Today I visited the Noord-Hollands Archief in Haarlem. One of my clients asked me to look for some documents about his great-grandfather who lived for more than five years in psychiatric hospitals. After my trip to the archives, I drove from Haarlem to Zandvoort to see the North Sea beach. It is a beautiful way through the dunes, with big villa’s in villages with names like Heemstede, Aerdenhout, Overveen and Bloemendaal. Somewhere halfway I saw a sign: war cemetery. I decided to take the exit, followed a muddy road and parked my car. At the beginning of a path through the dunes I found an information panel and I started to read about the history of Eerebegraafplaats Bloemendaal.
In the summer of 1945, shortly after the official end of World War II in the Netherlands, locals found six locations with not less than 45 burial pits. A total of 422 human bodies was discovered. It became clear: the Germans had executed approximately 100 persons in the dunes, the others were executed in Amsterdam or in other places and were buried in the dunes. Some families decided to rebury their relatives in local cemeteries but 372 people got a decent grave at the war cemetery of Bloemendaal. I walked around at the cemetery and I thought: 372 people, probably fighting for their country, executed secretly, and dumped in the dunes. I saw their names: Hissink, van der Sloot, Peper, Miedema, Molenkamp, Roemer, Broeckman, van Gilse. And I saw their ages: 31, 33, 24, 28, 37… most of them in their twenties, thirties or maybe forties. Who were they, what did they do in their pre-war life and what was the reason for their execution? Fortunately there is a website for this war cemetery with a description and picture for each victim.
For example. Antoine Theodore (Toon) Broeckman (1911-1943) sold paintings, often in France. For a short period he was a soldier in the Dutch army, and since 1942 he was a member of the resistance. He had great technical knowledge and helped to fabricate (illegal) radio devices. In June 1943, he was involved in a hold-up of a transport of ration coupons and other documents. He was arrested by the German police and sentenced to death. He was executed on 1 October 1943.
Another victim: Maarten van Gilse (1916-1943), a journalist and writer. Together with musicians and artists he started an illegal newspaper named De Vrije Kunstenaar (The Free Artist). He helped the resistance with the distribution of ration coupons and illegal publications. He was a master forger, specialized in creating fake identity cards. He was arrested in Amsterdam in July 1943, sentenced to death and executed on 1 October 1943. His grave is next to that of Toon Broeckman.
All victims are males, except for one. The only woman buried at this war cemetery is Hannie Schaft (1920-1945). She became one of the most famous members of the Dutch resistance, and is known by her nick name ‘the girl with the red hair’. Hannie was a law student at Amsterdam University. She helped Jewish families: by providing (stolen) identity cards or finding secret hiding places. Her activities for the resistance became more severe: from transporting money, illegal publications, ration coupons, identity papers and weapons to executing ‘wrong’ Dutchmen (collaborating with the Germans) and bombing bridges and trains. She was arrested in March 1945, interrogated for days and finally executed. She died on 17 April 1945, only 18 days before Liberation Day!
Wow… 372 graves, each grave for a person with a very impressive story. They all deserve their stories and photographs published on this website. Please, take a look at it to pay respect to them all. Take a look, even though the website is only available in Dutch.