A Research Guide for Students by I Lee

Autobiography of Carl Kaas

A Member of the Dutch Underground in World War II

Chapter 90: Get Out

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About a month before Liberation, when the Allied armies got ready to give the enemy the final blow, the Germans chased all the people that were living on the road to the defence line out of their homes. This was not an evacuation, just an order to be out in 24 hours. The family Rutten was included among 20 or 30 families. Where to go, in one day?

In time of need, it was amazing what people would do to help each other. Some citizens who always acted as if they were of a higher class, and hardly acknowledged your existence came out now and treated the working class as their own. Pa and Ma Rutten could bed down in a cow and chicken barn. Of course the cows and chickens had involuntarily offered their existence, their life that was, to the creatures that had fed them.

Now how would you move on such a short notice? The only transportation available was two wheeled push carts and wheelbarrows. Load up everything it would hold, which was not much, and started walking. At the time, I was called to the city by the Resistance and stayed there, and was not aware of what was happening.

For some hundreds of years, this defence line, this dyke, had been idle, but now within five years, it was in use for the second time. The Germans tried to stop the Canadian Army who was coming from the same direction as the Germans had five years ago. But now there was no inundation to stop their advance. Canon fire was directed at the line and the dyke and its surroundings. Some shells fell in our neighborhood too. One fragment hit the school teacher, Mr. Reinsma. Tim Rutten and a helper put him on a two wooden wheeled hand cart and pushed him on a five kilometer trip to the hospital in the city.

Willem Roest, a cousin of Margaret, was killed by artillery bombardment as was Fonce van Doorn, a member of our theatre group. Roel Tijmensen, a brother of my friend in the "Thumb Club," lost his life in action in 1940.

Nobody knew why but three farmers who had their lands side by side and lived on their properties with their families were murdered by the Germans at this time. Presumably they did not leave their homes fast enough when they were told to. Van de Zalm, van Eyden and Herder were all very good and well liked people in the community, mowed down for no reason.

Margaret's aunt and her two oldest daughters and one grandchild perished when a bomb fell on their home. Jan van Burgsteden, the boy I sat beside in grade school, his father and three teenage neighbors were shot dead in their own house.

Related resources:

The Putten raid (Dutch: Razzia van Putten) from Wikipedia. The Putten raid was a reprisal raid conducted during the Second World War in the town of Putten, in the central Netherlands. On 1 October 1944, the occupying German armed forces captured and deported almost the entire male population of the village to various concentration camps. Of 602 men who were deported, only 48 returned. It has been called "one of the worst German reprisals in the occupied Netherlands."

Heusden Town Hall Massacre, a Nazi warcrime from Wikipedia. Heusden is a municipality and a city in the South of the Netherlands. "Towards the end of World War II, in October 1944, the cities of Tilburg and 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) are liberated by the allied forces. The bridge across the river Meuse makes Heusden, then still occupied by the Germans, a strategic object ...

A few weeks after Operation Market Garden, the allied Operation Pheasant starts on 20 October 1944. The 1st Canadian Army ... and the 2nd British Army ... fight to liberate central and western Noord-Brabant. On Saturday 4 November, under heavy artillery fire, two Scottish Highlander regiments advance, and 170 civilians seek shelter in the town hall's cellars. Early in the morning of 5 November, three German army engineers detonate the explosive charges they placed earlier. The 40-metre tower collapses, killing 134. Only hours later, the 5th battalion of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders from the 51st Highland Division liberated Heusden.

Heusden was literally decimated, as one tenth of the town's population died that night in the town hall's cellar. A staggering number of 74, i.e. more than half of the total number of victims, were children aged 16 years or younger."

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