Dear Mr. Schunck,
enclosed the article concerning what your mother told me concerning the Jews in Valkenburg and the verger, as well as the point of view of the Dutch government.
Jan van Betuw
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.
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.