J.C. Peters

22 April 2009


Here's one item that could have made the Dutch news 66 years ago:


"Man found dead this morning in the village of Staphorst. He was shot in the head 7 times. The police has reason to believe it is the work of subversive elements wanting to overthrow the government. Chief of police Oberst Rattenhauer has said the perpetrator -or perpetrators- will be caught and dealt with swiftly and harshly. Germany is winning on all fronts! Sieg Heil! "


Never did though.


I still keep track of what's going on in Holland, even though it's been three years since I left for Paris. I'm not nearly as informed as I used to be -my news is mostly bits and pieces nowadays- but still, it's my country.


This morning, I read a bizarre story about a man who was in the Dutch underground during the war (WW II). I used to love stories about the war when I was a boy. Children's books, movies and series, they all made living in occupied Holland seem mighty exciting. (the kind of luxurious excitement exclusively for boys growing up during peace time) On my way to piano lessons I used to cross an old bridge where, in 1944, the Dutch underground had attacked the car of SS General Rauter, attempting to kill him. He was not in the car though. As a reprisal, the Germans deported all 661men and boys from nearby village Putten. 121 returned. Crossing that bridge always gave me a thrill.


For the first time, this man spoke about an assassination he and other members of his group had carried out 66 years ago, in 1943. Soon after the killing they had realized their victim was probably not a nazi collaborator. But the deed was done, so they buried him and kept silent about it even after the war was over. The disappearance remained a mystery for the victim's family and other villagers. Until yesterday.


Remorse can live a long life in good souls, as this former member of the resistance has experienced. Wanting to come clean he now finally broke his silence, telling the story to the victim's surviving family members and explaining to the authorities where to find the body.

"He was shot in the head 7 times. And I can still hear him saying, after already being shot in the head four times" (!): "Waarom schieten jullie me dood?" Why are you killing me? (They probably used a crappy British gun though. Had they used a German Luger, one shot would have been enough).