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Legitimatiebewijzen Verzet 1940-45
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Issued by „Voormalig Verzet Limburg“, registration number (KvK) V 187800
One of the regular occasions on which members of the former Resistance Limburg met was / is the annual commemoration on the Cauberg.
This text is a mosaic of different sources, which I have on this item. It is a patchwork of quotations, because they tell different parts of this story, sometimes the same event, but then they are complementary. Here and there they are connected by a commentary of my own. Much has been adopted literally from interviews. Einen wichtigen Platz haben Scans von Texten, die Pierre Schunck nach dem Krieg selbst geschrieben hat. Ganze Seiten aus seinen Memoiren sehen aus wie Schreibmaschinenschrift. Denn das war es auch. Die entsprechenden Scans finden Sie gleich daneben, als Miniatur. Klick für eine Vergrößerung.
Also I wrote, what we, his children, can still remember from his stories.
By the color of the margin line at the left you see at a glance whose words these are. If you move with your mouse over a paragraph, the source is displayed as a “tool tip” text. (Does not work on mobile devices.) Literal quote blocks from the interviews have got a darker background (not in the printed version) and are indented.
Below you find an overview of the sources
| ||Memories Pierre Schunck|
| ||Interview Nederlands Auschwitz Comité|
| ||Interview NIOD|
| ||History of Valkenburg|
| ||The hidden front, doctoral thesis by Fred Cammaert|
| ||funeral oration for “Paul”, by Theo “Harry” Goossen|
For more information about these colours, go to Sources.
- In the text that follows below, you can read the words “district” and “subdistrict”. For practical reasons the Dutch resistance divided the existing provinces into smaller parts. This didn’t correspond to any official classification, but it was only based on the resistance work. They used the words “district” and “subdistrict”. The subdistrict of Valkenburg, whose leader was my father, included Valkenburg itself and some villages. In the beginning it was independent, later it belonged to the district of Heerlen.
- You also will find several times the expressions "hiding people" or "divers". The latter one is the translation of the Dutch word "onderduikers". During the war it was used for all persons, who were wanted by the Germans and for whom it was better to hide, to dive into the underground. It is for them that the organization L.O. was founded. For Jews, allied pilots who had crashed on Holland, young men who didn’t want to to go to work in Germany in order to replace the German soldiers.
- To protect themselves and others, they used aliases that had the same initials as the real name. For it was still common practice that the initials of a person were embroidered in their clothes. A famous example is the organizer of the French Resistance Jean Moulin. Amongst others, he had the pseudonyms Joseph Mercier and Jacques Martel. The resistance people knew of each other only these pseudonyms. The real names became known only after the war, but on commemorations and other meetings they usually still used the resistance names. Pierre Schunck called himself Paul Simons.
The smallest units
We had a duikhoofd in each parish. Our thing was organized by parish.
The heads of the diver cells could take so many helpers, as they wanted to, but I had to know who it was, and then I inquired about them. This may have been wrong, but I thought that the strongest chain can be broken by a weak link and so I didn’t want to take any risk. Before anyone was given a job, I had to know about it. In fact, that protected us from the outset.
He took the following persons on as a duikhoofd: chaplain W.B.J. Horsmans and verger H. van Ogtrop, supported by J. Peusens and J. van de Aa, in Valkenburg; J. Hendriks in Berg und Terblijt; F. Schoenmakers in Sibbe; J. van de Laar in Margraten; A.H. Laeven in Schin op Geul; L. Horsmans in Houthem-St.Gerlach and A. Caldenborg in Houthem. W. Cremers and the Peusens sisters worked as couriers. For the time being, the “rayon” of Valkenburg remained independent. J. Starmans maintained the relations to the other districts.
The district leader first had contact with the clergy of the parish, and from there he got the tips about any going underground of boys from Valkenburg.
Then he gave me the addresses of the guys who wanted to dive. Usually, I already knew the boys and knew about their reasons. These were mostly good national reasons. I gave these addresses to Jan Cornips and then he prepared a diving place for them.
Then I prepared Turkish passports [and brought them to the] chapel in Klimmen, and they would take care of the rest. Usually it was [Bessems], who did so. Normally it was him who brought the guys away. Then we had got rid of them.
But on one we accommodated, 10 new came in, because it was a rural community here.
Ad: What was the subdistrict of Valkenburg consisting of?
Schunck: Of the municipality of Valkenburg-Houthem; the village of Walem, that belonged to the municipality of Klimmen; Geulhem (municipality of Berg en Terblijt); a part of Margraten, and the hamlet of [Schoonbron] in the municipality of Wylré.
District Leader Berix
Due to the contact with Berix Schunck, the first divers could come from Heerlen to Valkenburg soon.
The contact with the leaders of the district was Berix. Soon we were close friends, not a day passed that we didn’t see each other. This way, the contact was quite easy. So once per period I brought him our remaining ration cards. Klimmen was supplied directly by us, that was Bep van Kooten’s village . And Berix got the rest of the ration cards for distribution on places in the district that had no distribution office.
When he had to go into hiding, Berix moved to me, so the contact grew still closer. So now the district leader lived in my house. He was called Mr de Groot now and wore a wedding ring, and ran a men’s bicycle. As a chaplain he was not used to drive a men’s bicycle and he always beat his legs against the rod!
My staff thought he was an old study partner of mine who had to stay here some months for his health, and had not enough money for a hotel. He was regarded as being married and when he came in with me, then it went: “Giel, how are your wife and children?”, what was of course a bit weird for a chaplain.
Also on the phone, I asked first: “Giel, how’s your wife?” and then he told a story that his wife just finished the washing, and that she could not force herself to bring it to the laundry.
He was a cheerful person, always full of good humor.
He left us for fear of my son. Who was 5 years old, and this little guy once said to him, after having watched him exactly: “You are a priest!” He had found a Breviary prayer book of Berix, and he had seen that he prayed, in contrast to dad, always very reverentially before and after the meal, while his father just did it. He also blessed the food always, and my boy had observed this when other priests (who were often with me also because of illegal work). He had remembered that.
After that Berix said to my wife: “Look, a children’s eye and a child’s ear are sharp. I should go, otherwise you just would get into trouble.” I strongly regretted this. However he remained in the vicinity and so we still stood in daily contact.
Meers, monument for J.W. Berix. Source: .
English translation and more information on Giel Berix.
The L.O. district of Heerlen
Here I should not forget the secretary of our district leader, Jan Cornips, who basically dealt with the daily affairs of the district top, who attended the sessions etc., who divided the divers.
Cornips, student at the »Economische Hogeschool« in Tilburg, had refused to sign the “loyalitätsverklaring” and may 1943 he moved to Germany, in order not to endanger his parents. In September, he returned to Heerlen. His father presented him to Berix.
The contact with Jan, I always had at his father’s.
In 1943, the organizational framework of the L.O. was completed. In connection with the risks we decided to do without the holding of meetings in the hospital in Heerlen. When a rayon leader found it necessary, small meetings were organized in the apartment of Berix, in the building of patronage, or later in the visiting room of the convent of the Little Sisters of St. Joseph and in the house of the family Seelen. Cornips was the intermediary between the district and the subdistricts. He gave a weekly report to the district council, to which belonged he himself, Berix, chaplain J.J. Keulen, Quint and De Koning. Typically, the meeting of the district council was held a day after the province meeting. Alternately Cornips and Berix visited these conferences.
We regularly had L.O. meetings at district level, which took place directly after the province meeting. Went as a representative of the district either Berix or Jan, and later, when he began to be noticed, it was [?]. They went to the province meetings and then they came back with data for the rayon leaders and they were discussed then.
Ad: Was there a fixed day for this?
Schunck: No. It was about every two weeks, but no fixed date.
Coenjaerts: Those meetings were announced by courier.
Cammaert writes: “G.H.H. Coenjaarts, who worked in the Office of the State Mines, stole over a thousand ID cards of the company for divers. He printed illegal pamphlets and even books at the mine. In the summer of 1944, he threatened to fly up. The entire management of the subdistrict of Heerlen went underground. In the last months of the war Coenjaarts acted as a principal agent in the intelligence service of Goossen in the rayon.” Is that the same person?
Schunck: Later, these meetings were considered a bit too dangerous. At that time Coenjaerts came to stand in for [??], and we met at Jaspers’. Bep van Kooten from Klimmen was there too. In fact we stopped the meetings of the rayon. We said: "We won’t do this anymore, it’s too dangerous". Ströbel was then pretty much behind us.
We introduced female couriers. Then the war was nearly over. We communicated that to the heads of the diving cells in the very small circle. That was in Weert, everything went then via female couriers.
Female couriers are surer
W. Cremers and the Peusens sisters acted as couriers.
Then I assigned Ms Cremers as a courier. She cycled to the most high-risk addresses and from her I got notifications on slips of paper. But I found that not a satisfactory solution, because these notes were even more dangerous than the contacts !
Since the arrest of Berix, our L.O. district was a bit disoriented. One district leader followed the other. So in fact I had to work in my district indepedantly, I just got no more data and also no divers.
For a while I accommodated some divers from Maastricht, sent by M[emmisman], who was not organized in the L.O., and who finally no longer knew where to go with the people… And there still were the boys who ran away from the Arbeitsdienst , that had to work for the O.T. , and who went by themselves to farmers in the immediate vicinity. Then these farmers knew who was the head of the diving cell.
So our open places were automatically occupied again.
In fact I no longer knew the people who were district leader between July ’44 and end of Aug ’44, because we stood in contact via couriers, and that was a good thing. But I found it wrong that notes were exchanged. People wrote too much.
We monthly allocated ƒ1600 of supports. That was not much, because we had an agricultural municipality and divers, who were accommodated in our subdistrict could work at farms or in hotels. So, of course, they earned their own living. I insisted that if a boy worked for a farmer and he did a good job, then he should get a proper pocket money for it, and if he was a married man, we took measures via the district and that were these ƒ1600,-- for.
In the subdistrict we sometimes received gifts. But especially towards the end of the war, there were a lot of black-marketeers, who eagerly wanted a stamp “for the resistance”. I refused that money. There was even a cattle-dealer, who wanted to give ƒ100,000. The duikhoofd came to me and cheered: “I’ve got ƒ100,000!”
But I said: “And yet we can’t take that”.
If I did not know from whom it came, I always said: “No, we’ll not soil ourselves with this filth”.
We have never had any debt.
In early 1944 the district counted nine subdistricts: Hoensbroek (led by chaplain W.H. Hermans), Brunssum (father W.E.H. van der Geest), Geleen-Beek (H. Smeets), Kerkrade (Th.J.M. Goossen), Ubach over Worms (father Ch. Fréhen), Klimmen (B.J.C. van Kooten), Heerlen (until January 1944 J.H.A.E. Cornips and chaplain J.J. Keulen, then only Keulen and from March each J. Seelen and A.J. Derks), Valkenburg (P.J.A. Schunck) und Sittard (M.P.J.M. Corbeij). After a meeting at the home of B. van Kooten, Klimmen as the last subdistrict was annexed to the district. By the way, the merging was not very smooth. The subdistrict Geleen-Beek finally joined, when it was irrevocably clear that this would have many benefits. The rayon of Sittard stubbornly maintained its independent course, which disliked the districts of Roermond and Heerlen. ... With the district of Gulpen there also were some troubles. Perhaps, the difficulties were caused partly by the fact that Berix and his people had recruited many people in circles, that participated in the resistance for quite some time and that were part of existing illegal “organisations”, and who disliked to give up their independence.
Although L.O. and K.P. operated separately from each other, there probably was contact between the two organizations: H. Putters appeared as intermediary. The K.P. acted as the strong arm of the L.O.
Only in January 1944, the rayon of Valkenburg, was added after difficulties with Maastricht, to the district of Heerlen.
The Stream of the Divers Swells
Sometimes we had some problems, especially with a convoy from the region of Hilversum. For a short while we had a convoy system, so that they suddenly invaded Valkenburg with 20 to 25 divers simultaneously, which in my opinion was a stupid method. Then I stood there with the heads of the diver cells at the train station to receive the men and to share them out between the diving places.
There was espionage behind one of these convoys. Then I made a supervisor of the O.T. declare, that they all were OT workers, who came up with. I made this man say that indirectly, around some corners. And this man happened to be not so un-national, that he would not declare this. These were people from the Betuwe. I think that something was going on there, so suddenly all divers had to disappear. I got some of them too, and we had to pass them off as O.T. workers.
From Heerlen we also got regular supply of divers. 143 Names are known with us, of people we got from there. There are more unknown names, of guys who already roamed about and whom we gave official work with farmers and businesses in Valkenburg, particularly in hotels. I had a ship’s officer as chef in the Hotel Continental. He said: “We on the ship can do anything. I can cook too.” “OK,” I said, “then you’ll be cook in a hotel. That way you at least will have no need to go outside.” But just a terrible thing came out of this. I was told that the people there were almost poisoned!
At the local distribution office W.A.P. Freysen and V. Willems “freed” monthly between 500 and 800 ration cards. There was even a surplus, from which other subdistricts benefited. Many divers received from an employee of the C.C.D. and the head of the local Office of Food, L. Brands, an agricultural exemption, so that they could earn their own living, and the rayon leaders only had to support here and there. Monthly on average ƒ 1,600 were paid, which came from the district management in Heerlen. The subdistrict had approximately one hundred and fifty divers. Upon their arrival at the train station in Valkenburg they were controlled by use of a password and a Turkish passport. At one single day in 1944 not less than one hundred divers arrived at the station because of problems in the district of Maas en Waal. Schunck and his people could accommodate most of them at farms with the help of L. Brands, without attracting any attention in this area that was really heavily visited by tourists.
The people who arrived at the station were told, they should go to the church, supposedly to confess. And in front of which confessional they should take place in the church. They’d get a briefing there about how it would go on. These people were from a Catholic area, so they knew that they should wait in the pews, until it would be their turn. In the confessional was not a priest, but the verger Harry van Ogtrop. He asked the one, whose turn it was, who he was, and told him to which diving address he should go. The church was the only place where such an action could take place totally unobtrusive because only there many people at the same time were allowed to be present. Later Harry van Ogtrop lost almost his entire fortune. The former resistance fighter Jan van Betuw below describes the circumstances shameful for our post-war Netherlands. As the verger was also heavily disabled due to an accident, he then fell back on a paltry pension of sexton. He was been hit as a pedestrian on the sidewalk by a car and sat in a wheelchair.
“Paul” undertook still attempts to cancel the decisions of the institute for trust, as well as in the case Soesmann, described below by Jan van Betuw, but they failed. Jan van Betuw: “One must regard these things however in the context of the mentality of those days: of the obedient and law-abiding citizen. Legal aid shops were unknown, and/or still for a long time not as generally spread as nowadays.”
The Jews in Valkenburg
Memorial stone Jewish victims from Valkenburg
42 Jews from Valkenburg arrested and murdered
On September 11, 1955, in memory of the deported and killed Jewish inhabitants of Valkenburg, a memorial stone was placed on the Jewish cemetery on the Cauberg. Jan Diederen writes in his book „42 Jews from Valkenburg arrested and murdered“: Not all entries are correct. For example, Erna Benedik was not deported from Valkenburg, but together with her husband Theo Sachman from Amsterdam. The widow Henriette Herzog-Berlin survived the war and died a natural death. The name Jacq. Hannef is not only misspelled — it should be Jacob Hanft — he also did not live in Valkenburg but in Dolberg near Klimmen. What also is confusing, is the fact that all married women are listed with the surname of their husband and not with their girl’s names. On the memorial stone the victims deported from Valkenburg Eva Cok de Wilde and Alice Gebhart-Rosenwald are not listed.
In the book mentioned above (ISBN 978-90-805499-3-7) are the correct and more extensive data to be found in the tables ‘Valkenburg’ and ‘Benedik’. It is available for € 10,- from the author, firstname.lastname@example.org oder Henk Vossen, Prinses Christinalaan 33, Valkenburg, tel. 043-4511312.
The L.O.-member P.J.A. Schunck resident in Valkenburg, noted that the local, by the way, small Jewish community did not want to take note of the dangers and rejected offered help. Their attitude was typical of so many Jews and other. They could not believe it, even not think how bad the Evil could be. An elderly Jewish couple for example was firmly convinced that they had to leave their apartment for a large family. In return for their departure, accommodation at a nursing home had been promised to the two aged people. Also other Jewish residents of Valkenburg did not believe the alarming messages that had leaked out. They sincerely thought there would be at most (forced) work in Polish camps. With this view they deceived themselves to put up with their situation. In other ways Valkenburg also was typical for a widespread phenomenon. The "small", destitute Jews were almost all deported, while in many cases the richer ones could hide in time, sometimes with the help of individuals, sometimes with the help of the L.O. or another resistance group. Thanks to the L.O. dozens of Jews found shelter in the subdistrict of Valkenburg.
I got the following text from a former resistance man, Jan van Betuw, by e-mail after a conversation with him at the funeral of my mother, Gerda Schunck-Cremers.
Jan (Jules) van Betuw was a courier of the resistance in Heerlen. In this capacity he escaped on a day in early 1944 to his arrest on the Valkenburgerweg (road to Valkenburg) in Heerlen.
His bus was stopped, while he transported illegal food ration-cards.
More about Jules at http://users.cuci.nl/smcwfs/projecten/protest/DARTIKEL/DH4A.HTM
Dear Mr. Schunck,
enclosed the article concerning what your mother told me concerning the Jews in Valkenburg and the verger, as well as the point of view of the Dutch government.
Jan van Betuw
Vultures after World War II
How a small country can be even smaller
Since World War One the married couple Soesmann-Horn lived in Valkenburg. Already as a school girl Gerda Cremers knew this Jewish married couple, who lived next door. He was of Dutch, she of German origin.
In Valkenburg they were very respected people. At a more advanced age Mr. Soesmann held a prominent position in the Jewish community, he was the deputy rabbi. On Sabbaths the later Mrs. Schunck-Cremers lighted among other things her neighbours' stove.
During World War Two the couples Schunck and Soesmann still lived in Valkenburg. Mr. Pierre Schunck played a prominent role in the resistance movement (where he was called „Paul”) and he knew about the plan, to make Valkenburg „Jew free” soon. Energetically he arranged a place for his acquaintances to submerge: in the hospital of Heerlen (Mr. Soesmann, already older, was sickly). Because Mrs. Schunck knew the Jewish couple already since a long time she was more confidentially with them. So she asked them if they would be aware of the consequences of this making „Judenfrei”. They were actually, as far as possible at that time, however they had, like everybody, no notion of extermination camps and Auschwitz.
During this conversation Mrs. Soesmann said, she would have already found a place for many objects of value such as jewelry with their circle of friends. Now she was winding the rest in balls of wool. This way she could carry it unnoticed to have it in reserve for emergency cases. To the question, whether she would have also acknowledgements of receipt of it, she showed her some notes. But about the own house or a will they had not thought yet. Paul settled that too. A brother of Mrs. Soesmann's. who emigrated to America already some time ago, became sole heir. Mrs. Schunck got the documents into safekeeping.
About submerging the Jewish couple did not think however: „No, if God leads our people into the exile, we older ones must go ahead. And we do not want to endanger anybody for the short time, we still have to live”.
A short time after they were arrested by the Germans and were brought to Maastricht. Everything they had with them was taken away! From Maastricht they went to Aachen, where Mr. Soesmann was separated and „removed” (!) as an old and ill person (and thus of no „value”). Mrs. Soesmann went alone on transport. A fellow prisoner who survived, knew the tragedy and informed Paul after the war.
After the war „Paul” (Pierre Schunck) found out brother Horn's address in New York and informed him about the will. This brother, who was already older and a waiter, lived in needy circumstances and so he was overjoyed, despite the mourning for the fate of his sister and brother-in-law.
Paul arranged a business trip to Bonaire in the Caribbean and inserted a two days break to visit the Dutch consul in New York. He made an appointment with the brother and wanted to settle everything by going with him and the will to the consul. The consul received them, listened to their history, examined the will and seemed bent to react like Paul expected.
„But of course Mr. Horn will have to legitimize himself as the designated heir.” Horn submitted his old German passport, with that large "J" in it, to the consul. The consul reacted as stung by a wasp. „That is hostile fortune, which has to be seized! Because Horn is a German!”
Friendly persuasion and pedantic explanation of the situation did not help a bit. Horn did not get anything and the consul seized the will.
When Paul, deeply disappointed, came back home to Valkenburg again, there a letter from a lawyer waited already, in whom he was summoned to announce all possessions (movable and immovable) of the deceased married couple Soesmann-Horn to the so called „Nederlands Beheersinstituut”, (NBI, institute for trust). Paul did so. When the institute for trust claimed the objects of value of the Soesmanns from the persons they gave them to, people in question denied to have received anything for safekeeping. The house of the Dutchman Soesmann was publicly auctioneered. The only offerer was a former Dutch Nazi, who remained living there.
Thus the Dutch state and its citizens appropriated the possession of murdered Jews.
Another scandalous occurence concerned the resistance man van Ogtrop (the verger of Valkenburg). He lost almost his entire fortune. He had married in goods community, a long time before the beginning of the war, the daughter of a German bus entrepreneur. This man lived in Koningsbosch (municipality Echt) and had there his enterprise (among other things miners transport). These people were everything but Hitler followers. Her/his part in the enterprise was just seized. Because the verger became also still severely disabled by an accident, he fell back on a lean vergers pension.
Paul undertook still attempts to cancel the decisions of the institute for trust. But they failed. One must regard these things however in the context of the mentality of those days: of the obedient and law-abiding citizen. Legal aid shops were unknown, and/or still for a long time not as generally spread as nowadays.
12/8/99 Jan von Betuw.
Once I believed to have a traitor here. This was a man, who always just wanted to hide somewhere else. So I brooded how to get rid of this man. He constantly made trouble and said every time he wanted to have another hiding place. I got him to Bep van Kooten, I said to him: “I can give you a nice specimen.” He said: “Just let him come, I have got enough deserted [*]!” And he solved this case.
Pierre Schunck puts it here briefly and almost cheerful. At home he spoke differently about this. They had this man lying heavy on their stomach. Most of the resistance people in Limburg were convinced and principled Christians who took seriously the 5th commandment. But on the other hand they were in war, and this man was probably an enemy. So martial law and the principle of self-defense was valid here. And the K.P. as “armed arm” had to solve it. That was of course totally different from the actions of “Bijltjesdag” (day of reckoning) after the liberation of which the L.O. dissociated itself.
End of the Diver’s Inn 1
In summer 1944, the safest cave became a training location for the future soldiers of the “Stoottroepen”.
Because the thing gradually had leaked out into the district. So one day Bep van Kooten comes to me with Jantje [Lemmens] and says: “You lost your diver’s inn, to the K.P.”. I was of course not very amused.
I undertook all possible actions against it. I said: “For me, that thing is necessary. But what are you going to do with it? Maybe storing weapons? You could do that just as well elsewhere.”
Van Kooten was looking for a suitable depot for weapons and a shooting range for the “Knokploegen” (command groups) of South Limburg. That was why this cave had to be evacuated, too. It turned out to be not suitable for the storage of weapons, it was too moist. But firing practice could be made there. During the summer 1944, the cave served as accommodation for the K.P., as a prison and as interrogation rooms for arrested people and possible traitors.
But in fact the K.P. used the thing as a prison. For more details, you must contact the K.P. (There a lot about it is known).
We began to set up the cave behind the lime work for the normal work with the diver’s inn. And when we just finished it, came next door a factory of the OT. That’s why cave has never been used. It’s still there. A film has been made by the Americans, who must be at the American army documents.
Once we had an incident there . About 5 kilometres away there was a military training area (shooting site of the barracks in Maastricht). And during the war the German army came to do target practice. We never had any trouble with that.
But then they began to do field exercises as well and of course I didn’t know about that. The whole area was surrounded, also the entrances of our caves. A worker at the lime kiln, which was there a bit porter too, calls me and says: “They surrounded the whole cave!”
I’m going there immediately with a van. I leave it not far from there and walk the last piece. And I see a “mof” standing there with the rifle in the attack . I go on a bit and see another mof, with the gun in the attack. They were about to hold a practice, and all were standing guard with the gun in the attack. I walk around at the site, but it was completely surrounded.
I hurry back home and call [* lman]. I say: “If you still want to do something for those people, then come up with an armed group of yours and smash the skulls of these guys.” And there they came with a flying brigade. I don’t know how many cars they had commandeered, but when they arrived all German were withdrawn already quietly! So they could go back home. Of course I couldn’t ask the Germans: “Are you looking for the people who sit in there?”
Bep van Kooten was poison-green with anger.
Manipulations with Cards
With the exception of agriculture, detailed records should be carried by any business, how much male people aged between 18 and 45 years were working there. A special inspection should determine who came into consideration for de work duty in Germany and who not. The data were entered on a Z card. The complexity of this process offered new opportunities for sabotage. Various companies and regional labour offices worked with all possible means against the measure. The L.O. got a large number of blank Z cards in hands, brought false ones into circulation and sent fictitious ones to the employment offices. By sloppiness, misinformation and delay in the execution, in which officials from all institutions and authorities collaborated, the process sank into utter chaos.
Also in Valkenburg local government officials muscled in with that, in the town hall and at the distribution office.
Ad: Were there still special actions with Z cards or TD’s?
Schunck: Those Z-cards were not that necessary for us, but nevertheless we had an agent. It was a man of the tax office, who often visited business people, and who allegedly came there to check the books. Then he said to such a business man: “Did you present already the Z cards of your employees?” And if they didn’t, he said: “Come on, then I just fix that.” Then he did it and brought them to me. Then, these entrepreneurs believed that they had their Z cards in order. The man from the IRS provided me with rubber stamps and I brought them back to him, that was very easy.
With regard to my own business, I didn’t mind the Z-cards.
This company was closed by the Germans and in this time we worked continuously for divers, allegedly as a repair company for pit clothing. We could work quite freely because (?) my assistant was a diver (because of his “non-Aryan blood”).
June ’43, our company was closed, seized by the Germans. I don’t know why. Then the central warehouse of Distex (National office for the sales of textile products by trading) figured it out. One of the gentlemen believed, that he could conclude on a pro Dutch mentality on our part. So he came to me to fathom out, whether we still could continue working (we did) and whether we could do something for him. I ask: “What do you want?”
He says: “The Landwacht seizes here and there a lot of cloth, which is stored in our warehouse, and we would like to process it to clothing. We want to give that to the workers of some Dutch industries, which are out of favour with the Germans.” So he wanted to have work clothes.
Well, one word follows the next, and because I somehow guessed it already, he finally came out with it, that sometimes he did something for hiding people and that they have stuff which had to be processed to clothing. I say: “That’s fine, but then I want to have an advantage of it too, then I want to have something for other divers. I will take care to establish contacts. I also want to do something for the people in Limburg.” “I agree,” he says, “we will give you the order.”
Then were we processed 30,000 M of fabric for divers who went back to Distex and partially were distributed in the district here. They were pants, shirts and stuff.
The Raid on the Distribution Office in Valkenburg
Some residents of Valkenburg and surroundings began already in 1941 with the help of first divers. A. C. van der Gronden, a brother of G.J. van der Gronden, who was detained on 13 January 1942, helped Jews and communists with accommodation in collaboration with rector G.A. Wolf from Sibbe. End of 1943 they joined the LO. Carelessness and talkativeness of the diver A.S. Bron resulted on 17 February 1944 in the arrest of Wolf, Bron and the hidden person Th.M. van Santpoort. Wolf was released for lack of evidence after ten days and van Santpoort after several months. Bron was deported and survived the German camps.
Only for PB’s (identity cards), the subdistrict of Valkenburg was primarily dependent on help from outside. Schunck appealed to the divers, not to apply for new PB’s if it was not absolutely necessary. In June 1944, the relative self-sufficiency threatened to come to an abrupt end by the introduction of a new insert sheet.
Young men, who had to go to Germany for an Arbeitseinsatz (forced deployment of labor), were supposed to hand in her ration coupons. In return they received a certificate with which they would get their ration coupons in Germany. When they would go into hiding they would starve, the Germans assumed. It was the LO, who often cared for that and provided a new registration card.
During a long time, in every period of four weeks, some officials of Valkenburg’s distribution office had been able, via various crooked tours, to obtain clandestinely between 500 and 1000 complete sheets with ration coupons for the people who went underground. However, it could not fail to appear, that this would be discovered one day to come soon. First, they tried to have printed new counterfeit cards in Amsterdam, but a German raid in that print shop prevented this solution.
I had a contact at the distribution office in Valkenburg in ’43. That generated initially about 200 ration cards per period, and later 400. In fact that was too much for the distribution in Valkenburg, but by proper teamwork of the distributors, we could still handle that without difficulty.
Then the old insert sheets became invalid and there came numbers on the new ones: Valkenburg was N° . So I was worried that we would get the insert sheets for Valkenburg in time from the printer.
The director of the distribution office, Th. van Hinsberg, always let these men do as they wanted. But in the beginning of 1944 he had to go underground and was replaced by two dutch Nazis. Freysen and Willems feared, that with the introduction of the new insert sheet the extensive manipulation would come to light. They discussed their problems with the subdistrict management and they suggested an assault team should cause a huge mess in the distribution office. Only in this way, the fraud could remain undetected.
I discussed that with our L.O. contact within the K.P.: Bep van Kooten , who referred me to Jaques Crasborn We met in Valkenburg and Jaques promised to me to get the needed papers from the distribution office in Valkenburg for me as soon as possible.
J. Crasborn worked out a plan and he agreed to take the command. In turn Freysen would give all needed information, draw a ground-plan, and procure the key.
So they launched a daring plan. It was usual that every evening, the keys of the safe of the distribution office and such things were given to the police for storage in an envelope with five wax seals and the signature of the director. For a while, they fished the wax seals from the wastebasket every day, after much trying the signature was counterfeit on a equal envelope and gradually similar keys were bought. They prepared the envelope with its contents, the signature, and the already used wax seals and ten they just needed to wait until the right moment now, that they could hand over this envelope to the police. The moment came and the chance was used.
Later he came to me one afternoon and said: “Tomorrow it will happen, but we don’t know how we can get the key of the safe”. So on the same afternoon my contact at the distribution office prepared an envelope with keys, which were about the same size as those of the safe. He had them ready and he swapped the envelopes unnoticed. He had prepared it very well and cleverly: he had collected from the trash the wax seals, soaked off the paper under them and he then glued the wax seals neatly on the new envelope. Also he forged the signature of the DK [??], a sympathizer of the N.S.B., and put it on the seal. So that was class.
Every evening the most important keys, in a sealed envelope that was signed by the director, were given into safekeeping in a safe of the police station. Freysen circumvented that obstacle by giving a completely identical envelope with fake security seals and signature to the night watchman, who was inaugurated in the conspiracy, the police officer J.H. op de Ven.
The envelope was issued at the police station and the person who brought it there, didn’t suspect anything. The real one has been brought to the K.P. agent of Valkenburg, who ensured that the K.P. got it, which was waiting for their task.
Some time before the K.P. stole a German army vehicle from a garage in Sittard, along with some cans of gasoline. The car was transferred to Valkenburg, fully recovered in a garage and then hided in a cave behind the monastery at the Cauberg. That night they committed the robbery using the genuine keys, while the false envelope was under the care of the police.
When an unsuspecting employee gave the real envelope at the police station on the evening of 22 June, op de Ven received it and gave the fake envelope a colleague who put it in the safe. Then Op de Ven went to the distribution office, where he was supposed to keep guard that night, together with a member of the N.S.B.
Late in the evening, two cars arrived in Valkenburg with a five or six man strong command team. One car was “borrowed” from the Staatsmijnen (= State mines). The other one was provided by the command of Sittard. Because everything was settled down to the last detail, the raid went flawlessly. The N.S.B. man got a blow on his head and was unconscious. The K.P. men did not know that a consignment of allocation documents for two months had arrived the day before. The haul was colossal: over 210,000 Bonkaarten (ration cards), about 82,000 ration stamps, over 2500 ration cards, 5000 T.D. master cards, 1600 toeslagkaarten (supplement cards), numerous insert sheets and a typewriter. More than a dozen of jute bags were needed to transport everything. The bags were brought to a farm near Kunrade in Voerendaal. When they sorted it at the home of Mrs J. Jaspers-Koten in Klimmen, it partly turned out to be useless, which was burned. Another part of the haul finally landed in Valkenburg and was hidden in the old parish church. The SIPO groped around in the dark. Op de Ven went underground after the raid and attracted thus the suspicion on himself. Freysen and his colleagues were not suspects and were able to continue their practices undisturbedly. The unwitting bearer of the key was strongly grilled, because the envelope in the police safe contained the wrong keys. He knew nothing and returned to free feet after a day.
The complete distribution records and other documents disappeared in a car towards Oud-Valkenburg and via Ransdaal to a farm in Kunrade. Later they were brought back to Valkenburg, in a car hidden under straw, because the Germans investigated all the farms in the subdistrict.
Next morning I heard already in the street, that the attack had been successful, and I got the message from Bep: “Come and get your crap”.
I went to Klimmen with a van, and together with Bep we went to a farm along the railroad, and we loaded the whole shebang into that van of the laundry. It was packed in flour bags, we put straw on it and so we went to Klimmen, to Jaspers. There [????] waited with a bunch of the KP. They took the ration cards and I got the stamkaarten (master cards) and insert sheets with the number, so I was helped too.
This way we could prepare 400 ration cards; 200 over the distributors. And insert sheets, which were glued on, and another 100 over master cards which I distributed to the host families and where the “parents” of the divers could get ration cards for their families.
That was always wonderful, we never had trouble with that.
Everything worked and the NSB man, who was there as a night guard, was beaten unconscious and locked up in the toilet. Ration cards and stamps were kept for a night at Mrs Jaspers’ in Klimmen. She was not in the resistance, but she helped the resistance now and then. Next morning, Mr Schunck went to pick up the ration cards to bring them to a remote farm on the road from Voerendaal to Heerlen, from where they would be distributed. Together with three children, Mr. Schunck went with a van to get the coupons. Under the guise of: “We want to get hay for our horse,” they passed pretty easily the guards and the cards and stamps were delivered safely.
The Raid on the Distribution Office in Heerlen
For comparison, the story of the raid on the distribution office in Heerlen follows here. The differences that come to notice: the action was not planned together with the L.O., it was violent and it has brought nothing. Also it is not clear whether the raid of March 9 brought Nitsch on the track of chaplain Berix.
In early March 1944 the K.P. of Heerlen, in collaboration with the one of Nijmegen, made the ambitious plan, one after the other to attack the police headquarters, the distribution office and the town hall in Heerlen in one single coordinated action. The idea came from G.H. Bensen and the K.P. man L. A. van Druenen from Nijmegen. After they had watched the objects a couple of days, they came to the conclusion that the plan was feasible. The K.P. Nijmegen would be divided into two groups. Five K.P. men under the leadership of Van Druenen would take the police headquarters. The second group, led by Th. Dobbe, would attack the distribution office. These two groups, along with the command of Heerlen would then penetrate into the town hall.
In the night from 9 to 10 March at 00:30 the K.P. men knocked at the police headquarters. They claimed to be train passengers who hadn’t found an accommodation after their arrival. The duty officer harbored no suspicions and let them in. The K.P. men overwhelmed the five night guards, whom they gave a cigar and a blanket and they locked them in a cell. A police officer had to give up his uniform. Perhaps it could do a good turn in the next phase of the operation. The commandos took 24 guns, sixteen of them loaded, four pairs of handcuffs, two leather motorcycle jackets and other equipment. After they had made the alarm unusable they went to the distribution office, where Dobbe and his group were waiting. When they arrived, it turned out that Van Druenen in the hurry had forgotten to take the keys to the distribution office, which were kept at the police headquarters. Dobbe was undaunted by this setback, because Bensen and his men waited to strike at the town hall.
The uniformed K.P. man was supposed to ring, whereupon the other K.P. men would go inside to eliminate the guards. But it turned out differently. One of the guards raised the alarm. There was a shootout in which a security guard was wounded. The K.P. men withdrew to Valkenburg. The command from Heerlen didn’t have to come into action anymore. Next day Dobbe and his team returned to Nijmegen. An investigation by the Sipo remained without any result. It is not whether Nitsch came through the RAID of March 9, chaplain Berix on the track. When Berix heard that in Geleen arrests had taken place, he went underground on March 24, 1944.
Monument for chaplain J.W.Berix
Of course the L.O. would have had profits of a successful assault on the distribution office and the town hall, but wether the organization was involved in the plans, is not fixed.
Support by and contact with existing underground networks or groups were essential to the intelligence services.
(...) Good results were achieved also by intelligence agencies, which came from existing underground organizations. Both the intelligence services of OD militia and the L.O. of Limburg provided the resistance and the allies valuable information.
In June 1944, the L.O. district leader of Heerlen, Th. J. M. Goossen organized his own intelligence service to protect the underground in general. Moreover, Goossen’s I.D. collected military information that came among others from employees or repatriates of the “Außenministerium” (see Cammaert, chapter VI, § VIII.5.1. and Chapter VIII, § IV.4.7.). Shortly before the liberation, the emphasis shifted partially at the request of the O.D. combatant C.M.J.A.F. Nicolas, on military information. In this work, Goossen’s I.D. chalked up remarkable successes. After the liberation, the Americans offered Goossen the opportunity to extend his service to whole Limburg and North Brabant. This I.D. performed also commands of the military authority.
Schunck: We were the first intelligence service, that worked in the front line.
Ad: Who organized that in your region?
Schunck: In our subdistrict it was me. Theo Goossen was the man for that .
Goossen himself says during the farewell celebration for Pierre Schunck:
“Paul” also is a member of the intelligence group ID18.
- 1944-9-6 he lets know that the day before Sjeng (John) Coenen and Joep (Joe) Francotte have been shot down on the Cauberg and still are lying there. What next?? For “Paul” this shooting has remained a permanent trauma.
- 1944-9-15 he states: “The Germans blew up the bridges over the Geul, closed the roads, they have mounted cannons and defend themselves against the advancing Americans. Several buildings are heavily damaged and several houses are burning. The greater part of the population have put themselves in safety in the lime caves.”
- 1944-9-16 The Resistance leader Bep van Kooten arrives in Heerlen. “Paul” lets him know, on his trip to Maastricht and Brussels he should not go by Valkenburg. This would be dangerous to life.
In the night from 16 to 17 September 1944: The Germans leave Valkenburg. “Paul” contacts the liberators, as had been ordered by the resistance. He will help them in all possible ways.
This way Pierre Schunck was the first one from Valkenburg to contact the approaching US army and guided them down into the Geul valley. See underneath the story of the liberation of Valkenburg
Killed in Action
Frits: Have comrades of yours been arrested or killed in action?
Schunck: Two divers (no comrades of my group) have been arrested, they were in the cave. One of them belonged to the L.O. of Simpelveld, other one to the K.P. of Vaals.
The same night when the boys were shot, somebody let me know it; before I knew none of them. The deputy mayor did [??], and then a nurse of the Red Cross went there to to look after the boys. they have been brought into the morgue.
When Pierre Schunck says: “they were in the cave”, then he means their base. They were in the cave in Geulhem, but also in the headquarters of the K.P. South Limburg, in a farm in Ulestraten.
Cammaert writes about J.H. (Sjeng) Coenen from Simpelveld and W.J. (Joep) Francotte from Vaals:
The relative calm in Ulestraten ended suddenly in early September. On Tuesday 5 September J. Coenen and W. Francotte visited the house of Koers in Geulle to pick up two cars, which were needed for the raid on the concentration camp Vught. They drove the car to the farm of J.F.A. Horsmans, Ulestraten, where guns were hidden as well. In the afternoon Horsmans got message that German soldiers would be quartered. At about six o’clock, he informed H. Quicken in the K.P. HQ., who ordered Coenen, Francotte and Meulenkamp to remove the cars and guns immediately from the Horsmans farm. They hided it all in a forest. About nine o’clock, they returned to the farm, where now dozens of German soldiers were walking around. In the eyes of de soldiers, the trio acted quite silly. They had to show their ID card. Coenen made such a fuss from it that Meulenkamp took the opportunity to flee. He got lost in the woods, but eventually he reached Meerssen. After three days, he returned to Ulestraten. Coenen was frisked. When they found a gun at him, great agitation arose among the soldiers. They apparently were dealing with two “terrorists”. This was followed by a brief consultation. About half past nine four soldiers brought Coenen and Francotte to a hotel in Valkenburg. The soldiers who were billeted in the hotel, were excited and nervous, subjected them to a short interrogation, which was accompanied by cursing and threats. A drunken S.S. officer wanted to execute them, but the soldiers could not agree. About ten o’clock four guards brought Coenen and Francotte to an other hotel, where eighteen soldiers were billeted. They decided to vote on the fate of the two.
A majority was for the death penalty. About half past ten six soldiers brought the two K.P. men to the hotel of the local commander. On the way the two were mistreated significantly. About an hour later the soldiers went to the Cauberg Hill. There, Coenen and Francotte were shot by major Bernardt. Next day, a passerby discovered the bodies at the roadside. Coenen and Francotte were bound with their wrists together, their skulls were smashed and they had strong injuries in the face. A neck shot had put an end to their life. Next to the mortal remains there was a sign with the text “terrorists”.
The place on the Cauberg, where the resistance men Sjeng Coenen
and Joep Francotte were shot by the Germans.
Here, the resistance monument of the province of Limbug in Valkenburg was built later.
Source: Beeldbank NIMH
Butter and Eggs
On March 25 1944 stationmaster Vroemen phoned Pierre Schunck with the message that during the next night a wagon full of eggs would stand at the station of Wylré to be brought to Germany, and he proposed to take advantage of this opportunity.
On the wagon banners were attached with texts like: “A gift of the Dutch people to the Germans” and “For the German winter aid!” But it was of course simply swiped at the farmers. Pierre Schunck gave this information to the K.P. in Heerlen.
Vroemen, the station chief of Valkenburg
Vroemen de stations-chef van Valkenburg
Als er controle was van de landwacht of de duitsers
werd ik steeds door de stationschef gewaarschuwd met een
code-mededeling "u kunt uw wagon niet lossen."
Met onze komende gasten.onderduikers spraken wij af dat zij
zich bij de stationschef moesten melden met een van tevoren
Toen Maas en Waal „ausgekämmt" werd en
plotseling meer dan 100 jongens moesten verdwijnen, kreeg
ons rayon deze toegewezen. Vroemen heeft ze allemaal weten
op te vissen.
Deze meer dan 100 jongens zijn in één dag met
behulp van het bureau van Lambert Brands bij
de boeren in de omgeving geplaatst. Dit
kantoor zat tegenover het station in (thans)
hotel Tummers.(C.C.D. Crisis Controle Dienst)
Toen het Jesuitenklooster in 1942 gevorderd was en de duit-
sers geregeld grote kisten ten vervoer naar duitsland
aanboden, legde Vroemen een lijst aan van alle adressen
waarheen de kisten gingen. Na de bevrijding kon zoedoende
o.a. een kostbare mieren-verzameling van Pater Mückermann
naar Nederland terugkeren.
Op een goede dag belt hij mij op of ik eens wilde komen
wegens aangekomen materialen voor het bedrijf. Ik dacht
onderduikers te vinden, doch kreeg het volgende verhaal:
" Wij hebben in Wylre op zijspoor moeten rangeren, een
volle wagon met eieren. Deze wagon moet morgenvroeg met een
opschrift versierd worden, zoiets als Geshenk des Niederländischen
Volkes an die bombengeschädigte Städte deutschlands"
Verder : Wij hebben de wagon niet op de lucht-rem staan. Tegen het wiel
zit een remschoen, die je kunt wegtrekken. Bij de overweg
ligt een twede remschoen gereed. Als je de remschoen weg
trekt sukkelt de wagon langzaam en geruisloos in richting
Thuis gekomen deed ik als volgt: (Giel Berix) Z18 bellen.
Ik herinner me niet precies wie gebeld werd. Meest veilig was Armenraad in de Geleenstr.,
met het verzoek om mij terug te bellen. (Hij) had nl een
niet afluisterbaar geheim nummer der PTT, via de dienst-lijn.
Ik vertelde hem de situatie, toen hij mij terugbelde.
(Giel) heeft toen de KP verwittigd waar dit niet aan dovemans-
oren verteld werd. Als ik voor opslag zorgde, zou het
karwei direct geklaard worden.
In de late avond kwamen de vrachtwagens volgeladen met
C.R.E. eierkisten. ’s Anderendaags hebben de bestelwagens
van ons in gewone manden deze eieren verdeeld over Z.Limburg
met het ziekenhuis in Heerlen als hoofdafnemer.
Duitsers en N.S.B. ers gingen deze zaak in Wylre uitzoeken.
Een van de vrachtwagen-chauffeurs, een K.P.er, zorgde ervoor, erbij te
zijn, om te vernemen of men iets ontdekken zou. (Laeven)
In 1944 the K.P. of Heerlen came into action twice in the district of Gulpen, without previously informing the local L.O., on the basis of news from the subdistrict of Valkenburg. The K.P. of Heerlen captured between six and seven thousand eggs.
St. Josef hospital Heerlen
Why the K.P. did not inform the L.O. in Gulpen, Cammaert does not write. But we can take for certain that they wanted to avoid that too many people knew about the raid to come. Also there may have been misunderstandings between the resistance groups of Heerlen and Gulpen and they had to act soon. The eggs were brought to Pierre and Gerda Schunck to sort them. There were far too many, even after the rotten eggs had been sorted out. A lot of them went to the hospital in Heerlen. There a whole floor had been made so perfectly untraceable, that it could be used to treat divers and allied pilots there. This was possible, because the Rector N.M.H. Prompers, the founder of the L.O. district of Heerlen, together with the nuns, who made a large part of the work, ensured that the entire staff was against the Nazis. And if you look at the hospital on the historical aerial photograph, then you understand immediately that this building collaborated with the resistance.
There was still another important tool for the resistance, which ran entirely outside of the field of view of the occupiers, because they didn’t even suspect its existence: the own telephone network of the Provinciale Limburgse Electriciteits Maatschappij, the electricity company P.L.E.M.
The members of the management of resistance had access via special numbers. This way they had a tap-proof phone network.
I had fun when I saw how the farmers supplied their eggs. The egg boxes have been brought to us and my wife and I distributed them across the districts and subdistricts. From here they were transported with the van of the laundry.
When we opened the boxes, they stunk to high heaven! We had to sort out the eggs very meticulously and carefully, to avoid that our own people would get rotten eggs.
If the Germans would have searched carefully to find the eggs, they could have gone after the stench!
The same was true for a butter robbery in Reymerstok on June 14. At this coup the K.P. men, in German Wehrmacht uniforms, stole almost a thousand kilos of butter, which was intended for the German army. It partly came for the benefit of the inhabitants of the prison in Maastricht.
Deze jongen ziet hoe de chef Vroemen, die er als "verant-
wortlich" bij moest zijn, uitgescholden wordt door een N.S.B.
er, die beheerder was van de boterfabriek in Reymerstok.
Hij hoort die N.S.B. verwalter van de boterfabriek als
volgt uitvaren: " Uilskuikens zijn jullie allemaal.
Mij zou zoiets niet overkomen. Ik heb 1000 kilo Wehrmachts-
boter in mijn koelcel, maar daar komt geen zogenaamde
witte brigade aan. "
Onze K.P.er is snel besloten.
Hij zoekt een paar kameraden, die een wehrmachtsuniform
hebben en de beschikking over een wehrmachtsauto (gegapt
uit de garage Vencken in Sittard) en meteen op naar
Reymerstok, zolang de boter-verwalter nog druk naar
de eieren is aan ’t zoeken.
De N.S.B.verwalterdame is alleen
thuis en de boterfabriek ligt stil.
"Schnell schnell unsere Butter, wir haben wenig Zeit!" De
duitse soldaten in het duitse wehrmachtsvoertuig zagen er
voor deze dame zeer vertrouwd uit en onze jongens kregen de
hele smak boter in hun wagen.
Onze K.P.ers wehrmachts-soldaten wisten niet beter dan deze
niet vooraf geplande boter maar naar het eieren adres te
brengen zodat ik na nauwelijks de eieren verwerkt te hebben,
nu met een boterberg opgezadeld werd.. Deze natuurboter
werd de andere dag via K.P. kanalen ten dele verdeeld
terwijl het grootste gedeelte in het ziekenhuis van Heerlen
in een kuil van een stilgelegde lift werd opgeborgen.
Toen de N.S.B. Verwalter weer thuis in Reymerstok zat kreeg
hij naast zijn eier-raadsel ook nog een boterbriefje in te
geregistreerd door rayonleider der L.O. R 8 van district
The dairy in Reymerstok was owned by an N.S.B. man. It worked for the German army. They used a looted German army vehicle and uniforms that did already a good turn on other occasions. This car was hidden in a cave behind the monastery of the fathers on the Cauberg hill.
The owner of the dairy was not suspicious and did not complain when the alleged German soldiers came to “collect a command” of thousand kilos of butter from the cold rooms of the factory. Maybe the fake soldiers had also fake papers, but nothing is known about it.
When an English plane crashed burning between Meerssen and Berg, the wounded pilot was transported by ambulance to the hospital in Heerlen on the pretext, he would be an injured fireman. In this hospital an entire floor was “hidden” for the occupiers, to take care for hiding and pilots!
This was a bold example of social cohesion, which could work only because those who know about this place, kept her mouth. And that must have been quite a number of people, above all the nuns who operated the hospital. Authors, who find that the resistance in Limburg meant little because they knew / know no better, or because they regard humanitarian aid under war conditions only as civil disobedience, apparently don’t recognize the extent to which these people have put their lives, and often those of their families, at risk.
The End of the War
The Liberators are Approaching!
After the Allied Forces landed on 6 June 1944 in Normandy and they started to liberate Europe, an anxious tension reigned in Southern-Limburg. People understood that an inevitable consequence of this enormous offensive of the Allied Forces would be that our province would go to encouter a hard time of war operations. The Germans attempted to give the impression, that they felt unthreatened and started now of all times to equip a lot of Limburg mines as bombproof workshops for their industry of war. They continued working on this until the first grenades of the advancing Americans disturbed them in their work.
On 31 August at 1:00 PM the K.P. of Heerlen reappeared in Valkenburg. This time the town hall was the target. They wanted to prevent that the male population would be forced to build defence installations. They got help from the official H.P.A. Laeven, who faked unconsciousness after the attack. The SIPO contented itself with his explanation of events. The command took all person maps, fifty ID-cards, fifty control stamps and fifty vouchers. They burned the register at the headquarters of the K.P. of South Limburg in Ulestraten.
1944, sept. 14. The first American infantrymen march from the south down the Daelhemerweg street into Valkenburg.
Picture: Frans Hoffman
A couple of weeks later Valkenburg was liberated.
The day after D-Day, the 7th of June 1944, the first men of the 19th Corps of the US army landed on european soil. Three months and seven days later, the 14th of September, a little unit of that corps would arrive in Valkenburg.
The 120th Rgt. of the 30th Infantry Division (Old Hickory) of the 19th Corps of the First US Army was employed 1944-6-14, when they took over the central sector of the American front on the peninsula of Cherbourg. In addition to its own artillery, tanks, engineers, scouts and the like, in those days the 19th Corps still consisted of the 29th and 30th infantry division. During exactly 101 days, this corps would participate continuously in the struggle, until the 15th of October, when they contacted another division near Aachen, the first German city they reached. In these 101 days they advanced against Germany, sometimes suffering very serious losses , from their disembarkation point in Vierville-sur-Mer on the french west coast. On this way they also mopped up Valkenburg from Germans at the 14th of September.
As mentioned above, the time from the beginning of June until the middle of September 1944 was of many suspense. In the beginning, when the English and Americans granted themselves the time to settle a good bridgehead on the European continent, many feared, this situation could be going to last for a long time. In the opinion of the population, the allied offensive of course went too slow, but in fact, once it was in full swing, it went with an insane speed:
At the 6th of June more than 132.000 soldiers disembark on French soil, the battle of Brittany is long and it costs thousands of lives. Paris falls the 26th of August, at the same day the 19th Corps near Lille almost reaches the Belgian border, Brussels is liberated at the 3th of September, Antwerpen one day later. At the 2nd of September, the right wing of the allied forces, that advance against Germany, including the already mentioned 19th US Corps, already reached the Belgian town of Tournai, but was forced to wait there for a couple of days, until the lines of supply would be recovered. The 8th of September a cavalry reconnoitring unit, after crossing Southern Belgium, reached the Albert canal, near the Belgian-Dutch border. At the 10th of September the renowned fort Eben-Emael fell into the hands of the Americans without a blow. The bridges over the Maas and the Albert canal however all were blown up. The allies builded an own bridge over the Maas near Liège to avoid slowing down the advance. Also in the section of the 19th US Corps a bridge over the Maas was built. The infantry immediately put it into use. The 12th of September the Americans put the first foot on Dutch soil and dislodged the Germans from Noorbeek and Mheer. The 13th of September parts of the 30th Infantry Division, the so called Old Hickory Division, penetrate into Eysden, Gronsveld and Wijk, a suburb of Maastricht. The 14th of September Maastricht-West follows. This is the day, a historical one in the history of the little town upon the Geul, that Valkenburg welcomes the first Americans.
The Liberation of Valkenburg
14 Sept 44
Memories of Pierre Schunck 2
September 1944. Zuid-Limburg bevrijd.
Mij is verzocht om iets over onze bevrijding te schrijven.
Derhalve deze schets:
Van al die bevrijdings—geruchten hield een
onderduiker in Valkenburg het niet meer. Hij verdween en kwam
‘s avonds terug met een verhaal. In Margraten was hij bij
Amerikanen geweest. Die wilden alles over de Geulbruggen weten.
Hij verwees hen naar zijn baas "de rayonleader of the resistance"
die wist er alles van. De onderduiker werd naar mij terug gezonden,
met het verzoek, om in alle vroegte op de Daelhemerweg bij Sibbe
te wachten op een Amerikaanse officier. Het wachtwoord was „Steeplechase“.
Wel,dat deed ik, met mijn onderduiker. De Amerikaan was er.
Op zijn vraag zei ik Aan de Caubergkant van de Geul, geen duitsere
alle bruggen, op één na vernield, aan de andere kant wel nog duitsers
de enige brug is ondermijnd en bewaakt.
De officier begon in een walkie—talkie te praten waarna een rij jeeps
met soldaten verscheen. Zij zonden een poging wegen, die brug in
handen te krijgen.
Wij gingen in twee groepen. Beneden op het
Grendelplein,waarschuwde ik de paar mannen, die er waren, niet
luidruchtig te zijn, alles diende in stilte te gebeuren. (De bevolking
schuilde in de grotten). Een groep ging achter de huizen om
richting school, om daar de duitse brugbewakers onder schot te
krijgen. De ander groep ging richting kerktoren, vanwaar men,
over de muur van kasteel Den Halder, de brug kon zien.
Echter... in de nacht hadden duitsers in het Pavillon kwartier
gekozen, die onze Amerikanen zagen en.... de brug ging in de lucht!
Alleen de Cauberg—kant van de Geul was nu bevrijd. De andere kant
van Valkenburg moest nog wachten, terwĳl de mijnstreek door deze mislukte
„brugverovering“ ook een paar dagen later bevrijd werd.
sDit was dan de "front—ervaring" van Paul rayonleider der LO R8218.
In the morning of the 14th of September 1944 Valkenburg is very quiet. The approaching troops make the few, that haven’t sought safety in the caves, remain indoors.
Since several days all sorts of rumours go the round. The greater part of the German troops have been retired. Only a handful of Germans remain in Hotel Oda, to watch over the only bridge that’s not yet blown, near Den Halder Castle. Early in the morning two men in civilian clothes go up the Daelhemerweg street (→picture above). The day before they searched contact with the Americans, who invaded until De Planck at the Belgian-Dutch frontier. One of them informed the Americans on the the state of affairs in Valkenburg. Today a US patrol will come to Valkenburg. At the bench, a little bit further up than the coal-mine imitation, they will meet. The agreed password is “Steeplechase”.
On their way up they spy along the road. There is an American sitting on the bench indeed. “You want a cigarette?”, he asks.
“I like steeplechase”, Pierre Schunck (38) from Valkenburg answers. In the resistance he is only known as “Paul Simons”.
“I’m captain Sixberry”, the man on the bench says. He clearly wants to know, how many Germans remain in the little town and where they are. He has got an ordnance map upon his knees. Schunck indicates: “At this side of the Geul no one is left. This bridge is the only one, that is still intact, but it is undermined and guarded from Hotel Oda, over there. Possibly there are still some Germans left in the Casino dance-hall too, at this place. Moreover there’s still German traffic from Meerssen via Houthem to Valkenburg and then via Heerlen to Germany.”
The American is accompanied by some soldiers. They are hidden in the vegetation on the banks. Most likely their number is bigger, than the man from Valkenburg guesses now. They have the disposal of a walkie-talkie, the first one, that Pierre Schunck sees in his life. The soldiers pass on the gathered information. There-upon from the other side the briefing follows: try to gain that bridge over the Geul without damage. This should happen by surprise by means of a pincer movement.
Schunck beckons his companion l’Istelle (23), a young man from The Hague, who is in hiding at his’, to come nearer. They deliberate for a moment. The Americans retire and come back in a queue of open jeeps, with fixed machineguns. The engines are switched off, they make use of the incline of the Daelhemerweg Street to approach in total silence.
Click on the overview map for a bigger one (Open Street Map). The woods on the southern edge of Valkenburg coincide with the southern slope of the Geul valley. The red arrow is situated halfway on this slope, on the Daelhemer Weg road. During a couple of days, the Geul creek is frontline. See text.
In the first one there is only a driver. The captain and his men take place, but they put Pierre Schunck in front, on the hood. Because they still don’t trust him? Later you wonder things like this. At the moment they slowly roll down towards Valkenburg, every nerve strained to the limit...
They intend to form two groups: one with Schunck, the other with l’Istelle as a guide. On the Grendel Square Pierre Schunck sends some of the people who are there past the houses with the the urgent request to remain absolutely silent and above all things not to start jubilating. Everybody abides by that.
The two platoons go ahead. Schunck and “his” soldiers enter the medieval part of the town through the Grendel Gate. In the Munt Street they enter Hotel Smeets-Huynen (today “Edelweiss”) and leave it laconical through the back door, leaving a perplexed family Smeets. Some soldiers ascend the church-tower, in order to cover the bridge with their machineguns from there. Pierre Schunck accompanies the officer, who is equiped with a periscope. From the brewery Theunissen (later demolished) however, they don’t have enough view, due to the rather high wall of Den Halder Castle (later demolished too). Along this wall they sneak to the low wall on the bank of the Geul. With his periscope the American sees a German soldier on the bridge walking up and down. Pierre Schunck is allowed to watch for a moment too...
In the meantime a couple of jeeps, with heavy machineguns fixed and the engines switched off, are pushed forward and stand between the hotels Neerlandia and Bleesers. From there a small group of soldiers goes with l’Istelle along the back sides of the houses to the protestant church, through the gardens of Hotel Cremers (l’Ambassadeur) and the house Eulenberg (later “Texas Bar”), to Hotel Prince Hendrik. Another group tries to reach the banks of the Geul via the yard of the school at the Plenkert street.
As soon as these two groups will reach their destination, snipers will try to surprise the Germans, in order to prevent them from initializing the blowing of the bridge.
Appointment on the Daelhemerweg
The weekly “Het Land van Valkenburg” wrote on September 13, 1974:
“Mr. Pierre Schunck after thirty years on the bench on Daelhemerweg, where he had an appointment with the American patrol, which was going to take Valkenburg.”
The plan was to advance quietly to take the only bridge over the Geul, which was still intact, before the Germans would blow this one too. It was the bridge at the Wilhelminalaan. The Germans let it intact as long as possible to allow their own troops to escape. This attempt failed by treachery by Valkenburger who collaborated with the Germans. He warned the Germans, as the Americans, creeping from tree to tree, had almost reached bridge.
In the last minute the explosive charge, which was fixed under the bridge, was fired. This event delayed the advance of the American troops by three days.
Murderous artillery duel in Valkenburg
In the book D-DAY IN ZUID-LIMBURG, De bevrijding van uur tot uur, van plaats tot plaats. (D-Day in South Limburg, liberation from hour to hour, from place to place) by Jan Hendriks and Hans Koenen we read:
Initially, the Americans used the Wilhelmina tower on the Heunsberg as an observation post. But after a German direct hit had knocked a huge hole in it, it had become useless. Although they were well aware of the hostile positions, thanks to information from the Valkenburg resistance, they could not do a lot against them in the long run because their artillery had a lack of ammunition. And because of bad weather they could just as little count on support by the Air Force.
The importance of the Geul in 1944
The 119th regiment lost 24 people on this day. Seven were killed, 17 were injured, most of them in Valkenburg by hostile artillery fire. 73 prisoners of war were made.
The plan is not successful. The Germans perceive their enemies in Hotel Prince Hendrik. Perhaps they have been warned from the Pavillon dance-hall, because there are German guards as well. The last bridge over the Geul explodes with a terrible uproar. The scraps fly around Schunck and the American officer behind the little wall. The plan failed in the last moment. Now the Geul temporarily becomes front line.
The staff of the battalion, that captured Valkenburg south of the Geul, arrives in the course of the day. They settle their command post, led by Colonel Beelar, in the cellar of the shop Bours on the corner of Wilhelmina Alley and Plenkert street. Their mission was, to advance from De Planck and Noorbeek and to cross the national highway Maastricht-Aachen towards Margraten, Sibbe and Valkenburg. There they had to cut off the way to the German traffic and after that to wait for the falling of Maastricht into allied hands.
The murder of the collaborator
Along with the Americans came a former hider, who later would be accused for theft of allied military goods. In the report of the Investigation Service of the Military Authority in Valkenburg on February 2, 1945, he is called Johnny Kruyt or Kruyf. In September there was nothing known about this. After his arrival in Valkenburg, he began to organize a manhunt for real and alleged members of the NSB party and he claimed to act on behalf of the Americans. Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered at the Grendelplein. A member of the nazi organisation landwacht was alleged to pay for everything, what the Nazis had done. He was brought to the Americans, who gave him to the Dutchman, who had arrived in their midst, with the words “Kill him”. He was, after all, a Dutchman. (The Landwacht was an auxiliary police, consisting of members of the Dutch NSB. See https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nederlandse_Landwacht) This landwachter was brought to the Americans who handed him over to the Dutchman, who had arrived with them, with the words "Kill him." After all, he was a Dutchman. So the present Valkenburgers assumed that this was done on behalf of the Americans, and the landwachter had certainly done bad things. But also Willem Freysen, the above-mentioned member of the resistance, who vehemently swindled at the allotment office in Valkenburg under the mask of Nazi friendliness, was arrested by these people. This is a clear proof that they had no connection to the Valkenburg resistance. Pierre Schunck, who was hastily summoned, was able to convince this group of Freysen's innocence. The landwachter Savelberg was less fortunate because he was indeed a collaborator.
Thus, the present Valkenburg citizens presumed that all this was done at the request of the Americans, and that the country watchman had done. Fixed bad things But Willem Freysen, the above mentioned employee of the resistance, which the food office under the mask of Nazi mind things properly has cheated, was arrested by these people. This is clear evidence that they had no connection with the Valkenburg resistance. Pierre Schunck, who was called urgently, this group was able to convince them. The border guard Savelberg was less fortunate, since he indeed had been a collaborator.
Het ging immers om een Nederlander. Zo namen de aanwezige Valkenburgers aan, dat dit alles in opdracht van de Amerikanen gebeurde, en dat die landwachter vast wel erge dingen had gedaan. Maar ook Willem Freysen, de hierboven genoemde medewerker van het verzet, die op het distributiekantoor onder het masker van nazigezindheid de boel behoorlijk heeft bedonderd, werd door deze lieden opgepakt. Dit is een duidelijk bewijs, dat ze geen enkele verbinding met het Valkenburgs verzet hadden. Pierre Schunck, die er met spoed bij gehaald werd, kon deze groep daarvan overtuigen. De landwachter Savelberg had minder geluk, hij was immers inderdaad een collaborateur geweest.
Ondertussen arriveerde ook Pater Ferdinand van het klooster van de “paters op de Cauberg” op het toneel. Ook hij onderhandelde met dit groepje, eveneens zonder resultaat. Hij had met Pierre Schunck tijdens de oorlog in het verzet samengewerkt, en zo is het logisch, dat ze nu samen probeerden, Savelberg te redden of althans tenminste een eervolle begrafenis voor hem te verkrijgen.
Hieronder volgen enige citaten, waaruit deze toedracht blijkt. Het verhaal van de redding van Willem Freysen is ons kinderen Schunck door onze vader verteld. Uit het rapport van 2 februari 1945 van de Opsporingsdienst van het Militair Gezag door rechercheur A. C. van der Gronden:
Direct na de bevrijding voorzag hij (Harings) zich van wapens en kende niemand meer van degenen, die hem geholpen hadden. Hij promoveerde zichzelf tot leider, dat leidde tot het feit, dat Alphons Hendrikus Savelberg, geb. 6 november 1917 te Valkenburg, Landwachter, werd gefusilleerd. Johnny Kruyt of Kruyf, die thans gevangen zit, omdat hij waarschijnlijk diefstal heeft gepleegd van Geallieerde legergoederen was onderduiker en zou met de Amerikanen meegekomen zijn uit België. Deze gaf opdracht, om Savelberg te fusilleren, waarvoor Harings zich vrijwillig aanbood. Hij ging staan op 10 à 12 meter afstand en schoot met een repeteerpistool drie salvo’s, naar schatting 12 à 15 schoten, waarna Savelberg op den grond viel, nog leefde, en toen nog een paar schoten in het hoofd kreeg. Deze Harings kende de werking van het wapen niet, want ongeveer een uur tevoren had hij een gewezen sergeant om inlichtingen en daaromtrent gevraagd. Dit drama speelde zich af aan het Grendelplein omringd door menschen en kinderen op 14 september 1944. Het was een ware marteldood van den landwachter.
Sommige oudere Valkenburgers kennen Pater Ferdinand nog wel, die overste van de Cauberg, met zijn karakteristieke stem en gezicht. Hij was met mijn ouders, het echtpaar Schunck, bevriend. Tijdens de oorlog is de grot van de paters, achter het klooster, door het verzet o.a. als schuilplaats voor een gestolen Duits legervoertuig gebruikt. Uit zijn herinneringen:
Ik sprak daarop de personen aan die naar ik meende de leiding hadden, o.a. een Hollands sprekende jonge man die zich zoiets als een commandant opstelde. “Das” heette hij, naar ik later hoorde. Een man die ik me ook nog herinner van de rechtszaak naderhand in 1945 te Maastricht. Ik wees hem erop, dat zoiets toch niet kon zonder een degelijke en geldelijke rechtspraak, waarop men mij vertelde dat de betrokkene, Alphons Savelberg voor een door de Amerikanen gevormde rechtbank te velde was veroordeeld, doch dat het vonnis door Nederlandse verzetsstrijders moest worden uitgevoerd.
Ik begaf me dan naar Alphons Savelberg vlak bij het monument en na een inleidend gesprek nam ik hem de biecht af. Daarna drong ik er bij hem op aan in het openbaar afstand te nemen van het nationaalsocialisme en zijn collaboratie met de vijand, zodat hij tenminste eervol begraven zou kunnen worden. Daarin stemde hij toe en ik riep de heren Pierre Schunck en Ben Koster erbij, waarop hij alsdan ten overstaan van ons drieën zijn spijt betuigde.
Zo hebben deze drie verzetsmensen zich samen, zij het met weinig resultaat, voor Savelberg ingezet. Dat het Valkenburgs verzet met deze lynchpartij niets van doen had, blijkt niet alleen uit de op het nippertje voorkomen executie van Freysen. Ook het feit, dat de schutter Harings niet eens wist, hoe hij een geweer moest vasthouden, en dat hij dat van de Amerikanen heeft gekregen, spreekt boekdelen. Het gewapend deel van het verzet, de K.P. o.l.v. Bep van Kooten, zat trouwens in Ulestraten, dat op dat moment nog in Duitse handen was. Uit de woorden van Pater Ferdinand blijkt, dat men er op dat moment niet aan twijfelde, dat dit alles op bevel van de Amerikanen gebeurde. Toch was het later waarschijnlijk voor het verzet en met name voor de L.O. een pijnlijke herinnering, omdat men deze zinloze moord niet heeft kunnen voorkomen. Want de doelstelling van de L.O. was het verlenen van humanitaire hulp als enige mogelijkheid, actief aan de strijd tegen het fascisme deel te nemen. Men was zich van de eigen militaire zwakte en morele kracht terdege bewust. In het bovenstaande relaas over het verzet van Pierre Schunck en dus de Valkenburgse L.O. heb ik daarom, naast de overval op het distributiekantoor van Valkenburg, ook de poging tot hetzelfde in Heerlen opgenomen. De actie in Valkenburg was een samenwerking van de L.O. met de K.P., hij was geweldloos en uiterst succesvol. In Heerlen deed de K.P. het met die van Nijmegen, zonder L.O., het ging met veel geweld gepaard en was een volkomen mislukking. Toeval? Ik wil niet zeggen, dat de jongens van de K.P. allemaal heethoofden waren, maar ze waren in ieder geval meestal jonger. Bijvoorbeeld onderduikers, die zich aan de arbeidsdienst hadden onttrokken en eigenlijk popelden om de Duisters er van langs te geven. Ze zijn later als Stoottroepen nog naar Duitsland getrokken om dit te doen en daar is nog menigeen van die jongens voor onze vrijheid gestorven. Zie hieronder over de oprichting van de Stoottroepen
De zogenaamde Ordedienst, die zich NA de bevrijding in Valkenburg heeft geformeerd, is van een heel andere allure en verdient niet de naam van verzet. Daarom heeft, voor zover ik weet, het Valkenburgs verzet zich van deze moord nooit gedistantieerd. Men had er gewoon niets mee te maken. En dat wist iedereen.
Valkenburg is dus niet op één dag bevrijd, omdat de opmars van de Amerikanen aan de Geul even tot stilstand kwam. Daardoor verliep het front tussen 14 en 17 september 1944 dwars door Valkenburg langs de Geul.
Valkenburg was almost entirely evacuated during the liberation days. When elsewhere people went into a bunker or the basement, in Valkenburg they used of course the lime caves, those labyrinths in the soft limestone, which had been created over the centuries from the extraction of lime stones.
The eldest daughter of Pierre Schunck remembers :
“We, the residents of the Plenkert street, were of course in the mushroom breeding cave called Heidegroeve opposite the brewery. At the end of the war, the Organisation Todt had begun to set up a bombproof factory in the cave. There they had furnished rooms for the staff, which we could use now. There was a room available for each family.”
During these Liberation Days, days of tough combats in Valkenburg, the greater part of the population sought safety in the caves at the Cauberg and the Plenkert street. In his booklet “Limburg in den Wereldbrand” (Limburg in the World Conflagration) M. Kemp dedicates the following lines to the difficult and anxious days, that the population of Valkenburg had to pass through:
“Although at the 14th of September the Americans advanced untill Valkenburg, the inhabitants of this part of the Geul valley still had to go through a couple of precarious days. The misery started with the blowing of some bridges over the Geul, with so excessive charges of dynamite, that several houses and hotels were destroyed of it. Many inhabitants of the little town found a shelter in the nearby lime caves, but soon the food runned out, they had no light and an unbearable hygienical situation developed. In those days in the caves, whilst the artillery duel in the surrounding woods thundered with full power and numerous shells striked the abandoned houses, three children were born and an old man died a (natural) death. Here the hour of the liberation came not one moment too early!”
Aber durch deutschen Artilleriebeschuss von den Höhen ber Schimmert können die Valkenburger die Höhlen immer noch nicht verlassen und es droht Hunger.
Food for the caves
Part of South Limburg
For a few days during the liberation from Valkenburg, the Geul was the front line. It flows through the villages (from East to West) Stokhem, Etenaken, Schin op Geul, Valkenburg, Houthem, Meerssen and Itteren. The red lines are motorways. They were not yet built at that time.
16 Sept 44, Memories of Pierre Schunck
16 Sept 44
The bearer Peter Joseph Arnold is known to us as a friendly ally and is on business known to us. He will will depart for Maastricht and return by 2400 this date.
On September 16, the American troops in Valkenburg received a message that Maastricht was in the hands of the American army.
A direct connection via Berg en Terblijt or Meerssen was not available.
The valkenburg group of Americans had come from De Planck and Noorbeek, crossing the national road Maastricht - Aachen, to Margraten and Sibbe. That was their job, at least that’s what I was told: First, to cut off the Maastricht - Aachen road from German transports and to wait for the conquest of the city of Maastricht.
They then crossed the Geul and gained access to the provincial road to Meerssen. Valkenburg was thus completely liberated. Then I was asked to go to Maastricht by the road via Berg en Terblijt. For this a soldier with a jeep was given to me. Jean Hendriks informed me, that the Germans had withdrawn from the Geulhemerberg to the north side of the Geul, behind the water mill. On their way, they had attended the cave, where the
16 Sept 44
Memories of Pierre Schunck 2
the population of Berg was. This had given rise to some confusion because people thought they had already been liberated.
The trip by the empty road ran smoothly, even though regularly from the heights near Schimmert came artillery fire from the Germans on the other side of the Geul, and I saw clouds of exploding grenades above Ravensbosch.
In Maastricht we went to the Military Government on Vrijthof Square to find out where we could find the Food Commissioner. At the entrance I was stopped by a soldier in English uniform. He wanted to send me to an overcrowded waiting room. But I went outside again and asked my jeep driver, a heavily armed American soldier, to accompany me. He asked the guard in american English: „Where is your commander?“ Immediately we were led to him, past all the waiting people. I wore the salamander bracelet (symbol of the resistance).
The military commander stood up, sent the people away, and was visibly nervous. I legitimized myself by pointing to the bracelet, as the of the L.O. In Valkenburg, said that the population was in the caves, without food and without medical care and medication. I asked for food and its transport. He said to be able to provide for transport. Besides, he knew that German army stocks had been found in a ceramics factory, and that the Food Commissioner was there to inventorise.
Pierre Schunck wrote the rest of the story later. There he continues:
I found the Food Commissioner in the Sphinx factory. He helped excellently. In the soup kitchen on the Sphinx a number of barrels (cleaned waste bins) were filled with warm food.
The transport proved to be a large truck of the ENCI cement plant. Bread came from the bread factory “Maastrichtse Broodfabriek”, in a van of a local druggist. Thus the food question was settled.
After a couple of days, the Red Cross came along with a doctor, a nurse, some officers and a handfull of journalists.
Later, the food supply was continued to take care of the evacuated population of Kerkrade, which partly came to Valkenburg. When the US Army succeeded in advancing up to the coal district, the German artillery bombardment stoppeded. The people could leave the caves.
Read more about the evacuation of Kerkrade, and in particular of the hospital, on Dr. Gerd Kreijen, who was gynecologist there. After the evacuation, a part of these people came with Dr. Kreijen to Valkenburg (There are many hotels. In Hotel Franssen was set up a temporary hospital). He was a cousin of my mother and he lived with us during that time.
Inspection group of the Military Authority
After the intervention at the Military Authority in Maastricht by Pierre Schunck (right, with hat), this inspection group was sent around the sixteenth of September.
Pierre Schunck wrote:
Inspection by Military Authority, around 16th (mid Sept. 1944) in the caves of Valkenburg concerning nutrition, health condition, etc.
A Kapitein-ter-zee (= navy colonel) Drost had the command.
A doctor from maastricht was part of the group. It was led around by the municipal foreman Drissen. I should give information.
This picture was taken at the entrance of the Heidegroeve on Plenkertstraat, where people had found shelter against the German artillery shooting too.
Foreman Drissen is the second from the left, with the carbide lamp.
Photo: Frans Hoffman.
Valkenburg is free
„Militair Gezag“ (Military Authority)
Attempt by M.G.
to make the former illegals cooperate in organized way with the Military Authority of general Kruls.
They would be contact officers between M.G. and the population.
Between 1944 and 1946, „Militair Gezag“ (Military Authority) was the provisional administrative body. It had been founded by the Dutch exiled government in London. The provincial M.G. of Limburg was based at the Vrijthof in Maastricht. This note from the private archive of Pierre Schunck shows how the Military Authority tried to get its difficult task under control.
The resistance people called themselves the illegals.
A study of the Dutch Military Authority during the period after the liberation of the Netherlands, in dutch:
Het ‘Circus Kruls’, Militair Gezag in Nederland, 1944-1946, by Dr. Dick Schoonoord (Amsterdam 2011). With link to the digital book, pdf
The Liberation of Valkenburg in september 1944 is not yet the end of the war, which would take in Europe until may. A part of the resistance people, especially of the K.P., entered the army. They were formed to the Stoottroepen and participated that way as soldiers at the defeat of the Nazis.
On 20 September, Bep van Kooten appears at his resistance comrade “Paul” stating that the resistance fighters regroup in the “Koninklijke Stoottroepen” (Royal shock troops) of the regular army and asks “Paul”, to help. Proudly “Paul” promotes it among the L.O. members.
Prince Bernhard and Bep van Kooten
During his trip to the HQ of the new Dutch army in Brussels, Bep van Kooten is appointed Commander of the Limburg shock troops by the Commander-in-Chief, Prince Bernhard. Then Bep engages “Paul” as his officer for human resources. Thus, “Paul” now is responsible for the recruitment of new soldiers. As a man of business, he knows the tricks of the trade.
Appointment Pierre Schunck
Dutch Domestic Forces
Commander in Limburg
In the field, November 17, 1944
To human resources officer is appointed by me:
P.J.A. Schun[c]k, ID no1918.
Those from whom he asks the cooperation in matters
covered by him, that is all the personal affairs
of the the men of the Stoottroepen, with the exception of armament,
supplies and payment, are requested to grant him this.
His field of activity includes all troops in Limburg.
The Commander of Limburg
[was signed: B. van Kooten]
Continue reading under the picture
Acte de nomination
And so it happens:
Applications for registration are received, lists are drafted, checks executed, necessary information given, suitable accommodation and workshops are searched, a garage for transport and servicing is recommanded! Results of these actions are, among other buildings, the houses Philips and Oranjehof. The relations with the liberators were OK and exist untill today!
Collar badge of the Stoottroepen
Bob Hilleque & Pierre Schunck
In September 1984 bezocht een aantal voormalige leden van de Old Hickory divisie Europa en kwamen ook naar Valkenburg. Bericht van het Limburgs Dagblad van 21-09-1984:
Vanmorgen zijn ze vertrokken. Richting Schiphol en vervolgens de States. Terug naar huis. Zeventien dagen nadat zij in „America” begonnen waren aan een – wat toen nog heette – een bezoek aan veertig jaren bevrijd Maastricht en Zuid Limburg. Een „visit” dat echter uitgroeide tot een op vele momenten indrukwekkende, ontroerende en soms naar de keel grijpende pelgrimage. Of, zoals EDWARD ClUCEVICH uit Savannah in Georgia het uitdrukte: „Een tocht die oude wonden opentrok, bestaande vriendschappen versterkte en nieuwe smeedde. Onvergetelijk! Ik ben dankbaar dat ik er bij ben geweest…”. Er bij. In Nederland, in Frankrijk, in België. In West-Duitsland óók. Maar bovenal in Limburg. Vanmorgen zijn ze vertrokken.
Vermoeid, boordevol indrukken. Een tikkeltje verdrietig én een beetje blij. De een, BUSTER SIMMONS uit Burlington in North Carolina, met een frivolité in zijn bagage. Geschenk van MARIA „IEKE“ SONNENSCHEIN uit Heerlen voor Bessie-May, Busters vrouw. De ander, EDWARD MELNAR uit Ventura in Californië, met bij Bon Goût in Maastricht gekochte peperkoeken met gember. Om maar iets te noemen… Vóór ze vertrokken namen ze (opnieuw) afscheid van vele Limburgers. Zoals EARL DEARBORN uit Plymouth, van THEO DOLS uit Heerlen. De Yank en de Limburger hebben destijds samen gevochten. Zijn vrienden gebleven. Evenals hun echtgenotes, MARlON en GEERTJE, dat thans zijn. Zoals ROBERT HILLEQUE uit Franklin Park in Illinois van PIERRE SCHUNCK uit Schaesberg. Veertig jaren geleden, op 14 september’44, leidde Pierre Schunck een Old Hickory—stoottroepje (in een stuk of wat open jeeps met machinegeweren) vanaf de Daelhemmerweg bij Sibbe naar het Grendelplein, onder de Grendelpoort, naar de Muntstraat en verder Valkenburg in. Gids Schunck zat op de motorkap van de eerste jeep. Achter hem enkele Yanks. Eén van hen: Robert Hilleque. Pierre Schunck zag hem enkele dagen geleden in Hotel Voncken in Valkenburg terug. Op de Kerkraadse markt voor d’r Joep heeft fotograaf Theo Gijzen ze later vereeuwigd. Herinneringen, (her-)ontmoetingen, emoties, verhalen...
Paintings celebrating the Old Hickory
Letter from Bob & Marie Hilleqe
Happy Birthday from Marie & Bob
The Federation of Ancient Resistants
Also for the former resistance fighters the war would be a unique keepsake in every way for the rest of their lives. Many survived the war, but suffered from a posttraumatic stress disorder or worse. But also those who had been able to handle it better, the need for a permanent contact remained. They met each other at least once a year at the commemorative events at the Provincial Resistance Monument on the Cauberg. Here one feels also united with the resistance fighters, who were killed in action and whose names are written in bronze on the walls.
F. A. (Frans) Cobbenhaegen, geboren 18-10-1921, ambtenaar PTT, ongehuwd, gearresteerd (datum onbekend) in Keulen wegens het smokkelen van brieven naar Nederland, overleden 20-12-1944 in het koncentratiekamp Buchenwald.
G. J. (Gerrit) van der Gronden, geboren 13-12-1895, chauffeur-monteur, gehuwd, verzorgde joodse onderduikers, gearresteerd 13-1-1942, overleden 2-1-1943 in koncentratiekamp Gross-Beeren.
Ch. J, (Charles) Nijst, geboren 5-3-1916, student, weigerde loyaliteitsverklaring te ondertekenen en dook onder, gearresteerd (datum onbekend) wegens het verspreiden van illegale lektuur, overleden 18-1-1944 in kamp Gross-Beeren.
J. J. (Jozef) Roks, geboren 21-5-1883, hotelhouder, ongehuwd, gearresteerd (datum onbekend) wegens het verspreiden van illegale lektuur, overleden 3-3-1944 in het koncentratiekamp Natzweiler.
Uit Hulsberg: F. G. (Frank) Smits, geboren 29-8-1919, juridisch student, weigerde loyaliteitsverklaring te ondertekenen en ging in verzetbeweging (bracht aktiviteiten van de Duitsers op nederlandse vliegvelden op kaart en gaf deze door aan de geallieerden), gearresteerd 12-8-1943 verdacht van samenzwering, na verblijf in diverse gevangenissen uiteindelijk door een speciale krijgsraad ter dood veroordeeld wegens verboden wapenbezit, gefusilleerd 4-4-1944 te Utrecht.
Limburgs Dagblad, Tuesday, January 24, 1956
ROERMOND, Jan 23 (Limb. pers)
A bit less than two hundred Limburg resistance fighters founded in the Harmoniepaviljoen (Concert Pavilion) in Roermond a Limburgian division of the “Nationale Federatieve Raad van het Voormalig Verzet in Nederland”, Federal National Council of the Former Resistance in the Netherlands. Appointed to chairman by acclamation was Mr Jac. Crasborn from Heerlen, who presided over the meeting also. The department will consist of three sections, North, Central and South.
Into the section boards were chosen for North: Harrie Hanssen, Venray, Sef Mulders and Leo Jans Venlo. Central: Gerard van Appeven, Roermond; Jan Hobus, Roermond and Sjef de Groot, Heerlen. South: Giel Bensen, Heerlen; Pierre Schunck, Valkenburg and Theo Goossens, Kerkrade. The members of the section boards set up the divisional board. Sjef de Groot and Harrie Hanssen, as members of the national board, have a seat in the section boards. In the same quality Mr. Crasborn will be added to the section board of the Section South. The meeting at the Harmoniepaviljoen, which was also attended by the member of parliament, Jan Peters from Roosteren, was preceded by a wreath laying at the resistance monument at Zwartbroek Square.
After the speech of Mr. Crasborn the department Limburg had a very successful birth. The meeting was attended by some members of the main board of the National Federation and by delegations of Expogé (http://www.historien.nl/de-geest-van-het-verzet/) and of the resistance in Nijmegen and Rotterdam. After the discussions the delegation from Nijmegen contacted the board of section North in order to achieve a provisional affiliation of the Nijmegen group to northern Limburg.
Complete naam „Stichting Herdenking der gevallenen van het verzet in Limburg 194O-1945“
De afdeling Limburg werd opgericht op 8 juli 1953.
Hier vindt u de eerste pagina van een update van de statuten.
De Volkskrant schreef op 27 april 2010 over de landelijke organisatie:
Voormalig verzet heft zichzelf op
AMSTERDAM De Nationale Federatieve Raad van het Voormalig Verzet Nederland (NFR/VVN), in 1947 opgericht, heft zichzelf eind juni op. De organisatie heeft nog maar 300 leden, met een gemiddelde leeftijd van 89 jaar…
De NFR/VVN is een federatie van lokale verenigingen van oud-verzetsstrijders. De raad zet zich in voor de belangen van oud-verzetsdeelnemers en hun nabestaanden, alsmede voor ‘een blijvende en waardige herdenking van de gevallenen uit de Tweede Wereldoorlog’. Ooit had de organisatie meer dan tweeduizend leden. De belangrijkste doelstelling van de NFR/VVN is het levend houden en uitdragen van de vrijheidsidealen die de verzetsmensen in de Tweede Wereldoorlog bezielden.
Heden, de achttiende juli ---------------------------------
negentienhonderd negen en zeventig, verschenen voor mij, ---
Maria Joseph Gulielmus Henricus Stassen, notaris ter stand-
plaats Valkenburg, gemeente Valkenburg-Houthem: ------------
1. de Heer Jacobus Renier Peter Crasborn, zonder beroep, ---
wonende te Heerlen; en ----------------------------------
2. de Heer Maria Joseph Arthur Sluijsmans, secretaris van de
Gemeente Valkenburg-Houthem, wonende te Valkenburg-Houthem,
ten deze volgens hun verklaring handelende respectievelijk -
als voorzitter en secretaris van het Algemeen- en Dagelijks
Bestuur van de stichting; genaamd: Stichting Herdenking der
gevallenen van het verzet in Limburg 194O-1945, gevestigd te
welke stichting werd opgericht bij akte op acht juli negen-
tienhonderd drie en vijftig voor de destijds te Valkenburg
gevestigde notaris P.H.F. Roebroeck verleden, en wier statu-
ten gedeeltelijk werden gewijzigd bij akte op twee oktober
negentienhonderd zes en vijftig voor de destijds te Valken-
burg gevestigde notaris G.P.J.H. Smeets verleden. ----------
De komparanten verklaarden:
- dat in een speciaal daartoe belegde vergadering van het --
Bestuur van genoemde stichting, gehouden te Valkenburg-
Houthem op tien september negentienhonderd acht en zeventig,
overeenkomstig artikel 16 der statuten met de aldaar ver-
eiste meerderheid van stemmen van de ter vergadering aan-
wezige bestuursleden is besloten de bestaande statuten te
- dat, overeenkomstig artikel 11 der statuten, de voorzitter
belast is met de uitvoering van de besluiten van het Alge-
meen Bestuur en samen met de secretaris namens het Bestuur
alle akten en verbintenissen ten name der stichting tekent.
De komparanten, handelend als gemeld, verklaarden thans ter
uitvoering van het voormeld bestuursbesluit de statuten van
de voormelde stichting geheel te wijzigen, zodat deze thans
komen te luiden als volgt: ---------------------------------
- - - - - - - - - - - S T A T U T E N: - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - - NAAM, ZETEL en DUUR: - - - - - - - - - -
------------------------ Artikel 1. ------------------------
De stichting draagt de naam: "Stichting Herdenking der geval-
lenen van het verzet in Limburg 1940-1945". ----------------
Zij is gevestigd te Valkenburg-Houthem. ---------
De stichting is opgericht voor onbepaalde tijd. ------------
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - DOEL: - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
------------------------ Artikel 2. ------------------------
De stichting heeft ten doel: het mogelijk maken en doen hou-
den van een jaarlijkse herdenking van de gevallenen van het
verzet negentienhonderd veertig-negentienhonderd vijf en ---
veertig in Limburg bij het monument der gevallen verzetslie-
den aan de Cauberg te Valkenburg-Houthem, gelegen op een ---
gedeelte van het perceel, kadastraal bekend Gemeente Valken-
burg, sectie B, nummer 2545 en wel bij voorkeur in de maand
Zij tracht dit doel te bereiken door het inzamelen der nodi-
ge gelden bij de gemeentebesturen in wier gemeenten de geval-
len verzetslieden woonachtig waren en zo nodig ook bij andere
zedelijke lichamen en natuurlijke personen. ----------------
- - - - - - - - - - - - - VERMOGEN: - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Death of an Ancient Resistance Man
From the funeral oration, held by a comrade in arms “Harry” (Theo Goossen), at the farewell celebration of “Paul”:
Mrs Schunck, children and your families! The Resistance people and Stoottroepers gathered here wish, also in the name of those who cannot be present, to express their thankfulness towards “Paul” Pierre Schunck:
- for his active dedication to recover our liberty.
- for his great commitment and sincere carefulness
- for his e special chummy attitude
- and all this with his devotion to God, queen and country!!.
Mrs Schunck, children and grandchildren, it hurts to say goodbye.
... the VERY MANY good memories will strengthen you!!
Resistance comrades and Stormtroopers, we say goodbye to a good comrade.
“Paul” : may you rest in well-deserved peace !
Let’s say goodbye in an honourable way by singing the Dutch National Anthem:
1. Wilhelmus van Nassouwe
6. Mijn schildt en mijn betrouwen
“Harry”, Theo Goossen
Limburgs Dagblad, Tuesday, February 9, 1993, page 13
Last saturday Pierre Schunck was buried on the cemetry on the Cauberg in Valkenburg. He spent his last years in Schaesberg and died, almost 87 years old, in the hospital of Kerkrade. But his heart always remained in Valkenburg. There he was not only one of the founders, late chairman and member of the board of honour of the local public library, late chairman and chairman of honour of the wood-wind and brass band Kurkapel Falcobergia, but also for many years supervisory director of Valkenburg Omhoog. Above all things however, his name will stay well-known as a member of the Resistance Movement during World War II. In his laundry, that was situated a little bit outside the town (Plenkert street), lots of illegal “transactions” were concluded and many persons in hiding were provided with a save shelter.
For his heroic role as a resistance fighter, Pierre Schunck was awarded the Verzetsherdenkingskruis (Resistance Memorial Cross). ...
One of the american soldiers, who liberated Valkenburg and was in the jeep with Pierre Schunck (see above) specially came from Chicago to attend the funeral. Bob Hilleque, who is 66 years old now (february 9th, 1993) is the only man of the A platoon of the 119th regiment who survived the war. (In the meantime Bob died too.)
He belonged to the 30th US Infantry Division Old Hickory
To live in such a time…
A musical tribute to the resistance. This is the theme of the latest work of the artist, composer and musician Tom America (Heerlen 1949). The focus is on the history of Pierre Schunck (1906-1993) and a group of like-minded people who set up a successful resistance group in the Second World War. But the message is universal.
Source: Provincial edition of the daily newspaper De Limburger of Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Premiere of „In zo een tijd te leven“ (To Live In Such a Time) on September 16th, 2014, the eve of the day on which Valkenburg was freed 70 years ago, in Valkenburg.
Epilogue of Cammaert
How is the resistance in Limburg, in particular the Catholic-humanitarian main component of it, to be considered in national perspective? Although we can see a largely independent development in Limburg, many aid organizations in the country for the discharge of their refugees were depending on the networks in Limburg, networks with an international character which were built up from this province or connected with Belgium, France and even Germany and typically ended up in Switzerland or Spain. Individual refugees, people that wanted to go to England, various intelligence services and other national resistance organizations also used them. The province not only served as a transit area for refugees, they could also stay there. Limburg offered shelter and several groups made an increasingly frequent use of it. Confession did not play a decisive role in all this. In other words, the importance and influence of Limburg at the national level was especially noticeable, where the provincial development was most advanced: the nonviolent humanitarian resistance and corresponding methods and connections. There lay the intrinsic strength and the specific value of the resistance in Limburg.
This text is a mosaic of different sources, which I have on this item. It is a patchwork of quotations, because they tell different parts of this story, sometimes the same event, but then they are complementary. Here and there they are connected by a commentary of my own. Much has been adopted literally from interviews. Einen wichtigen Platz haben Scans von Texten, die Pierre Schunck nach dem Krieg selbst geschrieben hat. Ganze Seiten aus seinen Memoiren sehen aus wie Schreibmaschinenschrift. Denn das war es auch. Die entsprechenden Scans finden Sie gleich daneben, als Miniatur. Klick für eine Vergrößerung.
Also I wrote, what we, his children, can still remember from his stories.
By the color of the margin line at the left you see at a glance whose words these are. If you move with your mouse over a paragraph, the source is displayed as a “tool tip” text. (Does not work on mobile devices.) Literal quote blocks from the interviews have got a darker background (not in the printed version) and are indented. Below follows a listing of the sources, with links, so that you can read the originals as well.
- Texts written by Pierre Schunck himself and originating from his private archive often look as if they were written on an old typewriter. And in that case they are. But even if they are hand-written, you can recognize them by the orange line in the left margin.
- Textes, written by Pierre Schunck himself, from his private archive, have an orange underline or in the left margin.
- Especially the early days of the war is to br found in an article from the Auschwitz Bulletin, 1980, nr. 01 Januar of the Nederlands Auschwitz Comité, in English “One didn’t decide to join the resistance”.
Indeed, he had no other choice.
- At the NIOD (Nederlands voor Instutuut Oorlogs-Documentatie = Dutch Institute for War Documentation) is an interview that somebody sent to me in a poorly scanned version. It contains in particular the history of the LO in Valkenburg. I typed it and the result can be found on this website.
- The History of Valkenburg-Houthem: A long time after the war, our parents ever gave us kids a book, in the publishing of which my father, the resistance man “Paul Simons”, was involved. when it’s about resistance and liberation in Valkenburg. Because this book is sold out and the publisher is no longer existing, I do not know whom I should ask for permission to use this chapter.
- The doctoral thesis “Het verborgen front / Geschiedenis van de georganiseerde illegaliteit in de provincie Limburg tijdens de tweede wereldoorlog” (The hidden front / history of organized resistance in the province of Limburg during the Second World War ") of A.P.M. Cammaert is also a major source. An English summary and at the bottom links to the chapters of the original (PDF).
See also the chapter VIII.5.8. Valkenburg of
Het verborgen front, quotes from this book.
- Jan (Jules) van Betuw, a comrade of my parents, spoke to me at my mother’s funeral. He had a shocking conversation with my mother. It is about the experiences of the old Jewish couple Soesmann, and how the Dutch government and individual citizens took hold of their heritage. It is shown in its entirety
- From Australia, I got a response that you can read in German here. About href="grotaers.php?lang=en">Coen Grotaers - one of many
- In his funeral oration for “Paul”, “Harry”, resistance name of Theo Goossen described the activities of his comrade. He told mainly about the last year of the war. “Harry” directed the "rayon" Kerkrade and he mainly cared for the external relations of the district Heerlen. His relationships and experiences brought Goossen mid-June 1944 to build an intelligence service (ID), to support all the resistance organizations in the region. The first and most important task was to protect the underground people. The service also collected military information. After the Allied landings on the Normandy coast in early June the import of such information was even increased.
- Biographical details about Pierre Joseph Arnold Schunck