This is Part II of my series "Tales From the Dutch Resistance." We are following the story of one man, whom we shall call Hans. Hans is a young miner of the age of 23 in the town of Beesel, which sits between the Meuse and the German border.
Is it true? Or just a tall tale. You decide.
We pick up where we left off.
Chapter II: Pieter
Hans did not sleep well that night. The incident with the foreigner by the tree kept coming into his head. Somebody must have seen and run away before he noticed. Surely the man had an accomplice who observed the whole thing - nobody would be that bold without some backup.
Hans finally got up and went down to get some frühstück, as everyone called breakfast. Using German words was quite common, being as how they were only two streets away from the border. When he turned from the stairs into the kitchen, however, he saw that his father was already up. He was sitting at the table, the morning newspaper lying before him.
"Hans, have you seen this?" he asked in a strained voice. His face was pale and stood out uncharacteristically in the morning gloom.
Hans understood immediately that his father knew. The body had been found only a few hundred yards away, shortly after Hans had returned home. Perhaps the man did have an accomplice, who had wandered off before the incident, then returned shortly after. Anything was possible.
Hans remained silent. He always told his father everything, there were no secrets in their household. Finally, he had the courage to speak.
"I did it."
His father leaned back and gave a big sigh.
"He's dead. They're going to come and turn everything upside down until they find you."
Hans didn't say anything. He sat at the table, not even looking at the paper. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that there was a picture of the dead man on the front page, exactly as he had left him.
His father shook his head. He seemed to be thinking about something, and started to speak several times, but then stopped. He looked worried, but more than that, he looked sad.
"You have to go. You can't stay here. They'll figure it out and send you away. You'll never lie well enough to convince them."
Hans nodded. He had been thinking the same thing, but couldn't bear to leave his family without a reason.
"I know someone who I think can help. You have to go see him right now. Pieter, your boss at the mines, is someone who can help. You must go see him right now, and don't let anyone see you."
Random members of the Dutch Resistance|
"Hurry. Go now. Get some things and leave. We're all in danger until you get to safety. They burn down entire towns over things like this. We'll wind up in a camp. Get going!"
Hans always did what his father said, there wasn't even question about it. He ran back up to his room and threw a few things in his old school bag. Then, he ran back down the stairs. His father was holding open the door.
He didn't look back, and his father didn't say a word. There was a shortcut through the fields to Pieter's house, which was near the mine. Though he had taken that route hundreds of times, he got there in record time.
Pieter answered the door after a few knocks. He was holding the paper.
"Have you seen this? The guy who did it is going to need a lot of help."
Hans paused for only a second.
"Yes, I do."
Pieter's jaw dropped. "It's you?"
Hans nodded. Pieter was his only hope. If he couldn't trust him, it was hopeless anyway.
Pieter ushered him inside, but only far enough so that he could close the door.
"You need to go away. I can help you. Do you have someone that you can stay with?"
Hans didn't hesitate.
"Yes. My girlfriend lives in Eindhoven. I can go stay with her."
"You can't go to Eindhoven! There's a big Luftwaffe base there! They'll find you in an instant!"
"She doesn't live in town, but in the suburbs. She is in Berkt. They won't bother me there."
Pieter thought about it.
"That will have to do then. But you will need papers to travel. I will get them for you. But you must stay there until we send for you. You understand?"
Hans nodded. It was all going so fast, like a dream.
"Wait here. I need to get something."
Pieter disappeared into the recesses of the house. It sounded like Pieter went down some steps and then came up. It was only a few minutes, but seemed longer.
When he returned, Pieter was holding his coat. He walked right past Hans as he put it on, opening the front door.
"Come with me. We have to see the doctor."
Hans was confused. He was fine, and didn't see how it was useful to waste time going with Pieter for some appointment. However, Pieter didn't stop, but continued out into the street. After a moment, Hans followed, quietly shutting the door behind him.
The doctor's office conveniently was across the street from the mine, which sent him a lot of business. Hans had been before the doctor a few times, but didn't know him that well. The doctor was just an ordinary fellow, no more socially significant than, say, a plumber. He did his job as quickly as possible, then shushed you out the door.
Even though it was still early, the waiting room already was crowded with patients. Hans saw an empty chair in a corner and walked over. A man had his things on it, and grudgingly put them on the floor so that Hans could sit. Hans was grateful for the chair, as from the crowd it looked as though it would be a long wait.
Rather than find a chair, though, Pieter walked over to a cupboard. He opened a draw and pulled something out. Then he walked over to Hans.
"Here, give me your hand."
Hans stuck out his left hand uncomprehendingly. Pieter fiddled with it for a second. Then he released it.
"Just do what the doctor orders." He grinned, then turned and left.
Hans still didn't know what was going on. He looked down and saw that Pieter had tied a yellow twist around his pinkie. It felt strange. Nobody else seemed to notice. He had no idea what to tell the doctor. He didn't want to tell anyone what had happened, much less someone he barely knew.
After a few minutes, the doctor came out. He glanced around the room, looking at everyone. When he saw Hans, he immediately motioned to him.
"You, come in. You are next."
Hans thought he must be talking to the man next to him and glanced over at him. The man was sitting back with his eyes closed. The doctor motioned again. Hans finally got up and walked into his office. The doctor quickly shut the door behind them.
"I can help you. However, you must do what I say, exactly as I tell you. Will you do that?"
Hans nodded. The doctor walked over to his desk and took something out of the bottom drawer.
"Here. You will use these. Try to avoid being noticeable. You're sick. Do you understand? It's in your blood, so it can't be seen. Repeat that!"
"I'm sick. It's in my blood."
"That's right. You've been sent away to recover. You're going to stay in Eindhoven until you get better. Can you remember that?"
"All right. There is a train in an hour. Don't miss it."
"We'll send for you when it is clear. Don't come back until then no matter what happens. Stay inside as much as possible."
Hans nodded again. He wondered how long that might be.
The doctor handed him some papers. Hans recognized them as medical travel documents.
"Show those to anyone who asks. Make sure they don't keep them! All right, off with you. We'll get the address from your father. Don't miss the train!"
Hans nodded. As he turned to go, the doctor held out his hand.
"You did us a great service. That man sent six of our people to the camps. Now he won't send anyone else."
Hans grinned stiffly and took the proffered hand. Maybe it would be all right after all.
Part III is here.