Preface

The following article is, apart from a few editorial comments, a literal representation of an oral biography of a Dutch Waffen-SS volunteer. The conversation was recorded on the 17th of November, 1988. It expresses the opinion of the speaker, not of the creators of this website or the Information World War Two Foundation (STIWOT).

Uncle Joop was born on the 3rd of February 1910 in Amsterdam and passed away on the 18th of May 1989 in Leeuwarden. He was a former Unterscharführer in the Waffen-SS.

Johannes Philippus Sopar, aka Uncle Joop tells the following story:

"I was the last soldier who left the Narva, the Novgorod fortress and Hermannsfest. I was lucky enough to survive all the horrors of the war, though I got injured six times. I've always been somebody you would call a slick rascal. Presumably, I own it to my tough childhood, where was no place for love. To the greater extent, I was spending my life on the streets. At home we were dying from hunger and poverty. No wonder, that my hands grabbed someone else's belongings from time to time. But at that time I didn't really give a shit. If my stomach rattled, stealing was the right thing to do. Everyone wants to stay alive, don't they? My non-existent childhood turned me into an adventurer. I spent about three and a half years in juvenile prisons for crimes I didn't commit. Sheer class justice, because I was just a miserable loser.

The rich were very rich and the poor were freaking poor. Robin Hood was stealing from the rich too and everyone has always liked it. The rich one can buy everything without worrying too much about their money. A down-and-outer is always being frowned upon. I used to be ashamed of poverty. Mostly for the governments that were in power, than for myself."


A War poster from 1942 Bron: Geheugen van Nederland

Definitielijst

Waffen-SS
Name of Military section of the SS.

An NSB member. Volunteer. Wounded

An NSB member

When the NSB [National Socialist Movement, (ed.)] arose in the early 30s as the savior of the motherland and especially the poor, I have joined that party. Poor farmers from Drenthe and Zeeland did it too. Not because those farmers and me were all really pro-German, but because Colijn with his filthy rich Reformed bastards was keeping us in his grip and left the poverty on all fronts rot. Man, I hated that Colijn.

For the NSB I really worked myself to death. I firmly believed in the ideals that Mussert put on the carpet. Mussert was a simple man with, to my taste, a good view of daily life, a pragmatist, who knew exactly what the vast majority of the population needed. It's a pity, he wasn't vigorous enough, because then the NSB would become much bigger. At some point, the NSB counted 140,000 members. The halls were often too small for meetings, because the attendance was large. On the feast days in Lunteren [here, the NSB held Diets, so-called hail speeches (ed.)] there were sometimes as many as 120,000 people. Many intellectuals attended these meetings; among them were doctors, professors, judges, Chiefs of Police and other dignitaries. Even after the fall of Stalingrad, there still were at least 80,000 members. Originally I come from a family of soldiers passed from generation to generation, descended from the French Huguenots. Our ancestor was called Chopard, afterwards the name was corrupted to Sopar. Like I've already mentioned, we always were short of money. I've been brought up in various institutions. That was the school of life. I didn't learn much good there. What I did learn, was refinement, the will to survive and getting rid of fear. This, probably, has saved my life at the Eastern Front.

At quite an early age I became a carpenter. I could at least earn a piece of bread, doing some hard work. It's not like I considered myself a great artisan, but you had something to do and it was appreciated by society. As if I could make it up for myself, for descending from that poverty mess. Nobody can choose their parents, which, to me, is the rank injustice in our nature.

Volunteer

As early as 1941, I signed up as a volunteer with the Dutch Ambulance Service for work at the front in the Bolshevik states. My rank was Sanitäter, a medical orderly, so to speak. After a relatively short time, at the end of 1941, I got wounded on my left hand, while fighting at Wolchow. During a patrol walk to pick up an injured Dutch legionary, I ended up in the forest. There, a young Russian shot at me and hit my hand. Our Gruppenführer had no mercy and immediately shot the poor wretch stone-dead. He didn't even have time to call on his mother. The sound of a shot, a thud and there our little Russian went. A hard confrontation. But at the front there is no place for friendly encounters. It's all about life and death – it will be you or it will be him.

After my recovery I arrived at Wolchow again. We stood across a huge Russian army, equipped with some good weapons. I got injured again. A shrapnel hit that same left hand. The recovery went fast and if everything is healed, you must, of course, operate in active service again. They sent me in the direction of Leningrad and the Gora village; there is a cemetery where lots of Dutchmen are buried. There, a shrapnel hit my earlobe. It wasn't a big problem, though I was bleeding like crazy. If the shrapnel would have hit a few inches lower, I, most likely, wouldn't be sitting here and telling my story. A couple of comrades would help me to stem my bleeding wound. The army command considered it necessary to go on leave for a while after these nasty experiences.

Wounded

Then I was temporarily assigned to an Estonian battalion of legionaries. They were nice guys, who were fighting with considerable fanaticism. As if the Devil was playing his games again: here, too, I got wounded. A shrapnel hit my stomach and this injury was the most severe I've had so far. It certainly didn't look that healthy and hurt like hell. Once again, I received a so-called recovery leave.

When I was declared completely healed, I had to go to Croatia with the Legion. First, with Ersatz-battalion [reserve/training (ed)] to Graz in Austria, and after the training to fight Tito's partisans. Not a simple task, because we all knew that they made short work of you. At the Eastern Front, it was a sure thing you would die if you had to spend some time there. Everybody was fully aware of it. However, when a choice had to be made between the Eastern Front and Croatia, almost one hundred percent of the men would opt for number two.

Definitielijst

Front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
NSB
National Socialist Movement. Dutch political party sympathising with the Nazis.

Fallen. Children. Stealing

Fallen

Of the original group of doctors and Sanitäter, all of them idealists of the first order, I was the only one left. They fell for a good cause. For example, I want to mention the cyclist Dr. Posthumus, Dr. Verdenius from Amsterdam, Dr. Draumiller; an extraordinary great person, Dr. Jansen and Dr. Smith. Great guys, though, they didn't know the ropes. Probably, this was what made a big difference between them and me. Of course, there is also a big dose of luck, because if a bullet or a shrapnel thunders through you, you can surely forget everything around you. And then you are completely stone-dead.

In Croatia, there was a swarm of partisans, and like I've said, no nice boys. Brutal like the plague. They would just finish you off, the minute they got you in their hands. They once captured four German soldiers, ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers. Those young boys were tied by hands and feet to a rock in the sea. Without food and drink they were left to their devices, while large sea crabs ravaged their bodies. The four of them have come to their end in a horrible way.

My experience at the Eastern Front and my a year and a half long SS-training in the Netherlands, my big mouth and my tricks served me well there. By the way, examinations at Waffen-SS hardly meant anything. Some people were totally unsuitable to serve in the Dutch army, but after a weak examination they were immediately incorporated into the legion. For Germans it was of a great importance to have idealists in their ranks. After all, they would rather fight to the death for their purpose than surrender indiscriminately to the enemy. Those guys wanted to have a gun in their hands and to die, if necessary, for their ideal, which was, getting rid of Bolshevism. It's phenomenal, what these men did or wanted to do. The De Vries family from Klazinaveen had seven children in the SS. A few of them fell. I think, Frisians, Groningers and Drenters were the best soldiers in the whole world. You could really rely on them one hundred percent, and they were fantastic fighters right up to the last bullet. They never gave up.

We have been eingekesselt [surrounded (ed.)] twice. The first time it happened around Leningrad. The Kompanieführer sent me to a small bunker, where I was initiated into the tactics to be followed. Suddenly I heard somebody screaming outside: "Hilfe, hilfe!"[Help! (ed)] . We were surrounded by Russians, who had lots of dynamite. Sitting inside this bunker, I pulled a cord, which resulted in a big explosion. Then I threw a hand grenade outside. No Russian to be seen. But there were huge traces of blood around the bunker. An Ethnic German from Romania was the one crying for help. He lay on the ground bathing in his own blood.

Children

The Russians were active every day. Believe it or not, they managed to get a Dutchman out of the trenches every day. It didn't happen the other way around. You didn't even get a chance. One day they also took my Unterscharführer away from my surroundings. Finally, I had to leave with my three remaining "children" [very young soldiers (ed.)]. Together with a few others we were transported by truck. Suddenly, I discovered that we were heading in the wrong direction. I thought to myself, if we go on like this, we will drive towards the Russians and then we will be in a big trouble. And then I got a great idea. I said to my "children": "Call the driver to stop, say you all need to pee!" The car stopped indeed. We jumped out and immediately got out of there to the bushes. I've never heard anything about the others. Sure thing, they rest in the Russian soil.

Moving further we found a sled along the way with some bread and sausage. We have eaten till we burst. A sack of food was more important than a gun at that time. In one of the houses we fell asleep. The next morning, we were surrounded by Russians. They were walking around in a shinel [traditional Russian overcoat (ed.)]. Strangely enough, they didn't disturb us. Maybe they had no idea, we were the enemy. At the river Luga we got fire from our own troops, because the Germans had formed the second front there. However, they kept shooting until we waved our handkerchiefs and shouted very loudly: "Nicht schießen, nicht schießen!" [Don't shoot! (ed)]. The Hauptscharführer of the shooting subdivision was called Mauer, a big asshole, a coward and very mean. He was almost always dead drunk. The day after the incident with us he got killed.

Stealing

Many officers often crossed the line. They would simply take away the things we got, especially alcohol. Nothing could be done about it. You hardly dared to say anything to an officer. Even with my cheeky Amsterdam's trap I kept quiet. Once I hit the bottle a bit too much. I stood on the top of the palisade screaming and speaking thickly and I thought I could defeat the entire Russian army on my own. Then with a lot of luck I managed to survive this incident. The Russians shot really well, but, in one way or another, they probably didn't notice me. In general, cowards did get plastered. It probably gave them more courage. Every time Russians rushed to our positions, you could smell them as they were arriving. They produced their own alcohol themselves, behind the lines.

On a certain day, I don't know exactly when, the Russians captured "my" bunker. They were all young soldiers. I defeated them on my own, put them down, so to speak. I also captured an officer. That action gave me the promotion to the Unterscharführer and brought me the Eisernes Kreuz I [Iron Cross I. (ed)]. At an earlier stage already I had received the Verwundetenabzeichen [Medal for the Injured(ed)], the Panzerabwehrzeichen [Tank medal(ed)] and the Nahkampfspange [Close combat medal(ed)] in bronze and silver. It was terrible, fighting the Russians. They were not afraid of the Devil and his old nut. They were brave as well. They were not inferior to us, that must be said in all honesty.

Definitielijst

Eisernes Kreuz
Iron Cross. German military decoration.
Front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Iron Cross
English translation of the German decoration Eisernes Kreuz.
second front
During World War 2 the name of the front that the American and Brits would open in the West to relieve the first Russian front.
Tank
A combat vehicle with heavy armour and heavy armament driving on tracks. The tank, despite its heavy weight, is very mobile and able to move along various types of terrain. These properties, along with heavy firepower and protecting armour, give the tank a big strike power.
Waffen-SS
Name of Military section of the SS.
Wehrmacht
German armed military forces, divided in ground forces, air force and navy.

Jews. Steiner. The capital punishment

Jews

In one of those heavy vanguard fights I got injured again. The army command then sent me home on leave. In Amsterdam I ran into a guy I knew; he was wearing a Star of David. I said to him: "Take the damn star off! Do it right now, because you are under my command." He didn't do it. A moment later he noted, he didn't enjoy walking beside me. This I could imagine, as I was wearing my SS-uniform.

I've heard from my wife that all Jews were deported to Poland. She had heard this from a reliable source. Little did we know about gas chambers and concentration camps back then! We were combat animals and cannon fodder. Curiously, a Jew made me a member of the NSB in 1937. At that time, quite a few Jews were members of Mussert's club.

Some time later, the rumours about gas chambers became stronger. To be fair, it sounded like a bizarre fairy-tale to me. I didn't believe a bloody word of it. I knew many boys and girls. Together we grew up, together we went to school and together we played. I have always thought how terrible it was, that the Germans had cruelly killed these innocent people in Auschwitz, Sobibor, Birkenau and all those other places.

Steiner

Back at the front, I came under the command of the SS-Oberstgruppenführer Felix Steiner. A filthy stinker, a nasty scoundrel, a cad. There is not much good to say about him. On behalf of regiments 48 and 49 [of the SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Brigade "the Netherlands". (ed.)] I had to present Steiner with a gift on the New Year's Eve, 1943. No shortage of alcohol and cakes. Eat and drink until you burst! The whole bunch was sloshed. Suddenly, Steiner put his arms around me and asked: "How are you doing, my dear friend?" I thought: "This can't be good." Don't know where I got the guts, but I asked him: "Herr Steiner, the Jews didn't do anything bad, why do they have to be erased and exterminated?" His answer was: "My dear Dutchman, there is a lot of mess behind the front line."

Steiner was a friend of Claus von Stauffenberg, who was involved in the putsch against Adolf Hitler on the 20th of July, 1944. Steiner always said that the rebellion against Hitler would end catastrophically. Unfortunately, he was right in every way. Steiner had been ordered to relieve Berlin. Sensing that something was up, he beat a hasty retreat. But after a failed attack he was arrested and was given preferential treatment during his detention. Of all those arrested, Steiner was detained for the shortest period of time. I have always considered that betrayal. Knowing Steiner quite well, I still believe, he was playing a Judas role, but you could never prove it. Somewhere, something wasn't quite right. At the expense of others, he saved his own skin. Our other Regiment- and Gruppenführer who were involved in the bombing assault on the Führer have been hanged. That tells me plenty. [We, too, have never found an evidence of the possible involvement of Steiner in the assault from the 20th of July, 1944. Nothing was also found to prove his arrest. There is a possibility that he was informed about the assault. SS-Brigadeführer Arthur Nebe and SS-Obergruppenführer Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf have been found guilty of their role in the attack on Hitler. (ed.)]

The capital punishment

I don't remember exactly, what date it was. But in 1943 an official order from Hitler came, ordering everyone to report voluntarily [we don't know for sure, which order it was; it was probably a call up, instead of an official order from Hitler. (ed)] Not everyone followed this order, although they risked the capital punishment. Any form of withdrawal from the service, cowardice and desertion have always been a reason for the Germans to execute those involved. I cannot remember of any exceptions they made. In fact, this order was no surprise. We suffered terrible losses, especially in the east. Thousands of them died as a result of the massive Russian attacks, the cold and the guerrilla of the partisans in Yugoslavia. The poor ranks had to be filled, but on the other hand, the war industry also had to continue to function.

Fighting at Narva, we saw one after another get killed or wounded. You would never know what happened to some others, so they would remain missing forever. Presumably, blown up by a grenade or shattered by a mine. Of the approximately two thousand Dutch people, at least six hundred were killed. Regiment 48 of SS-Division the Netherlands was decimated. There was hardly anyone left from it. One by one, they fell under the murderous fire. The Dutch Red Cross has never provided information about the real numbers of Dutch people killed. [The last report containing the total number of Dutch Waffen-SS soldiers killed is dated April 1, 1944. At that time, the number of Dutch soldiers killed was 1185. Note here that "the Netherlands" still fought in extraordinarily heavy battles after April 1944, like the ones in Narva, Kurland, at the Oder River and at Halbe. Recent estimates vary between 2400 and 4400 Dutch soldiers killed in the ranks of the Waffen-SS. (ed.)]

Definitielijst

Brigade
Consisted mostly of two or more regiments. Could operate independently or as part of a division. Sometimes they were part of a corps instead of a division. In theory a brigade consisted of 5,000 to 7,000 men.
cannon
Also known as gun. Often used to indicate different types of artillery.
Division
Military unit, usually consisting of one upto four regiments and usually making up a corps. In theory a division consists of 10,000 to 20,000 men.
front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Führer
German word for leader. During his reign of power Adolf Hitler was Führer of Nazi Germany.
Jews
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.
mine
An object filled with explosives, equipped with detonator which is activated by either remote control or by colliding with the targeted object. Mines are intended to destroy of damage vehicles, aircrafts or vessels, or to injure, kill or otherwise putting staff out of action. It is also possible to deny enemy access of a specific area by laying mines.
NSB
National Socialist Movement. Dutch political party sympathising with the Nazis.
putsch
Coup, often involving the use of violence.
Regiment
Part of a division. A division divided into a number of regiments. In the army traditionally the name of the major organised unit of one type of weapon.
Waffen-SS
Name of Military section of the SS.

Exhausted. Prisoner of war. The Centre Party.

Exhausted

After a while, we met a Russian soldier with a horse and a cart. To our astonishment, he took Koert, our commander and me with him. When he was not looking, we jumped off the cart and ran into the woods, together with Germans. Our commander went ahead with them. We've never seen him anymore. For a while, we were scampering through the woods. We were starving and at the same time terribly aware that our end was near. Suddenly, we came out at an open space; we crossed it. There we had a terrible curtain-fire over us, unbelievable. Everywhere you could see men fall down. I still can't believe I didn't got hit there. Like I've said, we had no food, we lost our way and were, moreover, totally exhausted. I had been feeling drained for 14 days straight.

Prisoner of war

I didn't even had time to think, when suddenly a Russian officer appeared behind me. He asked me in a fluent German: "What are you doing here, soldier?" He looked at me with compassion. A really kind man, who, I believe, was very understanding of my not so prosperous situation. By the way, the Russian soldiers that I met, were really great guys. Sometimes I hear the most horrible stories about Russians. During my captivity, though, I was treated excellently, honestly. Though, most of us died fast in captivity, I managed to survive even here. I got used to hunger, poverty and misery. Probably, the survival of the fittest.

I was dragged from camp to camp. No fun, but on the other hand, I was happy that the fight was over. During this time I have seen so much death and destruction. It was awful. To a certain extent you get used to that inhuman stuff, but, of course, it's not a normal life. I can't say anything bad about the Russian doctors. Sometimes, they would donate their own blood for transfusions. I don't believe, a Dutch doctor would do something like this. For real, though they hardly had anything, they did everything for us. Eventually we had to cut down trees. A tough job. Many people died in that period too, partly due to typhus and hunger edema.

The Centre Party

In one of the camps I met Jan Bruinewold, a big adventurer. Now [1988 (ed)] he is the leader of the Centrum Partij [the Centre Party(ed)] of Janmaat. Together we were two bold fellows. I could steal a chair from under your ass, so to speak, without you noticing. One day, the Alsace-Lorraine people were allowed to go home. With an excuse and without a pass I left by train with that group. Two stations away I got off the train and walked to a market. There I traded clothes for food and traveled on by the next train. I lay down on the roof of the train, which didn't feel fine. To my big astonishment, I ended up in Smolensk, where I met two Frenchmen. In Smolensk I stole a pass [in the original text called ‘a sprawa’ (ed)], with which I went to NKVD [The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (ed)]. We drove through Brestikow accompanied by Russian soldiers across Poland to Frankfurt on the Oder. Those Russians were very good people. I've made this note before, but during the long train journey it was proved again.

Pogroms were everywhere in Poland. Through the whole country there were rebellions against the Russians. Relationship between two countries was really bad, and I believe, it still remains so. Poland is also the cradle of anti-Semitism; Amsterdam, likewise, is not to be rubbed out as well. When speaking about Jews in Poland, Polish people wished for them to move to the Red Sea or die in a gas chamber. I've never got the real reason to hate Jews from them. In fact, Poland is the pinnacle of hypocrisy. Once I was with the legion in Krakow. There I had an affair with a Polish girl. Together we went to a cafe. Of course, they could see that I was an SS-soldier, and four others told me, among other things, how wonderful it was that we gassed the Jews in their country. Those words shocked me. In the first place I knew nothing about gassing, and furthermore, I was still too human, despite my war experiences, to kill innocent people for no reason.

Definitielijst

Jews
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.

A train journey. The Netherlands. Idealist

A train journey

During my train journey I was so stupid to tell a Russian: "I'm Polish." Right away, I got punched on my head a few times. If I didn't shut up, I would qualify for a few more sloshes. I wisely kept my mouth shut.

Upon my arrival at Frankfurt on the Oder I got off the train. After some time, another train arrived at the same platform; a lot of Dutchmen were there. We were transferred to barracks, where every nationality had its own separate accommodation. The SS was actually a sort of a foreign legion, in which you found Danes, Norwegians, Russians, Poles, Romanians, Belgians, French, Finns, Yugoslavs, Italians, Luxemburgers and Dutchmen. From Frankfurt on the Oder, we eventually went on to Berlin by train. Upon arrival in Berlin, I hid in a toilet, trying to escape further imprisonment. However, I failed. On a special freight train, we were transported to Wolfenbüttel, where we ended up in an English captivity. After spending a couple of weeks there, I fled. I was completely fed up with all the states of war and the mess following. I've had damn enough of that. I couldn't stand seeing or smelling a uniform anymore.

About a year and a half I was wandering through Germany. Nobody cared about me, all in all, everybody had enough of their own worries. Deserted homes and streets, lost loved ones, lost possessions, in short, nobody wanted to help me solve my problems. And I couldn't blame them for that. Eventually, I couldn't take it all any longer mentally. Via the settlement of Woold near Winterswijk I crossed the border in a convenient way. Hitchhiking, I arrived in my hometown of Amsterdam, where I was was welcomed by friend and foe. Probably, they all thought that I had died for Führer, Volk und Vaterland in the Russian steppes. But they didn't know Uncle Joop yet.

The Netherlands

In Amsterdam I was anxious and felt like a hunted deer, so I left again for Germany. Talking to some Germans, I got a bit too indiscrete. One of them reported my absence to the Englishmen. After this warning, the military police arrested me in Bocholt, and imprisoned me right there. I managed to escape. Because I looked and acted like a tramp, I was arrested for the umpteenth time. Then they had me transferred to the Kruisberg near Doetichem. The Dutch military policeman asked me: "Hey, man, what did you do in the war?" And I replied: "I have been with the SS and fought at the Eastern Front." He was impressed: "That's great, man. Then you still can get awards." He went through some files and suddenly said: "You were lucky too, because fourteen of your comrades from the Paardenstraat and the neighbourhood have died". I was struck by that. Of course I knew, most of them were left behind, but when I heard the number fourteen and their names, it made me sick. I still was that much of a human.

In the detention we had to do all kinds of jobs. Most of them were dangerous, like picking up land-mines. Many of my peers were therefore killed after the war. I, myself, got injured in Renswoude, in the Gelderse Vallei. Twelve of us had to go to a so-called "camp destination". Only five of us returned. I survived even this damned experience. It sometimes seemed as if I defied death in every possible way and managed to overcome it. Roughly said, I could not get killed. A military policeman, drunk with power, who really hated me, wanted to send me to a government education institution or to the notorious internment camp for SS in Harskamp near Ede. "Maybe there you will finally get shot down", he threw cynically. I didn't dare to talk back, because when dealing with this sort of people, you were in deep trouble. I would rather await my own chances.

Idealist

I can't remember exactly, when I had to turn up for the Special Court of Justice in Amsterdam. Probably at the end of 1946 or in the early part of 1947. Strangely enough, a few opponents of the Nazi regime spoke up in my defense. "This man has been a great idealist, who didn't want to engage in killing the Jews or compatriots. He was a soldier and did it out of dire poverty." To be honest, these statements meant more to me, than my awards at the front. To me, it was a sign that I wasn't guilty of having committed any war crimes. It's something, I've always hated. The Special Court of Justice sentenced me to five years in prison with deduction of pre-trial detention because of my service in the foreign army, membership in the SS, the National Socialist Movement (NSB) and the Dutch Workers Front (NAF).

Definitielijst

foreign legion
French army unit whose soldiers and officers were foreign mercenaries. Also in Spain a foreign legion is part of the military forces.
Front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Führer
German word for leader. During his reign of power Adolf Hitler was Führer of Nazi Germany.
Jews
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.
Nazi
Abbreviation of a national socialist.
NSB
National Socialist Movement. Dutch political party sympathising with the Nazis.
war crimes
Crimes committed in wartime. Often concerning crimes committed by soldiers against civilians.

Guest house. Hotel. Disgusted

Guest house

I have served my sentence, but the war didn't end for me after that. I couldn't get work anywhere, not even in my original profession as a carpenter. Eventually on Easter day 1950, I went to the Amsterdam Central Station to pick up people to let them stay at my house. I took home a French married couple with two children, because they couldn't find a place to stay. I didn't ask money for this. Out of gratitude they gave me fourty-eight guilders. My oh my, how happy I was! Suddenly I felt like a rich man. In that time, fourty-eight guilders in my pocket was a lot. And I was suffering from dire poverty. Then I got an idea to start a sort of a guest house. In the evenings I would stay on the Central Station and ask foreigners: "Cherchez-vous un hotel?", "Suchen Sie ein Zimmer?" ["Are you looking for a hotel?"(ed)], this kind of questions. I was good in my languages. I learned them during my service and at the front. I asked five guilders for a breakfast. It was going like a bomb, and, though running a guest house or something like this was prohibited in Amsterdam, I didn't give a damn. I wanted to live like any other working Dutchman. At that time, the police was corrupt as hell. They would bring tourists to the whores and disguise sex clubs for a few guilders.

Hotel

I said to myself: "What the police does, I can do too." So, I earned lots of money. When I took foreigners to the sight-seeing barges, I got tips like a captain. This job brought me thousands of guilders. Eventually I started feeling like a bounty man. I swapped houses with my aunt in the Hague. I called that house "Hotel Rijswijk". It had three rooms, and later five. This, too, was going like a bomb, really. Eventually, I had this house rebuilt into a big hotel called "Viking". It was sort of a tribute to the regiment, I spent a part of my life in, and to my fallen, injured and missing service comrades. I've maintained it for twenty-five years. Then I moved to Rhenen, where I was managing the hotel "Water aan de Rijn". My income was so big, I've become a millionaire. Dear God, I went from a poor drunkard to one of the richest of the land. I donated vast amounts of money to the Salvation Army. That army was sacred to me, because they did everything for me. While everyone let me suffer from poverty and didn't care about my fate at all, an Army officer came to help me. They had found a cellar where I could do a bit of carpentry. You don't forget something like that. I have always been looking at the Salvation Army with devout eyes. And it will stay like this forever.

The older I became, the more I had to fight against the war syndrome. Evey day I would fight the war. At home, I would fight the battle of Narva every day. I even got medical help for it in the Wolfsheze [psychiatric hospital (ed.)]. My alcoholism got worse, especially after my wife died. Really, I was and remained upset. If anyone would ask me now: "Uncle Joop, do you regret it?" I would answer from the bottom of my heart: "No, my intentions were pure, they were sacred." At some point, I started to search for a belief and the old NSB. First, I came in contact with the HIAG[(Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Angehörigen der Waffen-SS, literally "Mutual Aid Association of Former Waffen-SS Members" (ed)]. They helped me well. SS-comrades never ever let each other down. Never, never, never!

Disgusted

Out of curiosity I took a look at the Centre party, the neo-Nazism. It turned out to be disappointing. An extreme group that caused schism one after another. Neo-Nazism does not exist. It just doesn't. Mussert was a good, cool and honest person. Janmaat is a chicken, who always has his bodyguard Tom Hoogendam around him. Arie Glimmerveen was the best of the worst there. I'm disgusted by this bastard. To me, they can all go to hell. That neo-Nazism is so pathetic and vain. It makes no sense. Moreover, this party doesn't have any historical grounds to base on. Once, I said to a horde of neo-fascists: "Stop messing around. You won't achieve anything with it." One by one they all retreated.

Lots of Salvation Army members were also part of the NSB. One of them, Rozenkranz, even fell in the war. I have always found the war with Russia frightening. From the beginning, I never believed that Germany would win it, though I was fighting hard for it. Napoleon didn't succeed on immense Russian grounds as well. What they did to Jews, I find disgusting. No, it's worse than disgusting. The worst thing is to deny it. No, I don't have the right words for it in my limited vocabulary. I am certainly not in favor of what the state Israel is now, but when I returned from imprisonment I asked many times: "Where have all those Jewish children gone?" I could only see few children playing in the neighbourhood. And then they told me that SS, including me as well, had killed them. The bad thing about Himmler was that he identified the Waffen-SS with the camp guards. That myth still lives on in Europe. We were and felt like elite combat soldiers, who did the dirty work at the front. That did not always go without violence, but we were no professional killers, as everyone seems to be thinking. Stalin, who was afraid of Ukrainians, who collaborated with the Germans, finished them off after the war. Talk about war crimes.

Definitielijst

front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Jews
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.
Nazism
Abbreviation of national socialism.
NSB
National Socialist Movement. Dutch political party sympathising with the Nazis.
regiment
Part of a division. A division divided into a number of regiments. In the army traditionally the name of the major organised unit of one type of weapon.
Waffen-SS
Name of Military section of the SS.
war crimes
Crimes committed in wartime. Often concerning crimes committed by soldiers against civilians.

Wiesenthal. Bible. Cambuur. God

Wiesenthal

I once spoke to Mr Simon Wiesenthal during a meeting. I said to him: "Mr Wiesenthal, there is a lot of work to be done for you. Look around and you will discover it in Indonesia, Vietnam, Uganda, Thailand, Laos, etc. Higher politics decides everything. Nixon, Johnson, Sukarno, Kennedy, Stalin, Reagan, Kohl, Lubbers, Khrushchev, Suharto, Pol Pot, De Gaulle or should I mention more names? Mr. Wiesenthal, you don't just have to go after those old men, you need to try to prosecute the politicians. Those are the culprits. They are responsible for the war, the misery, the dead, the mutilated,the destruction, the state bankruptcy, the lust for power, the exploitation, the corruption." Wiesenthal did not say anything back.

Bible

The Bible and the Salvation Army brought me to heel again. In addition, I have always kept in mind that God will pronounce the Last Judgment amidst countless millions of people. They have pushed me away from all the churches except the Lutheran one. It means that among the practising and non-practising members of the church, discrimination occurs in an annoying form. I've read the whole Bible twice. Word by word. In addition to reading the Bible, I got back my old interest in cultures and history. I was deeply engrossed in that.

About five years ago, I was walking on the Tuinen street in Leeuwarden. There is the building of the Salvation Army. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I used to come to my favourite bar at Freek Vos to talk about the football club Cambuur. There was no parking space for my car in front of his bar. I parked it in front of the doors of the Salvation Army Church. I've always wished to be a member of this church, but I didn't dare out of shame. Suddenly I took the plunge and was very happy. There, the faith was being professed just like I wanted to experience it. The preaching was no mush like in other churches and earlier my old Lutheran church. Music and singing was beautiful. Sometimes they would just stay and swing in the church. Something like this should be allowed. You should try it in a Catholic, Reformed or Protestant Church. Then you will be thrown away just like that, and never allowed to come back again.

Cambuur

They've made me a Salvation soldier. Nobody would throw a bad light on it. Nobody! To anyone asking I have announced that I have been converted from a soldier in the Waffen-SS to the Army of Christ soldier. Nobody laughed at me. I had respect. Once I came to the church and the whole choir called out: "Hey, Uncle Joop!" They were all Cambuur supporters, including the captain of the Army. I thought that greeting was wonderful. Cambuur is my second church. Cambuur is an awesome football club with a major social task. I've really done a lot for the Army and Cambuur, no exaggeration, and I can be proud of it. I walked the route from Amsterdam to Leeuwarden ten times to raise money for Cambuur. Again, for the Army, I've just bought 185 colouring books and pencils, which bear the seal of the Army. They are meant to be given away for advertising purposes for the Army. I was raised at Ajax, but I'll die at Cambuur. The people at Cambuur are just too adorable. I think, they are more affectionate at Heerenveen.

God

Football can be so refreshing. Satan is still the King of the world, where is so much filth. You discover it every day, over and over again. I have seen dozens die in my arms, when I was still a Sanitäter. I always asked a dying man: "Do you believe in God?". Usually the answer was: "God has turned away from me. Why else does he let me suffer like this?" "Yet, God exists because I am sure I have found him."

On Tuesday, on the 23rd of May, 1989, the remains of Johannes Philippus Sopar [aka. Uncle Joop] were cremated in Leeuwarden crematorium, in presence of 73 people. Among the people present there were two ex-members of the Waffen-SS and a five-member delegation from the Cambuur sports club. In the contact body of the former Waffen-SS, the German monthly magazine "Der Freiwillige", Johannes Philippus Sopar was commemorated in the June issue in the so-called Ehrentafel by "seine Kameraden"[ his comrades (ed)]. It was the last tribute to a man with a turbulent past. A tribute to a man who had converted from a combat soldier to a Salvation soldier. "I hope that God will keep a place for me in Heaven when I die, although I may not have deserved it", he said in a somewhat depressed mood shortly before his death.

Definitielijst

front
Largest Soviet ground formation. It was attached to a certain area which gave its name to the units involved. For instance the Voronezh front.
Waffen-SS
Name of Military section of the SS.

Epilogue from the editors

Eyewitness reports like this one, are meant to be judged critically. This report gives the impression that the speaker, John Pilippus Sopar, has never had anything to do with the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. Yet, Mr. Gertjan Broek showed us a police report throwing another light on this. It's about a so-called informing report from bureau Singel, dated October 21, 1938. The mutation is registered at 11:50 p.m. Below you can read a literal copy of the text, including the peculiarities in punctuation:

"I. P. Hulskamp, on indication of S. P. Plotske, born in Amsterdam on the 29th of May, 1887, appraiser, residing at Kalverstraat 107 in Amsterdam, brought approximately at 11 o'clock two persons from the Spui, called: Johannes Philippus Sopar, b. on the 3rd February 1910 in A-dam carpenter, residing at Bestevaerstraat 183 II in Amsterdam, and Hendrikus Laarhoven, born in Amsterdam on the 20th May 1920, furniture maker, living at Beuningenstraat 25 II in Amsterdam, who put up leaflets on the shop window of Plotske's property with the inscription: "Make the Netherlands Jews-free!" Probably, these leaflets are originating from the printing office "De Misthoorn" PO Box 744 Rotterdam. Case is being further investigated. After the investigation the name and address, and nothing at their expense, will be sent there."

A scribble in the margin shows that Sopar and Laarhoven were charged with a violation of Article 137d (the so-called "hate speech" article from '34).

Source: Amsterdam City Archives, archive number 5225 (Amsterdam Municipal Police), inv. No. 6725.

Definitielijst

Jews
Middle Eastern people with own religion that lived in Palestine. They distinguished themselves by their strong monotheism and the strict observance of the Law and tradition. During World War 2 the Jewish people were ruthlessly persecuted and annihilated by the German Nazis. . An estimated 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated.

Sources

  • www.waffen-ss.nl
  • With many thanks to the interviewer Jack Kooistra and Westerbork Memorial Center, in particular Guido Abuys, for allowing us to study the archives.