In May 1946, a team of the Netherlands Red Cross conducted research in the British Occupation Zone in Germany and collected information of Dutch people who were in German prisons during the war. They appear to have mainly collected information from the Penitentiary (Zuchthaus) in Celle, but did not collect information from the Wolfenbüttel prison. The information they collected included lists of Dutch people who have been in the Celle disciplinary house and their destination afterwards, and of Dutch people who have been in the prison hospital. They have collected, apparently, prison files of the Dutch, because these files are now almost all at the NIOD in Amsterdam. I tried to find more information on the Dutchmen who are listed to have left Celle on April 6, 1945, assuming that they left for the prison of Wolfenbüttel. Wolfenbüttel was sometimes explicitely mentioned as their destination.
For my search I used the many possibilities that the internet offers. I searched through old newspapers, magazines and books on the Delpher site of the Dutch Royal Library. I consulted archives where personal data from the civil registry can be recovered, for example through Open Archives or Wiewaswie. The online archive of Arolsen Archives also provided information. In addition, I looked around genealogical sites. I also tried to make direct contact with people who had to be related to one of the men on the lists. In some cases with success. And I posted, to no avail, messages on Facebook sites of groups interested in local history or in the history of the Second World War. Not everything is available online: people born less than 100 years ago are usually shielded unless they have been dead for more than 50 years. Also the lists from Celle provide a date of birth, but not always. And some on the lists without a date of birth have a very common first and last names, making it difficult to identify the right person. I counted 24 Dutch persons on the lists from Celle. The files of 22 or 23 of them are archived at the NIOD. The Germans sometimes made mistakes when spelling names. I have checked them one by one: what can we find out about them? I soon encountered a number of problems. First of all: when are you a Dutchman? You would expect that to be simple. But nothing could be less true.
Let’s start with Gerhard Tülk. He was born in the German town of Nordhorn on May 18, 1921, where he was raised by his grandparents. So you would say that he has the German nationality. But it is explicitly stated in his Celle file that he is a Dutchman. This seems to indicate that his father was a Dutchman. Tulk is a common surname in some Dutch regions, for example in Weerselo, not far from Nordhorn. Gerhard started working as Hilfsarbeiter (‘auxiliary worker’) in a factory at the age of 14, in Nordhorn. He is also listed as a Dutchman on documents in the Arolsen Archives. When he was arrested as a Kriegswirtschaftsverbrecher (‘war economic criminal’, usually referred to as black traders) in 1944, his address at arrest is Jacobsstrasse 4 in Hanover. He was sentenced for two years and nine months in prison in September that year. He had been convicted before, of Wilddieberei, so poaching, in May 1942.
Jan Willem van Arkel does not have a file with the NIOD. He was a Dutchman, born in Driebergen in 1894, who had emigrated to Germany. In Bremen he was involved in the trade in and certification of rare stamps. He was a valued employee of the Friedemann catalogue. On the internet I found a letter written by him with the date 1950. His address is then Georg Grönningstrasse 88c in Bremen. I found no further details of him on Dutch websites.
Herbert Stahl was born Herbert Heinrich Jacques on August 12, 1921. He was born in Rotterdam and grew up there, but he was German, because his father came from Germany. His father was the Hanover-born sailor and port worker Heinrich Karl Hermann Konrad Gottfried Stahl (Karl Stahl Sr.), his mother Esther Vreeland, who came from a family of Jewish hawkers and musicians, traveling from fairground to fairground. After primary school, Herbert was trained as a locksmith. He lived with his parents in Sint Mariastraat 38, after the family home in Lijnbaanstraat was destroyed in the bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940. Herbert was recruited as a German soldier in the Wehrmacht on 25 March 1943. Probably before he joined the Wehrmacht, he was working in an overhaul workshop of Lufthansa in Schkeuditz, given a document in the Arolsen Archives. He became a grenadier in 1944, in Panzer Regiment 79 on 20 April, but three days later he was arrested for Fahnenflucht (desertion).
It must have been then that he has heard that his brother Karl had been killed on the Eastern Front. Karl was killed as a German soldier at Odessa on 4 March 1944. Herbert was sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour, which seems to be a light sentence for desertion. This punishment was supposed to start the day the war ended. In the meantime he was imprisoned in Kattowitz, after that in the prison camp in Brual-Rhede, Emsland (near the Dutch town Winschoten), but as a son of a Volljüdin they did not want him there. Therefore he was probably brought to the Penitentiary in Celle already.
The obituary for brother Karl Jr. did not mention his Jewish mother’s name, nor that of his brother and sisters who no longer lived in the family house. Two brothers and two sisters of mother Esther Vreeland were still alive when the war broke out. Three of them were murdered at Auschwitz. Likewise, countless cousins and other family members were murdered. One of Herbert’s cousins was Jetty (Henriette) Cantor. Before the war she became famous as a violinist, actress and comedian from a very young age. She was part of the famous Kurhaus cabaret of Louis Davids, and the ensemble of Ernst Busch. In Berlin she made records. She was imprisoned in Concentration Camp Westerbork in 1942, where she became part of the German Jewish ensemble of Max Ehrlich. She was transported to Theresienstadt in August 1944, and from there to Auschwitz. She survived Auschwitz, but was transported to Bergen-Belsen, not far from Celle prison. The 6th or the 7th of April 1945, she was put on a train to Theresienstadt. She managed to escape by jumping off the train, broke both her legs, was liberated by the Americans in Budweiss (Budějovice). On the end of July she gave her first postwar concerts in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, on crutches.
Karl Stahl jr. was married to Maria van der Buuse. She was arrested for an unknown reason in July 1943, imprisoned in ‘Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch’ (the SS concentration camp Vught) and taken to a German concentration camp later. She survived the war. Her father remarried Esther Vreeland’s sister, Alida Vreeland. She, too, survived the Holocaust. Karl and Maria’s three sons were forcibly placed in a German foster home during the war.
It seems that Herbert Stahl did not survive the transport or, more likely, died during the days after his arrival in Wolfenbüttel prison. He wouldn’t have had any papers with him. Chances are that, he has never been identified. Family members never heard of him, so there was no contact after the war between him and his parents. There are no known photos of him. I can’t find a death record or obituary anywhere.
The numbers of the next eight inmates are close to each other in the prison book, suggesting they were ‘booked’ into Celle at the same time. Of three of them, it is certain that they ended up in the Celle Penitentiary, from Hameln via Hannover and Hamburg (according to a letter by Waller), a trip that began with the departure from the prison in the Gansstraat in Utrecht, on 6 September 1944 (the day after Dolle Dinsdag, Mad Tuesday, the day that the Germans and their collaborators panicked because of the advance of the allied forces). Were the other five also from these Utrecht prison? Were they all political prisoners? Or were there ‘criminals’ amongst them?
Jan Bruco Broekema, born in 1907, was a reserve first lieutenant in the artillery. He was chief of staff of the Orde Dienst (Order Service or OD), a resistance organization founded at the beginning of the war by senior military personnel to maintain order in consultation with the occupying forces. But the OD began to play a resistance role due to contacts with the government in London. The OD was constantly plagued by treason during the war. Many members were arrested, sentenced to long prison sentences or even executed. Broekema was arrested in April 1944 and sentenced to 15 years for Feindbegünstigung (favoring the enemy). He was transported to Germany from the Gansstraat prison in Utrecht the day after Mad Tuesday.
E-mail from Menno Broekema, 24-9-2020: “Our father has been in about ten disciplinary houses, prisons and camps, three in the Netherlands since March 1944, and from mid-September seven in Germany with – as far as Germany is concerned – Hans Waller. I do think in separate cells, although I’m not sure. Father was suddenly put on transport by train at night in mid-September 1944, I think from Utrecht, with many others. Father thought this had to do with Arnhem because earlier that same day an armada of Allied aircraft flew east. The Penitentiary (Zuchthaus) in Anrath was the first German Penitentiary to be visited (16 – 26 Sep 1944). The movements to other prisons deeper in Germany were a result of the advance of the allied forces. In addition to the name Hans Waller, I came across the name of Andries Graafhuis, with whom father was in the hospital of the prison after the liberation by the ninth American army. A British officer has asked them both to be transferred to a hospital at their request, as they were no longer able to walk, so that they would re-join them after their recovery at Brunswick Camp”.
Jan Bruco’s wife wrote a book about the resistance activities of her and her husband, published in 1995. In this book she states that her husband was moved further and further east, through the infamous ‘death marches’ after the imprisonment in Utrecht. “In bitter cold, barely food, clothes and footwear, they trudge along, for hours. Many succumbed, fell down and were shot dead.” Eventually he arrived in Wolfenbüttel, where he was liberated by the Americans. The latter is of course true. The transports from one prison to the other were horrific, but mostly not as serious as the aforementioned death marches.
Andries Graafhuis (See De Jong, 6: 195; 7: 951, 952n, 977, 981) was one of the founders of the Council of Resistance (Raad van Verzet, RVV). The initiative for the RVV originally came from circles of the OD. Graafhuis was an employee of the OD radio service. He was also a member of Fiat Libertas. The leaders of that group, including father and son Graafhuis, were arrested in 1943 and 1944, and sentenced to death in July 1944. They were imprisoned in the Gansstraat prison in Utrecht. The executions were delayed. The group was taken to German prisons the day after Mad Tuesday. They were lucky: their files were missing. They had become ‘Häftlinge ohne Papiere‘ (prisoners without documents).
Graafhuis emigrated to the United States in 1953 (Grand Rapids), a fact that was found to be newsworthy (Algemeen Dagblad, 5 January 1953). The caption accompanying the photo states that he was freed by the Americans just before he was to be executed in a German concentration camp. However, that concentration camp was the prison at Wolfenbüttel. His daughter Bertha claims in the Evening Standard in Washington in November 1955 that her father was freed by the Americans a week before he was to be shot, and that he had been in Buchenwald. Both of these claims do not appear to be correct. Graafhuis died in Arnhem in 1982. He was the father of resistance hero Wubbo ‘Bob’ Graafhuis. (See also: De Jong, 7, part 2, p. 950-952n, 977n)
Joannes Deodatus (John, Hans) Waller, born in 1906, was director of the Amsterdam Superphosphate Factory (now ICL Fertilizers). He was a member of Fiat Libertas (See De Jong, passim). He and other members of the group were arrested and imprisoned in the prison of Scheveningen on 1 April 1944. In June he was transferred to the prison in the Gansstraat in Utrecht and, at the beginning of July, was tried. There were 11 death sentences, but Waller was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison. On 6 September he was taken to Germany with almost all of the prison population, from one prison to the other. On 16 December he arrived at the Penitentiary in Celle, where he resided until the transport of 6 April 1945 to Wolfenbüttel.
Gommert Traas was born in Rilland on 24 April 1885. He was working in the fields near Rilland-Bath when a British plane crashed in the nearby Scheldt in June 1943. A crew member managed to save himself with the parachute, hiding among the horse beans, where he was found by farmer Traas the next day. Traas brought him water and bread, took care of his injured foot and took him to a shed, and soon after brought him to his home. The Englishman stayed there for six weeks until he was picked up by resistance fighter Sam Buijs to take him across the Belgian border. Before passing that border they were arrested. It emerged that they had been betrayed by the German deserter Fransz Still. Traas’ son was first arrested in September. Gommert himself was arrested the next day. Father Traas partly confessed to get his son out. He was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in Utrecht on 1 July 1944. That sentence was converted to 10 years of hard labor on August 8. More than likely he belonged to the prisoners from the Gansstraat prison, who were transported the day after Mad Tuesday: he made the same trip Waller mentions in a letter in 1961, although a newspaper report, dated 19 May 1945, records that he ended up in Celle from Wolfenbüttel (the other way around), where he was allegedly liberated by the British on 19 April 1945. That can’t be true. I assume that the journalist who spoke to Traas after his liberation made a mistake. He returned home on 10 May, 1945. Traas obtained the Resistance Commemoration Cross. In 1955 he died in a institution in Flushing (Vlissingen), where he was admitted, because he was mentally broken by the Germans.
Pieter (Piet) van de Geest was born in Ede on the 21th of February 1908. He became a German teacher and dean at a school in Goes. He was also a major in the army reserve. He was a member of the OD and was one of the creators of the calvinist resistance newspaper Trouw. He was also part of the Zeeland branch of ‘Dienst Wim’, a resistance group that fell into the hands of the Germans thanks to the notorious traitor Anton van der Waals. However, he was tried together with those arrested by the betrayal of the German deserter Fransz Still. He was sentenced to life in prison, converted to ten years, for Feindbegünstigung. He too was transported the day after Mad Tuesday to finally end up in Celle. He received the Resistance Commemoration Cross.
It is a lot more difficult to find traces of transport participants who were not convicted for political reasons. These will be men who were convicted as criminals. Often it was because they had done something wrong as a forced laborer. They often came from poor to very poor environments. Their birth was not reported in a newspaper. Some have left no genealogical trail on the internet. The records of those born after 1920 are not yet public in online archives. Some also have common names, which makes searching difficult, especially if no year of birth is known. There’s a thick dividing line running through the group of prisoners. Political prisoners who wrote about their incarceration in German prisons or camps often complain about the presence of ‘criminals’ they did not appreciate.
Petrus and Johannes Jacobus Severin were two brothers from Amsterdam. Both were convicted of sabotage and Feindbegünstigung, but also left their mark in Amsterdam police reports from the war. Johannes Jacobus was born in 1925. He went to work at the age of fourteen, first as an apprentice baker at bakery Verbeek, and then as a cook at Dikker and Thijs, still found in Amsterdam. During the war he became a cook in the Volkskeuken. Four times he was registered in the police reports of Amsterdam, but why he was arrested (if at all) is not (yet) public. His brother Petrus was born on August 4, 1918. He started working as a butcher after primary school, at butchery Lus on Boerhaaveplein, until his arrest. At least that’s what he reported when he was admitted to Celle. But he cited poulterer and potato workers as jobs at the military service inspection a few years earlier. He was a beetroot cooker and concrete worker during the war. Petrus was arrested several times in Amsterdam during the war years: for violating the curfew, for thefts, once for fornication with a minor. There’s no word on possible convictions. During a red act at a burglary, 8 cents were found on him. That couldn’t have been a successful job. His father was also imprisoned several times for burglaries. In 1943 Peter applied for a passport for France. On March 21, 1944, both brothers were sentenced to 10 years of disciplinary prison by the Gericht des Marinebefehlhabers in die Niederlanden (the court of the German naval commander in the Netherlands) for Feindbegünstigung and sabotage. That court was in a school building on the Plompetorengracht in Utrecht. Johannes did so out of patriotism, he claimed. According to his file his brother claimed the same, so for political reasons. Both prison files are small. In that of Johannes are notes with permission to family members for visitation, provided on behalf of the naval commander. Both brothers will have ended up in prison in the Gansstraat in Utrecht until the day after Mad Tuesday. They arrived in Celle from the Penitentiary in Lüttringhausen via Hannover on 16 December 1944. At the end of May 1945 they were listed on a list of political prisoners from concentration camps in Lüttringhausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Rochenberg and Siegburg, released by Herrijzend Nederland. A few days later they were called “ex-political prisoners” in the communist newspaper De Waarheid, who were liberated from prison camps at (among others) Celle, Buchenwald, Dachau.
Antonius Adrianus Christiaan Huppelschoten, born in 1918 in Utrecht in 1918, was sentenced to 6 years of hard labor for theft of army mail. There is no prison number for him in the archives. Did he belong to the group covered above, coming from the prison in Utrecht? He is also on the list of returned political prisoners published in newspapers in May 1945. At one point he was in the Repatriation Hospital in Maastricht.
Andries Kooi was born in Sneek in 1923. At one point in his life he lives in the Javastraat in Amsterdam. He applies for a passport there, he is on a list of forced laborers from Amsterdam. But these sources aren’t public. No further information could be found.
Johannes de Koning came from Rotterdam, where he was born in 1924. He was sentenced to a year and a half for disorderly conduct. He lives in the Groningerstraat at the end of 1946. He then offers a drum kit for sale. There’s no more information about him.
Arie van Spronsen, born in Loosduinen on April 15, 1921, was a postal worker in Loosduinen, where he lived in the Vianderstraat. At some point he is employed by the Reichspost in the post office in Hanover. He was accommodated at Grosse Packhofstrasse 24. At that address, Dutch PTT’ers were housed in the Holländische Postlager. In a letter from December 1942 they complained to their Dutch bosses about the appalling housing and food situation. Van Spronsen moved to Pertzstrasse 17 in February 1943, where my father Cornelis Kentie also lived. He ended up in the Nordstadt hospital in early 1944, but returned home after a week, which was then the (no longer existing) Misburgerdamm 64. He was arrested for stealing parcels around August 1944 and he was sentenced by the Sondergericht Hannover (Special Court) as Volksschädling (pest for the people) to 1 year and 3 months in prison on 1 September 1944. He ended up in Celle’s Penitentiary, where he had to pay for a lost dishcloth in October that year. He left Germany on May 6, 1945. On the internet one can find a photo, taken of PTT’ers in front of the post office in Loosduinen in 1945. One of the post workers would be Arie van Spronsen.
Arie de Man was born in Rotterdam in1924, but lived in Schiedam in the Buys Ballotstraat. He was probably in camp (PDL = Polizei Durchgangs Lager) Amersfoort at some point. This was an SS-run camp, where political but also other prisoners were imprisoned. Especially arrested people in hiding who tried to escape employment ended up there. De Man was supposed to be transported to LAA Brandenburg, but an archive map from Arolsen says: ‘did not leave’. He ended up in Celle, probably in late 1944 given his prison number, and was admitted to the prison hospital there because of hemorrhoids.
Gerardus Verbeek is a post office worker from Haarlem, where he was born on January 14, 1921. On 6 January 1944 he was sentenced by the Sondergericht Hannover to 1 year 6 months hard labor as a Volksschädling for repeated theft. Verbeek followed three years of gymnasium after primary school, and then started working as an accountant. He was employed by the Reichspost in Hanover in July 1943. He lived there in the Lager Vahrenwald, a camp for forced laborers at Stader Chaussee 6, once an SA Riding School. He allegedly stole mail because he was hungry.
Dirk Veeninga was born in Emmen on April 4, 1922. He went to school until he was 13 and then went to work for a farmer. Once he’s listed as a peat worker. In August 1943 he was sent to Hannover, where he was put to work as Aushilfsgepäckarbeiter (auxiliary baggage worker) on the Reichsbahn. He was arrested for theft on September 22 1944, He then lived in a camp on Hindenburgstrasse in Lehrte. On December 8, 1944, He was sent to the Penitentiary in Celle on December 8, 1944 .
Sjoerd van der Meulen from Terwispel was probably born in the municipality of Opsterland, of which Terwispel is a part, on March 7 1909. But in the Arolsen Archives another one with that name is registered, born in 1922.
Arend Hoekveen from Vlaardingen was born on January 2, 1913, and sentenced to 3 years for possession of a weapon. If I identified the right person, he emigrated to Australia, where he died in 1973.
Herman Habing. The archives don’t contain a Herman Habing. It may be Henricus Habing, but there are at least three of them in Arolsen. Habing was from Emmen, was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months for aggravated theft.
Arend Veneman was born in Zwollerkerspel on March 13, 1884 . Both parents were shoemakers. He never went to school and went to work at the age of 10 employed by a farmer. He moved to Germany seven years later, where he practiced all kinds of different professions. He returned to the Netherlands now and then. In 1916 he was sentenced in the Netherlands to six months in prison. In prison, he learned to read and write. In 1939 he moved back to Germany and settled in the village Senne II. He was married to Bertha Schutzeigel from Iserloh. He was sentenced to an unknown penitentiary sentence for child abuse (§ 176 Ziff. 3 StGB) by the Jugendschutzkammer (Youth Protection Chamber) Bielefeld on 26 May 1941. He was locked up in the Penitentiary in Celle. In February 1944 he asked for a Dutch Bible: he could not read German. His wife was once banned from visiting because she had criticized the sentence. He died on May 25, 1945 in Wolfenbüttel, potentially in the prison.
Peter Stuivenberg from The Hague is on the list of returned political prisoners, dated 20 May 1945 and published in newspapers a few days later. There is a prison file of a Pieter Stuyvenberg at the NIOD. This Pieter is from Polsbroek and was convicted of stealing 9 chickens. There is no file of a Peter Stuivenberg from The Hague at the NIOD and none in the archives of the city of The Hague. I don’t have a date of birth. At least two people named Pieter Stuivenberg from The Hague are eligible.
Johannes Antonius Maassen was born in Millingen on January 9, 1920, if I identified the right person. A document from the Arolsen Archives reports that he was imprisoned on 17 February 1945. Where that was is not clear.
Cornelis Kentie, my father, was born in Rotterdam on September 28, 1919. At 14, he went to work, probably as an office and/or warehouse clerk. He was made a prisoner of war and taken to Stargard II D in Pomerania almost immediately after the Germans invaded on 10 May 1940. He returned home on June 6. On May 15, 1941, he joined the PTT (Dutch Mail) as an auxiliary author. He was sent to Hannover on 19 November 1942. He came to work at the main post office and was housed in a camp in Schierholzstrasse. After complaints from Dutch postworkers, he and others were housed in a new construction for the Fernmeldedienst in the Pertzstrasse in Kleefeld. He was arrested there on April 7, 1943. In his suitcases were 47 stamped address cards of mail packages he had opened: military mail containing mainly cakes and biscuits for soldiers stationed at the front. He was sentenced to death by the Sondergericht Hannover as a Volksschädling on 21 May. Pending his execution, he was imprisoned in Wolfenbüttel prison, where death sentences were carried out. On September 10 that year his sentence was changed to 10 years of hard labor. He was put to work. At the beginning of June 1944 he was transferred to the Penitentiary in Celle, where he arrived on 9 June. Immediately after the liberation of Wolfenbüttel prison on April 11, he walked to Hanover, where he was admitted to the Ricklingen Hospital (Krankenhaus Siloah). Four weeks later, on May 9, he went with a transport to Eindhoven. He returned home to his parents on the Noorderhavenkade in Rotterdam on 12 June.
No post-war signs of life could be found of at least six people. Does that mean they died on the way or in Wolfenbüttel prison? The latter is quite possible: many prisoners must have died from illness, exhaustion, abuse. Not much is known about this period in the prison. But I think they’re more likely not to be found online. Civil registry records are only public if persons were born more than 100 years ago or died more than 50 years ago. Four of the six were born in or after 1921. I have not been able to identify two out of six exactly: I do not know their date of birth.
- Lou de Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog 1939-1945. ‘s-Gravenhage: Staatsuitgeverij, 1969-1991. 14 delen in 29 banden plus een register.
- Carla Rus, Breekbare helden; het verzet in Zeeland 1940-1944. Goes: Het Paard van Troje, 2019.
- ‘Uit Duitsche gevangenschap teruggekeerd’. In: Provinciale Zeeuwsche Courant, 19-5-1945;
- Sieke Broekema-Kruize, Een familie in verzet; het verhaal van Aagje’s Hoeve in Blaricum, het huis met de beschermengel 1940-1945. Blaricum: Historische Kring Blaricum, 1995;
- Algemeen Dagblad, 5 January 1953;
- The Evening Star, 11 October 1955;
- Vrije Stemmen, 14 May 1945;
- John Waller, ‘Sommerweste Für Starke Figuren’. In: Fisons Journal, January 1946;
- Het Vrije Volk, 5 December 1946;
- Deutsche Zeitung in der Niederlände, 26-4-1944.
- Arolsen Archives;
- Databank Oorlogsslachtoffers Zeeland;
- Stadsarchief Amsterdam;
- Stadsarchief Rotterdam;
© Theo Kentie (with help from Martin Kentie and Rosemarie Kentie).