Jan Palmans story

The occupation

Groningen in northern Netherlands was occupied by the Germans until 15th April 1945 and was then liberated by the Canadian army. The centre of the town was heavily destroyed because of the senseless refusal of the local Germans to surrender. Fires were burning everywhere, but the proud Martini tower was spared although the troops in occupation had planned to blow it up.

During the previous year, around October/November 1944, 'Prince Bernhard called, via the English radio from London, for a general strike on the entire railway network, in support of the advance of the Allied Forces. My father followed this call immediately and took the members of his household (wife, daughter 20+, son 17- and me, Jan, 15 years old) into hiding. This was why, from the beginning of 1945, our family lived at three different addresses. These had been found in the town and in the province, by the Resistance of Groningen.

 

The Resistance also supported us with money and a supply of food vouchers. On one occasion, during these eight months, Father had to move the entire household at a moments notice, on the advice of the Resistance, because the Germans had become aware of his address. They arrived one hour later but all traces of occupation had been carefully obliterated. The Resistance had been warned just in time by a trusted contact inside the notorious Scholtenshuis, where the German Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst) was housed.

 

During the days of the Canadian advance, shortly before liberation, all members of the family were gathered together in my sister-in-law's home in Groningen and that is how I was able to help as volunteer with the Fire Service in the town centre during the liberation of the town.

 

The following day we returned to our family home which we found occupied by an NSB (Dutch nazi) woman with her child. Accommodation was found for them in a nearby school. People from our neighbourhood had stored our linen at one address and household utensils at another address, for safe keeping.

 

Unfortunately the house where our household utensils were stored caught fire having been hit by a stray Canadian rocket, and our dear, elderly, neighbour, who had lost everything herself, was in tears more over our loss than her own. Ah well! Our regained freedom was worth more to us than any earthly goods, even if we had only the clothes we stood in.

 

Now we were waiting for the hoped for return of my two elder brothers from Germany (both married, and resp.24 and 26 years old). The older of the two was imprisoned in Hannover on suspicion (justified) of helping the secret Resistance of the Dutch and Poles in that town. My other brother was in a concentration camp as "political delinquent", I believe somewhere near Osnabrück. Reason for detention: being an active member of the resistance in Groningen. Two of his companions were killed when they were being pursued.

 

These young people were also friends of mine, and when it became necessary, I was able to shelter one of them in our summer house beyond the so called Stadspark of Groningen, in the direction of Peizermade. Fortunately both of my brothers were released and came home, but my very much thinner "Resistance brother" had several badly inflamed wounds which required attention from the hospital. They died eventually aged respectively 55 and 53 years

Those are the scars of war

Jan Palmans
October 2002

 

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