“We boys are in some of the pictures”
Leo and Henk van’t Hul also received personal effects belonging to their father Gerardus at the Amersfoort Memorial yesterday. They have been researching his fate since 2004. “Our mother seldom spoke about his imprisonment and death,” said Leo. “Not until a nephew phoned about the family tree did we find out about our father´s murder in the Wöbbelin sub-concentration camp.” The call prodded the brothers to look into the past.
Leo and Henk were eight and ten years old when Gerardus van’t Hul was arrested. “The Gestapo came into our home on 29 December 1944 and took him away,” Henk remembered. “He had to get into a car. That was the last we saw of him. His hands were bound behind his back and a soldier was sitting next to him, pointing a gun at him. All we could do was wave.”
Before the war Gerardus served as corporal in the Royal Dutch Indian Army. In 1940 the Dutchman and his family traveled to his hometown of Zutphen for a vacation. During their stay the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. “We couldn´t return to Indonesia and our father looked for a new job here,” reported the brothers. It wasn´t unusual that their father was seldom home and often did not return at night. “It was just the way it was. We didn´t give it much thought.”
“The next news was an envelope, which was brought to our home sometime in 1945,” said Leo. “It contained our father´s watch, ring and some Malaysian coins. For my mother, this was confirmation that he was no longer alive.” Both brothers learned fragments about their father´s activities in the Dutch Resistance. Leo and Henk heard that their father had taken part in weapons transports and acts of sabotage during the war, explaining why he hadn´t come home at night.
According to documents at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Gerardus died of diphtheria in Wöbbelin on 17 March 1945 – his birthday. The subcamp was part of the Neuengamme concentration camp and served as receiving camp after the closure of other camps. It existed from 12 February to 2 May 1945.
The brothers were surprised to receive a recent call from Gert van Dompseler. Thanks to the initiative of van Dompseler and his colleague Pieter Dekker of the foundation October ´44, wallets belonging to those deported to Neuengamme and confiscated by the Nazis can be returned to their relatives. Gerardus van’t Hul´s wallet was also among the 3400 envelopes of personal effects kept at the ITS.
Yesterday both brothers opened the wallet and studied the photographs and papers with excitement. “This is a special day for us. I am very happy to receive another piece of the puzzle about our father´s fate,” said Henk. “We boys are in some of the pictures.”