|Dutch girls writing messages on a US tank in hopes that their families in other villages that the tank passes through will see them - all other communications were out.|
Tales From the Dutch Resistance
Our story so far has followed one "Hans," a young Dutch miner who was forced through fate to become a fugitive for a time. Now he is back at work, but his life just keeps getting more complicated.
Is the story true, or just a tale - I will let you decide. We continue with our Tales of the Dutch Resistance.
Tales From the Dutch Resistance Part V: Rubber
Life resumed some form of normalcy for Hans and brother Franz. They continued working at the mine as they had before, where the Germans saw Hans as a great young worker who had become a team leader.
And almost every night, at the end of his shift, Hans would sneak out a stick of dynamite that Franz had hidden in his lunch pail. The SS guards at the mine entrance always changed, and if by some chance they recognized the same guards, the brothers simply took a break from their activity and left the dynamite for another night.
The ease with which they were fooling the SS men gave Hans some ideas. The mine was full of other materials that were in very short supply in war-time Europe. In particular, he had his eye on the conveyor belt that the miners used every day. It wasn't the belt itself that caught his interest, but the fact that there were layers of rubber covering parts of it.
Rubber was extremely precious during the war. It was impossible to obtain any from normal sources, even the black market. The Germans tightly controlled all distribution of scarce rubber supplies for use in their factories and manufacturing processes.
Hans simply wanted some rubber for his bicycle. It was a long walk to the mine, and it was much easier when he could ride his bicycle. With Holland occupied for several years now, though, his bike needed rubber for its tires. He was tired of stealing for the Resistance; it was time to get something out of it himself.
Hatching a plan, Hans volunteered one night to stay late and arrange the equipment for the next shift. He watched his own crew leave, and then went to work on the belt. There was plenty of rubber, but it was underneath another coating and very difficult to remove.
Struggling, and with little time before the next crew was scheduled to arrive, Hans tugged and pulled at the rubber. He was able to tear some out, but in doing so he accidentally ripped loose some of the bearings on the belt. Hearing the next shift approaching, Hans quickly put everything back into the best order that he could. He managed to avoid having the men see him, and ran to the guard station, where he signed out as if nothing had happened.
The next day, there was a note on his time card telling Hans to go up to Mr. Pieter's office. Figuring it was something to do with their dynamite scheme, Hans casually walked upstairs and into the management building. He saw that the door to Mr. Pieter's office was open, so he strode in.
Mr. Pieter wasn't there. In his place, behind the desk, were two SS men in their distinctive greenish uniforms. Their pistols lay on the desk in front of them. Hans froze and involuntarily sucked in his breath.
Taking his time, one finally looked up at Hans.
"Hans, we want to know what you have been up to."
Hans cringed inside. He had hoped this day would never come. He tried to put on a brave face.
"What do you mean?" he answered weakly.
The man looked down at a paper in front of him. Hans saw that it was the mine's time sheet from the previous day.
"You were late leaving yesterday. We found out that you stayed after the others left. What were you doing?"
Still unsure what was going on, Hans tried to keep any emotion from splaying across his face. However, his spirits instantly elevated - it did not appear to be about the dynamite.
"I took care of the set-up for the next shift. It was my turn."
He tried to say it as nonchalantly as possible. To himself, though, his voice sounded like the squeaking of a mouse.
The two SS men looked at each other. The second one spoke this time.
"What did you do to the equipment." It was not phrased as a question.
Hans had hoped that he had gotten the equipment back into order, but apparently not.
"I just did what I was supposed to do. I re-set the machine and adjusted the belt. We do that every day."
The first SS man broke in sharply. "What did you do? I will not ask again." He put his hand on the desk, next to the pistol.
Hans thought fast. Something must have gone wrong, or else they wouldn't be asking these questions. He made a decision on the spot.
"I did nothing wrong. I arranged the machine and left."
The two men looked at each other. The spoke briefly in German. The second one then turned to him.
"The belt was broken. When the crew went to turn it on, it would not move and the engine overheated. That entire section of the mine is now closed until we get the parts from Frankfurt."
Hans thought frantically. He must not have gotten the belt back into order when he left the previous night. He remembered seeing the bearings pop out.
"It must have been the next crew's fault. When I left, the equipment was operating normally. I have been doing this since I began at the mine three years ago. Nothing was wrong."
The two SS men looked at each other again, and one pointed at one of the papers on the desk. The second one spoke to the first, who nodded and looked over at Hans.
"We see that you have a good record. We know that you are considered a team leader on your shift. You must be right, it must have been the next crew's fault. You may go."
With that, the two SS men looked down and began shuffling their papers. The pistols remained untouched on the desk.
Hans backed out of the room slowly. As soon as he was out of the building, he leaned weakly against the wall, breathing heavily. His legs could barely support him, and he felt as if he had been thrown out of a plane to his doom. Rather than return to the mine, he staggered back down the path to go home again. Halfway there, he threw up his breakfast.
That had been a close call.