World War II: The Resistance of Pierre Schunck and his People
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What part soever you take upon you,
play that as well as you can and make the best of it.
Thomas More

 Pierre Schunck 1935

World War II: The Resistance of Pierre Schunck and his People

  during World War II.
  Original textes, collected by Arnold Schunck

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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.


The resistance against the German occupation during the second world war began on the first day. Spontaneously, disorganized. As forms of civil disobedience. Gradually, particularly the aid to “divers” was organized (This was how people were called, who had to hide from the Nazis for various reasons). It was not a major military contribution to the victory of the allies. The hiding of young men who had to go to Germany to do forced work certainly harmed the German war industry anyhow. But in particular, many lives were saved. Here you find the story of Pierre Schunck and his people, which was typical of this resistance.
However, in some respects the resistance in the province of Limburg and in Valkenburg differs from the rest of the country. The main points:

  • In Valkenburg we have to consider the particularly high proportion of supporters of the national socialist party NSB (1935 in Valkenburg: 23.4 %, national average: 7.94%, Limburg altogether 11.7 %, mining district of Limburg 17%). That made resistance especially dangerous in this community.
  • Long before the arrival of the German troops, the Dutch archbishop declared the membership of Nazi organizations incompatible with Christianity. Other churches made similar statements . In those years, the dutch province of Limburg was still very Catholic, which meant that large sections of the Catholic clergy quickly took a leading role in the resistance. In the Limburg mining area, the cooperation with trade unionists , socialists and communists was smooth despite ideological differences.
  • Limburg was, like the other border provinces, an important area for taking in people from the densely populated West of the country, who had to go into hiding. In the tourist town of Valkenburg, they were housed not only in farms, but also in hotels . See also the epilogue of Cammaert at the penultimate page.
  • The geographical position at the southeast corner of the Netherlands, made this region suitable as a transit area for many refugees and allied pilots to Switzerland or Gibraltar. That was an important activity especially in the many border towns . For Valkenburg itself this played a minor role.

This text is a mosaic of different sources, which I have on this item, here and there with a connecting commentary of my own. On the color of the margin line at the left you see at a glance where they come from. If you move with your mouse over a paragraph, the source is displayed as “tool tip” text. Literal quote blocks from the interviews have a darker background (not in the printed version) and are indented.
Below you find an overview of the consulted sources

In order to protect themselves and others, they used aliases which had the same initials as their own name. Because, at that time, it was still far common that the initials were written or embroidered into the laundry. A celebrated example: the organisor of the French resistance Jean Moulin had a.o. the pseudonyms Joseph Mercier and Jacques Martel. The resistance people only knew each other’s pseudonym. The right names became known only after the war, however, they usually still called each other on resistance reunions and other celebrations with this pseudonym. Pierre Schunck’s resistance name was Paul Simons.

Before World War IItopback

Pierre Schunck (*24-03-1906, Heerlen †02-02-1993, Kerkrade) was the eldest son of the Dutch businessman Peter J. Schunck and Christine Cloot.
 Settela Steinbach,
Mai 19, 1944

Already as a student, Pierre Schunck showed a social feeling. Or was it also his desire after an interesting life, that made him help in the Sinti (gypsy) camp near the Heksenberg in Heerlen with a program to teach the children? My father made this job for the Steinbach family. This pleased the mother so much that she promised one of her daughters to him. This, however, never became true.
There were successively several women, who were called ”Mutter Steinbach”. In this case this was probably the later ”old” mother Steinbach, Johanna Bamberger (1893-1935).
The camp was opened on October 27th, 1923. Pierre Schunck was then 17 years old. The Franciscan Justus Merks of the ”Woonwagenliefdewerk” was pastor there and the driving force behind things like the literacy of the children. Perhaps Pierre was inspired by him to become a Franciscan.
As was to be expected, the Nazis killed most of the Sinti people in Limburg, as well as the Steinbach family.
Who does not know the image of Settela Steinbach looking during the war out of the cattle wagon, with which she is going to be transported to Auschwitz? She was born near Sittard, she belonged to this same family Steinbach. Only her father survived the war and died in 1946 in Maastricht.

About the Sinti people around the Heksenberg a richly illustrated book was published, which now has its second edition:
Settela en Willy en het geheim van de Heksenberg (Settela and Willy and the mystery of the Witches’ Hill)
ISBN 978-90-822416-3-1, available at the Thermen Museum, Coriovallumstraat 9, Heerlen or at
Apart from the beginning, the following movies about the book on YouTube come almost completely without text. They were published parallel to the book.
Video 1
Video 2
This picture comes from the second video.

Corresponding to the tradition ruling in that time, the family early made clear to Pierre: “Your future lies here in the business, except if you want to become a priest.”
For different reasons Pierre felt more attracted to become a priest. He completed his studies in Megen near Nijmegen and Hoogcrutz (at the southern edge of southern Limburg). But he left the monastery again before the ordination to priest.
After the time in the monastery in the thirties, he managed by order of his father’s company a laundry in Valkenburg. For lunch he often went to hotel Cremers, which was owned by the parents of a friend, Joop Cremers. There he met his latter wife, Gerda Cremers,
World War II has exerted a big influence on their further life. Due to their moral and national convictions, Pierre and Gerda saw only one possibility: to stand up against the German occupation.

Unorganised Resistancetopback

How did one get into such a dangerous resistance adventure? One didn’t decide to join the resistance. Events, sometimes small incidents, made one to step in; the result was that you did something to help other, something that was forbidden by the occupying forces. So you got from one step to the next.

The First People to Hide (Mai 1940)topback

May 10th, 1940, on Friday before Pentecost. Warm weather, blue sky. German airplanes in low flight over our house. In Valkenburg, the hostile tanks climb the Cauberg on their way to Maastricht. We are occupied.
Dutch soldiers, who operated an old cannon on the Cauberg before, tipped over the monster in the middle of the street to hinder the Germans in their advance and then disappeared themselves. They are sitting along the slope of the wood in front of our house, the “Polverbos”, and don’t know where to go. I see them. I couldn’t leave the boys in the hands of the enemy, could I?

We invited them in our house and my wife, Gerda, immediately was busy to serve a nutritious breakfast to them. Twelve soldiers then had to be changed into civilians. With some improvisation we made it. The staff had started the daily work in the meantime. Consultation with the men of the staff yielded a couple of garments and the soldiers were modified to a bit bedraggled civilian boys. So we had at once the first people to hide (we called them divers) because transportation back home was only possible for a couple of boys from South Limburg (that is the direct surroundings) .
In the week after Pentecost the journey back home was organized for the vacationists run aground in Valkenburg and our boys traveled with them. Some of them sent back the lent civvies properly.

But now to the weapons and uniforms they left. Johan de W., our engineer, knew a solution. He burned the uniforms in the steam-boiler in a nice fire. But, Johan said, we could possibly need the guns urgently to chase the Jerries away. He knew what he did. He removed one part. The weapons themselves were greased thickly, wrapped up with rags and buried in the garden one by one. The parts which he had held separately were greased too, packed and hidden separately into a little box. He proceeded this way so that if the NSB-people or the Germans would find the guns, they would not be able do anything with them.

Public Resistancetopback

From: The History of Valkenburg-Houthem:

Many Dutch people went out with a white carnation in the buttonhole on June 29th, 1940, prince Bernhard’s birthday. Because this was the coat of arms flower of the prince. It was the first public resistance act against the Nazi power.
Probably the Dutch people never understood better the words in the national anthem

"de tyrannie verdrijven
die mij mijn hert doorwondt"

(banish the tyranny, that wounds my heart)
than just thin these bitter occupation years. The number of resistance fighters grew gradually as a result of the obstinacy with which the Nazi ideology was imposed, the increasing lack of rights, the persecution of the Jews, the shootings of hostages, the numerous deportations to the concentration camps, the forced labor service in the German armament industry, the statement of loyalty, that every student had to sign, as well as the captivity of the Dutch army.
These and many other things nursed the resistance will. The hate for German and Dutch Nazis increased. Public resistance to the merciless oppression and the violation of fundamental human rights happened still more frequently.

Initially this resistance consisted mainly of civil disobedience, but gradually they began also to sabotage. The help to divers followed this pattern too: What started as spontaneous, individual help, became progressively organised at ever higher levels. There was a need of humanitarian help in the first place, but this work also had a military significance: young men who didn’t want to go for forced work to Germany, to replace the soldiers in the (armament) industries and food production there, were hidden. Crashed allied pilots were “dispatched” to Gibraltar via the so called pilot line. The story of Pierre Schunck is very typical. He has never “planned” it. You could almost say: it occurred to him.

Goblets And Mass Gownstopback

For one year nothing happened. The Germans softened on nice, our soldiers, who were prisoners of war, were allowed to go home again and we wondered: “Why did we expose ourselves so much to danger by helping these boys? They are officially and properly at home now.” Untill the rumor startled Valkenburg that the SS had expelled the Jesuits back to Germany and confiscated their cloister. The rumor was largely true but all fathers hadn’t departed to her native country. The head and a couple of further fathers went underground with rector Eck, an uncle of my wife and pastor of the Franciscan cloister St. Joseph in Valkenburg-St. Pieter.

In the Valkenburg subdistrict, there had been some foundations of German cloisters under Bismarck in the time of the so called Kulturkampf (cultural war). Rector corner had grown up near the German-Dutch border, had a German father and was therefore suitable as a chaplain for German nuns. The Jesuit monastery was seized, to set up a “Reichsschule der SS” (school for SS-boys) there.

This uncle called me with the urgent request to come to him.
In the rector’s room sat the German fathers. They had a great worry. To be more precise, that the hallow vessels and precious mass gowns which they attached a sacred value, should fall into the hands of the heathen SS people. Families from Valkenburg had already secured paintings and other attainable things. The cloister had been abandoned during some days. But now a construction firm was there with workers, preparing the forthcoming foundation of the “Reichsschule” (empire school). The fathers asked me whether I knew somebody who would dare to bring their precious goblets and monstrances and relics in safety. Pure chance collaborated again. A site supervisor called, whether we could collect, clean and bring back the dirty laundry which the Jesuits had left. This was the great chance to clear the “goblet job” on the broad daylight.
The horse and the waggon were at home. I went there myself with a neighbour, equiped with some laundry baskets. We placed the monstrances, goblets and mass gowns in the laundry baskets under the dirty laundry, the workers helped us to heave the heavy baskets on the waggon. We came home for certain and uncle Eck could calm the fathers. We were, however, left with a great value of “enemy fortune”. But it wasn’t left at that.

In “The History of Valkenburg” we read: “A completely other story is, how they made disappear 1942 precious objects from the Jesuit College, which was claimed by the Germans, and kept them hidden during the whole war. Pierre Schunck and his people have taken away among other 38 goblets and pyxes, as well as historical objects and chasubles, hidden in baskets under laundry. One top sat, quite harmlessly, some of his children. Precious books disappeared under the habit of a priest living with private persons in Valkenburg.”

Weapons With Potatoestopback

Spring 1942

Paul and his people also manage to smuggle Lithuanian books under the laundry out of the cloister library and to withdraw them from the greed of the Nazi ideologue Rosenberg, who was born in Lithuania. With the ladies of the “Catholic Action” and farmers from the surroundings, they fitted out a kitchen for children as an alternative to the (Nazi-) Winter Help. They got hold of the kitchen utensils in the “Empire school” and hided them on the attic of Paul’s laundry.

One morning in spring of 1942, suddenly the whole building was surrounded by a unity of the Dutch rural police under the command of sergeant Renesse (a fanatical NSB and swot). When he came in unannouncedly to me, he said: “You are under detention because of the suspicion of forbidden possession of firearms.” I had to show where the weapons were. When I pretended to have no idea of what he meant, he drew out a piece of paper on which I believed to recognize the handwriting of a new employee. With a sketch and the instructions: “Weapons buried in the garden, revolver buried in the court, ammunition in barrels with soap.” Meanwhile a gendarme digs in the court, on the search for the revolver. Chaplain Horsmans comes by the entrance and Renesse goes to meet him. The gendarme nods to me with his head: he has the revolver uncovered in the hole. He shovels it on the heap of dug out earth and throws a shovel of earth immediately upon it. He digs on eagerly. My wife had to stay inside. All telephones in the company had been shut down and the girls stood as nailed on their places. Some cried and sobbed at the top of their voices. The men had gone outside and walked all over in front of the searching policemen whenever it was possible.
Fortunately the gardener, Leo Dahmen, digged in the weapons deeper in another place before and built a potato heap upon them, like they were usual for the winter storage. Another potato heap was at the place which was indicated on the outline. When the policemen began to pull this heap to pieces, loud protest came from the male employees; all of them stood around it there. They said things like: These are our potatoes, hands off, this heap belongs to us, not to the boss, he has nothing to do with it etc. The potato heap was destroyed nevertheless and they found nothing.

There were other examples of civil disobedience, in which most people joined in. For instance, everyone who had the opportunity to do so, kept a few chickens, a goat or a pig to have something beyond the rations. These animals had to be registered with the distribution office, and then one got less rations. To circumvent this, they often registered less animals than they really had. Family Schunck also had a gaggle of chickens behind the laundry, of which only a few were registered. If an inspector would come to check the number of the animals, a signal would go backwards, and the chickens would be chased by someone of the staff in the adjacent orchard. This was a popular sport, which already bore the seeds of rebellion inside.

“My Son Is No Criminal”topback

As of this time I was allowed to go inside to my wife. Meanwhile my parents who had come from Heerlen by a cab and chaplain Horsmans sat there, too. Renesse also came in and informed us: “We found copper and about this you will have to answer to the German authorities. So you will be sent to Vught.” (During the war a German concentration camp was located there.) My wife got order, to prepare pyjamas and toiletries for me. She revolted intensely, she declared that she was pregnant and would go to Vught together with me. I wanted to speak with the chaplain and said: “I would like to confess before I go. ” Renesse permitted this. I asked the chaplain, to contact the engineer Johan because of the weapons, as well as the Jesuits in Maastricht because of her property, so that my wife Gerda wouldn’t further run any risk during my captivity. He promised to regulate everything.
Shortly after this confession Renesse ordered a gendarme to lead me away. I was fastened to his wrist with handcuffs and we had to go by Valkenburg this way. Then my father came into action. He planted himself in front of Renesse and said: “My son is no criminal! Even if he would have hidden weapons, I then would be proud of him. I do not want him to walk tied up onto the street. There stands a cab outside and I insist that you, Mr Offizier, give order to take him away with the cab. If not, then I will inform my son-in-law, who is his brother-in-law, how you humiliate his close relative. And this son-in-law is the local group leader of the NSDAP (German nazi party) in Heerlen.” Renesse gave way and I went by cab to the police station on the Emmaberg.
The chief officer sat there. Renesse wanted to lock me up in a cell, but the chief waved, that I had to come into his office. He sent the young man away and asked me very surprised, what was going on. I answered: “Renesse found copper with me at home.” By then it was noon. The chief called his wife and asked her to give me something to eat. She brought a big cup of broth with a beaten egg in it.
Later the chief said after a careful search in different books: “Refer to an ordinance of our Secretary General in The Hague regarding the delivery of copper, alleged to the support of ’Dutch’ Industry. This is a case for the prosecuting attorney’s office, not for the SD in Maastricht!” ( SD = Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, secret service of the SS )
Renesse comes in, ignores me and goes to the telephone. The chief, who sits next to it, puts his hand on it and says: “This is a copper case, isn’t it?” “Yes and I have to inform the SD on it.” The chief warns him that he will get many problems with the public prosecutor heavily if he passes him over. Renesse begins to discuss with the chief why I am not in the cell. “This man is my friend and I don’t close him to a cell.”
Renesse lifted the telephone receiver. I could follow the conversation with the prosecuting attorney’s office in Maastricht (which apparently knew what was happening). They ordered Renesse, to do nothing else but to confiscate the copper and to write a protocol, but no arrest. After that Renesse said to me with a pissed off face: “I have pleaded for you in Maastricht, so this first time we will leave it at confiscation and protocol. As soon as the men come back and report that they didn’t find anything, you will be free to go.” In the evening the men come back and didn’t find anything. Renesse calls my wife with his kindest voice and pretends that he supported it for the judicial authorities to be allowed to let me go.

Crash Coursetopback

It turned out later that the chaplain, the parents and the public prosecutor have got notification over a friend on time.

In the same evening some reliable men took the weapons to another place (without me knowing this). Two policemen brought the copper back and warned me to put the soap barrels somewhere else. Shortly after this, a brother of the Jesuits came with a box lined with zinc into which we packed the goblets etc. We hided this box in the garage under the tiled floor, this time without witnesses. One gets clever from damage! I hung the mass gowns into a cupboard of the laundry and attached cards with the addresses of several South Limburg cloisters, as we usually did for our clients. My father and I hided the old books in a corridor around the safe of the former “Twentsche Bank” in Heerlen. (In 1939 Peter Schunck had bought a building of the Twentsche Bank in Heerlen, to build an arcade: the passage between the Valeriusplein and the market.)
The story of these weapons had gone, with some exaggeration, like a wildfire by Valkenburg. In the street people whom I hardly knew came to me to congratulate me, one of them even said he would know a place for the weapons. However, I had learned a hard lesson. I knew now that one had to proceed prudently. You could say, I had got a crash course in resistance.

From this we may conclude that meanwhile many people wanted to resist.

Jan Langeveldtopback

Shortly before the war a specialized tax consultant, Mr Stoffels from Bussum, was recommended to me. He always was reserved to me. After this search, however, his attitude was suddenly more open and he talked about war and enemy to me.
In 1941 the license of the company Schunck in Heerlen for the production of pit working clothes came into danger if no separate production apparatus would be set up. I was asked to take care of the organization (my original profession). I consulted Stoffels about administration and corporate management.
“Jan Langeveld” 1992
Stoffels knew a person in Amsterdam, who was from the textile industry and he would ask him whether he wouldn’t feel like coming to Limburg.
After a couple of days he was there again with the message: the young man, a single, would like to come indeed. He is a Jew and comes under a false flag. He would prefer to have a lodging possibility in the company so that he doesn’t need to walk onto the street. The preparation is completed in 1942. I had had a room separated behind the store just before, where the man to come soon would be able to live. I didn’t know (yet) his real name and I didn’t want to know it either. To me he was Jan Langeveld, like it stood on his ID card which made an unsatisfactory impression. It had been processed with an eraser by which the underground had been damaged. Exactly the right thing to attract attention already at the first check.
After Jan Langeveld was already installed in our enterprise and nobody of the employees who had moved from the glass palace to the Geleenstraat with machines etc. was astonished a bit about the new manager — after all a new enterprise also has other people — both my hiding man and me were a little easier.

At Schunck’s hometopback

For Pierre Schunck, it was logical to do laundry for the German army. This was similar to the camouflage of the municipality official Freysen with his brown shirts and German-friendly chatter, while working on the distribution office of Valkenburg for the underground organisation L.O. During the war, our parents couldn’t always hide their opinion in front of the children already living. And so they took over this opinion, without any idea of the possible consequences.
The German soldiers who served in the occupied territories, were often less fit or older people who were not suitable for use on front. (At the end of the war that was quite different: so many soldiers had died that even boys and old men were sent into the battle.)
One day the two oldest children played outside. It was beautiful weather and the windows were open. An older soldier came to bring the laundry of his unit and saw the playing kids. He asks little Jan in an attempt to speak Dutch: “Well, kid, what’s your name?” “Jantje!” “And would you give me a hand?” Oh, no way! His older sister impossibly could allow this. “Give that Rotmof no hand!”
My mother, who heard all this behind the open window, thought to sink into the ground. Now everything would come out! But the soldier didn’t take offence at it and went on. He probably was just a nice man, who was thinking of his own children or perhaps grandchildren.

One day my father received the command to come (to Maastricht?) and to report to officer Suchandsuch of the german army. He had no idea what about it was. He washed for the army, but for that he never had to come to the barracks. Maybe it was about his candid little daughter? Then he maybe would get only a scolding, that he’d have to educate his children better. Or, which would be of course much worse, maybe someone had charged him? It was still about work for the laundry? Maybe it was better to go underground? No, because if it would turn out to be something harmless and he wouldn’t come, then he probably would wake up sleeping dogs. In addition, the employees would lose their jobs and thus, even his own family would sink into poverty.
He went full of doubts.
“Well, so you are Herr Schunck. Just tell me something. Your name sounds so German. Where is it actually from originally?”
“From Kettenis near Eupen. People speak German there.”
My father studied for a while in Aachen and was fluent in German. That and his descent from a German-speaking region, which had been annexed by Germany by then, made the officer decide:
“But then you are an ethnic German! Then I wonder why you didn’t already voluntarily report a long time ago for the eastern front!”
So that was it. That was a weight off my father’s heart. The relief made him eloquent. He declared that of course he would like to, but that he had a less heroic, but nevertheless not less important role to play. Finally he had to wash for the German army? And in addition, the income of a number of families depended on his laundry.

Organised Resistancetopback

in Limburg and Valkenburg - and the role of Pierre Schunck in it

During the farewell ceremony of his companion “Paul”, Theo “Harry” Goossen made a speech in which he described the activities of Paul, but also of the entire L.O. :

His acting mainly was aimed at assistance to people in trouble:

  • To destitute families, whose husband and father had to flee, had gone into hiding, or was confined in jail or in one of the atrocious concentration camps.
  • Organising accommodation and hiding places for refugees, for Jews, for crashed allied pilots, for Resistance people wanted by the police, etc.
    Those people all needed nourishment, clothing, ration-books, identity cards, ration-coupons etc.
  • The realisation of this help demanded organisation, consulting together, intensive cooperation etc., and all this inconspicuously and in secret!

“Paul”’s own business interests again and again were interrupted by the distress of other people. This situation requires too: looking out, being carefull and acting inconspicuously. ALWAYS in the hope, to be able to evade the danger (though hidden, but always present). In this atmosphere we have to look at “Paul”’s more than 2 years lasting organised resistance activities.
In addition we have to take into consideration: several times he was in real peril of his life.

In his own words:

“I don’t understand. I cannot explain it. I was very lucky! But I prayed a lot!”. And he adds: “I didn’t do all this alone. And without the support by my wife lots of things would have gone totally wrong.”

The necessity to help the many people who went underground, Jews, crashed allied pilots, and former Dutch soldiers escaped from camps for prisoners of war, stimulated the need for more unity. Smaller opposition groups went to work in a larger context, namely in the L.O. (The national organization for help to people who went underground). They divided Limburg into 10 districts. Apart from this organization the “knokploeg” (task force, thug troop), called K.P. briefly, was set up. They got hold of ID papers and food ration cards, frequently under use of force. As of the end of 1944 the complete K.P. in Limburg was under the management of Jacques Crasborn from Heerlen.
After some time in Valkenburg a K.P. was created, too. It initially consisted of two men, the teachers Jo Lambriks and Jeng Meijs, whose first was a pupil in the class of Jacques Crasborn some years before. Later George Corbey became the third member of the KP Valkenburg. The name evokes a violent thug gang, but most of the KP people were not combative, though of course sometimes they didn’t shrink from a forceful action, if necessary. The task of the KP was no other than to ensure the livelihood of people in hiding. (The L.O. provided the distribution). They gathered materials, illegal reading, ration cards and sometimes even German uniforms for use on the occasion of robberies. Most activities took place during the night.
Leader of the L.O. in Valkenburg was Pierre Schunck. Among other, Harry van Ogtrop and Gerrit van der Gronden were members. Of course there were more people, up to municipality officials, who cooperated now and then under a complete discretion. Thus it was the municipal Hein Cremers and especially Guus Laeven, who ensured at the end of the war that the entire register of the registry office of Valkenburg “somehow” got lost, when the Germans had the idea to force all male inhabitants between 16 and 60 years old to work in digging trenches.
The organized resistance in Limburg started in the city of Venlo in February 1943.

Here it is about the resistance organized at the provincial level. At the local level, individual acts of resistance were made since the beginning of the war, as listed above and others. This resistance achieved an always higher level of organisation, which finally resulted in the Limburg branch of the L.O.

A primary teacher there, Jan Hendricx (alias Ambrosius), became the leader of the L.O. in Limburg, supported by father Bleijs (alias Lodewijk) and chaplain Naus. The soul of the Limburg resistance was L. Moonen (alias Uncle Leo), the secretary of the diocese. By his help they established the necessary connections all over the diocese in short time so that Limburg had a well established resistance organization by the end of the year 1943.

The historian Christine Schunck, daughter of Pierre Schunck, writes: “Lou de Jong wanted to pull already late 1944 information from resistance people in Limburg, when the front was still quite close (think of the Battle of the Bulge). The leaders of the South Limburg resistance did not want to reveal any names and deeds. De Jong never returned after the war to get additional information, but simply wrote that the resistance in Limburg would have presented not too much. Luckily Dr. Cammaert has done a very thorough research with a light emphasis on Middle-Limburg, where his roots are.”
Because de Jong, not wrongly, is considered the most important authority in the field of the Second World War, many copied from him, so that also …

… in and around Valkenburg, nothing significant happened in this regard. The small private archives of Pierre Schunck (alias Paul Simons), one of the resistance fighters in Valkenburg surviving the war, prove the opposite. Not only his personal report with notes and pictures shows this, but also a number of genuine and forged ID cards, ration coupons, notes of underground people with secret messages (“from Z18 to R8”), illegally printed and stenciled matters, lists of official aid to war victims during the occupation, a file on Jewish victims.
Here are the testimonys on organized hiding aid in the region of Valkenburg during the years of German occupation, on the assistance to crashed allied pilots, the attack on the registry office, which made the deployment of men from this subdistrict in the German production process largely impossible; on the large scale manipulations of distribution records, which made it finally necessary to raid and plunder the distribution office in Valkenburg, so that falsifications not should come to light; on emptying a warehouse of radio equipment in Klimmen; on the hiding of precious liturgical vessels and chasubles from the Jesuit monastery in Valkenburg; on incidental stunts as the pillaging of a railway carriage full of eggs (decorated with a banner: “A gift of the Dutch people to the German army!”) and of a ton of butter from the dairy in Reymerstok.

This dairy worked for the Wehrmacht. With actions like this the German uniforms and the army vehicle mentioned below were very useful. The prey benefited particularly the hospital in Heerlen, where many divers were treated secretly.

Since a chaplain in Heerlen had problems with the clothing of his hiding fellow human beings, we got in contact with him. We were able to help him with his clothing problems and he promised to do something for me with the papers of our hiding man. This chaplain was Giel Berix. The “diving work” of this chaplain didn’t have contact with the national resistance yet. He and his people tried to help whereever it was necessary. Only 1943 the whole was organized on a higher level and taken to a countrywide network, with the participation of two chaplains from Venlo and primarily an elementary school teacher Ambrosius, alias Jan Hendrikx. And so I became a member of the resistance so to speak from one occurrence to the next one, in the beginning as the man for the clothes of the hiding people and later as a subdistrict leader (of Valkenburg and surroundings) .
If one suddenly would have asked me: come on, join in … then I maybe wouldn’t have had something to do with it, after down-to-earth consideration, and because of the dangers of a married man with children and a company with people who also would be in danger, to lose their jobs. Now I was driven into it. I accepted it and knew that it had to be that way.


Clothing for divers

I got in contact with chaplain Berix by the company. Because Berix tried to get clothing for (allied) pilots and divers here. He asked for overalls. I say: “Whom for?” “I can not say for whom. Just for poor people”, he said.
He asked for a rather large quantity, so I say: “If it is for the poor, I have to discuss that with Distex.” But he found that a bit dangerous.

It concerned his lack of working clothes for students who went underground at farms (1942). Giel offered, in return for my support in this matter, to provide identity papers and food bills for the Jewish hiding man in the company S.K.I.L. in “the mill” in Heerlen.

I had a Jew as a manager here, who was hiding under the name Langeveld, and he lived here as an Aryan.

We came to an agreement: the costs for the overalls with regard to consumption of material and paid-out wages would be paid by Berix from a fund of the diocese (fund for special needs).
It turned out that the required materials which Distex delivered in large quantities came from textiles from confiscated Jewish enterprises which had been given to Distex to redistribute. Distex didn’t write a bill and so the resistance movement didn’t have to pay for these deliveries. Since Mr Hogenstein of the Distex central store in Arnhem took the redistribution literally, which means from Jews to Jews, he emphasized that Jewish hiding people should have priority at the apportioning of clothes.

Then, Berix asked me, if I did ever something illegal. I said: "Yes, a bit. "
He probably had already the plan to organize the subdistrict of Valkenburg. I replied that I actually brought underground some paraments and golden chalices and books from the monastery of the German Jesuits in Valkenburg, who were driven out by the Reichsschule (school of the SS) , put together some car loads.
Berix found all that very interesting and nice and then he gave me the proposal to bring more people to Valkenburg, because he assumed that there were good opportunities to hide people in Valkenburg and surroundings. (I live in Valkenburg).

Curate Giel Berix from Heerlen, a friend of “Paul”’s and one of the founders of the L.O. in Heerlen, became after the retirement of Rector Prompers by some good reasons and according to his own wishes, the leader of the district Z18. The district of Heerlen was divided into 9 rayons.
The present Mr. “Paul” became the leader of the subdistrict Valkenburg. The activities of this group stretched away to and reached Gulpen and Maastricht. Also Klimmen and environs were incorporated with the subdistrict Valkenburg.

During several secret meetings and the necessary cooperation they got better acquainted with each other and some learned a little about each other’s familiar situations and even surnames.
“Paul”’s family name was Schunck, he lived in Valkenburg, where he had a laundry. There his wife Gerda was playing an important part too. At set times you could find “Paul” in Heerlen in a clothing factory at the corner Kruisstraat-Geleenstraat.

The resulting contact between the rayon of Valkenburg and the district of Heerlen was uncomplicated, because I was in Heerlen at work every day.

Furthermore we agreed that no hiding persons should be referred to the company but that the need of clothing should be transmitted for them by couriers.
More complicated need of clothing used to be regulated by the director of the municipal social welfare office, Mr Cornips, with me. He was very competent for this due to his function. It was predominating about suits, clothes, coats etc. for families being hidden as a whole (primarily Jews) and suits and coats for prisoners of war (primarily Frenchmen) and pilots.
I had to deal personally with heavily solvable problems e. g. with a very thick Franciscan monk, father Beatus and also with a very tall one, father Amond. There our work had to to be made to measure.

The Diver’s Inn in the Caves of Meerssenerbroektopback

Open Street Map Click on the overview map for a bigger one (Open Street Map).

Since the thirties my father exploited a lime quarry (Near the Meersenerbroek between Geulhem and Meerssen). The lime was crushed to small pieces and sold to the farmers as a fertilizer. The director of this company was Heinrich S., a German mining engineer, who lived in Holland. However, his main activity concentrated on a quarry with natural stone trade in Kunrade, in the possession of my father as well.
Until May 1940, this brother-in-law had always given the impression on us to stand extremely hostilely opposite the Hitler regime. We were therefore very astonished to hear that he had been appointed "ortsgruppenführer" (local group leader) by the German nazi party in Heerlen and that he had got a controlling function in the common mines in Limburg as a secretary of the German pit administrator.
In 1942 I heard from chaplain Berix that a chaplain in Meerssen was hidung two boys who were looked for by the Germans in the cave belonging to my father. Information confirmed this and I was allowed to pay a visit to these boys. The chaplain swore me, that he knew everybody of the staff of the lime works, and that each one of them was completely reliable. But he didn’t know that the boss was a German party functionary.

In fact, that was the foundation of the rayon Valkenburg and they were my first divers. This was done in consultation with chaplain Geelen.

Here Pierre Schunck leaves the Dutch soldiers out of consideration, that he sent on their way home in the first days of the occupation after they had been waiting for a while in Valkenburg on the tourist season. See above.

Chance played in our favor. My father was in conversation with Heinrich S. about the top-level position of the enterprise because of his workload on the pit and in the party. I knew a student graduated recently in Leuven, he now was an agricultural engineer. He was a brother of one of our priests in Valkenburg, and he was called graduate engineer Horsmans. I asked him whether he would feel like, temporarily, taking on the work of my brother-in-law in the Meerssenerbroek (as long as the war would last). My father and Mr Horsmans reached an agreement.
Berix and I had come onto an idea for these caves in the meantime.

First the guys of chaplain Geelen were in there. But you can not stay longer than three months under the earth, then you have to go again into the fresh air. So in my opinion it would the best idea, to install a diver’s inn there. We accommodated the guys of chaplain Geelen in Schin op Geul at a farm (we took them over completely).
So the cave became a diver’s inn, and if I happened to have no place free and I got but new entries, then I said: “Just let them come”, then I put them in the cave, and they were sure for a while.

Building up the “diver’s inn”topback

Our young organization was absolutely dependent on its own efforts to offer places to hide to people pursued by the enemy. We were not yet associated with a nationwide organization (the L.O.) and it was even still unknown to us (until 1943). Given the tense situation at the universities and the raids after Jews in the North, Berix feared that we suddenly would have to manage large groups of people. Such a cave would fit exactly as a temporary refugee accommodation. Enquiry among the staff in Meerssen, about the behaviour of S., showed in response: "We only see S. visiting quickly the office, the lime kiln and the open pit quarry. He never enters the underground caves and he also doesn’t know his way around there."
Chaplain Berix found it rather positive that a German party functionary who didn’t know his way around in the cave was a director. The German authorities would never become suspicious against this place.
There were two caves completely independent of each other. Seen from Valkenburg, the first cave was behind the lime kiln. It was built in the 20th century, very regularly like a chessboard, in the way of a modern "block breaker quarry". The only entrance was accessible and visible to everyone. The second cave was below the fruit meadow of my father’s and was not used for the limestone extraction anymore. Its entrance was almost completely concealed by bushes, only accessible by a steep slope. In front of the entrance was the cottage of Sjir Jansen, a very simple man but a great guy, through and through reliable. In the past this cave was used by the Montfortan fathers from Meerssen. On days off their pupils came to paint wall pictures and they also made a fun to imitate a chapel in the way like they are still found from the French time in the caves of Valkenburg and Geulhem. We choosed this cave to be our “diver’s inn”.
It wasn’t our intention to set up a durable place of residence for hiding people here. It nevertheless still had to get a bit more comfortable. Firstly, it was rather damp. The temperature is there only durably 10° to 12° degrees Celsius all the year round, just a little too cool to feel well. Berix knew a solution for it. A long electric cable was put to the hiding-place by employees of the coalmine Oranje-Nassau. By arrangement of another Berix acquaintance, a technician of the electricity supplier PLEM installed a safe electric heating, light and an electric cooker. I found electric cookers, light elements and electric heaters in the Jesuit cloister as well as dishes and kitchen utensils. The cable was attached directly to the net without an electricity meter in the control cubicle of the lime work.
Furthermore there had to be a escape opportunity, for if the entrance would be blocked by the enemy. It was created by scraping out a dolina, a loam tube which led into the Berger Heide (Berg Heath) and which should remain disguised well by the brushwood.
We also had to supply warm meals for the hiding people. Later, in the L.O. time, food coupons were no problem. But at the planning time, we couldn’t yet fall back upon them. Of the food which actually was intended for the children’s eating house in the laundry, my wife put the required part aside and cooked the meal for the cave with that. On weekdays the van of the lime works fetched this food with us and at the weekends I had to take care of it with the bicycle.

Jan has been in there.
The district leaders lived there for a while, and people from other districts. I provided them well with decent food, even wine and playing cards and my radio stood ready. There was electric light, that was all right.
Berix and I organized the needed cable at the muncipal services.

In the interview with the Auschwitz Committee, he speaks of a cable from the mine Oranje-Nassau. Possibly, they did not have enough with one cable, because the distance to the switch cabinet was too long.

We organized the mattresses with the nuns of the hospital. That was easy! One evening my wife got an order for blankets and so I went looking for mattresses as well. We went to Heerlen, where we were able to take some blankets at the company (Fa. A.Schunck). But they had no mattresses. I talked about it with Berix, and asked him, “Couldn’t we get a licence for that in the hospital?”. Then Berix said: “I was there for a visit some days ago, and if you look around there, there is a hallway and there is one mattress next to the other.”
I went there immediately with Berix. The housekeeping nun asked: “What do you want?” “Well, mattresses” we said. She said: “Just take them if the chaplain says it is all right. There they are!”
And we started to carry them away.
But at about ten o’clock the sisters came back and wanted to go to bed. They used to air the mattresses on the floor and we had taken them now!
But in any case, the boys in the cave had mattresses to the sleep on now.

There, we had about 20 flatbeds. We originally designed the whole thing for pilots because the pilots were a problem for us. They had to be dispersed, and someone came up with the idea: “Why don’t we hide them in a cave?” We set up this thing then. We had the famous family F[****] in there with 9 married men from the same parents. They came from Poland, and they refused en-bloc to report to the German army. I had seven of them myself. I made them dig out a cave that was not yet known. With emergency exits, electrical lighting, radio, bath, a sink, a paraffin stove for cooking etc.
This was the pilot’s cave. It is used only by the workers who set it up. We measured the cave to find out the most convenient point for an exit to the forest. We shocked there an old woman who was searching for acorns. Suddenly someone came out off a hole upwards! (We were trying out secret exits).
This was a so-called organ pipe, a Karst phenomenon in the shape of a funnel.

Until the summer of 1944 the diver’s inn remained in use. In July of the same year, the Germans shifted some production lines from Philips, as for example the production of radio receivers, from Eindhoven to the bombproof lime caves in the province of Limburg. One of the new sites was in the immediate vicinity of the diver’s inn.

Coen Grotaerstopback

Picture at

The following story needs a little explanation.

  • It was sent to me from Australia by a son of the Coen Grotaers mentioned below.
  • There were two limestone quarries in Geulhem at the Geul near the Meerssenerbroek at that time. One of them was property of Peter Schunck, the father of Pierre Schunck. The excavation of the lime happened by open-cast mining , but the old part was a widely branched system of caves. In the diver’s inn was installed. The other quarry was owned by Wim Curfs.
  • In the following history it presumably was about “Ausweise” (ID cards) which had been looted at the raid on the distribution office in Valkenburg. Let’s hope that after that accident somebody went once again with new cards to Kaldenkirchen.
  • This mail shows too, that there were contacts with German resistance groups.
  • For a better understanding of this story, you also should read a part of an interview with Pierre schunck, in which he tells about the resistance activities in the the diver’s inn in the caverns of Meerssenerbroek.

My Father (Coen Grotaers) was part of the (resistance-)group in the Dölkesberrig (Duikherberg) = diver’s inn in Geulhem and also worked for Peter Schunck in the mergel-groeve where he operated the steam powered drag-line crane from about 1943 till about 1946, which was used to mine the mergel and load it onto trucks. (This dragline had a 2 cubic meter bucket and I know it was steam powered because I used to go with him sometimes and would have to sit on one of those large brick-shaped compressed coals that went into the boiler!)

I have seen some accounts of the resistance movement on the Internet and recognised a lot of names from their accounts of what our parents had done during their activities in the movement.
Both my parents were involved in the resistance movement. My mother used to also cook meals for the “onderduikers” and hide these in a false bottom in my pram. Myself and my younger brother Peter were the decoys! (I was born in 1942) (We used to live in the first house up the top of the Bronsdalweg in Berg en Terbijt)
On one occasion my Father was driving a truck (I don’t know if it belonged to Schunck or Wim Curfs). He had to go to Kaldenkirchen in Germany with 172 false "Ausweisen" to get people out of that concentration camp.
(Does this mean, that they had contacts with German resistance groups?)
The truck ran on Methane gas. After filling the truck in Sittard something went wrong and the truck severely caught fire, Dad was badly burned but survived. This happened on the 15th March 1944 the day before my brother Peter was born.
My Father died here in Australia in 1979.
I would love to know if there is any records and photo’s in the archives that corroborate our parent’s involvement in the resistance movement.

Many Thanks, Victor Grotaers

Remark: Do you have any information on the couple Grotaers? Please get in touch with me, I then will pass it on.

The smallest unitstopback

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 (the duikhoofd) 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 Berixtopback

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 (The future Commander of all KP groups in Limburg) . 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.

Giel Berix did not survive the war. Dressed like a non-cleric and with fake identity card, he attended 21th june 1944 a top meeting of the province L.O. in Weert. This meeting was betrayed by a man called Vos. Berix and 8 comrades were arrested and brought to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, which they did not survive. Berix died of typhoid fever.
More details on the life and specially on the time in the camp of chaplain Berix

The L.O. district of Heerlentopback

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” (declaration of loyalty) 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 (Chief of the SD =security service of the SS in Maastricht ) 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 surertopback

W. Cremers and the Peusens sisters acted as couriers.

Then I assigned Ms Cremers (Wielke Cremers, sister-in-law of Pierre Schunck) 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 (themselves)!

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 (forced labour service) , that had to work for the O.T. (Organisation Todt) , and who went by themselves to farmers in the immediate vicinity. Then these farmers knew who was the (responsible) 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. (Joep?) 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 Swellstopback

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. (Organisation Todt) 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. (Crisis Controle Dienst) 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 Valkenburgtopback

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

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.
Kind regards
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 1topback

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 (at the cave). 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” (that’s how the Germans were called in the Netherlands during the war) 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 Cardstopback

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 (Zurückstellungsverfahren = reset procedure) 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? (= Tweede Distributiestamkaart / second )
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 (Pierre Schunck gave this interview in the “Mill” in Heerlen, where he was the managing director.) 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 (paramilitary auxiliary service of the German occupying forces, consisting mainly of NSB people, founded in November 1943) 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 Valkenburgtopback

By the growing number of divers, their needs could be met only if they also possessed a sufficient amount of ration cards and coupons. Mostly local government officials ensured this, like in Valkenburg. The way howto was one of trial and error:

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° [272]. 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 (sabotage specialist of the K.P., later commander of the “Stoottroepen” in Limburg, see the chapter Valkenburg is free below), who referred me to Jaques Crasborn (K.P. of the district of Heerlen, that Valkenburg meanwhile belonged to. The K.P. was the “armed wing” of the resistance.) 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 (Crasborn) 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 (Willem Freysen) 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.

This transport was carried out by Pierre Schunck. The straw was for our animals. A few of my older brothers and sisters sat on the straw again.

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.

At or we read about this action from an interview with my mother, Gerda Schunck-Cremers:

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 Heerlentopback

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.
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 (I.D. , Informatie Dienst. Goossen was district leader in Kerkrade before.) 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.). (Quote: The “Außenministerium”, German for Foreign Office, an underground organization formed in student circles, was active in Germany as well as in the Netherlands and was aimed to bring students from Germany back to the Netherlands. Because several L.O. people were involved, both organizations, especially in Limburg, were intertwined more and more.) 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 at district level.

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. (Van Kooten wants to make contact with the headquarters. More about this in the chapter Valkenburg is free )

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 Actiontopback

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 Eggstopback

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.

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.

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. (Which took place without knowledge of the L.O. of Gulpen, too.) 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.

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 Wartopback

The Liberators are Approaching!topback

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 Valkenburgtopback

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.

Open Street Map 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.

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.

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 collaboratortopback

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 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. 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. Tijdens die bevrijdingsdagen was heel Valkenburg geëvacueerd. Waarvoor op andere plaatsen de mensen een bunker of de kelder opzochten, werden in Valkenburg natuurlijk de grotten gebruikt, de gangensystemen in het zachte kalkgesteente, die in de loop van de eeuwen bij de winning van bouwstenen waren ontstaan. Deze grotten lagen in het bevrijde, zuidelijke gedeelte van Valkenburg.
De oudste dochter van Pierre Schunck herinnert zich:

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!”

Hotel Croix de Bourgogne, destroyed when the retiring Germans blew up
the bridge next to it. September 1944. View from the Grotestraat
Source: Beeldarchief Valkenburg, Author: Fotohuis Flindt, Valkenburg

Two days later (sept. 16th) the Americans in Valkenburg receive a wireless message, that Maastricht is free. They don’t have any immediate contacts via Berg or Meerssen. Now the Americans in Valkenburg cross the Geul and fighting they force an access into the provincial highway to Meerssen. Then Valkenburg is completely liberated. It is the 17th of September 1944.

topPictures (Immediately after the Liberation)

Resistance people and divers at the entrance of the Heidegroeve cave (Plenkert street), sept. 1944
From left to right: Sjef Smeets, Walramplein; Jos Mentelers, diver from Amby; Jos Quaedvlieg (“the Fat”), Walramplein/Hovetstraat; Harrie Fraiture, St. Pieterstraat; Henk Salverda; Jan Harings; Sjef Coenen, Wehryweg; Jean Kessler; Pierre Philippens, Plenkert street
Picture: Frans Hoffman
Source: Beeldarchief Valkenburg

Group of people in front of the entrance of the Heidegroeve cave (Plenkert street) in Valkenburg
Persons from left to right: 1. Municipal supervisor Sjang Drissen, Emmalaan; 2. Unknown; 3. Unknown; 4. U.S.American soldier, driver of a delegation from the previously liberated Maastricht; 5. Unknown; 6. Probably member O.D. oder other resistance organisation from Maastricht; 7. Ben M. Koster; 8. Probably member Red Cross, section Maastricht or dutch Red Cross soldier; 9. Pierre Schunck, Plenkert street; 10. like 6; 11 Jos. Quaedvlieg, Walramplein/Hovetstraat
Picture: Frans Hoffman.
Source: Beeldarchief Valkenburg

Some resistance people after the liberation, Sept. 1944
Entrance lime cave Plenkert street. Totally right Pierre Schunck, subdistrict leader L.O. Valkenburg.
Picture: Frans Hoffman.
Source: Beeldarchief Valkenburg

Valkenburg is freetopback

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.

Lou de Jong wrote: “In Maastricht there were many among the resistance people, whose heart's desire was to participate in the Allied military operations. That wish was home to most of the members of the KP. How could they be involved? To discuss that question the KP commander of South Limburg, BJC (Bep) van Kooten, went on September 17 or 18 to the headquarters of Prince Bernhard.”
“On 19 September he was in back in Maastricht, where he immediately began to recruit, proud of the fact that he, a KP man, not one of the Ordedienst or the Raad van Verzet, had been able to clinch the important function of commander.”, page 30 (556)

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.

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! (A friendship for life joined him with Bob Hillecue from Chicago, member of the “Old Hickory” division, that liberated Valkenburg.)

Collar badge of the Stoottroepen

The “Former Resistance”topback

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.

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 ( 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.

Death of an Ancient Resistance Mantopback

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

Epilogue of Cammaerttopback

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, here and there with a connecting commentary of my own. Because they tell different parts of this story, sometimes the same story, but they are complementary. Also I wrote, what we, his children, can still remember from his stories. Much has been adopted literally from his interviews. Below is a list of these sources, with links, so that, if desired, you can read the originals.

At the color of the margin line at the left you see at a glance whose words these are. Because these margin lines have the same colors as the underlining below. If you move with your mouse over a paragraph, the source is displayed as a “tool tip” text. Literal quote blocks from the interviews have got a darker background (not in the printed version) and are indented.

  • Especially the early days of the war is to br found in an article from the memorial number of the Nederlands Auschwitz Committee (Dutch Auschwitz Committee), 24th year n°1, 1980, getiteld “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