Saturday, 18 August 2012

Sepia Saturday - Bones

Voor de Nederlandse samenvatting, zie na de Engelse tekst.
This weeks theme is inspired by war but has to do with recycling. Some people will smile and think that I will try to relive last weeks theme: bicycling. This is not the case.
The scarcity of materials during WWII forced the British government to appeal to the population to collect things such as rags, paper and also bones. Among others the latter were used to produce explosives! Surprise, surprise.
This post also has to do with war and bones. But it's not gonna be a pleasant post. It is about a grave but not an ordinary one.

I have to take you back to April 1945. The place is Apeldoorn, a city in the province of Gelderland in the eastern part of The Netherlands. The allies were busy liberating the last parts of Holland still suffering from German occupation. Canadian troops were closing in on Apeldoorn. On April 12 a member of the resistance was arrested by the Germans for transporting weapons. In the early morning of April 13 four more resistance men were arrested in Apeldoorn. Earlier that month more arrests had been made, among others in the city of Harderwijk. In total sixteen men were kept prisoner in barracks in Apeldoorn. With the Canadians progressing, the Germans tried to get rid of their prisoners. To achieve this the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in Zwolle issued an order to execute prisoners. And without any form of trial, this order was carried out. In two or three groups the prisoners were transported to a forest west of Apeldoorn, near a village called Hoog Soeren. And there they were shot by a German firing squad and quickly buried in a mass grave. Shortly after, the Germans fled the area; the date was April 13. Three days later the Canadians liberated Apeldoorn, three days too late for these sixteen men.

In the meantime the families of the sixteen were completely unaware of what happened. More than a month later an SD-man who took part in the shooting, confessed what had happened. He also gave an indication where the massacre took place. So a number of people started investigating the area. 
The people who discovered the mass grave in the Kruisjesdal
And finally, on or around May 23 the mass grave was discovered. Needless to say that this was not a pleasant sight. 
Part of the mass grave in the Kruisjesdal
The only positive thing about the discovery was that the families now knew what happened. Of course that was little consolation but the uncertainty of not knowing where your husband, your father or your son is, is much worse. After identification the victims of this crime have been buried in various cemeteries. My father was laid to rest in nearby Ugchelen on the Heidehof cemetery on May 26. A few years later a remembrance stone was erected in the Kruisjesdal. A later stone shows the names of all sixteen men.
"Here was the temporary resting place of 16 patriots
who were the victims of the German occupier"
Every year around 13 april relatives and pupils of the Apeldoorn De Parkenschool commemorate the victims. The relatives are grateful to these pupils for maintaining the monument.

For more, and hopefully more pleasant Sepia Saturday posts, please click here.
Photo credit: the two black and white photographs have been copied from the Bevrijdingskrant dated April 11, 1995.

Deze week hebben de mensen achter Sepia Saturday een oorlogsthema bedacht. Maar het heeft ook met recycling te maken. Vanwege een schaarste aan grondstoffen, riep de Britse regering haar bewoners tijdens de 2e wereldoorlog op om oud textiel, papier en ook botten in te leveren. Die laatsten dienden zelfs als grondstof voor, u raadt het niet, explosieven! 
Deze blogpost heeft ook met oorlog en botten te maken maar niet op een echt prettige manier. Het gaat over een graf, maar niet over een gewoon graf.

Tegen het eind van de oorlog, het was april 1945, rukten de Canadezen op in de richting van Apeldoorn. Op 12 april werd daar een verzetsman gearresteerd. Hij vervoerde wapens. In de nacht van 12 op 13 april werden nog vier verzetsmensen opgepakt. Eerder die maand waren er ook al mensen gearresteerd o.a. in Harderwijk. In totaal zestien man werden gevangen gezet in de Willem III-kazerne in Apeldoorn. De Duitsers, die natuurlijk aan zagen komen dat ze voor een verloren zaak stonden, raakten in paniek en moesten van de gevangenen af. Het hoofdkwartier van de SD (Sicherheitsdienst) in Zwolle vaardigde een order uit om alle gevangenen te executeren. Zonder enige vorm van proces werden de gevangenen in twee of drie groepen, naar de bossen bij Hoog Soeren, naar het Kruisjesdal vervoerd, daar gedood en snel "begraven". Befehl ist Befehl... Kort daarna trokken de Duitsers zich terug. Op 16 april werd Apeldoorn bevrijd door de Canadezen, drie dagen te laat voor de zestien.

De families van de geëxecuteerden wisten van dit drama nog niets. Pas een maand later bekende een garresteerde SD-er wat er in het Kruisjesdal gepasseerd was. Daarop is een aantal mensen in het gebied gaan zoeken. Ruim een maand later, rond 23 mei, vond men een massagraf. Het was duidelijk dat de slachtoffers er in grote haast ingegooid waren.
Het enige positieve van de vondst was dat de families nu zekerheid hadden over het lot van hun geliefden. Niets erger dan de tergende onzekerheid van het niet weten. 
Na identificatie zijn de slachtoffers op diverse plaatsen begraven. Mijn vader op 26 mei op de begraafplaats Heidehof te Ugchelen.
Een paar jaar later is een herinneringssteen in het Kruisjesdal geplaatst en veel later een grotere steen met alle namen er op.

Ieder jaar rond 13 april vindt er een herdenking plaats. Daarbij zijn aanwezig de leerlingen van de De Parkenschool in Apeldoorn en de nabestaanden. Deze school heeft het monument geadopteerd. Leerlingen van groep 7/8 dragen dan zelfgemaakte gedichten voor met een soms verbazingwekkende diepgang. Een mooie plechtigheid waarvoor de nabestaanden dankbaar zijn!

Voor meer, hopelijk wat vrolijkere Sepia Saturday verhalen, kunt u hier klikken.


  1. It's a sad story indeed. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. You did a marvelous post on such a sad, sad thing. I too was headed in this direction, but the stories and the photos were too haunting to continue and I had to do a complete turn around for the post. Even if Alan did post such humorous switch with himself and the dog (after I put mine together)! So glad I stopped by, enjoy your weekend!

  3. Rob en Judith Miebies18 August 2012 at 08:54

    A very personal tragedy, bautifully written. We're proud of these sixteen men, who gave their lives for our freedom. We're very proud of your father, who was one of them. And we're extremely proud of you, for keeping this story alive for us and our children!

  4. By fortune people of the current days - particularly the last generations - have not a strong memory of the Second World War. Or it wouldn't be possible to build the Schengen Area. And it wouldn't be possible to see many German tourists, in every corner of Europe, walking safe and sound...
    Congratulations and thanks for this memory.

  5. A story that deserves to be re-told many times and you have rightly honoured your father in this post. Such acts of bravery and resistance should never been forgotten. Sadly this kind of action has been repeated many times since then and in many different theatres of war and oppression.

  6. Oh Peter, I am humbled by your story. Those photos must be difficult to look at. You know, it occurs to me we learn about war in school, and we learn the names of major battles, and we learn the names of the gas chamber locations, but the horror inflicted in small doses is left to the families of victims. I appreciate that you have written about this very sad event, and I'm glad there is a memorial.

  7. Thank you for sharing this story.

  8. Horrifying, Peter, and it must have been a difficult post to write. Thank you :-) Jo

  9. What a sad and unfortunate story. War seems to make people crazy enough to kill others just for the sake of killing.

  10. Peter, so very, very sad; as the liberation was so close too. So many have lost their lives just to defend their own country and people.

  11. Your post touched me Peter. I am a Canadian who will visit the Netherlands in a month or so. I will be in a bus tour or else I would visit a war memorial to honour those who gave up their lives for others to be free.

  12. Photographs are not always about recording the joy of children, or the happiness of weddings. Sometimes they bear witness to the darker side of humanity. Horrors of war occurred in other times, but the age of the photo has given special powers to the camera. We live in a new age too with mobiles. The cell phone camera may be even more powerful to destroy tyrants. Thank you for giving us a quiet moment of reflection.

  13. To all, thank you for all your comments. They are very much appreciated!
    @Rosie, maybe your bus comes near Holten. It is some 20 miles east of Apeldoorn. There is a beautiful Canadian cemetery there. Officially it is even Canadian territory. 1394 men have been buried there. The URL is

  14. This story must be retold year after year. No-one should forget horrors such as this.

  15. A wonderfully moving story. It is a fitting tribute to all those brave people from those dark days that we can remember them and celebrate their lives.

  16. Oh, my gosh, Peter ... this is very sad, and then to learn that your Dad was one of the 16. I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Kathy M.

  17. I'm adding this post to my Follow Friday blog post. Just wanted you to know.

  18. Thank you very much, Kathy

  19. One should never need to apologize for telling what needs to be told. Well done!!
    May he rest in peace!



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