LOVE IN TIME OF WAR
Hoogstraat 38, Werkendam (8 May1945)
“Oh darling, you will understand that it has been a difficult time, I never heard from you. It was torture, until I received your wonderful letter. Oh sweetheart, I am so happy now. One hundred thousand kisses from your always loving Aria”. The first letter from her beloved Karel van de Werken from Sprang-Capelle, after being separated for over six months, was a godsend for Aria Colijn (1919-1990) from Almkerk.
In the autumn of 1944, Karel stayed behind in the liberated province of Brabant, while Aria lived in the still occupied Land of Heusden and Altena during the last six months of the war. Six months of hardships along the battlefront, fighting and an evacuation to Werkendam for the Colijn family; Aria recorded it all in her dairy. Finally, the letter from her beloved Karel arrived on 9 May 1945. She wrote back to him as quickly as possible.
While Aria read and reread the love letter from her Karel, all hell broke loose for Dina Verheij (1921-1969) from Werkendam. Shaved and covered with paint, she anxiously awaited more cruelties while imprisoned in Fort Bakkerskil. Her thoughts returned to October 1944.
The acting mayor of Werkendam sent her to do some chores for the German Wehrmacht at Fort Altena, part of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (New Dutch Water Defence Line). It was there that she first met Feldwebel Grose and after the somewhat boring chores she was allowed to help him with interpreting services. Feldwebel Grose was soon promoted to Ortskommandant in Werkendam; together with his soldiers he took up residence in a café on the Sasdijk in Werkendam in early 1945. Dina was already hopelessly in love with the German commander and it didn’t take long before they shared a bed.
Take off more
Their love survived until the liberation on 5 May. There were no more love letters for Dina after Liberation Day, in contrast to Aria, who then received hers from her beloved Karel. Although they both lived in Werkendam during the last months of the war, we do not know if they knew each other personally. Aria did know who Dina was. On 8 May, she wrote about Dina’s fate as a ‘Kraut girl’ in her diary.
Werkendam, Tuesday 8 May 1945
“They picked up Dina Verheij, a girl who whored around with the Germans, it was great fun. The whole of Werkendam followed them and sang. She was white as a sheet and still dared to smile. We booed and sang, and behind her were a few people with scissors in their hands, which they raised in the air all the time. Finally we reached the town hall, accompanied by loud cheering, and she was placed in the doorway. Everybody could see her, they took the scissors and the shaver and started cutting her hair whilst the bystanders cheered. Take off more, take off more, they screamed. There were five men cutting each girl’s hair and then a pot of red paint appeared and they drew swastikas across their heads and faces. One woman was allowed to vent her hatred on Dina Verheij and covered her in paint. Because we had to keep our mouths shut for these wicked girls for five long years”.
Dina Verheij was interrogated and quarantined by a doctor from Gorinchem due to a venereal disease. She was released from quarantine on 24 July 1945 and was granted freedom by the military commissioner in Sleeuwijk. It was only on 20 May 1948 that the decision of the District Court in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) followed and she was ‘unconditionally dismissed from prosecution’. She never saw her German lover again. On 3 June 1949 she married Arie Spek from Streefkerk and later on she married C. Kok from Gorinchem. She passed away on 27 January 1969. Her mourning card said, ‘It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of my beloved wife after a life full of care and devotion for all those dear to her’. Dina remained childless in both marriages. Aria Colijn married her beloved Karel van de Werken on 9 February 1949; together they had three daughters.
Left: Barendina Verheij (Image: Historische Vereniging Werkendam en De Werken c.a.)
Right: Aria Colijn. (Image: Ali Leenders)