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Tragedy & Betrayal in the Dutch Resistance

Title:Tragedy & Betrayal in the Dutch Resistance
Writer:Korte, S. de
Published:Pen & Sword
Published in:2020

Zwolle, 31 March 1945. The liberation of the Netherlands is near, but five men in Zwolle will not be able to witness it. On Meppelerstraatweg they are being executed in retaliation for an attack on a railway bridge. Their names are: Wilhelmus van Dijk, Hermanus Bosch, Johannes Muller, Willem Sebel, and Berend IJzerman.

Author Samuel de Korte is related to Wilhelmus van Dijk. When De Korte’s mother told him that his great-grandmother’s brother was executed during World War II, he decided to reconstruct the events prior to his execution. This led to his book, Tragedy & Betrayal in the Dutch Resistance.

The author starts the dramatic story by giving a short biography of each of the five resistance fighters. Together with his brothers Wilhelmus van Dijk had joined Henk Beernink’s resistance group called De Groene [The Green]. They helped people in hiding, forged documents, and committed acts of sabotage. At Van Dijk’s place they hid, among other things, weapons and German uniforms.

Hermanus Bosch worked at a printer’s until he was called up for military service. After the invasion of the Germans he joined the resistance in Friesland and Groningen and was also in touch with De Groene.

Berend Jan IJzerman was attached to the 20th Regiment Infantry after his number had been called in February 1931. At the end of July that same year he went on long leave as an inactive serviceman. In 1939, he was called up to return to active duty in the army. After the capitulation IJzerman started working at the enamel works in Kampen. His work for the resistance was arranging for persons to go into hiding. Near the end of the war he applied to Organisation Todt (a Nazi civil and military engineering organization) as a digger. In that capacity he drew maps for the IJsselstelling.

Johannes Muller was working for the constabulary. He moved up to the rank of sergeant-major. In addition he was a military sports instructor. During the war years he was in touch with Berend Jan IJzerman. He made sure that the Allies got the maps.

Willem Sebel also worked for the constabulary. Just before the war he became a constable in Hardenberg. At the outbreak of the war he returned to active service, but in the meantime kept in touch with resistance.

However, as was often the case with resistance fighters, these men also fell victim to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). Jacob Lijs, a V-man [Vertrauensmann, a person trusted by the Germans but considered a traitor by the Dutch], betrayed Berend Jan IJzerman and Jan Muller, who were subsequently arrested by the SD. Willem Sebel visited a Dominican monastery in the uniform of a court officer when he came to pick up the wages for this father-in-law, a railwayman in hiding. One of the people present got suspicious, as nobody in uniform usually entered the monastery. Furthermore Sebel’s father-in-law had no right to any money as he was in hiding. Hermanus Bosch was arrested due to betrayal. Despite the fact that the SD found nothing, he was taken. Wilhelmus Van Dijk was arrested when Henk Beernink’s notebook fell into the hands of the SD.

All were confined at the House of Detention in Zwolle to be interrogated and to await judgement. The various possible sentences included being forced to work being sent to Germany with a lighter penalty, and the death penalty. For this purpose death lists were made that were also used to select prisoners for executions in retaliation for acts of resistance that undermined the occupying regime. This was the fate of these five men.

In the last week of March 1945, an attack took place on the railway line between Zwolle and Meppel, the last train connection between the eastern Netherlands and Germany. The railway bridge across the Dedemsvaart (a canal) was blown up by the resistance. This act had to be revenged, and despite the fact that no decision had been reached in any of the cases, Van Dijk, Bosch, Muller, Sebel, and IJzerman were executed on the Meppelerstraatweg as so-called Todeskandidaten (men condemned to death) on 31 March 1945. In 1960 a memorial was erected at the location of the execution in memory of these five men.

Now there is a book to keep the memory alive in the rest of the Netherlands. In Tragedy & Betrayal in the Dutch Resistance, Samuel de Korte presents a clear insight into this case. The background of the people involved, both Dutch and German, is cleary set forth, as well as their time at the House of Detention. Thus Willem Sebel met Nicolaas Polderman, who posed as a hairdresser, but who in reality was passing on information to the Germans. The consequences for their wives are also explained in this book including arrest, Westerbork, and not hearing about their husbands’ fates until after the war.

Besides the attack and its consequences, De Korte also describes a second execution that took place on 4 April on the road to Staphorst. It never became clear if this was because of the attack on the railway bridge or was done for a different reason. This execution also had a major impact on the witnesses who happened to be passing by that particular morning.

At first the concise style of this book makes it seem like a list of characters, and the editing could have been a bit more precise. However, for a reader who is willing to see past this, the book Tragedy & Betrayal in the Dutch Resistance offers an interesting story that is definitely worth the read.

Rating: Very good


Translated by:
Liesbeth Vrieze-Risseeuw
Article by:
Annabel Junge
Published on:
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Book of TracesOfWar volunteer Samuel de Korte published in English


Book of TracesOfWar volunteer Samuel de Korte published in English

A book written by TracesOfWar volunteer Samuel de Korte from the Netherlands has recently been published in English by Pen & Sword Books. It's titled 'Tragedy & Betrayal in the Dutch Resistance' and it tells the history about the execution of five Dutch men by the Nazi occupation forces.

Read more