Frits Glaser was a Dutch Jewish medical student when war broke out. He signed up to the Dutch Army Medical Corps but when the Germans invaded he was unable to get to England with his friends. He failed to reach Switzerland and so tried for the Italian border instead. En route he met with Huug van Dantzig and Hans Catz. Once in Italy they were captured by the SS but managed to escape. His story is one of frequent capture and escape from camps in Italy and Germany, with time spent in Moosburg and sometimes working in the camps as a doctor.
The full story follows, in two versions. The version in the first window below is the original scanned version of the story. In the second window below is the transcribed version in plain text.
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Frits Glaser Part I (Prior to Italy) As a Medical Student called to the Army and at the collapse of Holland immediately felt in danger, being a Jew. With a friend decided they must escape. Plans and attempts were made to get to England by boat helped by their non Jewish ‘fiancés’. Working in a hospital Frits Glaser felt he could not escape with another friend who got back to England. Summer 1942 deportations started. He joined another group but helpers were captured and shot. Frits hides with Annie’s relations. From a returned Dutchman he hears of the route to the Swiss border. With paid smugglers they start off with s’lers in front but as they take off their caps – signalling danger – they walk and abandon their bicycles. No reply at a Brussels address so they go to Antwerp and stay the night in a brothel where German voices are heard. By bus and train they reach Swiss border village and recognise the recounted route over border – or so they think and they have a further walk to cross it. With the help of ‘sort of relatives’ they move around but fear being repatriated. Finally being advised that the route through France and Spain was long and particularly dangerous for a Jew they decide that as the Allies are in Sicily they would make for Italy. FG works as a medic in a Camp for B. refugees; and in a Club for Dutch students he meets Huug van Dantzig and later his cousin, Hans Catz. The three decide to cross to Italy. In doing so on 8th September, near CONEBBIO, Lago Maggiore, all seemed very well as the Italian guards celebrated the Armistice. Slowly things deteriorated and they were imprisoned – by Italians. Suddenly the SS appeared and accused them of being Jews. Next day a truck came and handcuffed them and took them away to be executed.(Names, date and execution in Novarra all confirmed in papers discovered when they went back – first in 1958 and many other times to Italy.) Frits managed to break his handcuffs and then release others and as they were in an open truck and their guard had, because of the rain, found shelter with the driver in his cab, they managed to get away.
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[Letter head] Ph. Glaser M.D.
Date: 15 – 04- 1996
Belatedly (as always), I still want to thank you for your letter of February 28th, together with the very detailed report about the activities of the Trust. Again, I was impressed (only more so than by former reports) by the amount of energy you are able to bring up for the organization. I wonder what will happen, if you finally retire from this duty, I wonder whether they will be able to find anybody who is as knowledgeable as you are about all what was going on at the time in Italy (not to speak about the amount of work you have been dedicating to the Trust).
Seeing that you added a summary of your own history as a fugitive, I decided to make an effort of my own, enclosed you will find the result. Only it ended up to be much longer than I intended it to be. Still, less than the 30 (large) pages of memories I wrote several years ago. I am sure that I won’t be able to translate all of that for you – so I hope
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you will be satisfied with this effort.
And when writing about memories: possible I already in the past I mentioned to you my impression of the study, “A Strange Alliance”, which you sent us at the time – and that I was disturbed about the fact that the main comment of Villa Vallelonga was the fact that the population made many claims based on falsified chits. Don Horak, when he was with us 2 years ago, was very interested in the book and borrowed it. When he returned it, I remembered this detail and became much more disturbed, realising that part of this ‘falsified’ chits may have been delivered by us. Only rarely we were asked to write something like this, but “the Villa” was the only place we stayed for more than 1 or 2 days, and therefore the most likely place where we responded to such a request.
I wonder whether you might be able to point out this misunderstanding to the author of “A Strange Alliance”.
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These people really took a terrible risk. We stayed for several days with one family. Afterwards the situation became too dangerous and all fugitives were moved to a part of the village, which was partly destroyed by an earthquake, and where several damaged houses still could be used as night quarters. Here we were brought food every day (and this is where we caught hepatitis infection).
I would like to visit Italy once more, but it does not seem very likely just now. The flat in Scheveningen of our friends (you may remember it) is unfortunately not available any more. So I think next time, when we’ll be in Europe, we will have to arrange a different solution.
In the meantime, we are here in the middle of operation “grapes of wrath”, which I do hope will come to a peaceful conclusion.
So far for now. Keep well, have a good time in the Marche, all the best.
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[Letter] Ph. Glaser M.D.
In September 1939, I was mobilized as a corporal (still being a medical student) in the Medical Corps. In May 1940, with the capitulation of the Dutch Army after the German invasion, all of us were considered POWs. Immediately after this, I began (together with my friend Jaap Cohen) to try to leave occupied territory. Only in August 1942 this resulted in real effort, together with a M. Bachrach, whom I did not know before. We were smuggled on bicycle into Belgium, and from there by train and bus reached the French-Swiss border, near Mont-Béliard. The border at this particular point consists of the River Doubs, which we crossed swimming. In Switzerland, I was interned in several camps, and later was able to work on an M.D. at Zurich University.
After the invasion of the allied in Southern Italy, Huug, whom I met in Zurich, and I decided to cross into Italy and try to reach allied lines. We were joined by Huug’s cousin
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Hans Catz. We travelled to Lausanne and were directed to a border crossing over the mountains into Italy. This happened to be the day of the Italian armistice (September 8th 1943). Nevertheless, we were almost immediately captured by Italian border-guards. From there into prison: Cannobio → Intra → Pallanza. In the meantime, the German army had entered Italy, and on September 21 we were delivered into the hands of an S.S. unit. The next day they took us from the prison in an army truck to Novara to be executed [four words illegible in German], but during the trip the guard in the back of the truck decided to join the driver (it poured). We used this opportunity to open our handcuffs (one of the locks being of poor quality so that I could break it with my hands, [1 line added from the margin] then those of Hans and nearly breaking his wrist, those of Huug). Then we jumped out of the truck.
After that we walked the Italian countryside, like so many escaped POWs, always finding shelter for the night with the contadini. The escapees we met instructed us how to behave, if captured.
After a few months, we reached Villa Vallelonga
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in the Abruzzi. There we had to stay a few weeks (the place was full of POWs, who during daytime disappeared in the surrounding mountains). The allied advance got stuck at the Sangro river. After a few weeks, we decided to try and cross the mountains and the frontline. The first time we had to return (bad weather and snow); the second time we were captured near Alfedena. The next day we managed to escape, the prison being the stable of a farmhouse. A fellow prisoner, a British boy by the name of Tony, who joined us, made this possible. He was very strong and managed to bend the bars of the stable-window enough to enable us to get through. After a few days of marching in the snow we walked into German troops very near the Sangro (Tony had left us). We arrived again at the farmhouse, from where we escaped a few days earlier. From there to Frosinone – Foligno, and finally by train to Moosburg, VII A. In the meantime, I was sick with jaundice (hepatitis), apart from lice and scabies.
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Because of this I was brought straight to hospital, and that was where I first met you, reading out the news of the B.B.C.
In the summer of 1944 we volunteered for work in Munich, assuming that was another opportunity for escape. Hans and I could, indeed, walk away during the lunch break, but happened to be seen by the civilian supervisor of the work, who just happened to arrive – so we were caught after 5 minutes.
(Mike Huug, who was assigned to a different working party, did get away, but was also caught after a few days). The rest about Moosburg you know at least as well as I do.
In February 1945, we were transferred to Hohenfels. This camp was evacuated in April in view of the advancing allies. I had been more or less admitted to the medical staff and on the day of the evacuation I was asked to take over as acting Medical officer of one of the three columns, who were leaving the camp. This instead of Captain Jamieson, who was my contact with the medical staff and who, because of his physical condition, was exempted from joining the evacuation.
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This, of course, made it impossible for me to escape during the march, as Hans and Huug did. After a few days, we arrived at a small village, where we encamped in several farms, and where we were liberated by American Infantry, without a battle (the guards having left a few days earlier).
I was engaged in preparations for repatriation of the men, when word arrived that I could not continue as acting M.O., but was to be considered to be a “displaced person”. Luckily, I fell ill at the same day because of a skin infection, which made it possible for me to be evacuated along hospital lines. I spent the night again in Moosburg (but this time in the former German quarters). Next day by plane to Reims (large medical centre), being treated with penicillin. As bureaucratic problems took a very long time, one day I walked away from there and with a few unsuccessful tramps arrived back in Holland 3rd June 1945.
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Summary of brief account by (Dr) Frits Glaser of his escape from Holland to Switzerland
Meeting with two other Dutch Jews there, exit to Italy, recaptures, and finally all three in Germany as PoW South African Sergeants!
By Bicycle, train and bus reached Swiss border and then swam river into Switzerland, meets up with two cousins Huug and Hans and after invasion of Italy by Allies decide to cross into Italy and make for Allied lines. On day of Italian Armistice captured by Italian Border guards but on 21st September handed to SS and were taken next day to be shot. But as it was raining the guard got in with the driver. Frits managed to break his handcuffs and then those of the others and they escaped. ‘After a few months’ – no mention of hundreds of kilometres) they reach Villa Vallelonga in the Parco Nat. dei Abruzzi. VVL had been mostly destroyed by an earthquake and many PoWs etc lived the ruins.(See also account. of Pakistan Foreign Minister who returned to find those who had hidden him). They move on but are captured very near frontline at Alfadena. Captured again and put in barn but Br. boy manages to break bars of window and they escape, but after a few days of walking in the snow there were captured again and returned to barn. All three were taken finally to Germany Moosburg and FG ill with jaundice, besides lice and scabies is in hospital where he met Keith Killby, who was reading out the news. (K K thought he met Hans first). KK was the first to know that they had adopted South African identity while on the run as they knew enough English and could understand some Africans. They ‘were’ Sergeants because they were told they would not have to work in P.Camp! Their concern expressed to KK was that they might be falsely receiving RED Cross parcels but the M.O. of hospital agreed with KK that as long as they were genuine and not ‘plants’ they should get the parcels. Moved out of Moosberg and then when they had to march away from the Russians Frits – being almost a fully trained Dr.- found himself in charge of a Column of English soldiers and an Officer – so the Germans said. So he could not escape as did Huug and Hans and finally he met Americans. While helping with the sick he was told he could not be treated as PoW but as a displaced person, but owing to illness he got into hospital lines and a night in the German quarters of Moosberg then evacuated by plane to Rheims – a day after KK). Got fed up with the bureaucracy so walked out and finally arrived back in Holland on 3rd June 1945.
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Memoirs of Frits Glaser, born 31/5/1916.
It all began, of course, on May 10th 1940, in Holland. But the war began September 3rd 1939, and in Holland that meant general mobilisation. I was mobilised as a medical student, had 1 month of “training” after the candidate exam (1936) (B.A.?), and had the rank of corporal. Nobody even thought that one could be called up as a corporal. But it happened to us. I was one of a group of 12 belonging to the staff of the garrison, Holland in the Hague, where nobody knew what to do with us! We were ordered to drive around in the field with douche-cars to give the soldiers the (compulsive) opportunity to cleanse themselves, for a few weeks and we were released.
1940 May 9th afternoon: funeral call-up. Probably because of the warning of the military attaché in Berlin, I left for the Army Medical Corps. We were with hundreds of medical students in the Burcht – an old fort – in Leiden. The next morning, May 10th, at ½ 5 o’clock, we woke up to the news of the German invasion. And during the 5 days of the war we were practically jailed there. On the afternoon of May 15th, we were informed that Holland had capitulated and that we were POWs. The news of the capitulation came as a thunder-stroke, in spite of everything, absolutely unexpected. I, for myself, thought it possible that the Germans would have lists and would put Jews and other politically “wrong” prisoners up to a wall. But they had another tactic. The German troops, who paraded through Leiden that day (or the next?), were for us totally harmless. But my friend, Jaap Cohen, and I were from the first moment, sure that there was but one option – try to escape!
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To show how naive we were: we started to ask permission to escape of the commander captain Blokhuis. He refused. He had the order and duty to hand over all the prisoners to the Germans!
Afterwards it became clear that he was a N.S.B. in disguise. (The party was banned for civil servants and so also for regular officers). That evening we fled anyhow, via a back-gate of the fort. There a student of our year was on guard. He probably understood the idea and only saluted. But, walking through Leiden that evening, we understood: no way to escape. Through the main street the Germans paraded and there was general confusion.
The idea to escape (to neutral country) was several months put on a low fire. Only in the summer of 1941 were some concrete possibilities. Jaap Cohen made contact with a group from Delft, which would escape from the southern islands of the province of S. Holland. We had to be on a certain day at an inner navigation ship next to Leidendorp, which would bring us to the departure point at the island of S. Holland. We found the ship, but there were problems and the plan was off.
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A few weeks ago, at the beginning of May 1996, we had more information via a cousin of Annie. She is working with others to find as many details as possible and so could inform us that the skipper balked of this plan – would go alone and had a gun to shoot himself, if captured. That all happened and his body was found with a bullet though the head on April 8th 1941. She had details for ex. names of the others of the group. But then (1940) Frits did not know names. So this is new to him and too far going to translate and not of interest to you.
After the debacle with the ship, Jaap Cohen and I tried to escape with the sail-hand of Annie’s father with a small “buiten boord” motor. We practised several times on one of the lakes. Later in the summer was a period of quiet sunny weather. We brought boat and motor on the carrier of our bicycles to a point in the dunes between Katwijk and Scheveringen and hid as well as possible the lot in the undergrowth.
We were helped by out non-Jewish girlfriends – which had to stay girlfriends, because the Germans forbade these marriages as Rassenschande. Annie and I decided to be a pair on December 18th 1940. After this interlude.
Next day we brought food, compass, etc, to the boat, helped by Willy and Annie – the last part we, Jaap and I, travelled alone. Then on the way we met the “good” constable. He warned us the spot was very unsafe and the Germans were patrolling every night: “Your girls are waiting for you”. So the girls went and recovered the motor- End of episode.
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Interlude. News received May 1996. Debriefing of Jaap (arrived in Great Britain 12.7. 1942) Cohen, who arrived in England via France, Gibraltar and then by ship. First part is of the ship next to Leidendorp. In September 1941 I made new plans with Glaser to escape per ?tram. When we brought the last package with parts, etc, we were discovered by the constable and we fled [and] left the package. Next day we met him again (while we waited for our girlfriends picking up the motor – Frits Glaser 1996). He said he would have helped us had he known. We did not continue this plan (luckily). Dossier P6B/2622.
During the winter of 1941 to 1942 I worked in Amsterdam in the New Jer. Hospital. Jaap had a new contact via Belgium and France. I had somehow the idea I could not leave the hospital. Or an unmotivated idea that the hospital personnel would not be deported. A faulty decision not to go with him: he came via France (Vichy) to England. See debriefing.
In the summer of 1942 started the deportations. Max and Bernard Meyers, cousins of mine, had contact with a Czech group to escape via the S. Holland islands. But it was betrayed. When they arrived, the Germans stood waiting. There was a so-called court-martial and they were shot on August 15th.
The situation of the drive to catch Jews was so intensive that I agreed to “hide” temporarily. One of Annie’s aunts had a contact in Den Bosch – for a route to Switzerland.
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In the meantime I was a guest with Annie’s sister and brother in law. Annie travelled up and down to Den Bosch and then I had a meeting with “Uncle Leo” (Levin on the Hollandse Spoor station in The Hague. His wife’s name was Hartog and were friends of my parents). His route was by a young man Rubens, who came to the Swiss border, had to return and so could tell the details in Holland. We agreed on leaving in the end of August.
My companion was called Bachrach. We received false papers for Dutch students in France. My passport was hidden in the lining of my jacket, with several hundred florins. The Belgian/France border was more or less open. We left to …near, had the address of a smuggler, who brought us (paid!) by bicycle to the Belgian border, 2 smugglers in front, we behind them. If one of them took off his cap, it was: “alarm”. We came vie via to the road to Antwerp in Belgium. The cap came off after several times, the Germans were requisitioning bicycles! So we proceeded on foot – took the tramway to A. and the train to Brussels. The address there, a hairdresser, was closed. A second address just had a raid. A guest gave us an address in Antwerp, which as a chique brothel. Interlude. After 50 years we learned that others came to the same hairdresser – got the address of a traitor.
We received a deluxe room, gilded mirrors, etc! We heard German voices, those were probably “guests”, so nothing happened. Next day by train to Givet on the French border. We had to look and found André, who bought tickets for the train Brussels – Besanҫon, He bought us to the station and left. We walked around instead of waiting till it was permitted to enter the station. “So” we were taken for examination of our luggage. But, as there was no contraband in it, we just made it to the train, which was leaving. After the war, I heard that André was shot by the Germans and Uncle Leo was murdered in concentration camp. The train arrived after curfew, so we played it by ear and found an empty train. We slept and washed up next morning, then took the train to Belfort.
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Belfort, an old fortified city, where many were picked up, was an uncomfortable city. So, after a coffee, we could leave by train to Mont-Béliard. There, by contrast, it was peaceful, a market of fruit and vegetables, open. By bus to St Hippolyte, a village on the Swiss border. It was beautiful weather – we arrived in the evening and slept in a wood a little outside of the village. The instructions for crossing the border were: In the village where the pump stands, up the hill, though the fields and the wood. On the other side of the hill down, cross the road and farther downhill till the River Doubs (border), which is not deep there. On the other side: uphill. All the instructions followed and were O.K., though the river was more a rivulet. We climbed the steep hill. Then we reached a road and to be sure we asked a worker on the road, whether we were now really in Switzerland. (We congratulated each other already). But we only short-cutted a bend in the road with all that climbing, and were still in France! The only thing to do was walking along the road. Indeed, in about 10 minutes we saw deep below us the real Doubs, indeed a real river. We walked down along a path and saw a guard house near the river. To go back was pointless, so I decided to inspect the situation and found the “house” empty. The river on the other hand was there deep! So we swam twice, Bachrach’s valise between us to keep the clothes dry. And then we were really in Switzerland.
Interlude: The guard house was at that moment empty. Why? But there was normally a guard. The steep climb up on the Swiss side in full view. The Germans would not have hesitated to shoot. About 15 years after the war Annie and I did a pilgrimage there. The tourists were sitting at the waterfront, happily camping and fishing. But we were so overwhelmed by memories that we did not dare cross the bridge nearby into France, till the douanier said: “What do you want?” “Cross the bridge”, we croaked. “So go!”, he said.
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So on the other side of the river was (is) a long steep climb to the top. It was nearly evening when we reached a road and a moment later a Swiss border post, where we reported to the guard. We were taken by a Swiss soldier to the prison in Saignelégier. And my only memory is that I fell in a stupor on the straw in the cell. The guard of the prison was a very nice man, a gendarme. He allowed us to walk freely in the village, on our word of honour not to contact the Dutch embassy. But – he added – most probably we would be expelled over the border.
I only wrote to the Winizkis in Zurich, like I promised. They are sort of relatives. Later I found out that Dutchmen were free from expelling over the border, when they contacted the embassy.
By day I was cutting wood for the garrison, and was rewarded by a warm meal. After a few weeks, the gendarme told us that the Polish ambassador had intervened for us. And he reproached us that we broke our word of honour. Till now I do not know what happened – and the Winizkis know nothing about this or a Polish ambassador. But next day we were brought under guard by train to the prison of Neuchatel, where we passed a very uncomfortable night. In our cell were also two Luxemburg refugees, who were there already several weeks and were very anxious what would happen to them. But we were fetched next morning and brought to Bern by train. We were brought to a hostel near the “Zeitglocke”, which was still a hostel in 1990 – and there to our upper relief we were free and walked in the evening in a city full of lights and luxury shops.
Next day we were interrogated by the military attaché, General van Tricht. I said my plan was to come as quick as possible to England. There was then still a route via unoccupied France and Spain. The embassy
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unofficially decided when and who could leave. In the meantime, we were sent to a camp for Dutch refugees in Cossonay near Lausanne. (In 1989 on holiday nearby we found where the camp had been). Another week and I was transferred to a dépendance of the camp in Aarau. A small camp of +/- 30, and much better living conditions. We prepared the ground for the racecourse of Aarau (still in use). I also worked as “Sanitӓter”, and every morning before work I held “sick parade”. Sending to England was in a very slow tempo. 1. France was occupied also in Vichy France. 2. They took first the military and rather not Jews, because of the risk. In April 1943, I succeeded to receive leave from the camp to work on a “Doctorarbeit” at the university of Zurich. The embassy paid for a grant. At first, I lived with the Winizkis, later had a room. With the help of the son in law of the Winizkis, Raymond Bollag, who worked at the dermatological ward of the Kantonsspital, quickly I received a promotor and a topic. I had to report to the Swiss police every week! There was a club of Dutch students, mostly of the “Technische Hochschule”, who studied there, not because of war or occupation. There I met Huug van Dantzig (Mike for Keith), a refugee from Holland. He had the same plans I had. In the meantime, the allies landed in Sicily after the offensive in N. Africa. Our plan was, as soon as the landing on the mainland of Italy took place, as expected, to cross the Italian border and try to reach quickly the south. In the summer of 1943 Mussolini was deposed, which made our plan more realistic. Hans Catz, a cousin of Huug’s, still in camp, joined our plans. And I started learning Italian and also working on my “Doctorarbeit!”.
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So we started again to seriously prepare our plans, and especially after the allied landing on Sicily, 9/7/1943. (This one and other dates I looked up in the books of Dr L. de Jong: Holland in the Second World War). We made a small stock of concentrated foodstuffs. As I remember a kind of cracker produced by […]altine, very light, and much more to our taste then the drink. The Winizkis were against our plans: too risky. But they helped. Also I received during that whole year in Switzerland unlimited help and hospitality. From Aarau I spent nearly every weekend there. To Annie I could not reveal anything about these plans. One of the last days of August (?) we travelled illegally to Locarno. We were not allowed to travel, only after allowance by the “Fremdenpolizei”. September 3rd was the date the allies crossed into Italy proper. We received from the Winizkis the address of a friend in Ancona (near Locarno), who probably could help us. Indeed, he sent us to Minusio – near Locarno – where lived a person (smuggler likely), who could bring us over the border. We had to negotiate for a few days and on September 8th 1943, we left by sunrise from Brissago, on the Italian border. Our guide brought us to a mountain – the Shiridone? – where we had to climb to +/- 2,000 metres to the border. He showed us how to descend, to climb the other side of the valley and then to Canobbio – on the Lago Maggiore. The idea was to proceed by train from there south. This climbing and descending took nearly the whole day, and in the evening we reached a place a bit under a small village. He showed us the village and we should walk underneath this village. But while we walked, one or two Italian soldiers showed up and invited us to come with them to the Italian border post in the village. The guide did not tell us or warn us about that. We only said that “only now and then” a patrol passed there.
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Our story was that we were students making a tour in our holidays and lost the way.
Huug told us recently that the soldiers knew that there was the capitulation of Italy and they were celebrating. We did not know, otherwise would have told them another story.
They did not know what to do with us and decided to bring us to Canobbio, and so we were brought again downhill, rather escorted. During the evening, we understood from the soldiers – our Italian still very sketchy – that the Italian government under Badoglio had capitulated. And only then we decided to change our story. (The soldiers spoke about a ceasefire). So we said in Canobbio that we were allied officers. We had our Dutch passports – and that we should be freed immediately. The police were very nice. We were allowed to order our lunch from the hotel there, and eat it on the terrace of the townhall (police station?). The costs of the lunch were deducted from the money Hans managed to get back after the war, which they took from us, when we were taken to prison. But next day we were brought to the prison of Intra. There we had a real cell, but by day all the cells were open and the jailer allowed the prisoners to walk about freely. He, himself, often played cards in one of the cells. On this fact Huug and I based a plan to flee. We would wait till the play was really going, then throw the cell door shut and away we would be. That moment came on a Sunday afternoon, but while we were debating to co-ordinate our plans, here were visitors! The carabinieri to pick us up! I personally was not sad that the plan went away. I had my doubts. From Intra to Pallanza, a real prison this time, a real cell, once a day out. The capo, a fascist, came in the morning to inspect the cell and made clear that we then had to rise and “salutare”, i.e. to bring the Fascist greeting. (We did not do it!).
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We had sent a telegram to an authority. I do not remember which one, that we should be freed as allied officers. The answer was: the authority was: the questura di Novara. In answer or not! On September 21st came an S.S. officer. He had an ensign: S.S. Totenkopf on his sleeve (or shoulder). We did not understand German, we said. He looked at us – front, profile and decided: Das ist ein Jude, auch ein Jude, auch ein Jude. Moyen warden wir sie holen. The Capo was not sure whether he should accept this verdict, but was assured: “Die warden wir schon erledigen, danach krӓht kein hahn”. After the war Hans received the verdict – very official – the names, data, etc, and execution in Novara. We did not doubt his meaning, but slept well! Next morning came 2 SSs with a truck. We were handcuffed and the capo was ordered to tell us that when we tried to flee, they would shoot: “Ob sie ?tot oder lebendig ankommen ist mir wurst”.
Dear Keith, you wanted and beseeched every word of Frits’ memoirs. Although we wrote them several times in letters, and Frits sent you a very extensive extract not long ago. You did not think that was enough, so for friendship’s sake I translated till the moment they travelled in the truck. I think I remember that a lot, perhaps not every word of the first part was also in the extract. I add, we decided that in the book by Primo Levi they were probably about the same place with the partisans.
After the war (1958?) we, Annie and I, visited the Ville and the places they walked and hid by day. There is a memorial saying that 300 citizens of the village lost their lives. A short time ago Frits wrote you about coupons, false ones, they probably wrote, and you answered you would look into it.
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Once I (Annie) heard in the illegal radio that the weather was unfit for any action by man, least on mechanized vehicle. Which they also heard. The only – unknown – contact Frits and I had from September 3rd 1943 till the story Hans told, when Huug and he were earlier back in Holland than Frits. That was the middle of the April Frits’ letter from Reims. 3 weeks before he arrived one night in The Hague – June 3rd 1945.
In the extract, probably that Frits was evacuated in a hospital car on straw to Stalag VII. He had high fever and remembers a stop on the Brenner – bitter cold – and a long pause in Műnchen. The first day in Stalag VII he fainted ? on appeal. And after shrieks and orders to rise, was put in hospital, the first few weeks in the camp. The doctor was an American POW there he knew, who was Keith, but not the other way round! Huug came later also with jaundice in the hospital. And Hans, who had escaped a few times more and was in a POW camp in Meppen several weeks, later transferred to Moosburg, entered hospital very ill, where he found Huug newly recovered.
Continuation of memoirs
Hohenfels: In February 1945, the situation in the camp was more and more difficult. Transport was disorganised, when the Americans infiltrated deeper in Germany. In April, the R.C. parcels stopped. We were really hungry. Then came the action of the Canadian “White Angels”, and shortly afterwards the Americans were so close that the camp was evacuated.
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Captain Jameson, with whom I worked in the hospital, was allowed to stay in the camp for reasons of health. I was asked to be “acting medical officer” of one of the columns. I could not refuse as a matter of fact and so could not try to escape. It was not so difficult, and Hans and Huug escaped and via adventures reached Holland earlier. (Hans wrote Annie, the letter took 3 weeks from R’dam [Rotterdam] to The Hague, and they already decided that Annie was not interested any more. Our 51st wedding day 22 June 1996). The rest of the travels to Reims are in the extract. I received penicillin for my fu[…]eel – very new!! Then waited till perhaps the Dutch would come and look for repatriants, but no, and a visit to the Dutch consul in Reims was worthless. So I tried myself, walked out, could tramp with an American officer on his way to the Ruhr till Liege. A long walk to the Dutch border; a military truck took me to Maastricht. I still was dressed in battledress. An overnight place in a centre in Maastricht and next day a truck to The Hague.
I got out on the Laan van Meerdervoort not so far from its beginning. Annie’s family was evacuated so very far on that same street. Nearly 3 years before we parted where I got out of the truck.
The rest is history. I was taken into the army and later sent to England for a course of medical officers in Wolverhampton. And you and your family invited me for Christmas 1945. How long ago and how time flies – it is difficult to realise – more than 50 years.