In commemoration of Jozef Maria Van Hees
Jozef Maria Van Hees was thirty-one when the Feldgendarmes arrested him in Merksplas, Belgium in October 1944. The young man had aided the resistance and been found out. The Nazis deported him via camp Amersfoort to the Neuengamme concentration camp, where he died just a few months later, in January 1945. His family only learned of his death after the liberation from a fellow inmate, Marcel Uytdenhoef, who had survived the camp.
“I was twelve when my uncle was arrested,” his nephew Robert Van Hees recalls. “All of the men in the village had been ordered to stay in their houses. We saw the Feldgendarmes taking men with them. I was told to run and warn my uncle, but it was too late. On the way, a neighbor stopped me and told me Jozef and his brother Albert had already been arrested.” The Nazis released Albert a short time later, but he himself never returned.
On his 85th birthday – 3th April and also the anniversary of Jozef Maria’s birth – Robert Van Hees visited the ITS. There he and his sons Paul and Koen studied the original documents concerning his uncle’s fate, including the death certificate from Neuengamme. “We knew when and where Jozef had died,” Paul tells us. “His remains were returned to Merksplas – his place of birth on 15th September 1947 where he was buried with civilian honor on 18th September. And after we read the story of Marcel Uytdenhoef in the newspaper, we wanted to come here and see the documents as a way of commemorating him.”
In October 2016, the family of Marcel Uytdenhoef had received his wallet, containing papers and photos and a ring from the ITS. The media in Belgium and Germany had reported on the incident.