Jan Eusman 93, (alias Jan Zuid, Eussie or Eus)
“My time in the Oranjehotel was a very dark period. I was in the hands of SS-Oberscharführer Makowski and a guard called Kotälla. They were brutes. They put me through hell as soon as I arrived. I had to stand with my nose and toes touching the wall, a pose that you can’t keep up for long. Kotälla shoved my nose back against the wall whenever I slackened and I eventually returned to my cell, battered and bruised.
They confiscated all my possessions. Beaten and humiliated, I sat on a stool trying to collect my thoughts. I looked around me and saw a tiny cell measuring just 2 metres with a bed placed against the rear wall. There was a single shelf bearing a tin mug and wooden cutlery, and in the corner, a bucket that served as a toilet and a water bottle.
I was interrogated repeatedly. It was difficult to gauge what they did and didn’t know. They were also keen to humiliate me. I had to jump through the corridors on my hands and feet, for instance, like a frog. Or hold a stool aloft while crouching down. They took away my dignity and that hurt. My young ego had been sorely bruised. After a while, I was allowed to take a shower and get a breath of fresh air once a week. On one occasion, they even let me go to church. I started off in solitary confinement, but other prisoners joined me later on. Most of them left again, many to be executed.
In 1941, fifteen men from the Geuzen resistance group and three men who had taken part in the February general strike were executed by firing squad in the dunes on the Waalsdorpervlakte. Jan Campert wrote the poem ‘De 18 doden’ in their memory. This left a deep impression on us.
The evening before their execution, prisoners who had been sentenced to death were placed together in the death cells. The doors were left open on that final night so that they could sit together and talk or smoke a cigarette. The next morning they were taken away, never to return. I knew some of them. That’s all I’m prepared to say; I don’t want the nightmares to come back.”
In the autumn of 1940, a friend studying with Jan Eusman put him in contact with the Vrij Nederland resistance group, which he later joined. Eusman helped to distribute the Vrij Nederland newspaper. In February 1941, the first batch of Vrij Nederland fighters were arrested. On 9 July 1941, it was Eusman’s turn and he was taken to Scheveningen prison at the age of 21. Eusman was sentenced to two years in prison and transported to Germany on 10 April 1942. After being moved around between prisons, he finally arrived in a concentration camp in Dahlhausen in October 1942, a period he refuses to talk about.
After being released in July 1943, he continued his resistance work for the illegal newspaper, Trouw. He walked into a trap on 22 May 1944 and was shot and wounded while trying to flee. Three bullets were removed in hospital and a fourth remains buried in his skull, just behind his ear. Eusman’s father, who was also an active resistance fighter, smuggled him out of the hospital to a safe house. Six months later, in late 1944, he had recovered enough to resume his resistance work.
Uithoorn, 2 July 2013 © Claudia Heinermann
Jan Eusman died in March 2014.
Joke Folmer, 90 (La petite)
“I spent my first weeks in Scheveningen in solitary confinement, kept far away from the other prisoners. The adjoining cells were empty so secret contact was out of the question. But the solitary confinement didn’t have the desired effect on me; I’m fine on my own. What’s more, the period leading up to my arrest had been tense and exhausting, so I spent a lot of my time asleep. I was worn out. I did exercises to stay fit during my waking hours, and sang all the songs I knew. I also had a paperclip that they hadn’t managed to find so I scratched a calendar on the wall, and the odd crossword puzzle or poem. That gave me something to do.
Time eventually became a vague notion, as if I was living in a time warp. They sometimes ‘forgot’ to empty the bucket that served as my toilet or bring me food, denying me the moments that marked the regular passage of time. Every day as dusk set in, I had a moment of melancholy. This was when I felt a deep longing to be outside.
Hot meals were often laced with camphor; you could smell and taste it. It was supposed to stop the prisoners from becoming agitated, but one of the side-effects for women was that they stopping having periods.
At first I was terrified as I wasn’t sure what they were charging me with. I didn’t know what they knew about me and was terrified. With everything I’d done, I had a lot to be worried about. During one of the interrogations, I managed to work out why they’d arrested me. They’d found out that I’d smuggled people to the borders in 1942, a year in which I’d only actually helped five. It was a huge relief to realise that they knew nothing about the other 100 that had followed. A group known as ‘Luctor et Emergo’ had been rounded up and they thought that I was trying to help my boyfriend who was part of that group, an accusation I obviously went along with. They’d come to the opinion that I was too immature and naive to be fully involved so they believed me.
On 30 May, I was transferred to Vught. This is when I started embroidering texts on a hankie. I used pieces of thread pulled from my clothes to stitch important dates and the names of prisons I’d been with. They obviously didn’t supply pen and paper so this was a good alternative and it kept me busy. I hid the needle in the calluses on my hands.
In July, I was taken to Utrecht for trial with three other women. We were found guilty and sentenced to death. On 5 September 1944, Dolle Dinsdag [Mad Tuesday], panic broke out among the Germans. We were loaded into cattle trucks and transported to Germany. They somehow forgot our papers in the chaos. The prisons refused to take prisoners without papers so we were shunted around. Our execution always seemed to be scheduled for a date after we had been moved, which is how I survived.
My fate seemed sealed and I resigned myself to being executed in prison. I stopped fighting for survival as this drained my energy, a valuable resource in the appalling conditions we were kept in. This was the only way I could handle the situation, living from one day to the next and not thinking about the future. I cannot describe what I felt when we were finally released by the Russians; I think I was in shock. I needed time to adjust to the idea that I would live after all and have a future.”
Joke Folmer escorted escaped prisoners of wars, resistance fighters who were no longer safe in their own country and more than 120 stranded airmen to the borders. She was arrested along with her mother at Amsterdam Central Station on 22 April 1944. Joke was taken to Scheveningen prison and her mother was held in the hostage barracks at Kamp Vught.
Folmer was awarded several medals for her relentless efforts during World War II, including the ‘Bronze Lion’ for resistance work. She and Peter van den Hurk are the only surviving Dutch people to have been awarded the American Medal of Freedom with Gold Palm and the English George Medal.
Schiermonnikoog, 15 July 2013 © Claudia Heinermann
Hebe Charlotte Kohlbrugge 99, (alias Charlotte Doorman)
“They put me in the last cell of the women’s block in Scheveningen prison, right next to the men. I got off fairly lightly in Scheveningen; my crimes weren’t considered too serious so I had no restrictions. Every now and then, I was given food from the Red Cross; three thin slices of eel, for example. Over all, the food wasn’t really too bad. We sometimes had carrot and potato mash or brown bean soup. Being the last woman on the block, I got the portions that were left over so I always had enough to eat.
An agent from Heerlen was being held in the cell next to me. We both scratched away at the heating pipes in our cells until we managed to make a tiny hole that allowed us to communicate. This man was in strict solitary confinement and was allowed nothing. He couldn’t go out for fresh air and had no books. I was allowed to borrow books from the library so I asked for one particular simple book (Syl de strandjutter) and read to my next-door neighbour through the hole in the pipes. I spoke in a loud voice so that he could hear me. When the guard came in demanding to know what I was doing, I answered “Reading; that’s allowed isn’t it?” We both enjoyed it and I was proud to be able to help this man. He had been sentenced to death, but later on I heard that he’d survived thanks to the chaos on Dolle Dinsdag [Mad Tuesday].
Meanwhile, I was becoming increasingly concerned about my interrogation. Although they’d only arrested me for being in possession of false identity papers (fortunately I’d been able to dump the microfilms I’d also been carrying), I was terrified of being tortured. I’d been moving in illegal circles for 4 years and knew exactly what I could expect. I knew lots of people from various Dutch resistance groups and was afraid that I’d betray them if the Germans used violence.
So I came up with the plan of pretending to be an Imperial German and invented a completely new life story for myself. Another woman was placed in my cell so I practised endlessly in the hope of being convincing. Whenever she noticed a slight inconsistency in my story, I changed it. And then I told it all over again.
This was the story I told when they interrogated me. My name was Christine Doorman and I was on my way to Switzerland to join my fiancé… And I told them exactly the same story time and time again. I refused to be confused and my confidence grew. Being unable to find fault with my story, the senior interrogator started to lose his patience and asked why I thought he should believe me. I answered: “Have you ever heard a Dutch woman speak such perfect German?” He was satisfied. As it happened, I’d been brought up bilingually and spoke fluent German. They believed me and I was given a relatively mild sentence: 10 months in prison. It was such a relief; no more interrogations, I hadn’t betrayed anyone and they hadn’t used violence. The 10 months seemed irrelevant. I was transferred to Vught and on Dolle Dinsdag, to Ravensbrück.”
Hebe Kohlbrugge and the clergyman Visser `t Hooft were co-founders of the spy route ‘De Zwitserse Weg’. This route was used for smuggling between 1942 and June 1944, and it formed part of the underground Dutch-Paris network. The route ran from the Netherlands to Geneva via reliable people and addresses. Couriers often used it to carry sensitive information to Switzerland, which was intended for the British government in London. The messages were put onto microfilm in the Netherlands and hidden in clothing. Two resistance groups in particular (Vrij Nederland and the Ordedienst (OD)) made regular use of this route. In 1944, Kohlbrugge was picked up for being in possession of false identity papers while trying to smuggle microfilms to London. She hid the microfilms in the handbag of a passing woman and flushed the rest down the toilet, thereby getting rid of the evidence. She was taken to Scheveningen prison.
Kohlbrugge was awarded the American Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm for her resistance work.
Utrecht, 25 June 2013 © Claudia Heinermann
Mr E.P. Wellenstein, 94 (alias Mom)
“When I first arrived in Scheveningen prison, I had a cell to myself. Cell number 445. On the very first day, I heard noises from the cell next to mine. The table in the cell was attached to the wall and I could talk to the person next-door through a tiny hole just above the fitting. This made life a bit more bearable.
I was kept in my cell for the first few days, but after that they let me go into the courtyard once a day for a breath of fresh air. I was allowed 2 books a week, but I managed to persuade the library attendant to give me an extra 2, which I had to keep hidden. When I’d been there for a week, a parcel arrived from the father of a fellow-prisoner. It contained chocolate and butter, and a bit later, there was another one with a bag of sugar. I arranged everything on the shelf in the corner and my cell started to look a bit cosier.
One day, a cellmate arrived; Ben Hazekamp, a communist who was in serious trouble. Ben was a great guy and we hit it off from the start. We talked a lot and drew ourselves a draughts board using a blunt pencil. As Ben was older than me, he was allowed to sleep in the bed and I slept on a straw mattress on the floor. The cell looked different from the ground; it was a bit like camping.
I remember saying to myself:
Don’t think about what you’d rather be doing, just try to appreciate what you’ve got. Make the most of life, right now, this very minute. Not because the future will be brighter. From that point on, I saw every letter I read, every ray of sunshine I saw, every word I spoke through the hole in the wall and every breath I took as a gift.
Ben was interrogated and the weeks that followed were pure hell. He consistently denied what the SS already knew and was beaten and sent to an isolation cell. When he returned to our cell, he was thin, gaunt, bloodied and exhausted. He’d been battered with rifle butts and denied sleep. His wrists were red and raw from the handcuffs, but they still hadn’t broken him. After a second spell in isolation, Ben was forced to confess. I was deeply concerned about the fate of my cellmate. He recovered slowly. We spent time playing draughts again and ‘exercising’ in the cell by walking back and forth; two steps in one direction two steps in the other. We devised escape plans to keep our spirits up.
On 12 March, I was told to get ready to leave. I didn’t know where I was going. I said goodbye to Ben with a lump in my throat. They took me to Kamp Amersfoort, where my thoughts returned to the cell in Scheveningen and to Ben. I later learned that he had been shot by firing squad in December 1942.”
Edmund Peter Wellenstein became involved in the student resistance movement, producing and distributing the illegal newspaper ‘de oprechte Delftenaar’. On 15 January 1942 at the age of 22, he and two fellow-resistance fighters were called in for an interview by the assistant commissioner of police. Although they were unable to discover any evidence of resistance activities during the interview, Wellenstein was sent to Scheveningen prison for further interrogation by the Security Service.
After 8 months in prison, on 12 September 1942, Wellenstein was released from prison and resumed his resistance work.
(includes quotes from the book: Nummers die een ziel hebben by E.P. ‘Mom’Wellenstein)
The Hague, 6 June 2013 © Claudia Heinermann