A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 57. The Hanging

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They say, "It takes all kinds to make a world." I don't know why. Does it have something to do the way people behave themselves?

Well, of all names, we had one soldier by the name of "PAPA". He was a good fellow when he was awake, but asleep it was a different case. He would pound his head up and down like it was a sledge hammer. One time when he was awake, I asked why he did that, but he could not remember. I was afraid he might hurt himself or knock his own brains out. The last time I saw him, he still had some, maybe a little out of line, but it did not hurt. Yah, that was Papa.

Always there was a kind of ribbing going on between infantry and cavalry. The horsemen would call the infantry "Rabbitfeet". One Hussar, as they were also called, had his horse trained so that if someone said "Rabbitfeet", this horse would start to kick as if a lion had jumped him. He tauaght this horse to act like that: by calling that name and at the same time poking the horse in his crotch; man they don't like that at all. The other boys made fun of him too. "Teach him German," they said, "then when the Germans come here, you can win the war with that horse. But don't talk that way, we are a neutral country and we will stay that way."

To prove our neutrality, the Dutch shot down a couple of English planes which came back from a bombing mission over Germany.

The men had to be in the hay (in bed) by 10 p.m. Shortly after 10 every night, a sergeant made his round on the bike. He looked in at the sleeping places to make sure orders were carried out.

One night, when he stopped in at the farm of Lagemaat and opened the door, everything seemed alright: the lights were out and everything was quiet. He shone his flashlight around, like he always did, but this time it came to rest on something in mid air. It took a few seconds to realize what he was looking at, but now he saw it, a soldier in full uniform hanging on a rope by the neck, both hands limp by his side. The hairs on his neck must have been standing straight when he burst out of the door and raced away.

A muffled howl exploded when the sarge was gone, but now the fellows went to work very quickly to get the fellow (who was standing in them hanging ropes) down, and hide everything. Back under the blankets they went, and were very quiet - and not too soon. Several MP's and officers showed up to see the suicide victim, but nothing was there. All was quiet on the front; nobody saw or heard of this sergeant ever again.

The fun and all other activities came to a halt on May 10, 1940. Every soldier had to go to his battle station. We heard over the radio that Germany had invaded Holland, Belgium and France. Queen Wilhelmina declared war on Germany. The troops were engaged in battle all along the border. Hitler demanded immediate capitulation of the Netherlands. Not without a fight we won't, was the feeling of the Dutch citizenry.


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