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Limburg 1940-1945,
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1940-1945. The resistance in the dutch province of Limburg



In the area of Gulpen and Simpelveld, the three Coenen brothers had set up an escape route for Allied soldiers who had escaped from captivity. They often were sent from the eastern coalfield by the group around Mingelers in Kerkrade or by Father Beatus van Beckhoven from Heerlen. The best known of the three was the printer and later subdistrict chief of the LO in Simpelveld, Sjeng Coenen. Originally, these refugees were mainly French and Walloons. They were brought to Belgium by the oldest brother, sexton P.J. Coenen from Banholt and Mheer, with the help of a group of passeurs in the border villages of Slenaken and Noorbeek.
These people trafficker were the border inspector E. Piek, the customs officer H. Evenboer, and Father J.H. Everts O.F.M. of the franciscan monastery of Hoogcruts near Slenaken, who was also in direct contact with his confrere Father Beatus. In Belgium, thanks to the Kusters family of Slenaken, they found a connection with three women from Jupille and Retinne near Liège. After Evenboer was replaced by A.F. Vermeulen, a police constable in Slenaken, the group also came into contact with Th. Brentjens, the gendarmerie commander in St. Maartensvoeren and thus with the Goffin section of Clarence. These were also in close contact with the Group Erkens. Fortunately, the people trafficker were not hit by the Hannibal game.

From 1943 onwards, Gulpen was the center of the district of the same name of the LO, the he Limburgse Onderduikershulp and later the Landelijke Onderduikershulp (Aid for the Submerged, first in Limburg and later nationwide). This comprised rayon (subdistrict) 1 (Vaals, Mechelen, Epen), rayon 2 (Gulpen, Wylré) and rayon 3 (Simpelveld, Eys, Wittem, Bocholtz) [2]

Rosalie Sprooten gives as an appendix to her book Bericht aan Hare Majesteit [1.3] a
schematic overview of the LO-Gulpen organization. Written by the late Peter van der Linden, district leader of LO-Gulpen from 21 July 1944.
The section we quote here begins a week before the Klap van Wittem (The Strike of Wittem) [3.1], which was a severe blow to the whole district. In parentheses Rosalie Sprooten comments now and then as RS.
Some of the following occurrences are described in more detail by Cammaert. These are then accompanied by a footnote, all belonging to [2], with different page numbers.
A red footnote indicates that there is more coverage of that occurrence on this website. They all belong to [3].

July 7, 1944: Meeting in the Kelderke of the Brand Brewery in Wylre. Present all members of the district except Hein Kessels from Eys. New members: A. Noppeney and Huub Hamers from Simpelveld. Present also parish vicar Widdershoven from Mechelen. The delimitation of the rayons is discussed. New pseudonyms are adopted. (Probably at this meeting the German officer who wanted to desert was also discussed. RS).
July 21, 1944: Klap van Wittem [3.1]. Captured are: Paul Horbach, Sjeng Bisschof, Huub Hamers, Father Baars, vicar Penders, Jan van Houtem, vicar Houben, Huub Ortmans and Emiel Merckelbach. The others manage to escape. [3.1]
The SD in Maastricht appears to be aware of the new pseudonyms.
(Shortly before the Klap van Wittem another meeting takes place at the home of Emile Merckelbach in Wittem. I assume that here further preparations were discussed in connection with the German non-commissioned officer. RS).
Sjeng Coenen passes to the KP-Heerlen (knokploegen RS) [2 p.699] [3.2] and goes into hiding in Ulestraten. Peter van der Linden becomes the new district leader.
In Wittem, Leo Sprooten, PTT office manager, is recruited as a collaborator. (Uncle Leo Sprooten had previously worked with Hubert and Maria Groneschild. It mainly concerned the passing of messages on behalf of people in hiding and the pilot line. RS).
In May 1944, the Heerlen district believed that the organization in Gulpen was not running smoothly. The journalist Jules Kockelkoren, from Gulpen, is given the task of forming a new organization. This creates problems between Heerlen and Gulpen which, however, are resolved after some time.
Jules Kockelkoren becomes leader of the district’s propaganda department. [2 p.696]
After "the blow of Wittem," in Epen Jef Brauers from the Volmolen [4] is recruited to take over the work of vicar Houben.
The head of the municipal food department Mr. Jeanné from Mechelen cooperates in the slaughter of cows and pigs for the benefit of the work for the people in hiding. Burglaries are committed in Wylre, Mechelen and Epen on the night of May 25. The loot amounts to 6,000 eggs.
(In Epen it happened to the truck driver Schepers who had a whole load of eggs in his garage to transport a day later. It is almost certain that he had been informed in advance and "helped" the burglars. RS).
On June 14, 1944, they succeeded in embezzling 971.25 kg of butter at Reymerstok. [3.3]
In the night of April 14-15, 1944, with the knowledge of the population official Botterweck, the population register of the municipality of Wittem is set on fire. This gives the opportunity to falsify numerous identity cards. [2 p.695]
The LO was financially supported by the Episcopal Fund for Special Needs. (This can be compared to the National Fund for Special Needs, but specifically for the diocese of Roermond, which corresponds to the province of Limburg. AS)
The Oranje Nassau mines provide 1000 tons of coal per month to the LO. On September 5, 1944, in Ulestraten, Sjeng Coenen and Joep Francotte are captured by the Germans. On the ensuing night, both are shot on the Cauberg in Valkenburg.

  1. Rosalie Sprooten, Bericht aan Hare Majesteit
    1. index
    2. Geehrte Frau Sprooten!
    3. Bijlage, p.146 ff.
  2. Dr. F. Cammaert, Het Verborgen Front – Geschiedenis van de georganiseerde illegaliteit in de provincie Limburg tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Doctorale scriptie 1994, Groningen
    6. De Landelijke Organisatie voor hulp aan onderduikers • I-VII $ VIII.7., District Gulpen
  3. 1. Wittem, 21 jul. 1944
    2. Knokploegen, combat groups
    3. Reymerstok, 14 jun. 1944, 1000 kg boter
    4. Cauberg, Valkenburg, 5 sept. 1944, Coenen & Francotte †
  4. Volmolen Epen

Liberated: 1944-09-13 – 1944-09-16

The fallen resistance people in Limburg

Gulpen – 1 pers.

∗ 1914-07-01
† 1945-04-24
- Aid to People in Hiding L.O. - Gulpen - The clergy - Voerendaal -

Vicar Leon Marie Hubert Penders headed subdistrict 2 of the LO with the places Gulpen, Reymerstok and Wylré. (See map 45. Gulpen district: division into subdistricts. Cammaert VIb, p.693 [1] …

wall: left, row 12-01