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Chapter 10

The Dockworker

By 1939, thousands upon thousands of German Jews had fled across the border into the Netherlands. The Dutch Government unable to absorb so many refugees set up a special camp at Westerbork near the German border. The Nazis would later use this camp as a transport point to the death camps.

To begin with, many Dutch Jews believed that things would work out for them in the end. For the people of the Netherlands had always protected them and also the country as a “Neutral State” thus the Germans would never attack this country! But soon enough they began to realise the bitter truth that little Holland would no longer be capable of protecting them, for the evil German Nazis would invade them after all! The bombing of the City of Rotterdam commenced on May 14, 1940 and the invasion had began and soon enough the Nazis marched into Amsterdam!

The Nazis march into Amsterdam

The first anti-Jewish measures were introduced slowly, but without respite. In September 1940, Jews were forbidden to enter certain residential areas and were refused work in a number of professions. Then in October, all civil servants had to make a so-called declaration of Aryan descent. All Jewish public servants and teachers were dismissed. In January 1941, compulsory registration of all Jews commenced. At the same time, cafes, theatres, and other public places were out of bounds to all Jews. Signs were erected “Voor Joden Verboden - Forbidden to Jews.”

Sadly due to the poverty prior to the war, even Holland had its own “National Socialist Movement” better known as the N.S.B., which was led by the sinister Anton Mussert who was installed in 1942. Even though the N.S.B. represented only a minority, but now Nazi Germany controlled the nation, the N.S.B. suddenly had great power. Most members originally joined the N.S.B. to combat Communism, little realising the true and full meaning of Nazism. Patriotic Dutch men and women regarded the N.S.B. as the “Traitor's Party.”

The evil traitor Anton Adrian Mussert salutes his N.S.B. troops

Now, Jewish youngsters were being attacked by the “Nazi youth movement,” which was part of the N.S.B., just as it was in Germany. The Jewish quarter was constantly being terrorised, however the Dutch police were completely helpless, for German law encouraged it.

Mussert ruled with an iron fist from 1942 until the end in 1945

A well-known Jewish ice cream parlour, “Koko” was attacked on 12 February 1941. Dutch customers, including several police officers, doctors, and others resisted bravely. Seven days later, another ice cream parlour belonging to Mr. Ernst Cahn was singled out and attacked by members of the N.S.B. He defended himself by throwing ammonia in the face of one Nazi. A bitter struggle ensued, resulting in eight arrests. Mr. Cahn received the expected Nazi justice. In their perverted “Kangaroo Court” he was sentenced to death. Mr. Ernst Cahn, who was ruthlessly attacked in his own store by the Nazis, ended up as the first Jew to officially to die by Nazi hands in the Netherlands. Others who were arrested received long prison sentences.

Some members of the N.S.B. were as fanatical as Hitler himself. With actions that were extreme and violent, proving that they were the servants of evil, always ready to obey their Fuhrer, who was their lord and master. At the end of the war, they would be punished with severity, a severity befitting their hideous crimes against Dutch Jews, and the general Dutch population alike. One such traitor serving with the Waffen SS on the Russian front wrote the following letter to a like-minded Dutch Nazi back home, who was part of the “Arnhem Storm Troopers.”

“How are things with your Jews? This place (Russia) is crawling with them, though I do not think many will be left by the time the war is over. There has been a lot of cleaning up, and I myself have shot down a whole plague of them ... I only hope to get the chance of leading a group of comrades when we start rooting out the Jewish vermin back home. They won't know what hit them.” February 1942.

The WA, the Para-military arm of the N.S.B. now attacked the Jewish neighbourhood on a daily basis. This forced both Jews, and non-Jews, to form their own protection squads, often recruiting members of the Jewish sport and boxing clubs “Maccabi” and Olympia.” On 11 February 1941, a serious battle broke out and a WA man by the name of Koot was seriously injured and died a few days later. Whenever a WA man died, the Nazis were ruthless in retaliation.

Without warning, on Saturday 22, being a Sabbath day the Hebrew quarter was surrounded and completely sealed off. Soldiers broke down doors and took men and young boys at random. Hundreds and twenty five males were taken captive, and they were marched to the Jonas Daniel Meijer Square. Here in the shadow of five ancient Synagogues from where Hebrew prayers and songs of praise to the Almighty had wafted across the square for centuries, the Nazis herded the Jews like deceased cattle, and beat them without mercy for all to see. They were then forced into their transport and taken away. This horror was repeated the next day during the Sunday street markets. In total over these two days alone four hundred and twenty five Jewish men and boys were deported, first to the Dutch intrim camp “Westerbork” located in Drente, but from there they were all sent per train to concentration camps, such as the evil Sobibor, Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Buchenwald where the vast majority of them perished in the most horrific of circumstances.

Rigth: Up to 400 male Jews were captured at the Jonas Daniel Meijer Square on Saturday 22 & 23 February 1941

All of whom were sent to the Dutch camp first, then to the death camps east!

Right: The deportation commenced, first these extended cars, but later those horrid cattle trains!

The good people of Amsterdam were in a state of shock and the city was charged with fury by these events. “Something must be done!” shouted the angry masses, but what? Amsterdam was like a bomb about to explode any minute. It was the Dutch Workers Party who was the first to call for action, and they did this by calling a “General Protest Strike.” Their first attempt was to be on Monday 24 February, but this sadly failed. At another meeting that very night, an official announcement was made, “Tomorrow 25 February (1941) we will strike.” Then on Tuesday morning the strike was on and it spread rapidly and became a general strike. That afternoon Amsterdam felt like a free city. Railway men, dockworkers, tram conductors, shipbuilders, factories, all were at a standstill and it kept spreading.

A call to … “STAAK, STAAK, STAAK!!!” - “STRIKE, STRIKE, STRIKE”!

The strike spread to other cities and towns throughout the Netherlands. Masses were marching in the streets calling for justice, saying, Germany, you cannot harm our people, be it a Jew or a Gentile, and get away with it. Our voice will be heard!” By now shops, offices and schools were deserted. Even banks closed their doors in support. The Dutch police defiantly stood by without taking any action. All too soon, the Nazis recovered from their initial shock and reacted with all their might.

Soon guns were blazing in the streets, firing at demonstrators. Many were arrested. Nine brave lives were lost that day in Amsterdam, and two more in town of Zaandam. Municipal workers were now threatened with severe punishment, thus most were eventually forced back to work.

What did the strike achieve? Nine dead and four strikers were sentenced to death as well as many others who were imprisoned. Slowly, those who were sympathetic with the Germans replaced mayors of towns and cities throughout the Netherlands. The Dutch Workers Party strike was the first of its kind and it made clear the mind of the vast majority of the people of Holland. But sadly, it was not able to prevent future deportation of the Jewish people to the hideously insane Nazi death camps. Yet, the strike was not altogether futile, for it stirred up a spirit of a strong resistance around the Netherlands. So many were united, except the usual extremists and amazingly a good number of priests and pastors who were against it! But, those who knew in their heart that they just had to do something were well aware that all of these who were against them, that their rejection was based in National Socialism or simply anti-Semitism. It is well recorded that the Netherlands was the only nation in the world to make such a dramatic statement in defence of its Jewish population for its people considered them as fellow dutch citizens who had done so much good for the country!.

We now turn to the Remembrance of the Netherlands of the heroic strike as above. The Netherlands did this after the war by erecting a rather special statue; it is a statue of an everyday Dutchman, who just happens to be a dockworker during the war. Thus, this memorial is known as “The Dockworker.”

A Strong Man says, “No!”

In 1987, the author visited the Netherlands whilst researching this book, spending a great deal of time in the old Jewish quarter. One day I visited the Jonas Daniel Meijer Square. There under some old trees stands a man made of bronze. He is big and heavy. It is obvious that he is a strong man. He stands quite still with his left foot forward, and his arms hanging down. It is almost if he is ready to fight. His head is slightly tilted back, as he is making a statement. Just look at his cap and his clothes they are worker's clothes. His sleeves are rolled up over his strong muscles. You can see he is not an easy-going man. He is a man who is not afraid, and he is not going to take tyranny any longer. He will not bow down or be held back by these German oppressors. This statue says a great deal about the resistance of the Dutch people, against Nazism. He is the “Dockworker.

The Author, as he looked on a cold December day, in 1987 on the Jonas Daniel Meijer Square

A sketch by Kosta Specis --

The Dockworker tells you, that everyday people could no longer put up with Nazi discrimination against their Dutch Jewish brethren, and that his patience was up. He throws down his work, for he had enough of being a slave. Thus he strikes. That strike began on 25 February 1941. And there was a mighty reason for it, the very same reason one of Pierre Janssen’s teachers did not teach one day, because Mr. Bendien was sacked just he was a Jew. As Pierre said, “Are Jews not Dutch, like any other Dutchmen? Are they not our fellow countrymen?” The sad fact was that Germans, and their Dutch followers placed their faith in just one man who gave them his, and his parties might and strength. Adolf Hitler was an Austrian Roman Catholic, who in his youth had dabbled in the occult, and had hated the Jews. Jews had never hurt him in any way. They were being punished just because they were Jews. That day in February, when they tortured those poor Jewish men and boys, the tolerant people of Amsterdam and the Netherlands lost their patience. They fought back the only way they could as they laid down their jobs and told the Germans, “We won't stand for it!” Thus this statue, the Dockworker stands proudly in the very heart of the old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, under the shadow of the ancient Synagogues, and at the very spot where those four hundred and twenty five lives were beaten and taken to the Nazi deaths camps.

The following is based on an item written by Rabbi Dr. J. Soetendorp, entitled, “The Dockworkers Prayer.”

“The square is framed with seventeenth century gables and quaint windows. Once, behind these, the soul of a people prayed till they could no more, a people that around this square were able to live out their dream of freedom, until, just where I am standing, their young sons were forced and beaten mercilessly to the ground. The walls of these Synagogues bear the testimony for they saw it … Then I a Dockworker, stood up. I, who had never prayed, not in a Church, let alone a Synagogue. But, I rolled up my sleeves, with my cap tilted on the back of my head and said, ‘Come, here I am going to make my stand, and I will stay. For your evil unjust ways shall never know peace.’ This is the prayer of my hands, that which my heart could not do. Nazis, possibly this was the prayer you were waiting on, to commence your song of curses, your chosen tune … It bounced against the ancient walls. You have awoken the prayerful. Your madness is like an echo, but only an echo no more! Soon your racing vehicles will be gone from our streets. However, I will remain standing, here amongst the Synagogues. Otherwise we will soon forget that once, wild animals walked upon and tortured our people ... The people of Israel who made our country their home … The sounds can The sounds can still be heard, amongst these old trees, and in the Synagogues.”

The Dockworker with the Portuguese Synagogue behind it on the Jonas Daniel Meijer Square

In the last chapter, we met Pierre Janssen, He told the story, of how in his household often strangers would come and stay.

Pierre Janssen continues his story.

“Once a young man came to stay with us, and he had to share my bed with me. He was friendly but never said very much. A few months later, after he had left our house, our local paper arrived. The paper was now under the control of the Germans who would have us believe that they were going to win the war. We were always fearful of reading the page that had a thick black band around it. On this page, the Nazis announced the death, or execution of resistance fighters and others. The black band ensured that its readers would not miss it. They even pasted the page on walls and billboards throughout Amsterdam as a scare tactic. However, scare tactics never did much for the Dutch.

As mother opened the paper that day, she read the list. She tearfully pointed out two notices, for there was the announcement of a man we knew. She cried out “That was dear Kees.” Indeed, it was the kindly young man I shared my bed with. “And this” she continued “was his brother.” I read the notice with great sadness. It was difficult for me to speak about those who were so brutally murdered by our enemy. These men and women all desired to live so much, but felt the responsibility to do something for others, and their country. When the Germans caught them, their lives ended abruptly in violence.”

Several brave heroes of the Netherlands lay slain in the Streets and they were murdered by Dutch traitors, the NSB

Several Amsterdamers cover them with the Dutch flag of Red, white and blue in a hurry

Photograph by Cas Oorthuys

Unlike in the days of Pierre, we are privileged to live in a time of relative freedom. As we read of the events of those dreadful years, our hearts should be touched with tenderness and sorrow. These brave individuals did something, even in the face of extreme danger. Many also died because of their faith in their Messiah, who called them (in the New Testament) to withstand the evil persecution of His brethren, Israel.

“‘Assuredly, I (Yahushua - Jesus) say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these (Israel) My brethren, you did it to Me. Then they also will answer him, saying, 'master, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’” Matt 25:40 & 44-46 (NKJ).

These faithful ones, hid many Jews in their homes, and helped them to escape, even to Palestine. Volumes could be written of great heroism, not only in the Netherlands, but also, in some other countries in Europe. Most of these individuals were convicted of their duty because of through their faith. These are the “Righteous (Tzedakah) believers in Messiah!”

“O love the LORD (YHVH - YaHVaH), all you His saints: for the LORD (YHVH - YaHVaH) preserved the faithful, and plentifully rewards the proud doer. Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD (YHVH - YaHVaH)” Psalm 31: 23 & 24.

The next chapter contains the story of a dear lady who displayed the kind of courage and audacity that is shared by all who fought so bravely for the right to live in freedom, and practice their faith, be it Christians, or Jews. Her story will have a profound impact on all who will read it!

The following is something this wonderful faithful woman held as her motto until the very end!

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” Luke 6: 35 - 36 (KJV).

 

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