Jo van Koeverden
In the German invasion of May 1940 my grandfather fought in Rotterdam. Before that he was station in Schalkwijk and Wijk bij Duurstede. After Rotterdam was bombed and destroyed most soldiers wanted to lay down their arms but my grandfather pushed them to fight on. They built a fortress in Capelle aan de Ijsel but when the capitulation was signed the fighting stopped. My Grandfather tried in vain to travel to England from Scheveningen and Ijmuiden. Shortly after the capitulation my grandfather tried to gather arms in a building in Culemborg but was captured by the Germans. My grandfather pretended to be ill and was so convincing that he was released after a few hours.
In the first few years of the war my grandfather gathered intelligence for the resistance group ‘The Laagwater’. This group was responsible for intelligence gathering on the airfield in Deelen, (allowing the airfield to be bombed by the allies), Soesterberg and the Rotterdam harbour. My grandfather worked with multiple resistance groups including ‘Vrij Nederland’. Every week various members of the groups would meet with him in Buren. My grandfather also provided shelter to resistance members in his house after they had assassinated identified dangerous targets at the start of the war. Grandfather set up the route known as ‘Route A’ between the Netherlands and Switzerland. He also had a transceiver in the house passing on relevant information about German movements to England. This information was gathered by resistance workers including my ‘Aunt’ Hetty and Olga Hudig on the coast by Noordwijk. In the same month my grandfather set up ‘route A’ he was arrested by the ‘sicherheitspolizei’ they had found a book with his name in it at a known resistance address. Just before his arrest with the police in the room he gave a dress to his sister Christien to hang up. My grandfather had picked up the dress in Utrecht and there were microfilms sewn into the dress with information on German movements. After 7 long weeks in prison with sometimes up to 12 hours of interrogation he was freed after 10,000 gulders were paid and various food supplies given. Grandfathers’ father had paid for the supplies and provided the finances. Grandfather upon release left Buren and travelled to Hilversum and Bussum were he worked with various spy groups for example ‘group Albrecht’and worked for the illegal newspaper Trouw writing articles and working on distribution.
From 1943 grandfather held a permanent position with the ‘Raad van Verzet’ and became battalion commander for 600 men in 1944. As battalion commander my grandfather was responsible for 2 large campaigns, the destruction of the most important bunker in Utrecht and the prevention of the destruction of Utrecht. When the war almost came to an end my grandfather led the negotiations with the leader of the Sprengcommando about saving Utrecht and its factory’s. This is what he wrote about it:
“It was probably one of the most productive conversations I had during my whole resistance career. We cut to the chase immediately. The war is over for you, and when you understand this we can come to an agreement. I asked Herr Macumenius three times with an angry look. He wanted to talk and in fact it became a pleasant exchange of words.
After a long period of negotiation we came to the following agreement: M will take apart the machines, if he didn’t someone else would come and do this. Once they’ve been disassembled he would note exactly where the machines especially Pegus where stored. This would then enable the skilled workmen to reassemble the machines within 3 to 6 weeks. And your reward? I asked, you understand I can offer you something?
I am doing this for both our sakes, in the hope that it leads to a friendly future between our people. What struck me most was that this German “gentleman” didn’t want anything.”
My grandfather was also able to tip Johannes van Zanten off over 105,000 stamps and 700 empty identity cards in the Tilburg city hall. Two days later van Zanten ensured their removal from the city hall. From 1942 to 1944 grandfather worked outside of the Betuwe but he still remained in contact with many people. In 1944 he began to work there again, he played an important role in helping the allies to cross the Waal, known as “the crossings’. When the chamber of commerce in Utrecht was invaded with the disastrous result that nearly all the leaders of the resistance in the area were arrested grandfather became the chief intelligence officer. Grandfather worked during the war together with J.M. Fentener van Vlissingen, he was unfortunately also arrested during the chamber of commerce raid. Grandfather ensured his family would not go hungry after his arrest. Two months before the liberation grandfather and another resistance member went armed to the commander of the ‘sprengcommando’, they demanded that the Germans stop with their plans to destroy the Pegus buildings, grandfather argued the Germans had lost the war and that if the commander helped him he’d be rewarded. The commander said he needed no reward he wouldn’t destroy the buildings to help maintain the Dutch German relationship.
The role my grandfather played in the crossings, I talked earlier about, was big. He would pick up allies from van Hattum in Asch or from Toon Beijnen in Beusichem. Then they would stay in the family home and later be brought to Tiel. One day a couple of Nazi’s entered the house unannounced through a side door in the house. My great grandmother was able to stop them and demanded the Nazi’s to follow her. She walked around the house to the front door and said “If you want to get inside my home you ring the doorbell first!” Because of this action the allied pilots could hide themselves in the trapdoor in the living room. My grandfather’s sister Cristien would put a rug on top of the trapdoor and stand on it in her underwear. She would pretend to clean herself from louse. When the Nazi’s wanted to check the room they saw her and they apologized for interrupting her and left right away. It is said that the Nazi’s feared diseases. It was a very close call. If one of the pilot’s whole have sneezed or coughed everybody would have been arrested and the house would probably be burned down to the ground. Because my great grandmother and my grandfather’s sister Cristien where so brave and acted so quickly nobody was hurt and the pilots were able to get to safety a few days later. This is one of many examples how dangerous life was back then.
Steven van Koeverden | +31617351867 | firstname.lastname@example.org