different backgrounds. One cellmate said he was a Baron a NSB-er (a member of the Nationaal Socialistische Beweging – the Dutch Nazi party) deserted from the Russian front. True or not? I don’t know. In any case I told him nothing more that I had said during my interrogation. The other cellmate came from a working class background, he was a member of an underground group, and was captured during a sabotage attempt. He eventually paid with his life, leaving his young family behind.
Daily the overflowing bucket had to be emptied, this we did in turn. I had seen that there was a junction of corridors where the soldiers on guard couldn’t see me. The next time I had to empty the bucket I took my chance. Coming to the corner, after emptying the bucket I went straight ahead instead of to the right. Nobody noticed. There I went with an empty bucket through the prison. Nobody stopped me. I didn’t chance the guarded exit, but managed to get to the women’s section where I hoped to make contact with Mother or Pum. I could not find their cell. I saw no real chance to escape. Patiently I stood waiting till a warder, to his great astonishment, found me there. He also dared not say anything, but locked me up quickly, afraid he would be punished. Thereafter I got no more chance for such escapades.
Earlier I had tried, via a barred window above the door, to reach the roof. This was while I was still in “Einzelhaft”. The cell was about 2 meters wide; I could stretch between the two walls. With my feet on one wall and my hands on the other I began to shuffle upwards. The most difficult part was unfastening the bars. By using my right arm to hold the tension I had my left arm and hand free. But I could not keep it up for long. I also had no other tool than a nail I had managed to work loose from my wooden cot. One time I could not hold on any longer, and fell hard and hurt myself badly.
An other highlight happened when one day a small paper bag with sugar was pushed through the door flap. This was fantastic. First I placed a few crystals of sugar on my tongue. Then a few more. And more. Then I couldn’t stop and ate the whole bag of sugar. I didn’t mind. It was sweet. But it was also something much more.
It meant that somewhere, some one was thinking of me. I was not alone and this thought gave me support when I needed it most.
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Eventually we were released. We stood on the street in front of the “Oranjehotel”: Mother, Pum and I. This was late in the afternoon of a blustery autumn day, with rain and wind, and fallen leaves everywhere. Most of our possessions were returned to us. We took the tram home, but it appeared we had no more home. By coincidence the son of our neighbour was also in the tram and we heard that the whole neighbourhood had been evacuated by the German authorities. So of necessity we spent the night at my aunt and uncle’s place in Iris Street. We heard that Father had indeed been killed. Of Klaas we still knew nothing.
One more time I had to go to the prison. Though we received most of our possessions back, Mother had not got one special photo back. Hidden in the frame were several thousand American dollars. Tidily stuck in to be used in case of need.
It was not easy to go back, to ring at the gate, and be let in. It ended well though, the money was safe.
I made one other trip to another prison. With Pum I travelled to Haarlen. Pum had managed to get permission to visit Klaas for the last time. I went along for support. Here from this big mansion in Haarlen the Germans directed their England spiel using those agents already caught in their net to catch more.
I waited in the waiting room, while Pum was taken away to farewell Klaas.
Klaas, or his real name; Aart Alblas was eventually executed at Mauthausen.
Many of those captured by the Nazis had yielded under great pressure and had swept others along to their doom,. I can understand it and don’t judge them. But I know we had Klaas to thank for our freedom.
Aart Alblas alias Klaas. Engelandvaarder, secret agent, my sister’s beloved and my friend.
Also I think on the last words from my father in his letter to Mother, Pum and me. “I trust that you will come through this unharmed. You suffer for your people and fatherland, for all that is ‘good’ in this world. I am convinced that good will eventually overcome, and then our sacrifice will not be in vain.”
Gerard Hueting 25 October 2004.
(translated by Eric Hueting 2008)
* England Voyager – one who made the dangerous and illegal crossing to England