Saturday, 26 September 2020

Dying under your own name

Voor het meer complete artikel in het Nederlands, svp hier klikken.

The other day I read an article in the interesting Historiek newsletter. Unless you read Dutch, don't bother to look it up. The newsletter is about a wide variety of historical subjects, both Dutch and from abroad. The article in question is about Prinjesdag 1932. Prinsjesdag, literally translated means 'the day of the little princes'. It is celebrated on the third Tuesday in September and marks the new parliamentary year. The event takes place in The Hague. In an address to the Parliament, the reigning monarch outlines the policy of the government for the year to come. 

Before the Second World War, many social movements tried to promote their ideals by organizing demonstrations, whether or not approved by the authorities. The movements ranged from socialist and communist on the left to fascist on the right.

On that particular Prinsjesdag, on September 20, after the ending of a nearby communist rally, a group of people tried to enter the Binnenhof where the Queen was in the process of addressing the Members of Parliament. Obviously, many police officers tried to prevent this. As a consequence of this clash, whereby the officers used sabers and rubber bats, there was a lot of unrest in the streets around the Binnenhof. A little further away, on the Heerengracht, a traffic cop was trying to give direction to motorized traffic and many pedestrians, when suddenly he was stabbed in the breast. This event was the headline in the a.m. newsletter: "Deadly fights during Prinsjesdag 1932". 

The thing that triggered me was the fact that the newsletter editor wasn't certain about the victim's last name. He thought it was Baars and added that some sources said it also could be Baas. Well, I thought, if in doubt, check it! There are plenty of sources for that period. Birth certificates, population registers, papers, to name a few. And indeed, the birth certificate, checked against other sources, reveals that the name of the police officer is Baas, Hendrik Baas to be precise. If you get stabbed on the job, I think the least journalists can do is get your name right. 

Three days later Hendrik dies and his wife has the following 'obit' published.

In the obit, his wife mentions when the funeral will take place. Most probably she is unaware of the spectacle this is going to be. Obviously, the authorities wanted to make a statement against all the protesters called rioters by the government and press alike.
Thousands of people witnessed the funeral procession on its way to the cemetery. Around 1,600 policemen from all over the country accompanied Hendrik Baas to his final resting place. Two music orchestras were part of the procession. A personal representative of the Queen offered his condolences to the widow and her 8-year-old son. Army and Navy deputations were present and the mayor of The Hague spoke at the grave.

The funeral procession in The Hague on Sept. 27, 1932*

In the months after the funeral, there was attention for the prosecution of the suspect. One J. van B. (42) was arrested shortly after the attack. His background was widely published in the press. Presumably, he was a communist although others denied this. The case was dealt with in court on Febr. 9, 1933. In total there were 17 witnesses pro and con. Apparently, the judge found little consistency in the statements of the witnesses. Even among the witnesses of the prosecution, there was disagreement. Despite a penalty requirement of 15 years in prison, the accused was dismissed from custody. The appeal before a higher court served a few months later but the result was the same, Van B. was acquitted by the judges and he was free to go.
It was remarkable that, a few months later, a claim to compensate Van B. for his time in prison, was rejected
The question remains who caused the death of policeman Hendrik Baas. I am unaware of any official investigation into the matter after Van B. was released. So this stabbing of a police officer remained unpunished. However, my motivation to write this post was to establish the correct name of this officer. And that mission was accomplished. His name is Baas, not Baars. So now Hendrik may disappear in the mists of history under his true name.

For more illustrations, see this post in Dutch by clicking here.

*Picture copied from the Haagsche Courant dated Sept. 27, 1932

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