George Maduro was a Dutch student who, serving as a reserve-officer with the Hussars during the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940, distinguished himself by retaking villa Dorrepaal in Leidschendam. This prevented the German paratroopers from taking The Hague from that side. After the Dutch capitulation he joined the resistance. When he attempted to escape to Spain, he was betrayed and ultimately ended up in concentration camp Dachau, where he died from typhoid on February 8th 1945. He was posthumously awarded the Militaire Willems Orde 4th class for his exceptional achievement during the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
On the 15th of July 1916 George Maduro was born in Willemstad, Curacao, to Joshua and Rebecca Maduro. The family was of Sephardic Jewish ancestry, which means they were descendants from Jews who were driven from the Iberian peninsula in the 15th century by the Spaniards. He was the only boy of the Maduro family. Later the parents welcomed another child, a daughter named Sybil. It was apparent from a young age, that little George would grow up to take a leading role in the family business, Maduro & Sons. This company had branches in both banking and shipping. When he was ten years old, George moved to the Netherlands with his parents and sister Sybil, because he was to be educated there. However his parents could not adjust to the Dutch climate and culture and moved to Paris. George and his sister were taken in by a foster family in The Hague.
After secondary school Maduro went on to study law in Leiden in 1934, where he also joined the Minerva fraternity. During initiation rites he distinguished himself by his relentlessness, and in doing so he won the admiration of his fellow students. In a letter to his parents he wrote about an incident during initiation when an older student harassed him: 'I refused to take of my shirt. Baron Panthaleon van Eck grabbed me and said: "Come on, do it or I will tear it to pieces." I told him: "I won't do it, so you just try to tear it off me." When he tried, I defended myself with all my might. When he noticed, he let me go.' Later he would be the first of the 103 freshmen to hit a senior who was harassing him. This was a risky thing to do, but fortunately it ended well for him, because even the strongest boys in the fraternity were impressed with what he had done. This ensured he would not suffer as much on the following nights. For example, on a subsequent evening of initiation he was separated from the other students and made to stand behind a screen for an hour, which allowed him some time to recover.
After Maduro attained his baccalaureate in 1936, his studies were put on hold. Maduro was called to active duty and trained to be a reserve officer. He was posted with the cavalry and trained in Amersfoort. Here he met several people, among whom Oncko Wittewaall van Stoetwegen. After he served for a year, Maduro resumed his studies.
Maduro managed to gain the esteem of his fellow students once again, this time by executing a daring stunt. In 1938 the destroyer H.M. Gelderland returned to the harbor of Rotterdam. Aboard the vessel was the 'Loden Verrader' (Lead Traitor), a figurehead shaped like a woman. This figurehead came from a ship that had exploded in the waters off Curaçao and was originally the property of the Maduro family. As a stunt the figurehead was regularly 'stolen' and subsequently returned by the Dutch Navy. This is how the figurehead ended up on the H.M. Gelderland on this particular occasion. Together with three fellow students George rowed to the ship. 'We brought ropes with grappling hooks at the ends along with us. We ended up not needing them, because behind the Gelderland lay a small sloop. The rope that secured it is the one I used to climb aboard the ship,' he wrote his parents. Once on board he was discovered. 'I was gonna pretend I belonged to the crew and when a sentry called to me: "Civilian or sailor?" I called back: "Sailor of course and now shut up." Even though he eventually did get caught, the mere mention of his last name was enough to make the officer realize why he was aboard. Although he may not have achieved what he set out to do, Maduro did acquire notoriety in the Netherlands because of his actions. The papers even wrote about the stunt.
When the Dutch army mobilized in 1939 George Maduro was also called to action. When on May 10th of 1940 the Germans invaded the Netherlands, Maduro got the opportunity to distinguish himself. On the 10th of May 1940 the German invasion (Fall Gelb) began and German paratroopers had landed in the area surrounding Ypenburg airport near The Hague. Near the Old Toll Bridge, that crosses the canal the Vliet, the Germans had entrenched themselves in an old villa, called Dorrepaal. Even though the paratroopers had landed in the area around the villa, they had not succeeded in crossing the bridge into The Hague during the day. A small detachment of inexperienced Dutch soldiers, led by corporal Hekhuizen of the anti-aircraft artillery division, stood firm at the other side of the bridge in the villa Heeswijk. But they needed help.
Consequently Maduro was sent in. Together with 14 men, a sergeant and a machine gun, he departed from the Juliana van Stolberglaan. Earlier that day he had escorted a detachment of tractors and converted trucks there. Maduro and his men moved out with three of these tractors in the direction of the Vliet. The sergeant and four men would remain with the vehicles to guard them, whilst Maduro and his troops assessed the situation from the other side of the canal. To make a bigger impression on the Germans, Maduro changed the position of the machine gun regularly. In the meantime he made contact with the neighboring unit and informed them that villa Dorrepaal could be recaptured. After having gained permission for the assault and once a piece of anti-tank artillery had been made available for the effort, Maduro made up his plan. In the meantime, shots were still being fired by both the Germans and the Dutch. One of the Dutch soldiers was shot in the knee, a bullet hit the bolt of another soldier's rifle.
'I divided my troops into three groups; the first, under my command, would try to cross the Old Toll Bridge and enter the villa from the flank. The second group, under command of the infantry sergeant, would directly follow the first group and try to gain entry from the front. I told an ensign of the anti-aircraft artillery that, in the event of my death, I left him in full command. The third group I left behind to operate the machine gun, so they could give supporting fire to the first two groups.' In the mean time a sergeant-major had arrived with a piece of anti-tank artillery. The artillery was set up in such a way that it could fire upon Dorrepaal but it would still remain invisible to the Germans. The artillery was to fire five shots after which the soldiers would storm the bridge, followed by an ensign who would drive the soldiers to run faster.
'When I was completely prepared for the attack, I gave the agreed signal to the sergeant-major and immediately after the fifth shot I stormed across the Old Toll Bridge, followed by the first and second group. During this attack there was constant firing from the villa but this decreased when I approached the villa.' Maduro was being followed by corporal Hekhuizen and the soldiers Van den Manakker and Glim. While crossing the bridge some members of the two groups got injured, but once they came closer to the villa, the German fire decreased. Maduro and corporal Hekhuizen entered the villa from the garden. The house was filled with the noise of stamping feet and crushing glass. Once inside Maduro did not immediately meet the Germans but came upon the sergeant who had accompanied the second group. Immediately Maduro ordered his men to surround the house and he himself proceeded to search the interior. When he approached the basement, four women rose from it, who told Maduro that there were Germans downstairs. 'I called into the basement: "Hände hoch, nicht schiessen," (Hands up, don't fire) to which was replied: "wir schiessen" (we will fire), after which the corporal [Hekhuizen] on my orders moved down the stairs and fired into the basement. The direction of the basement stairs stood perpendicular to the actual basement, therefore obstructing my view. I heard cries of pain and immediately after: "Bitte, nicht mehr schiessen," (Please, don't fire anymore) upon which I ceased firing and ordered the Germans to come up one by one with their hands raised. 'Seven German paratroopers came up, and were subsequently disarmed by my men and led outside. The German soldiers had suffered two minor injuries. Once I came outside four more German soldiers were brought before me, who were found at the back of the grounds.'
As only officers were allowed to escort prisoners-of-war, Maduro had to do this himself. In taking the villa from the Germans the men had also acquired two light machine guns and some automatic pistols and hand grenades. At a later date during the invasion, men under the command of Maduro, shot and killed two alleged spies. Because of this incident Maduro was imprisoned in the Oranjehotel – the prison in Scheveningen - by the Germans for a while, they wanted him to disclose the names of those responsible. Because Maduro kept insisting he did not possess this information, he was eventually set free.
After the Dutch capitulated to the invading German army on the 15th of May 1940, Maduro got involved with the resistance. This is where he met Oncko Wittewaall van Stoetwegen again. Not all the details of Maduro's work with the resistance are known, but we do know that, together with Wittewaall van Stoetwegen, he stole weapons from the German barracks. He also came into contact with 'Soldaat van Oranje' (Soldier of Orange) Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema and talked about the possibility of fleeing. Maduro ultimately did not flee because he did not want to leave his lover, Hedda de Haseth Möller, and because he wished to complete his degree. The fact that he had been detained once already and possibly was still being watched by the Germans, also factored into his decision not to leave.
In 1941 he was again arrested and detained in the Oranjehotel. Several other Dutch people, who had resisted the German occupation, were imprisoned there. Whilst he was imprisoned, Hedda de Haseth Möller married another man. When he was taken from his cell on the 15th of December 1941, he feared they would send him to a concentration camp, but at the gate the jailer gave him a choice: "Do you want to pay three thousand guilder or do you want to go back to prison?" George responded: "Send me back to prison then." Upon hearing his response the German got angry: "Verdammter Jude, Sie können nach Hause gehen, Sie sind entlassen." (You damned Jew, you can go home. You are free) Despite the failed attempt at extortion, Maduro was released.
Once released he went into hiding and lived through several frightful moments. On a night in May 1943 he was walking to Wittewaall van Stoetwegen's house. Just before he arrived there, he was stopped and asked for his identification. "Where do you live?" they asked him. "Hoofdstraat 700 Sassenheim", George promptly replied. "So where is it you are going then?" "I am going to mister van Boetzelaer." "Where does he live?" "Minervaplein 3, right here", George replied dryly. "And what will you be doing there?" "I work as a clerk for mister Boetzelaer", he replied at once. They let him pass after this exchange. Once he arrived upstairs and was safely in his friends' flat he needed three glasses of brandy to settle his nerves.
Trying to stay hidden from the Germans became unsustainable so in 1943 Maduro decided he would try to escape to England. He would be following in Oncko's footsteps, who had already departed for England. In Belgium the two were betrayed by the Belgian 'Abwehragent' Prosper deZitter, who gave them up to the Germans on the 4th of September 1943. They were captured together with a group of English and American pilots. The betrayal became immediately apparent because the Germans asked the prisoners who the Dutch people were. They attempted to pass Maduro and Wittewaall van Stoetwegen off as Americans. However this attempt failed because they did not possess the same military dog-tags the American soldiers did. Afterwards Maduro and Wittewaall van Stoetwegen were imprisoned in the Saarbrücken prison.
Maduro and Wittewaall were incarcerated separately and ended up 6 cells away from each other. The six months Maduro had spent incarcerated in the Oranjehotel, had helped prepare him for this situation. Maduro wrote down what Wittewaall should say when he was being questioned. Later Maduro gave Wittewaall a map of Russia, who at first was afraid to take it. However, the second time Maduro offered the map, Wittewaall accepted it. The reason Maduro did all this was probably to give Wittewaall a boost during the hardships they endured. While imprisoned Maduro and Wittewaall attempted to escape twice. During the allied bombardments of the region, the two men could try to escape. On the 11th of May 1944 the allied forces bombarded Saarbrücken. During the attack of Saarbrücken the prison took five direct hits, as Wittewaall van Stoetwegen described.
'It happened just before dinner. George was reading while it happened and was sitting approximately thirty meters from the impact. All cell doors were thrown open, two wings of the building were severely hit, ours luckily was not. I immediately went to George's cell, but he had already left it. I found him somewhere in the rubble wearing a German 'Luftschutzhelm' on his head and wearing my trench-coat. We could make have made our escape but George thought it immoral to do so while people lay screaming under the rubble. We dug out two of them, who turned out to be Polish […]. Later on the superior officer told us that, if the men we dug out had been German, we would have been honored for it.' The bombings resulted in fearful moments. More than once the men were huddled fearfully near the doors of their cells, because that was safer than being under the windows. Then, during one of the bombings, something extraordinary happened.
'On a particular day when they came again and Saarbrücken was being heavily bombed, a Polish man opened George's cell which was only locked with a latch. George ran towards my cell, opened it and because the prison staff was in the emergency shelter, we tried to get away. George was wearing his own clothes and I was wearing my prison uniform. But he was wearing my coat and quickly gave it to me so I could wear it and look less conspicuous. We made it to the outside wall but there we were caught by the prison warden, who pointed his gun at us. We managed to talk our way out of it by saying we were looking for the emergency shelter. They searched for over a week to find the guy who had opened our cells, but never did.' Even though they made it out of the prison all the way to the outer walls, they were immediately incarcerated again. After 46 weeks in the same prison Maduro and Wittewaall van Stoetwegen were separated. It was the end of July 1944. Oncko was deported to Sachsenhausen, whilst Maduro was transferred to Dachau. At that time Wittewaall van Stoetwegen weighed only 123.4 lbs, Maduro had difficulty walking and was suffering from heart problems.
On the 25th of November 1944 Maduro arrived in Dachau, after a journey of 11 days. He died there on the 8th of February 1945 from typhoid. On his death certificate it reads the 9th of February, but this is the date the certificate was signed, not the day he actually died. The miniature city Madurodam was founded in 1952 in The Hague in his honor. At the time the proceeds of the amusement park went to students suffering from tuberculoses. Today the money goes to various children's charities. He was posthumously awarded the Militaire Willems Orde 4th class for his exceptional achievements during the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.
Oncko Wittewaall van Stoetwegen survived the war, but was never fully able to process it. Eventually he would finish his law degree and in 1949 married Machteld van Loon. He died in 1991.