Interview with Frederik Kroese

Title

Interview with Frederik Kroese

Description

Frederik Willem Kroese describes his work for the Resistance in the Netherlands following the German occupation.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-08-29

Contributor

Julie Williams
Mal Prissick

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:59:37 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AKroeseFW170829

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

RVDP: I am Ron Van de Put, IBCC volunteer, about to interview Mr Frederik Willem Kroese who took part in the resistance as a member of team oft hulp aan during the Second World War. Mr Kroese was, among other things, involved in making and disseminating fake IDs, secret messages, transporting arms and ammunition and helping aircrew escape from the Germans and cross the border to safety. Mr Kroese, thank you very much for agreeing on doing this interview. As a start could you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
FK: Yes. Thank you, Mr Van de Put. I was born in 1924 and when I was sixteen the war started in my country. I awake one morning in May 1940 when the bridge near my home was blown up and when the Germans came in. I was too young to do something at that moment but it was not so that from the first day the Germans were in the Netherlands everything was wrong. Every time it became a bit more worse. That there were things the Jews couldn’t do, as a people couldn’t do [railway man?] and so and so when the war went, got farther we more remarked that we had to do something and as a little group we couldn’t fight to Germans but what we could do was to make more — less safe the Germans in being in our country. And so, giving them little stitches. When I was in the third, third year of the war I got a message on Friday to report on Tuesday at the office with a small bag with clothes and toothpaste to go to work in Germany and that was, for me, the moment that I thought — no. That will not be. As you don’t know directly a place to dive, to hide yourself I first went to a friend who was sure as he was following a course for the school teachers he was safe not to be called up by the Germans. I got there but it was a house near the school, my secondary school, where two hundred Germans lived and I was at four metre from them to hide me. The things I did there was pulling potatoes and making coffee and other things. Quite boring. So, I was glad that a man who brought us two hundred copies of a secret volkpaper said to me, ‘Would you come to my place there in the resistance and you could do good work. ’ I said, ‘Oh yes. Please.’ And I went there. Afterwards, I realised me, that the man who asked me that was the son of the particular, particular secretary of Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina but in war we were just friends. We became friends to fight to enlarge the [pause] to make it the Germans more danger. More difficult to do what they intended to do. So, I started in 1943 at the place [Oldpaten?] and what we call landgoed [?] near my native town.
RVDP: So, an estate.
KR: An estate.
RVDP: Yes.
KR: And seventeen hectares and I could do interesting work and work which made the work of the Germans difficult. First, I became head of the correspondence and connecting group. There were thirteen what we call couriersters. Girls between seventeen and twenty-five who were selected to bring reports from all very little towns to me so that I could bring them farther so that the BBC in London got acquainted with it. After, in the Netherlands, there were the interior forces of the Netherlands and they were divided into sections. The armed section and a non-armed section but there was not a sharp section. When needed I had to go take rifle and to go to join a group. But first was the most of the work was reporting things that happened in the surroundings. And for instance, we had a house very close to the railway at Amersfoort so that we could report what goods were transported by the Germans on the, of the railway. For instance, tanks and other for the Atlantic Wall. That gave us the intention to say if we blow up the railway it would restore the interest of the Germans to bring tanks by the railway to the Atlantic Wall. So, we did. But the Germans were very angry and said, ‘If, in the future, there’s a new attack the house that’s nearest to the point where the railway is blown up — the house will be burned and the inhabitants will be shot down. ’ That was a difficult point for us for it means that the inhabitants of the Netherlands, our friends, nearly became our enemies as we were suspected if a Dutch man who was very close to the Allies saw one of the resistance men he thought, ‘not my home.’ So it was very difficult to go on with the job as the people were anti-resistance man. Became anti-resistance man to save their home and their children. We thought about this two days but then came to the conclusion we must go on otherwise the resistance movements ends and that was not the intention. Certainly not. So, we changed the place where we made the attack. Very good hidden by bush and so and but it was near a house with two parents, forty five, forty three and four children — four to seventeen. And one and a half kilometre farther there was a small house with two people — eighty-five and eighty-three. It doesn’t mean that it is not verschrikkelijk.
RVDP: That’s ‘terrible.’
KR: Terrible. But war is terrible and the choice is to choose for the less terrible thing. So, we thought two people older than eighty can better die than six people in the glow of their life. We then found that the Germans got a bit of [unclear].
RVDP: They were more skilled in something.
KR: They were skilled in repairing the railways.
RVDP: They got better at it.
KR: Yeah. So it first took two days. Then one day. Then at least only one morning. So we made a decision that it was no more worse to blow up the railway as the damage we caused was not interesting enough for what we intended. That was one of the things I could do. But as I said I, we got news to the BBC and when we asked for dropping of weapons we had contact with the BBC and at thirteen hours Dutch time we got messages from Radio Orange and at certain time I heard, ‘The apple juice will not be eaten very hot.’ And we thought, ‘Ah that’s for us.’ Tomorrow at about 11 they will drop a container with weapons in the surroundings of [unclear]. In our surroundings. Unfortunately, it happened that a keen German general also knew a great deal of the [pause] of the [pause] —
[Recording paused]
KR: I was looking for the word. The code. For the German General Guderian knew quite a lot of this code. Therefore, I myself think that about sixty percent of the droppings came in German hands and not reach us. That was very bad but we couldn’t help that. In such a container was found with the weapons was a little book in six languages and at the end several voorbeeld.
RVDP: ‘Examples’.
KR: Examples how to deal with them.
RVDP: So, a manual.
KR: A manual.
RVDP: With which you, the people who used it, the contents — knew what to do with it.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: For demolition. Arms. Ammunition. A manual.
KR: Yes. And that also when we had such a dropping [unclear] of one of our other points and that was Baron von Hagren from [unclear] on an estate of twenty-two hectares where they had to bring the weapons. I did that in bags at the end, both ends of the bicycle and the question was do you go by the main road that’s thirteen kilometres or do you take second or third plan roads so you could perhaps avoid meeting Germans but that was twenty-five kilometres? Well, in short, I decided. I didn’t know if I was lazy but I decided to take the shortest way. And all again good. I came to Mr Van Hagren and I gave him the weapons. I had a message for him but he didn’t want it — to receive from me. He said, ‘That fall on the floor.’ I said, ‘But if the Germans here in the surroundings, he only sees that something is dropping then I, if I put it in your hands — ’ ‘Drop it.’ I think it was that if he was caught by Germans he could swear on the grave of his mother I didn’t receive any paper form or anything from this man. Okay. From my own [pause] wandering I found that the second part, going back was more difficult as due to the hunger winter we had lots of people came from north to the west. That means from Svala to Amersfoort on their bicycle with potatoes, with food. And so, and I had an empty case and people said, ‘How this man has not received anything from the farmers? ’ So, I said to Mr Van Hagren, ‘Next time I need six to eight stones to put in my luggage to be able to drive my bicycle as hard as the people with food.’
RVDP: So, people could tell it was loaded.
KR: Yeah.
RVDP: You had bags full and you wouldn’t stand out.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: Because that’s what you’re telling us.
KR: You musn’t —
RVDP: It was important not to stand out. To keep secrecy.
KR: Yes. That is what I say. If they remark you it’s not good in war. Never put your hat in the light. One of the main things for the resistance movement was to be as close as giving less names as possible and less addresses as possible. Important is that. So few people as possible should know anything from you and from your comrades. All must be done in secrecy. I preserved it when I came by bicycle out of the woods and the German came and asked me my bicycle. I had a band on my arm that I was part of the [unclear] of the town but that wasn’t important for him. I had papers in German and Dutch that I needed my bicycle. That too wasn’t important for him. So, I must walk. And in that case the resistance movement is in alarm for our courier which is not back in time and will he stand not to give addresses or names so that other people will be in danger. It was spare time. That means not to be allowed later than 8 o’clock in the evening on the streets and I came back at 9 o’clock in the evening but everyone was happy nothing happened and there was no name has fallen. Okay. That’s one of the securities that there was. Then another thing was, what we did, I spoke about the girls from seventeen to twenty-five who came from certain directions to give me the information. We could not allow that many times a day she would say, ‘Oh I have — my tyre is no good. I am later.’ So, we had made a decision that the bicycles of our girls must be perfect. So, we went to a salesman in the village. Asked him which people has bought, in the last months, a new bicycle. Then shifted it if it was a good Dutchman or a bad Dutchman and after that we went there. I think that was the man that asked me to join the resistance was in uniform, a German uniform. I myself had a police uniform and we went to a place where we knew they must have a new bicycle and I said to the man why we came, let me say it was a farmer. ‘Listen. This man is a German who needed a bicycle. If you tell me where your good bicycle is I will try to avoid that he goes there.’ So, tell me and we shall see if it happens, if it works.’ ‘Okay.’ As Henk was not a German but a Dutchman he, so he heard what I said perfectly what place the bicycle was but we played a game and so three or four minutes he was looking at a hay farm but I, in the farmhouse, in the stables and then suddenly after about four minutes he said, ‘Well’ and he went directly to the place he had heard that a good bicycle stand. We needed only the tyres so we threw the rest of the bicycle in the [unclear] of the estate. The water of the estate. Okay. So, worked our connections service. Another point. There came at the end of the war the Spitfires fired at German motor moves on the roads and they wanted to make a place to hide between the trees. And the German commander came and told us that he, or as he told the community, we were not a partner, that he needed three people to dig the roads. When he came back, he said, sorry. He heard there were no volunteers so then he [throwed?] and said, ‘Be sure that tomorrow you have three persons. Otherwise the secret police, our secret police, the Gestapo [ Gubz?] from Almelo and they will do their work.’ And we will know that that was very very awful work so we must prevent that the Gestapo should come. So, we gave the Germans three men to dig the holes. We could do that as not every German was em fanatic Hitler follower. Not SS and SA but he was a German who was called up for service and perhaps hated Hitler but he had to do his job and so he made us not too dangerous. We had the, previously, that our estate was apple trees and once in a fortnight we gave the Germans a bottle of apples. And so he was confident and we were confident. Therefore, I myself admired the work of the communist who had to do to hide people in a house in a row while we worked with estates where you much more easily could hide some people. Some events that I especially remember were [pause] at the end of the war pilots were very young. Eighteen. Nineteen years. Didn’t know too much. You know again there were too Britons which was in my home and I played chess with them also and gave them food. And I came above to take the plate back from the food and I saw that all the [unclear] soup was in the —
RVDP: So, he hadn’t eaten everything.
KR: He hadn’t even. He didn’t like it. And I said, ‘are you aware we are in the hunger of winter?’ ‘Tell her I don’t like it but don’t throw it away.’ Okay. Another was there were two Americans and a German car stopped before the house and as I say, ‘away. Away,’ and one of the Americans went to the window and pushed the curtain aside and I said, ‘are you mad?’ ‘I want to see how the enemy looks,’ he said. He didn’t realise the risk he gave to the people who hided him and tried to save his life so that he couldn’t became slachtoffer.
RVDP: A ‘victim’.
KR: A victim of the Germans. And so, it was different questions. The Australian, Eric Blakemore wrote to me many things for the happy memories of chess. And another from London wrote to me when I asked when they should go back the last lines to write a short sentence to me and he said, ‘know yourself to be true though canst be false to any man.’ That has astonished me. I thought, have I been untrue? Have I made a lie? What happens? But it should be something from Shakespeare or so and I don’t know exactly what he meant with it but he wanted that was his meaning. How he behaved himself. Okay. We had. I gave, as I say, the pilots and their helpers food so they must have a food card. Well another of our groups from the [pause] from the —
RVDP: Shall we pause for a moment?
KR: Yeah.
[Recording paused]
RVDP: Okay. Please continue.
KR: The resistance that were different groups with different tasks for when aeroplane was shot down. Our first work was — are we earlier than the Germans to find the people. And it’s the place where they were shot down a safe one. We couldn’t find. And poor German inhabited. The first thing was to take away the parachute and to give them new clothes. Or clothes anyway. Beyond that they should, for living, have food tickets and rations and an identity card. Other groups gave us the possibility to have blank tickets so that I could give them an ID card with stamps and so, and as I was and tried to be, to keep for myself some of these things I still could show my — the girls and school people how I worked with them. So I could show them a blank identity card and could show them how it worked. When it was full, our rations too, we had a group who made an attack in the evening at night at one of the burgh houses where the official guards were and they took them away for us so that we could give them to the flight people who were shot down, to keep them alive. When we sent them back they were some on a bicycle. Some we must hide other way. And we had an example that three Canadians were hidden under a beetroot car and some farmers said, ‘All full loaded,’ but they didn’t realise that underneath three Canadians must be able to breathe and to stay alive. It was so we had, I told you I played chess with them. We talked. In the meantime, we had good contacts but when there were about forty we had a group and there was another group again who sent them over the river and to hope that they were in the south of France where it was free already so they could join again.
RVDP: So, you had to make sure, when an aircraft was shot down, that you, as the resistance, were the first to make sure that the crew, if they were still alive, were safe.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: You took them with you in other clothes of course and you would hide them.
KR: Yes. Yes.
RVDP: And the resistance had all different teams and groups to make sure you had all the supplies you needed like the tickets for the rations, the food, the blanks, the blank cards.
KR: Yes. That was all. That was all good. Organised.
RVDP: Okay. And so, you hid them.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: Until let’s say, there were enough saved.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: To take them across the border.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: Which was done by another team.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: How long did it take normally for you to get enough?
KR: I thought that about six, seven weeks we needed but that was due to circumstances. So when it was perhaps more dangerous that we didn’t wait until we had forty but it was about thirty or so. But I know that my group certainly made twice the group over the rivers to free the Dutch ground. I don’t know how many places there were in the Netherlands but other groups did about the same. So I’m not able to say if it were one hundred, one thousand or five thousand. But we did our work so far as possible and as good as possible to save too — as much aeroplane soldiers were shot down we could bring alive to the border again. That was one thing that we, yeah, to a bit of resettlement and we did it. Organisation was good. I mean of course, the people we helped were thank to us that we did it so that was a good connection. And I must say that afterwards that was not so nice. We did not keep connections. But I think that comes through the circumstances. When I was in the resistance I didn’t find that I did a special thing to remember. So I must say that recently the official groups who organised the remembrance of seventy years. Seventy-two years. And so, the war was over and the end of the war in our country — the 4th of May. I was expelled to tell, or my daughter was expelled to tell why her father was allowed to lay a wreath on the monument in Amsterdam. And that’s the reason that at this moment we must give up from the dark what we still know what happened but then we didn’t. I never thought it is important or am I important. No. It was for our queen and our country we did it and to help as much as possible and dis-arrange the Germans. That was the work we did and why we did it for. And that’s still the reason that there’s not so much in remembrance. I reckon that I tried to save some of the things I worked with but not many people should have done it. And I have difficulty that I, for, for years I broke my neck and people thought oh that’s his end and throw away a part of the papers for that’s not interesting if you don’t know what it means. It is not interesting. And therefore it’s merely the sake of remembrance that I can tell but I’m happy now. I am happy that I have done it. So, I didn’t realise we did in the war. Now I realise it that how grateful the allies should be that, that our work we did in the war. But we didn’t do it to become in the lights. We did it to help where we thought it was our duty. For we were an ally too. Yes.
RVDP: Yeah. I think it was, as you just said very important to help our liberators liberate us.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: Of course that’s what you as part of the resistance did.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: And like you just mentioned the Remembrance Day, our Remembrance Day and telling your story and making presentations at schools. That’s all, that’s also, the Brits say because it’s important to remember.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: Lest we forget. And as we Dutch say — opdat we niet vergeten.
KR: Yes. But we finally realised it should be so important after sixty, seventy years that is and there were people now going to the schools and telling about what they find out about what I’ve seen. That they were born in 1944. I must say that it’s not really — and that is what they heard or what they think of it could have been. And then it is often more interesting or — they have done so much hero things. I can’t see what it was to me. I tell my story. Not from a book. I tell what I remember. That means what I perceived. What we did. What we had. What happened. And not to romanticise it and say if it should have been so it was nice. That’s not my story.
RVDP: No. From you it’s the real story and all those other people who didn’t really live through the war, weren’t born then and make presentations now. It’s more like hearsay. From you it’s the actual story.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: And that’s what makes it so very, very special. This interview.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: So, thank you again for telling us your story and it’s, it’s wonderful. So, thank you very much indeed.
KR: Yes. I regret that since six years I have the illness of Parkinson. So my ability even with —
RVDP: Balance.
KR: My balance.
RVDP: Yeah.
KR: Is not so good so I am —
RVDP: And it’s because of the Parkinson disease.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: Yeah.
KR: I couldn’t do all I should like to do but what I can I will do and I am eager to do it. So if I could please you with anything further and with some help I can certainly do it.
RVDP: Thank you again Mr Kroese and you are a really very remarkable man. Like you already told you were born in 1924. You lived through the war. Did all these things you told us about. You have broken your neck four years ago. You are suffering from Parkinson disease but still you are here.
KR: Yes, and I think —
RVDP: You must be very very strong and you were able. And thank you for that.
KR: Yes.
RVDP: To, to —
KR: I think —
RVDP: To get still — yeah. Sorry.
KR: I think that I broke my neck as part of the Parkinson that I had. Small amounts of not knowing for it was when I went in after walking with the dog in my garden. And as I live now only fifty years I can’t, it can’t have been, couldn’t be I didn’t know why it was. So, I say it’s a part of the Parkinson that has been.
RVDP: Okay.
KR: But I say at the moment to people and veterans the years between ninety and a hundred are the nicest years of my life and I’m so happy I can do these things now.
RVDP: Yeah.
KR: I like to take part.
RVDP: I’m very happy to hear that and I wish you an awful lot more years of enjoyment.
KR: Thank you.
RVDP: So, thank you again for this interview.
KR: Thank you for yours.

Collection

Citation

Ron van de Put, “Interview with Frederik Kroese,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 18, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/3443.

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