KEES KAPPERS’ LETTER
That day – 5 September 1944 – will go down in history as Crazy Tuesday. The Allied advance was going smoothly when suddenly the Germans seemed to be in a hurry to get home. That was enough to make even the most cautious people over-confident.
Kees Kappers from the Achterhoek, a region in the east of the country, wanted to become a teacher in the 1930s, but due to of a lack of teaching vacancies he joined the border committee in Limburg in 1938. When the Germans invaded in 1940 he was given a posting in the Brabant village of Budel-Dorplein.
Kees carried out checks on the Dutch-Belgian border. As the war progressed and German repression increased, shady things started to happen. Dozens of prisoners of war, pilots or Jews wanted to cross the border in secret and escape from the Germans. They were helped by the resistance movement. Through his friend Jan Zandvliet from the Rotterdam Military Police, Customs Officer Kees Kappers became a member of the Belgian resistance movement De Witte Brigade (White Brigade). With a few other lads from Budel they smuggled dozens of refugees across the border. It was dangerous work but Kees and Jan knew what was possible and what wasn’t. Together they made a successful team.
The weather is too nice
In June 1944 the Allies landed in Normandy and from there they advanced through Belgium into the Netherlands. From London, the Dutch government in exile called for the resistance to help the liberators. In Budel Kees Kappers and his accomplices joined the Dutch National Brigade (HNB). At the request of the Belgian resistance the Budel group blew up a lock near Weert in August. It was one incident from a whole series. Infrastructure important to the Germans had to be destroyed. Kees wrote about it. On Saturday 2 September he let his parents know that he wouldn’t be going home that weekend. The weather is too nice; there is gunfire from the air and that makes travelling too dangerous.
In a letter he warned his mother: ‘Ma, don’t go back home and stay where you are (…) Take care and when the time comes, stay indoors. We want to see each other fit and healthy after the liberation,’ wrote Kees.
Three days later, on Crazy Tuesday, he and a friend had to sabotage the railway between Budel-Schoot and Weert. The night-time operation was a success but instead of the goods train that was expected, a train full of wounded soldiers and prisoners of war guarded by the SS was derailed the next morning. Dozens were killed or injured and that stretch of track was destroyed. The Germans were furious.
Also on that day there was confrontation in Budel-Dorplein between escaping National Socialists and the resistance. Kees and his friends were betrayed by the National Socialists and hunted down by the angry SS. They fled into the reeds on the banks of the Ringselven lake but were caught and brutally murdered. The men were beaten up inhumanely.
Five years later – on 4 May 1949 – a war memorial was placed in the Catholic cemetery in the Kerkplein square in Budel-Dorplein. The Remembrance has been attended for many years by Kees Kappers from Apeldoorn, a nephew of the resistance hero. In 2016 he brought with him a small box with the inscription ‘Uncle Kees’. It contained posthumous awards and the letter to his ‘Dear Mother and Bep’. It was the letter telling his mother that she ought to stay indoors!
Left: Budel-Dorplein war memorial
Right: Kees Kappers