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The Stijkelgroep

Pioneers in the opposition

The Stijkelgroep was one of the first groups of opposition during World War II in the Netherlands. As early as 1941, before the opposition had managed to organize themselves in the Netherlands, a diverse group of people – including young craftsmen and students as well as directors and former soldiers age 50 and over - were engaged in collecting military information about the German occupier.

The group is named after Johan 'Han' Aaldrik Stijkel. The Germans regarded the young academic from the Hague as the leader of the group. The Stijkelgroep, which wasn’t called so until later on, consisted of a collection of small opposition groups from the Hague, the Zaandam area and Amsterdam. Amongst other things they exchanged spy material, because the groups searched for ways to get information to England.

The beginning of the end

In the spring of 1941 Han Stijkel made an attempt with Cornelis Gude and Jean Baud to sail to England with a fishing vessel. On board they had a suitcase full of espionage material. The ship hadn’t even left the port of Scheveningen before it was intercepted by the Germans. The men managed to destroy the suitcase, but Han Stijkel and Cornelis Gude were arrested. Jean Baud could escape in the confusion, but was later also arrested.

Two Dutch agents from the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) had managed to infiltrate the group and tipped off the Germans. That same night a wave of arrests followed in The Hague. In the days that followed a total of 150 people were arrested. Eventually 43 men and 4 women ended up in the Oranjehotel, the German penitentiary in Scheveningen.

Nacht und Nebel

After having been in custody for a year in the Netherlands the whole group was transferred to Berlin. There the Dutch members were declared to being ‘Nacht und Nebel’ prisoners; they had to disappear without a trace, contact with the outside world was next to impossible.

In September of 1942 a brief show trial followed at the military court in Berlin. Forty people were given the highest punishment for espionage: the death sentence.

Despite the Nacht und Nebel declaration the news about the sentences reached the Netherlands via a German lawyer. With mediation from Sweden it was attempted to exchange the Dutch prisoners for Germans in captivity with the allied forces, but that failed. It only caused a delay of the sentences.

On June 1st 1943 at 8am Han Stijkel was shot dead at the execution grounds of the Berlin Tegel prison. In the hours that followed, with five minute intervals, the 31 other people that were sentenced to death were also executed. That same day seven people saw their death sentence converted to lifelong imprisonment.

The people that were no longer sentenced to death were transported to concentration camps in Germany. Most of them died there during the last year of war. Only four of them could return to the Netherlands after the Liberation: Martine van Deth, Hilko Glazenburg, Wesselina van Hinte-de Bruin and Riek Lotgering-Hillebrand.

An Impressive Farewell

In 1943 the news about the fate of the executed men reached Willem Wagenaar, the father of the executed Willem Wagenaar Jr. During the remainder of the war he was already making plans to travel to Berlin to gather more information about the fate of the executed members of the Stijkelgroep and to repatriate their bodies. He was therefore at the foundation of what would later become the Stichting Eregraf Stijkelgroep.

The 32 executed men and Pieter Mulder – who died a few months before the execution in a hospital – were buried in a mass grave for prisoners of war in Döberitz, near Berlin. After the war that was in the Russian zone, which made the repatriation very difficult. In 1947 the bodies of the executed were transported to the Netherlands.

Because a significant part of the members of the Stijkelgroep were from The Hague it was decided to make an honorary grave at the new cemetery Westduin. On August 1st 1947 an honorary service was held in a very crowded Grote Kerk. Following the service, an impressive funeral procession of one kilometer led to the cemetery were 33 graves were waiting. Thousands of people stood along the route to pay their last respects to those deceased. For the ten members that passed away and of whom the bodies could not be recovered a cross was also placed.

The Foundation

In 1951 the Stichting Eregraf Stijkelgroep was founded. The foundation is committed to the care of the honorary grave and to maintaining contact with the relatives. The board consists of family of the members of the Stijkelgroep.

Through the efforts of the foundation and in cooperation with the municipality of The Hague money was raised for the monument that was placed in 1954 and for the replacement of the porous tombstones in 1998. Every year the foundation organizes a silent march on May 4th, followed by a memorial service at the graves.

If you would like to get in touch with the Stijkelgroep foundation or are looking for more information about the Stijkelgroep and its members, please contact Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

© Stichting Eregraf Stijkelgroep 2017