June 22nd, 2010

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Tuesday June 22nd. An emotional confrontation with World War II

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
I spent the day in the National Archives in the Hague.  My request to examine the files of the war criminal procedures against Sonja van Hesteren were granted. Van Hesteren was a Dutch Nazi sympathizer who was used to trap the leader of  my mother’s resistance group. She was sentenced to 12 years and later reduced by a Royal clemency to 9 years.
The leader of my mother’s unit died in a German concentration camp just before the war ended. Our mother was liberated at the end of the war by the Americans at Dachau.  After our mother passed away I came up with questions she might have been able to answer before. The main question was: ” Why have I never heard of any other names than hers who worked for the leader of this group?”  There just have to be more. Last Summer sailing from the Azores to France I had this one in a million stroke of luck to meet the grandson of another woman who worked for the same resistance group leader. We were at that time both being coached on the weather by Herb Hilgenberg on the short wave radio. Bart Boosman was sailing back to Holland after participating in the 2009 OSTAR race. But even though this was a big step forward it still is not a direct connection because even though they, three women, went through the same interrogators, prisons and concentration camps they never had any direct contact with our mother.
And today’s search did not answer that question. But there are hours of interesting reading on the events between 1943 and 1947.  But the most emotional discovery was the fact that the files include the records of the testimony of one of the German interrogators of the despised SD (Sicherheits Dienst) officer, Emil Ruehl, who reveals from whom he obtained the name of the person who gave away to him the real name of the resistance group leader he was looking for. 
We knew this person and he and Ruehl are long dead and there is no record in these files if his claim has ever been challenged. These archives will become public records in the near future.
My father was arrested two weeks before the leader was caught. He was repeatedly interrogated to obtain the identity of the leader but since my father had nothing to do with the resistance work my mother was involved with he had no idea who this person might be with the “nom de guerre” he used. Once they knew his real name he was phoned and trapped by Sonja van Hesteren on April 20 1944.  Then shortly after my mother turned her self in figuring that she could handle the ordeal better than my father. Then they released our father and the rest is history. I can only speculate if my father and mother ever knew of this scenario. But now it does start to make sense out of a number of contacts, or better yet the lack of contacts, between a number of the players, since the war’s end.
The below picture was taken today from the train on the rail road bridge that just opens for a few minutes in the middle of the night on the Standing Mast Route through Amsterdam.

De Houtmankade from train