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The names on the walls


Limburg 1940-1945,
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Lessons from the resistance

| Written traces | The hospital in Heerlen | The arrest of Theo Crijns and the consequences | The insufficient help to the Jews in Limburg and the almost complete lack of help to the Sinti in Limburg | Resistance names | The security structure of the groups | Military training camps in the forests of northern Limburg | Raids on distribution offices | Under construction |

go to top of page Written traces

We start with a point from Pierre Schunck’s reminiscences about the resistance, which were also at the beginning of this website. In it he wrote about the fact, that the courier Wielke Cremers always brought along bills from her trips to the contacts: But I thought it was wrong that bills went through, there was too much writing.

People were also arrested with illegal newspapers and lists of recipients. See The danger of lists

There were diaries written by some people.

go to top of pageThe hospital in Heerlen

Almost everything went well at St. Josef Hospital in Heerlen. But the risk was high. Everyone who was there took it almost as a matter of course. The fact that the founding of the Heerlen district of the L.O. took place here was not that spectacular. All kinds of people come and go in a hospital all the time. But the fact that an entire floor was made invisible, where Jews and other people in hiding or downed Allies were cared for, where some of them also lived temporarily, where a Jewish child was born with the help of a Jewish midwife, can certainly be described as spectacular. It only worked because everyone went along with it or at least kept quiet. Especially the nuns, the Little Sisters of St. Joseph, (Kleine Zusters van de Hl. Joseph)
Unfortunately, the head doctor, Karel van Berckel, did not survive. It was never clarified whether the arrest and subsequent liberation from the hospital of the courier Theo Crijns, the resistance work of his daughter Charlotte or something else was the reason for his arrest. But the underground work at the hospital continued as usual.
Read more: St. Joseph Hospital in Heerlen.

naar boven The arrest of Theo Crijns and the consequences

Much went wrong in the arrest of Theo Crijns in Heerlen. He was arrested by partying land guards on Hitler’s birthday (Führers Geburtstag) on the night of April 23-24, 1944. Apparently no one had thought of that. Theo was inexperienced (he had just finished high school). He was out at night and had all kinds of incriminating documents with him, including a notebook with names and addresses in it, including that of Jan Cornips. So he tried to flee and drove his bicycle into a barbed wire roadblock. He ended up in the hospital, and to prevent him from being tortured and telling all kinds of things, a liberation operation was set up. The hospital staff participated, from the chief doctor to the nurses. Something was put in the coffee of Crijns’ guards, but that was not yet working when the action began. So a shootout ensued, as a result of which one of the guards died after several weeks. Crijns was able to escape and went into hiding.
Consequences: a dead policeman, Jan Cornips’ father was arrested as a hostage and shot dead in camp Vught on Mad Tuesday, the mother and three children of the Crijns family also ended up in concentration camps, but survived the war traumatized. Perhaps the arrest and death of the surgeon Karel van Berckel was also a consequence. Had nothing been done, the consequences would certainly have been much more serious.

go to top of page The insufficient help to the Jews in Limburg and the almost complete lack of help to the Sinti in Limburg

  • Actually, everyone should have seen it coming, including the Jews themselves. But most of them could not believe what Hitler had written in his book Mein Kampf long before the war. When the deportations began, people preferred to believe that this was a forced emigration, a new Babylonian exile. Moreover, fear was in the air among the non-Jewish population after the violent suppression of the February strike. So there was hardly any resistance when the neighbors were taken from their homes. Later, the rescue of mainly Jewish children to Limburg got underway, especially through the NV group. After the liberation, it turned out that the Jewish population of the province of Limburg was larger than at the beginning of the war due to those who had gone into hiding.
  • After the Jews, it was the turn of the so-called asocials. Caravan dwellers were banned from traveling and therefore from working. Among them were many Sinti. Initially, they were still considered Aryans, in contrast to the Roma from the Balkans, who later arrived in the Netherlands. They were forced to settle in central caravan camps. When they were deported, there was even less help for them than for the Jews. The Gadje usually didn’t even know it, because who had any contact with gypsies at all?
    A memorial plaque in Beek with the title: wij lieten hen gaan (We let them go) reminds us of this. Listen to the two-part audio of the same name:

Read more: The genocide of the Jews in Limburg | The genocide of the Romani in Limburg and elsewhere

go to top of page Resistance names

Some resistance fighters were only known to their comrades by their resistance name. This offered increased protection if someone was unexpectedly arrested. Because they then knew nothing more than this pseudonym. We come across many such names, especially in Het Grote Gebod (The Great Commandment), one of the first works written about the Dutch resistance. When meeting after the war, it was customary for former resistance members to continue to address each other by these names.
Unfortunately, this practice was not consistently applied in the long term, so that the Sicherheitspolizei (security police) sometimes found out names through torture, even if there was nothing on paper.

go to top of page The security structure of the groups

Another security mechanism that was mainly used in Belgium was the cloisonnement, which means the division into individual cells or also caste system.
The Clarence intelligence network in particular had such a closed cell structure. A member only knew the person who was above them and the person who was below. In other words, no one at the same level. They were also not allowed to be members of several resistance groups, they were not allowed to take part in different types of resistance activities. The less the members knew about each others’ activities, the safer it was for the whole group. After all, it was always possible that the Abwehr (the German counter-intelligence service) would arrest a member who would confess under torture.
This principle was sometimes not strictly adhered to. Two monks in Valdieu, for example, solved the problem elegantly, one working in the Erkens group, the other in Clarence. But these monks, Karel Jacobs and Piet Muhren, were not the reason why things went wrong. The main reason was the overconfidence Erkens and Renkin placed in some Nazi infiltrators, even after fellow members had expressed their suspicions.
You can find out more about the Clarence group in the Voer region, now the municipality of Voeren, in the short biography of Jules Goffin, the head of Clarence there.

In Dutch Limburg, this principle was virtually unknown. Moreover, it was difficult to introduce in small towns, because everyone did everything; moreover, especially in northern Limburg, people were often affiliated with more than one network, for example, L.O. and O.D.

go to top of page Military training camps in the forests of northern Limburg

From 1943, camps were set up in the forests of North Limburg to cope with the large influx of people who wanted to go into hiding. It was not surprising that Dutch former soldiers came up with the idea of using this potential and turning these camps into military training camps. It was also a good way to combat boredom. They hoped to be able to join the Allies during the liberation, by attacking the Germans from behind. The young men in hiding were not lacking in good will, but in experience and caution. Some tried to impress in the surrounding villages and chatted. It wasn’t long before everyone knew about it. Even the NSB. Kees Krans fell victim to this.
Other high-spirited people in hiding also took unnecessary risks, to which they themselves and others fell victim.
Read more:

Wikipedia NL

Kapel van de Weerstand
Rotem (Dilsen-Stokkem).

Belgian Limburg

Such camps also existed in the much larger forests of Belgian Limburg. This was the territory of the Secret Army, comparable to the OD on the Dutch side. Modest, pseudonym of the gendarme Gustaaf Beazar, pseudonym Gustaaf Beazar, had set up a huge number of people towards the end of the war, supposedly the size of a regiment, ready to fight behind the German lines for the advancing Allies.
The chapel pictured on the right stands on the edge of the forest where their hideout (codenamed Anatol) was located. At the beginning of September 1944, several groups of resistance fighters ("Weerstanders") met here to fight together with the advancing Allies against the German occupiers. The Germans got wind of the preparations (through betrayal) and attacked the hiding place. Dozens of resistance fighters were killed or captured.
Again, secrecy was apparently a problem, as were the logistics for such a large number of people, which meant that many had to be sent back home.
We can assume that the people who set up these camps in Belgium and the Netherlands had heard about the successful partisan armies in Yugoslavia and Greece through Radio London or other channels. They obviously wanted the same thing and clearly did not take sufficient account of the conditions in a densely populated country.
Read more:
The Secret Army (Belgium)
Ordedienst (O.D.)

go to top of page Raids on distribution offices

These raids (or shall we say robberies?) were necessary in order to obtain ration cards and stamps for those in hiding. They were sometimes more and sometimes less successful. Always with a recognizable reason.

  • At the beginning of September 1944, Guelen was involved in a plan for a raid on the distribution office in Berlicum. Even before it got that far, he was caught due to a colleague’s lack of caution.
    Dr. F. Cammaert at the unveiling of the memorial plaque with names at the carillon at the resistance memorial • TV ValkenburgThe carillon
  • The Raid on the Distribution Office in Heerlen did take place in fact. What is striking is that this action was not planned in collaboration with the L.O., but by the knokploeg (combat group) alone. It was more violent and achieved nothing. Moreover, it is not certain if Nitsch was put on the trail of vicar Berix by the attack on March 9.
    Read more: The Raid on the Distribution Office in Heerlen
  • The raid in Valkenburg was very successful. The reason: everyone worked together flawlessly, the LO participated from the inside and the policeman J.H. op de Ven took all the blame by going into hiding. Moreover, the raid was necessary to protect officers Willem Freysen, Victor Willems and Annie Cremers.
    Read more: The Raid on the Distribution Office in Valkenburg

go to top of page Under construction

Anyone who, intentionally or not, finds themselves in the situation of resisting an overpowering oppressive apparatus always takes a risk. Most people are caught unprepared. As we can see above, the consequence during the Second World War was often that the dangers were completely underestimated, or that one’s own capabilities were overestimated.

Sometimes liquidations had to be carried out, for which in case of the LO/LKP the approval of the district leadership had always to be obtained. The former professional soldiers of the O.D. often did not feel bound by this and liquidated on their own authority. This led, for example, to the death of the farmer Kees Krans.
Another liquidation was not only useless, but a downright revenge killing, on the day of the liberation of Valkenburg. It was carried out by some boys who claimed to belong to the OD. The shooter was acquitted because the court considered it proven that he was acting in good faith, that there was an Allied stand court order.
Read more: The murder of the Nazi collaborator.