Molenstraat, Oirschot

Liesbeth Sparks

How can I get hold of reliable news? This question became more urgent for many Dutch citizens as the war years progressed. Slowly but surely fewer sources of news in the Netherlands were autonomous. So it meant listening to the BBC which broadcast every day ‘This is Radio Orange, the voice of strife in the Netherlands’, much to the irritation of the occupiers. On 13 May 1943 came the order: all Dutch citizens must hand in their radios. Anyone not doing so risked imprisonment or worse. Many people decided to hide their radios.
The architect Jan Beks, born in Eindhoven, was living with his family in the Molenstraat in Oirschot in May 1943. He had no intention of handing his Philips radio over to the Germans without a struggle, so he hid it in the attic of an outbuilding in the Molenstraat. His state of the art Royal Enfield motorbike, complete with a modern gear change pedal, was also stored in pieces in the attic. Both the radio and motorbike were safe as there were no windows in the attic and no staircase leading up to it.

Bright red faces

Suddenly in August, German policemen came to the door, a certain Commander Weber accompanied by two sergeants. They had come to confiscate a radio and a motorbike, they informed Beks. ‘I sold them last year’, he lied with a straight face. Weber and his men did not believe him. They searched the entire house, the longer it took the more angry they became: they knew for certain that they were going to find something. They handcuffed Jan Beks ‘with bright red faces’ and marched him across the market place towards the town hall


Meanwhile mayor Ed Steger was at work in the town hall. He was shocked to see Jan Beks come in handcuffed. What was going on? He spoke briefly with Weber and then, watched by four eyes, with his fellow villager. Someone’s playing a betrayal game, Steger revealed. There’s no point in denying it, he strongly advised Beks. ‘It is serious, my man, you must realise that.’ If Beks wanted to avoid never going home again, it would be better to confess, advised Steger: ‘Choose between your family or disappearing indefinitely in Camp Vught.’ Beks made his decision.



Back in the Molenstraat Jan Beks showed the three policemen where the radio and the motorbike were concealed, and they were confiscated. Weber took him to Oirschot police station where they discussed what to do with him. He was declared to be Staatsgefährlich (Danger to the State). The verdict: from now on he must report every week to the Ortskommandantur (local headquarters) in Eindhoven to ensure that he obeyed the rules from now on. But Jan Beks was now ‘free’ to go back to his family.

Jan Beks and his family survived the occupation unharmed after this incident. Beks was well-known and respected in Oirschot. It was not only his work as an architect but also his social awareness that kept him closely involved with village life. When he was killed in an accident in 1953 it was a great shock to the residents of Oirschot.

T.his text is based on an interview by Jan Kuijpers with Hans Beks, the youngest son of Jan Beks. The interview appeared earlier in De Uitstraling publication

Jan Beks (Image: Family Beks private collection, undated)