4-4-24 Eighty Years ago. A day I will never forget.

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 6th, 2024

80 years ago on 4-4-44 

I was only seven years old. This is a date that has left a permanent imprint on my entire life. I still see the posse, with an armed German soldier, coming up the stairs, hiding behind our mother.

from my book The Mastmakers’ Daughters:

“Chapter 30. My husband arrested

A black car drove slowly into the Alblasstraat where we lived on the evening of the fourth of April 1944. The car stopped near our address. A civilian stepped out and asked our daughter Lientje, who was playing in the street: “Can you tell me where I can find the van Ommens?” Now, that was not that difficult for an almost ten-year-old.

The civilian happened to be Maarten Kuiper, a Dutch traitor, who was accompanied by Friederich Christian Viebahn, Staffelsturmscharführer. Later on, we discovered that we had earned the distinction to have been visited by a notorious posse of the German SD (Sicherheits Dienst). These same two men arrested the Anne Frank family four months later. The Frank family went through the same routine as my husband via the SD headquarters in the Euterpestraat and then sent to the prison on the Weteringschans. Maarten Kuiper was also the one to empty his pistol on the legendary Resistance heroine Hannie Schaft, two weeks short of the end of the war. His bloodthirstiness became the fatal fate for the many men picked at random in the “Silbertanne” executions at the end of the war. Kuiper was sentenced to death by the Dutch war court and executed right after the war.

The black booted gentlemen rang our door bell and announced themselves as: “Police” and then explained that they were looking for housing for people that were being evacuated from the coast line, where a defensive system was being built to keep any invasions from the North Sea at bay. Dick happened to be on the fourth-floor attic listening to his clandestine radio transmissions from the BBC. After tramping through our apartment for a half hour, they disappeared across the street to pay a visit to the street level apartment of Henk Dienske’s parents. But twenty minutes later Kuiper with a German soldier came back up our stairs. The soldier had his rifle drawn. They arrested Dick and took him across the street to the Dienskes. It was obvious that they were on a wild goose chase. Dick had never been involved in any of my resistance activities, and for every one’s safety, it was not discussed between us. I was hoping that it all would turn out to be an error. It was obvious that they were on a wild goose chase.  They did not seem to be clear in what or whom they were searching for.

But yet the thoughts of what the Germans could be up to frightened me and my praying started in earnest.

The old Dienske, Johan, Henk’s father was not home yet. Another man, a certain van der Most[1] out of the Deurlostraat, was being interrogated, in the Dienske home, by Emil Rühl, second in command at the SD Amsterdam headquarters. Dick was brought, with van der Most, to the SD headquarters. Dick was asked what he knew of a certain “de Ridder”. This was the alias of Henk Dienske. Dick did not have a clue. The only “de Ridder” he knew was our milkman who came daily through our neighborhood to deliver fresh milk. Johan Dienske was brought later that evening to join Dick and van der Most. When the old Dienske arrived home, Kuiper was waiting for him. His wife, Jo, had a plate of cereal ready for him and Kuiper let him eat it and mocked him: “Don’t you need to say grace first?” The threesome, Dick, van der Most and Johan, were brought over to Weteringschans prison, near the Rijksmuseum. Each was in a separate but adjoining cell with van der Most in the middle cell. Johan was transferred to a different part of the prison the next morning. Dick’s cell number was B 2.16. Johan’s wife, Jo, was also arrested and brought to the women’s section of Weteringschans prison. Dick shared his cell with an “onderduiker”[2] and Sponmoelee who had been imprisoned for more than two years. The first thing his new cellmates asked was: “Do you have any cigarettes or tobacco?” No, Dick had neither. Dick slept reasonably well on his straw mattress that first night in prison, considering his predicament. Their daily routine was to be woken at 7 a.m. and then to wash their faces from the water pitcher. Each had four thin slices of bread and tasteless coffee for breakfast. The best that could be said for the coffee was that it was warm. Lunch consisted of potatoes and cabbage that floated in warm water. Every other day they were served soup that did not taste bad, but was far too little. Dinner was identical to breakfast. On Saturday, the prisoners received 25 grams margarine, a small chunk of cheese, and a tiny measure of sugar, which was meant to last for a week.

When Dick paced himself, it could last him through Tuesday.”

Laissez Passer

As a background to this chapter: Henk Dienske was the leader of the L.O.L.K.P. in the province of North-Holland. This was one of various resistance groups in the Netherlands.

L.O. stands for Landelijke Organisatie voor hulp aan onderduikers. (see picture). Their function was to provide hiding places, false I.D., food ration coupons, etc., for targets of the enemy, Jews, young men forced into labor for the enemy’s war industry, conscientious  objectors.

We still do not know the exact role our mother played. The curiosity came after mother passed away in 1993. My theory is that she was asked by Henk to take over the role he had assigned to his parents, our neighbors across the street. They lived at street level and anyone could see the couriers come and go with their contraband for re-distribution. We lived on the third floor and access was on a stone stair to the 2nd floor to a portico with three different exterior doors. The couriers, mostly female university students, would ring the door bell in the portico and mother would push a button from the 3rd floor, she’d keep our interior apartment door ajar, the couriers would drop the documents behind the commode in the bathroom and disappear; mother never saw them. Then mother would meet with, mostly with Henk Dienske present, others in the group to sort the incoming contraband for further destinations. Since the 4-4-44 visitors did not know the gender of the van Ommen they came for and did not know the real name of de Ridder, I speculate that it may have been a courier who was compromised by the enemy.

Two weeks after father’s arrest, Henk Dienske was taken into custody. The S.D. managed to get the identity from someone we all knew. I discovered this in 2009 in my search for information in the national archives about the young Dutch Nazi who worked for the S.D., Sonja van Hesteren who managed to trick Dienske out of his hiding place. This is all detailed in my book. Henk Dienske succumbed on February 15, 1945 in the Beėndorf/Neuengamme concentration camp.

Mother turned herself in to replace our father on April 25. She figured that since the S.D. had their precious price that they would probably have little need to keep her. Apparently she was suspected to have more to share. She drove their interrogators to desperation, as described by her in the book. Her uncle, the father of her NAZI cousin, the other Mastmakers’ daughter, tried to plead her cause but was told that she would have to be locked up until war’s end. Mother ended up in two prisons, three S.S. concentration camps and was intercepted by the U.S. Army on the death march out of Dachau.

On May 1st the L.K.P. made a failed attempt to free Henk Dienske from the Weteringschans prison because word came from inside that Henk Dienske was under much pressure and had started to spill details. As you may have noticed above our father had a problem in his confrontation in prison with Dienske. My parents and the parents of Henk were all still in this prison and recalled the commotion of running guards, shooting, barking dogs.

Father was released on May 5th, , the parents of Henk on May 3rd.

[1] Philippus van der Most. Dick van Ommen wrote in his diary that v/d Most was very scared. His name has never come up again.

[2] Literally: diver=gone into hiding from the enemy   .


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