Jan van der Tuin

(NB: His wife: Antje van der Tuin Bijlsma;  his sister in law: Maaike de Kroon Bijlsma)

"It is worth mentioning the fact that none of the families that sheltered us would accept payment from us for expenses and that they had in every respect taken extremely good care of us."

My first contact with underground activity was in May, 1944, when Jacob Kuipers from Wolvega visited me to find places for two Jewish children.

Our domestic situation changed when we received a twenty year old Jewish girl into our house; the story told was that she was a niece. Strangers never had the slightest suspicion about it. Her stay could unfortunately not be more than a half year, because we had quite a small house and insufficient sleeping quarters.

A little late, about mid-November, 1944, I received a visit from Jan van der Veer from Wolvega, who came to ask if I could hide weapons and ammunition for the underground. Notwithstanding the fact that my wife objected to this, I took the task upon myself. She supported the goal, but was afraid of the inherent danger. It was agreed that the material would be brought a couple of days later between seven and eight o’clock in the evening by a couple of people from town, with assistance from a number of policemen.

A couple of days later, Jeep Kroondijk, Jan Kooistra and policemen Carper, Caro en Koopmans appeared. The next day, Jan Kooistra would return with someone else to inspect the material. During the inspection, I quickly noted that the other person was a real professional soldier. It appeared to be Mr. Wierda.

On the attic above the kitchen, a bag with explosives was hidden. These had lain in the water during transport by a small boat and had to dry out for a couple of days in the attic. Later, the explosives would be checked to see if they were still usable.

I had tried to find a safer place but this appeared to be practically impossible because there was no other dry suitable place, that the enemy would not be able to find. Thus, the material remained in the same place.

A little later, the weapons were polished and greased in the stable by Henk Oord, Willem Keetman, Roelof Koning and Bauke Span. The children were sent on an errand that day to my brother in law.

In this way, everything remained calm until the time, on February 9 at 8:30 in the morning, my sister in law from Wolvega came with the news: "Kuipers came by and what is in your house has be disposed of. Throw it in the ditch if need be. You also have to get away, because the Germans could well come by today. They have already been in Wolvega and have taken Bonny Biersma with them."

Immediately thereafter with the help of my wife I threw everything in the ditch, which was about one hundred metres away from our house. There was really no time to think of where elsewhere the material could be hidden from the Germans. While we were busy with this, my sister in law stayed with the children. When the work was done, my sister in law left. She took a bottle of milk with her. She regularly came to us for this purpose. I returned to see if there were any traces left over from our work. I found a few instructions that had fallen out of a bag during the hasty disposal. Immediately after I had cleared this up, I saw my sister in law coming back quickly on her bicycle calling: "Make sure that you get away, because they are coming." Immediately, I heard and saw a German car arriving from a distance of a couple hundred metres.

Now, behind our house there was a hedge behind which was a field which was about one hundred metres wide and further hedges and fields. This gave me the possibility to quickly get out of the sight of the Germans. I quickly made my escape on foot. In this flight, I lost a wooden shoe after which I had to go through a couple more ditches and barbed wire fences. Finally I came to another farm, where I felt I could trust the farmer. In a few words, I told him about the danger and threat. I soon received another wooden shoe and was given a shovel to go a little further to hunt moles and to level mole hills.

In the meantime, I paid close attention to the surroundings. It did not take long before I saw the Germans walking around another farm building, which was a couple hundred metres away. Because I continued to work, they gave no thought to me and left a short time later. In the meantime, I went further away from my house, because I did not trust the area. A couple of hours later I came to a trustworthy acquaintance; I asked him to check with my sister in law how things had turned out at home. He came back with the news that nothing had been found and that the Germans had already left a short time before.

At this point I went back home. It was already past one o’clock. Following this, I went by bicycle to a cousin in Oldelamer.

It appeared later that we had been very fortunate. We lived on a sand road, which was almost one kilometre from the paved road. The Germans had first gone to another farm. This had kept them occupied for a quarter hour. Possibly this was intended by their prisoner to give us some extra time, but we will never know for certain.

(Military Authority: Do not ride on military vehicles because you will thus cause slowdowns in Military traffic and cause difficulties for drivers, which is punishable by transport.)

There had been a total of ten or eleven men at our place, while a couple of men with a transport truck stayed on the paved road to wait. When they came to our place, they had a man in chains with them, with whom they directly went to the shed where the weapons had been hidden. My wife immediately understood that she could no longer pretend ignorance. The imprisoned person later appeared to have been Mr. Wierda. That my wife did not recognize him was because he was completely chained up.

After a long search, they finally came to talk to my wife. Their first question was what my sister in law was doing at our place. Fortunately she could show them her milk bottle. She was still not allowed to leave. They then asked my wife where the branches which had covered the weapons in the shed had been moved. My wife answered: "Oh, they have been gone for a long time. They were only here for one night. It was far too dangerous for us, I don’t know where they are." Then they naturally asked where they were now and who had taken them away and if they had been removed with a wagon. To this, my wife answered that she did not know because they were removed at night, because otherwise we would have been able to betray these people. During this, a German found my identity card and then they said to my wife that I could come on Tuesday to Crackstate (German HQ in Heerenveen) to get it back. If I then told them the truth, nothing further would happen to me. If I did not come they would burn our house down. After much questioning and searching, they left after a couple of hours. They took with them butter, bacon and a pig which had just been slaughtered the previous day, which we were to share with my sister in law. Following this, on the same evening, my wife left to stay with acquaintances in Wolvega. On the same evening, our most important household goods were removed by relatives and neighbours, loaded on a wagon and delivered the next day to the house of Jeep Kroondijk in Nijeholtpade. A couple of days later, all the cattle was removed early in the morning by the underground and helpers and brought to farms in Oldelamer. I was at that time in Oldelamer, but the following morning, Henk Oord and Gerrit Spiele came by at six o’clock to tell me that my wife and children were in Wolvega and that the household goods had been stored safely.

That same evening a photo was made of me for the purpose of making a new identity card and so a few days later I became J. van der Laan, farmer and cattle dealer, evacuated from Meijel (Limburg). Also my wife’s identity card was changed so that it matched my card.

Henk Oord brought me to Oldeberkoop a week later at A. J. Schotanus’ house, where my wife and youngest son had arrived the previous day. Both older children had been brought to my parents in law in Oldeouwer, because it had become too dangerous to keep them with us because they could say too much. After we had been there for five weeks, Germans arrived in three cars. Our first thought was naturally that they were coming for us, because we knew that the Germans in Wolvega had a spy whose task was to find us and who we knew had also been to visit family members. For a certain time a search had been made to find another place for us, but nothing satisfactory had been found.

There were already two fugitives at Schotanus’ place. One was twenty years old and Mr. P. Meerse from Witteveen (Dr.), who had been freed from the prison in Assen in November and was passing for Jan Oosterweg, evacuee from Arnhem.

Immediately, the three of us were lined up against a wall and asked for our names. They asked where Meijel was. Fortunately I had previously memorized this information. They believed us and did not ask to see our identity papers. They then asked one of us about Adam Vondeling, a relative of Schotanus, from which they concluded that he was there. None of us knew anything about this. During the search of the house, nothing suspicious was found, so they left, to our great relief. Another fortunate circumstance was that they did not see my wife, because the same men who had questioned her at home also did the search of the house. They would likely have recognized her.

It was now the time for us to leave Oldeberkop as soon as possible, because if the Germans returned it would likely turn out much worse for us. As a result, my wife left that same morning with the youngest child for her parents’ place, where both older children already were and she stayed there until liberation. In the afternoon, I was taken by a courier from Wolvega and brought to Pier Dijkstra’s place in Hoornsterzwaag; I barely stayed there for twenty four hours, because that same morning the Germans arrived to take Dijkstra away, but because he had recently been warned, he had been able to get away. It was thus also not safe for me, so the same courier brought me at L. O. van Spin’s place in Ter Idzard the following evening; he in his turn brought me to Cornelis Groen’s place. Because this was too close to Wolvega, I again had to move a couple days later, but they first had to find a new place for me. This took another fourteen days. Then I received news that they had found a place for me in Nieuwehorne. After some consultation, I made the choice however to stay in the same place, because the Canadians had already arrived in Drenthe. In this way, my short occupation as fugitive came to an end. It is worth mentioning the fact that none of the families that sheltered us would accept payment from us for expenses and that they had in every respect taken extremely good care of us.

Jan van der Tuin

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