Life is full of surprises, but some I remember better than others. Going back to my life history makes me think of what I was doing at the time. Perhaps my mind was not maturely developed then to realize the things that I did. When the German army got clobbered in Russia, they turned nasty. The first few years after the occupation of Western Europe, the Germans did not interfere with our way of life in the Netherlands as we knew it. The Dutch army, after a four-day war, was disbanded and soldiers could integrate back into civilian life. Those who did not return to civilian life could join the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Germany. Through the grapevine, we heard that 40,000 of them did join. They were all sent to the Russian front when the Germans attacked the USSR. Those who survived and returned home got punished as traitors after the war.
One day, when I was cleaning my Puch motorcycle (which I had hidden for years), two German army prowlers came to take my bike. I protested fiercely but it was either let them have the bike, or take a bullet for payment. Who could have refused a deal like that?
That was one more good reason for me to get even by joining the “Underground”, the secret army, the Internal Fighting Force, or the Dutch Resistance Movement. Most people knew that such an organization existed, but nobody knew anybody who was active in it. Most people knew that downed fliers, if at all possible, got rescued and were taken care of by the "Underground".
My contact with the "Underground" was through a young man named “Blondy” sent by my farmer friend Jake. All of a sudden, I discovered that there were a lot of things going on below the surface. They asked me if I would like to harass troop movements by blowing up truck tires, whole trucks and army units. My answer through Blondy was, “Give me the tools and I will put them to good use.”
Soon I received supplies, dropped by airplanes to special units. Blondy delivered them to me, so I went out at night to a much traveled highway and let the fireworks pop. I guessed the "Underground" liked what I was doing, because they had to give me a code name and it was not for tax purposes, I am sure. So Blondy said to me, "You are now registered as 'ATOS'". How on earth did they arrive at this name? Blondy explained that "ATOS" stood for "a tiger on socks". I was also encouraged to go and report on what was happening with the occupation forces.
The secret doings of the "Undergrounder" (Dutch Onderduiker) were most interesting. My best friend was a reporter and message carrier of army movements at the same time, but I never knew about it until the end of the war. He also connected the electric power to our home so we could tune in to the forbidden broadcast from England.
We lived on the defence line at the edge of the Gelderse Valley. Troops were always moving in and out of this strategic area. So I became good friends with a smart school boy and I asked him what was going on. One day, he reported that a new army unit moved in to a farm next to the railway tracks at a farmer's feed mill. They had several horses and wagons stored in an empty pig barn. I reported this to Blondy. His response was, "Why don’t we investigate and see?"
After the 8 p.m. curfew, we took off. The distance was about 1 km as the crow flies, but we had to go the long way through meadows, over ditches and fences. Fortunately, the weather was just right - no wind and very dark. I was well acquainted with the surroundings and we entered the building from the rear.
A pavement separated the barn from the house, and fortunately for us, this pavement was made of bricks. After listening to what we could hear, but not see, a guard was on duty pacing between the two buildings. Having U-shaped steel heels on their army boots, we knew exactly where he was by the sound of his footsteps on the brick pavement.
The back doors were never locked, so we sneaked in through there. Now we experienced what a blind person must have felt. For hours, we tried to figure out what was there in the dark by touching and feeling our way around. We came to the conclusion that it was a machine gun with five drums of cartridges. We also found two anti-tank grenades, also called bazookas. After a couple of hours, the guard stopped pacing, maybe he fell asleep. We got very excited with our discovery and did not care what else were there. But how were we going to get the stuff home? We found a big enough plywood box in one of the wagons.
Very slowly, we opened one of the back doors. Oh no, it was as if we got slapped in the face with disaster! We saw a bright moonlit sky with not even the smallest cloud in the heavens. Next to the farm was the feed mill, about three or four stories high with a flat roof. This was occupied with flak, anti-aircraft guns and men. We could see them clearly walking back and forth.
If we could see them clearly, we knew that they could see us if we went outside, because they were not asleep. For an agonizing period of time, we felt sad and did not know what to do. Perhaps if we could find something dark to cover this bright plywood box we might have a chance. And yes, we found a blanket for cover.
For a long time we watched the movements of the guys on the watch. Finally, we made a decision: NOW! As fast as we could go with our stolen load, we headed for the nearest hedge with our hearts pounding a mile a minute.
Goodness gracious, we made it! No screaming, no gun fire, and with only the moonlight and a star-studded sky. The trip home was uneventful. About halfway home, Blondy could no longer contain his curiosity and had to set up the machine gun. He found that the sighting rod was radium tipped so you could aim it in the dark. Also included were three extra gun barrels. It was early morning when we got home. Blondy reported the booty to the headquarter cell in the city.
A few days later, two beautiful girls with a baby carriage came to my house, asking to see the occupant. So I asked, "What could the occupant do for you beautiful ladies? Do you have his name?" "Yes," they said, "his name is ATOS, and he has some firework merchandise for us." Wow, what did they think of next. These two most gorgeous and attractive young ladies were putting their lives on the line, and for what? They must have been the most patriotic citizens that I have ever met. "Well, you girls know what you have come for," I said, "is it not dangerous? How do you get past the sentries and the check points? Of course, you could cover it with firewood, but how do you stop them from looking under the firewood to see what's hidden there?" "Don't worry," they replied, "we know how to handle those lonely boys." And sure enough, they did. They made the delivery successfully to our cell. Later, I learned that I was issued one of the two Stenguns in our cell as a result of this endeavor.
ln the five years of enemy occupation, did we feel like heroes? No, not at all. We were never rewarded, nor did we want to be rewarded or even recognized as being different from the rest of our countrymen. We had a chance to do something good for our country and we just did it.
Here my little story ends, but there were many more resistance stories such as Razia's, Tom the Resister, The Buckle, How to listen to London news, etc. which I hope to relate to you another time.
● Wehrmacht from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
● Axis Awards of the Netherlands
● War crimes of the Wehrmacht from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
● Holland Nederland in color kleur oorlog WW2 Netherlands Wehrmacht Rotterdam Eddy Christiani. A total of 55 YouTube videos with pictures of Holland during the second world war (WWII). Two Dutch songs sung by Eddy Christiani with Lyrics are accessible: "Veel mooier dan het mooiste schilderij" and "Daar bij de waterkant".
● Rare footage of the dutch army in WW2.
● Hidden Heroes - Dutch Resistance part 1. YouTube video, 9:39 min.
● Hidden Heroes - Dutch Resistance part 2. YouTube video, 10 min.
● Hidden Heroes - Dutch Resistance part 3. YouTube video, 9:55 min.
● Making Choices, Dutch Resistance During WWII. 10 YouTube videos.
● Waffen SS Dutch Landstorm Landwacht Film Footage Pictures NSB Music Translated. YouTube video, 8:52 min.