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The Stichting 5 - Dutch civilians ‘murdered’ by the German authorities.

We will never understand in the 21st century what they all went through - but what we can do is to remember them, doing what they did, when they did it and why…

The story of the Stichting 5 has been made available to us by the Stichting 5 group and in particular, Diane Gollop, daughter of one of the crew who survived, Karsten Schaper for wreck photographs, Henk Nooteboom, Mr Cornelis van der Schoor, plus the many people who made the memorial ‘happen’. To all of them, we thank you. If we have failed to acknowledge anyone in particular please advise. A Facebook page has also been established to remember the 5.

Since the dark days of 1939-1945 many German people have inaugurated memorials to allied aircrew lost in their country - as have we - to their lost ones. All of them were doing, what was asked by their respective governments at that time.

During the night of 6/7th August 1941 RAF Bomber Command attacked four different targets in Germany and elsewhere. A total of 177 Bombers are over Europe, targets inncluded  Frankfurt, Mannheim and Karlsruhe. Among these are two Wellingtons from 11 OTU. Due to different causes one of these planes will become lost and eventually come down in the ‘Hoeksche Waard’, where it will be the reason for dismay and agony in the history of the ‘Hoeksche Waard’ during the German occupation.

The Wellingtons of 11 OTU had no connection with the Bomber Command attacks on Germany and France, and were flying their own operation over France. They both had been sent to drop 10 to 15 bundles of leaflets and two 250 Lb. bombs. Wellington Z8807, Sgt. Walker and crew, was assigned to an area between Vendome and Chateauroux while Wellington X9614, Sgt. Bennet, had an area between Tours and Le Blanc as target from which they returned safely at Bassingbourn. Walker and his crew reached their target area, and dropped the leaflets near Lyon,

The weather was terrible and soon they had to admit that, due to the thick cloud cover, they were unable to locate their position. There was so much electricity in the air that the equipment was no longer reliable. Ice flew from the tail on the fuselage. It was clear that the inexperienced crew, on their first flight over enemy territory were having serious problems. To compound their problems the aircraft is hit by anti-aircraft fire, a piece of shrapnel hits an engine. With the engine becoming more and more troublesome and with no possibility to calculate their position from the stars, they flew on in a North-North-West direction.

In Bassingbourn time goes by without any news from Z8807, finally at 06:15 is there a short radio contact and the ‘fix’ registered at their base in Hull shows that the plane is near Rotterdam. 

The problems for the Walkers crew continue. As they fly over the ‘Nieuwe Waterweg’ area, with dozens of German anti-aircraft batteries, the aircraft is hit again. With one red glowing engine out of order, it becomes clear that they had to land very soon. The pilot executed a text book wheels up, emergency landing, the mud working like a cushion.

The plane has come down in a field next to the farm of Blok at Kruisweg, near the hamlet of Greup. The crew are not hurt, and they see people coming towards them. At first they think that they’re German, but soon they see that they are ordinary civilians. They are workers, already busy on the surrounding fields and they want to help the Englishman. Neighbouring residents had waked up and jumped out of bed to go and take a look on what had happened. Although nobody speaks English, they make the airman clear that they are not at Zuid-Beveland, but at Greup.

As the airmen find themselves among friends, they knew that they had to destroy the aircraft. While curious civilians are walking around the Wellington, W/O. Humphery fires a flare. A dull thud as it hits the fuel tanks and a flash, than the plane start to burn. Only the left wing withstands the fire.

One of the civilians is W.J. Bos. The Blok brothers were with horse and carriage on their way to milking and they also see the Wellington arrive. Arie Barendrecht went to the location of the crash on his bike. He shakes hand with the pilot and takes the crew with him in the direction of the Blok farm.

Left: Arie van der Stel (18-04-1881 / 19-09-1941)

They meet Teun de Reus, who suggests to go to the barn of Mr Blok. In the filed the heavy Siddcott suits are taken off and left in the field. At the barn he helps the airman change their uniforms for civilian clothes. He gives his overall to the pilot and receives Walkers tunic. Arie puts the tunic on, under his own overcoat. (The buttons from the tunic are still in the possession of the Barendrecht family.) It is thought that Arie escorted Pryor and Sparks. They were arrested later that evening near Heinenoord. Arie Barendrecht went home afterwards, hid the tunic in the hen-house and goes back to work. He doesn’t know that that the speed of his action – nobody had seen him leave with the airman – this will save him his life.

From all directions people walk to the Blok farm and it becomes quite busy. Some people bring clothes, while others give their bread. (Workers in those times always had a bag with bread and something to drink with them.)

In the meantime Frans Bom and Bastiaan Arie Barendrecht, who works for his father, arrive at the barns door. They go in and Frans, who speaks English, starts a conversation with the remaining crew. Bas Barendrecht gives his coat to one of the airman. The crew’s uniforms are hidden in the attic under the wheat chaff, to be taken away by inhabitants of Greup shortly thereafter. The remaining Englishman decide to split up in pairs and try so to avoid capture by the Germans. The people gathered makes the airman clear that they will help them with this, they have no idea from the consequences of their decision.

Right: Joris de Heus ( 02-11-1888 / 19-09-1941)

The Germans will not tolerate any help to the enemy, as on July 17th the Wehrmachtsbefehlhaber, General der Flieger Christiansen had already warned the Dutch people for any form of sympathy to the enemy. Now he adds that ‘gathering at a British aircraft wreck will be seen as active help to the enemy’ a serious offence in wartime. The punishment for this crime could even be a death sentence. The Germans found the time right to make the Dutch clear that their threat was serious; everywhere appeared ‘Bekentmachung’ with this warning.

Did the people at Greup know anything about this German threat? It’s not sure, as in this agricultural society, Rotterdam is ‘far’ away. There’s no resistance as such and it’s sure that the sighting of the airman will have caused curiosity and enthusiasm. Thence the spontaneous reaction on the crash from overseas friends.

W.J. Bos sees how the airman, followed by a long procession curious civilians walk along the dike. Some airman wear their RAF uniform, some have already done civilian clothes. One of them wears Mr Blok’s leather coat. Arie van Steensel gave his cap. Arie had a small shop selling fruit and vegetables. During the fighting at Moerdijkbridge in May 1940, he was wounded and lost a leg. He’s known as an outspoken man, not hiding his opinion.

The father of Mr Bos doesn’t trust the situation and sends his son home. In the meantime everything is done to be of help to the airman - clothes and sandwiches are handed over to them. Before the Germans arrived all airmen have left the scene in the direction of Westmaas. They hide in sheds along the Blauwesteenweg. Two in a barn of Henk de Jong and two at Scherpenisse. Here they are visited by Piet Kruithoff and Jan-Willem Scherpenisse, who brought them bread and a map. After a while the airman hide in a haystack in the field, thinking this was safer.

Later that day the Germans arrive, they are infuriated. Abraham Verloop, night watch and town crier, is ordered to call all the men between 18 and 40 years of age to report at the Westmaas town hall. After this announcement is made German troops went into the surrounding fields. Witnesses tell that there were more than 350 of them, arriving with busses. Around 17:30 the first men appear on the square in Westmaas. Many of them informed as they arrive here after work.

Left: Pieter Wouter Kruijthoff ( 26-11-1911 / 19-09-1941)

Houses are being searched by the Germans, who act very brutaly, some men are beaten unconscious, being kicked or treated very harsh. Joris de Heus, one of the pilot’s helpers is beaten terribly at the school. The Germans had found pilots gear in his house, or so is told. In reality it were Dutch gas-masks remained there after the fighting in 1940. His wife and daughter are brought to the school as well.

At 02.00 all the men are still standing outside on the square. Now and then people were called in and the doors closed. Some of them could be heard screaming outside.

The Germans threaten to arrest one in ten men as they were not told who helped the airman. Later this is increased to one in five!

That night Pieter Wouter Kruithoff, Joris de Heus, Jacob van Rij, Marinus Bos and Hendrik de Jong are arrested and transported to the Haagse Veer police station at Rotterdam. They’re charged with helping the English airman. Sixteen year old Jacob van Rij was arrested at Oud-Beijerland, where he was at a concert and brought back to Westmaas. He’s accused of giving his bread to the pilots. Others involved can escape the Germans; Frans Bom goes into hiding for a while.

Cor van der Schoor is, unintentional, saved by his prospective father in law; due to the job that last one does for ‘Bureau Voedselvoorziening’, van der Schoor has to collect eggs at farms in the Hoekse Waard. (This bureau was coordinating matter concerning food rations.)

Van der Schoor sees the Germans drive into the area, and immediately understands that everything is going wrong. He drives home as fast as he can; there are still pieces of the airmen’s uniforms. When

he arrives he sees that the Germans are already at the farmyard. (The van der Schoor fruit nursery was at the Brabersweg, where the restaurant is.)

On the door of the German car is ‘Pol’, for Polizei (Police), Cor says goodbye to his fiancée who is in the car. He’s sure he will never see her again. The Germans are poking in the hay that’s behind the barn, searching for the airmen. Cor goes inside, knowing that uniforms and life jackets are still on the bed. While his father is hiding these, Cor hides in a greenhouse. The Germans search the house and barn, but do not find anything. After they have left, Cor comes out of hiding. He decides it’s the best to finish his route along the farms, as if nothing has happened. Although he’s stopped several times for control, the Germans do not arrest him.

In the meantime two of the airman are walking along the banks of the Oude Maas river and they’re looking for a place to spend the night. A bit further they see a barn, which they approach around midnight. They’re spotted by a policeman and arrested by the Germans a short while later.

Right: Arie van Steensel ( 06-09-1915 / 19-09-1941)

Walker is arrested the other morning in the barn of Leen van der Sluis at the Blauwesteenweg. All prisoners are first brought to Westmaas, later to Rotterdam.

The rest of the day is quiet, but the next day the Germans return; around ten that morning they arrive at the Blok farm. Than some more with inhabitants of Greup and surrounding farms.

Mrs Blok: “It was Saturday morning around ten. The Germans arrived with an interpreter, one from the NSB (Dutch nazi party) They entered the kitchen with their big mouths and bundles of clothes, given to the airman, on their arms. I saw a chequered cap and thought that’s from Harm Visser. One at the time the people were called in the kitchen and questioned. At the end they were told to take their clothes from the pile and go home. Some gave themselves up, the Germans already knew what they had done.

Cor van der Schoor also got arrested, he remembers that Saturday morning at the Blok farm very well: “The other day I was picked up by the Germans to be interrogated in a farm at the Kruisweg. I was punched, beaten and locked up in the hen house, but luckily released. I understand German, but kept dumb so every question had to be translated for me. This gave me time to prepare my answers. There was a document on the table with contradictory statements; one stated that I was near the plane and another that I was at the Blok farm. This fitted me very well and I was released shortly thereafter. I had given one of the airmen my beret and I saw it in the pile of clothes, but told the Germans that nothing from these clothes belonged to me.”

Left: Bastiaan Arie Barendrecht ( 18-09-1919 / 19-09-1941

In the afternoon Arie van der Stel, Jan Willem Scherpenisse, Johan Reedijk and Teunis de Reus transported to Haagsche Veer police station. That’s not the end of the arrests, as on the evening of August 10th Bastiaan Arie Barendrecht, Arie van Steensel, his brother Marinus van Steensel, Jan Visser en Cor van der Schoor are picked up and brought to Rotterdam as well.

Eventually 14 man are arrested: Bastiaan Arie Barendrecht (21), M. Bos (42), Joris de Heus (52), Henk de Jong (52), Pieter Wouter Kruithoff (29), J Reedijk (23), Teunis de Reus (44), Jacob van Rij (16), Jan-Willem Scherpenisse (29), Cor van der Schoor (19), Arie van Steensel (25), Marinus van Steensel (17), A van der Stel (60) and Jan Visser (21).

The future looks bleak for the prisoners; they’re locked up in cells in the Rotterdam police station. The interrogations are not gentle; they had to stand upright facing the wall, being beaten and kicked. Some are strangled until they lost consciousness. It’s hard to describe what they had to endure; if one wasn’t standing upright enough, they were kicked against their legs and behinds. There was no understanding that most of them were bent from the work on the fields.

On the 12th of August a hearing is held at the court at Noordsingel, Rotterdam. The prisoners will be judged by a German military tribunal, the Kriegsgericht Luftgau Holland. Cor van der Schoor, present at the lawsuit, remembers: “We were beaten into the courtroom. In the room was a platform where high ranked German officers, included General Christiansen in a grey uniform, were seated in front of huge German flags, both national and swastika. We were seated lower, with armed German soldiers left and right. Mutual contact was impossible. There we were and one sees the others, I don’t know if they realised that they will be convicted to the bullet. I also see that German soldier, with his gun, at one of the doors. When everyone was sentenced and leaded away, he was sobbing. I thought their human after all.”

The judges don’t take much time for their judgement; the punishment for assisting the enemy is death. There are no extenuating circumstances.

The suspects are allowed a final word in their defence, Arie van Steensel, cynical; “I’ve lost my leg in May and now my head. That’s very hard.”

Piet Kruithoff keeps silent, Jan Scherpenisse says: “I’m a Christian and I feed every hungry person that knocks on my door.” The judge asks if that would apply to Germans. “Off course” says Scherpenisse wholeheartedly. This will save his life.

And so the verdict is short and clear: five men get the death penalty for “favouring the enemy”. These are Arie van der Stel, Piet Kruithoff, Arie van Steensel, Bas Barendrecht and Joris de Heus.

Marinus van Steensel en Jacob van Rij gets, due to their age, 10 years imprisonment. Jan Scherpenisse, who impressed the judges with his last words, a life sentence. The others are discharged and released that same evening.

The next day, lawyers attempt to save the condemned, but to no avail, capital punishment is maintained.

In his book ‘Mensen die je niet vergeet’ the reverend J.J. Buskes, imprisoned for some months in 1941, describes his contacts with the five men from the Hoeksche Waard. It’s a touching document, describing the fear of being locked up and the last moment of a person, who must give up his life, he writes: Later that evening the silence is broken with a terrible noise. Eight men, who had helped an English pilot, somewhere near Westmaas, are brought in. Three get a life sentence and five a death sentence. These five where, like me, locked up in a cell alone. After a while it was silent again, the Germans gone. A Dutch guard, a good one, came to my cell and told me what had happened. He asked me if I would visit those sentenced to death. He would, on his own responsibility, let the cell doors unlocked. And so I visited these five men that night. The oldest was 60, the youngest 22. It was five weeks before they were executed and every morning we were aerated together and I could speak with them. I will never forget these days. They were from all churches, Bastiaan Barendrecht was the youngest. He was executed on his 22nd birthday, September 19, 1941.

The last letters from the condemned are very gripping. Bas Barendrecht was visited by reverend Visser. He had reconciled with death, his last wish was that the content of his piggy bank and wallet would be given to Bets, his father gets his bike.

The captured airman, got away with it fairly well. After interrogation they all went to POW camps. The start of four years captivity in different camps.

Five men from the hamlet Greup in Hoekschewaard have received, more than seventy years later, a monument to the resistance deeds they carried out at the beginning of World War II.

On September 19, 1941 the death sentence pronounced against Arie van der Stelt (60 years), Joris de Heus (52 years), Pieter Kruythoff (29 years), Arie van Steensel (26 years) and Bas Barendregt (22 years). Exactly 72 years later, in the presence of relatives of the resistance heroes unveiled a monument in the shape of a propeller.

By placing the monument to the resistance heroes is the story not finished. The bodies of the men have never been found, it is unknown where they were shot.

Relatives of the crew attended, to pay their respects to the Stichting 5 who paid the ultimate price for helping them in their hour of need.

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