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Ben Kerkhoff
Ben Kerkhoff
The Hague, The Netherlands
The Hague, The Netherlands
June 6th, 1944
Survived the war?
Wounded and captured but survived

Horrific remembrances

I was born in 1928, and at the beginning of the war I was 12 years old. I lived, as an only child, with my parents in the district Bezuidenhout in The Hague, in The Netherlands.

Life circumstances became, at least what I remember, more and more unpleasant. Public social life deteriorated rapidly. Rules and penalties were frequently imposed by the Germans. Roaming round on the street and following school were the only things that were left over to do as an adolescent boy. After elementary school, I followed the Thorbecke H.B.S. a technical school.

In the course of years I experienced the impact of the war more and more. Establishment of curfews, air raid alarms, public razzia's and executions, dropouts of electricity and gas, confiscations of electrical equipment such as radios. Also picking up boys and men who where forced to work in construction work, maintaining the defense installations against the allied forces along the coast and working in the ammunition factories in Germany.

Jewish citizens were removed on large scale to be taken to concentration camps from which they did not return. I have also lost good friends this way. I was walking with my father on the "Laan van nieuw Oostindië" when we were stopped by German soldiers. Together with a couple of other innocent bystanders, we were forced to look as the Germans lined up 17 Dutch citizens, probably resistance people as we learned later, who were brought down from the Scheveningen prison. Allie (my girlfriend at the time) recalled that a German solider was shot dead there a few days before. The 17 resistance members were executed in front of our eyes and their lifeless bodies dropped to the street.

At school we had to practice running for cover and seeking shelter during an air raid. Food became more scarce there were more tickets to buy food then there was food. So the so called "gaarkeukens", a kind of street stove, appeared in streets where, on some days, you could get a little soup.

My hobby was making technical things and with my friends in the neighborhood we made a complete network of cables which we stole on our secret scavaging trips to the bunkers in de dunes near The Hague. With the horns from private phone booths, which we stole as well, we could talk to each other late at night. I also made myself a so called "crystal receiver" which enabled me to receive the English spoken "Radio Oranje" and hook it up to the local network of cables.

I developed the main receiver in the network which told us about the progression of the Allied forces during the war. We did mention all this clandestine operations to our parents of course. From our home, an apartment on the second floor, meters of cable were lay ed out in our neighborhood right up the other side of the street and through backyards where a girl we called Josefien played violin on the network and also to a friend of mine on the main floor in order to talk to each other.
I had gotten into contact with a sweet next door girl and we hooked her up in the network too. She lived about 10 houses down on the main floor. We chatted to each other a lot specially at night and on the evening of december 5th, Sinterklaas evening (a kind of Santa Claus celebration here in Holland) we sang songs together.

Together with my friends I collected the many leaflets dropped by the English planes telling us the progression of the war and to wish us endurance, perseverance and good luck. I loved to read those leaflets and I played mailman and saw to it that the whole neighborhood got a leaflet. But I forgot that there were people who collaborated with the Germans and some even started a political movement the N.S.B.. One of these people turned me in to the German security service and I was picked up one day when I was leaving the house and jailed in a police cell in Bezuidenhout.

For days a "landwachter", a volunteer Dutch civilian under German orders, interrogated me. They were convinced that I had been persuaded by grownups, my parents or resistance people to do the things I had done. Because this was not true and I had done this on my own initiative I could not not comply with these questions. The interrogations became extremely violent they started to beat and kick me to find out who was behind all this. Specially the kicks in the groin were agonizing. After 10 days of violent interrogations and torture I was thrown back into the street. Barely being able to walk I stumbled home, where I got another beating from my father for causing all this misery. Because I was still suffering from the kicks in the groin a doctor in the Volharding hospital was consulted. He told me both testicles had been damaged beyond repair and that I could never have children for the rest of my life.

This was never discussed again by my parents or myself...

In the last year of the war, the so called "hunger winter" when our family was barely able to stay alive we ate a lot of flower roots which we got from the "Bollenstreek" To be able to use the stove my father and I where scavenging wood from everywhere we could find it, the woods, parks and even the tram rails. Then it came that the situation was so unbearable that we walked from The Hague to Apeldoorn. That took us three days and along the way we begged for food and shelter at farmhouses we encountered. I had difficulty walking and was suffering from swollen legs and hunger. We left our father behind in The Hague for with our rations of food there was only enough for one person. In Apeldoorn the underground resistance provided us with new ration cards in order for us to get some food.

We had no more contact with my father and were really concerned about his well being when we heard that English plane bombed Bezuidenhout by accident because they believed that a V1 or V2 installation was set up in that area. The installation they were referring to was situated in Benoordenhout. Luckily my father was okay and only the front face our house damaged.

In Apeldoorn I met Willie ten Katen, my nieces girlfriend and she would play a major role in my later life. The Allied forces were closing in on Apeldoorn and there was fierce fighting all around. We could hear the rumble of the guns on a daily basis. During the bombing raids we slept in the basement with the whole family. We were liberated in April 1945. People celebrated the liberation and the civilians who collaborated with the Germans were picked up and arrested.

We stayed in Apeldoorn for two more months and then we hitchhiked back to The Hague where I picked up my relationship with Allie, but my self esteem as a man, due to the torture and the devastation of my groin, led me to move to Eindhoven and I got involved in my work for Philips. I lost track of Allie.

A few years later I went to work in Weesp and one day Willie ten Katen(the girl I met in Apeldoorn) stood at my door. She had run away from Apeldoorn after some fights with her mother and stayed with me and became my wife. Sadly she passed away on August 31st. Through a Dutch Television show "Memories" presented by Anita Witzier, I got back into contact with Allie again, she moved to the States and also married.

Ben Kerkhoff

Copyright: D-Day, Normandy and Beyond

Civilian's personal file

Alie Dubus-de Bruin, my girlfriend during the war. She moved to the USA.
Alie Dubus-de Bruin, my girlfriend during the war. She moved to the USA.

Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!

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