SAVED BY A COURAGEOUS BUS TRIP
Hoofdstraat 26, Heeswijk-Dinther
‘I remember it all so well,’ explains Jeanne Hoevenaars-Voets. ‘I was only three years old, but I have so many images in my mind.’ Jeanne was born in 1941. Her parents lived on Hoofdstraat, which at the time was called Dorpsstraat, in Heeswijk and ran a confectionery shop. The couple secretly hid a Jewish couple for three years. ‘We still have contact,’ explains Jeanne.
One day, during the year 1942, an unusual customer stopped by the family’s shop. ‘My mother called him the “misterke”. He told my mother that he was looking for safe houses for Jewish people.’ Anna and Marinus Voets agreed and shortly afterwards, Herman and Leny van Dijk-Cohen came to live — or hide — with the couple. The Jewish couple also had three children at the time, although they did not come to live at the safe house.
The Jewish couple lived in a room behind the shop on the ground floor and it was Leny who taught Jeanne to walk and ride a bicycle. The parents, family and neighbours of Jeanne’s parents were told nothing of the concealment. The children were told to refer to Leny and Herman as their aunt and uncle. No one knew of the couple except for the ‘misterke’ and Doctor Lebeau, who treated Leny when he broke his collarbone.
Betrayal on the bus
One day much later, the ‘misterke’ visited the shop again and explained that the Jewish couple were to take a bus to ’s-Hertogenbosch. They were being sent to a new safe house as, he alleged, switching place from time to time was safer than staying in one location.
Anna Voets refused to be taken in by the explanation and would not allow the couple to leave. Instead, she got on the bus herself at the time specified by the ‘misterke’. As soon as the bus arrived in Middelrode, it was boarded by German soldiers wanting to carry out a check. ‘My mother was terrified, and she got off at the next stop. When she got back to Heeswijk, she wondered whether she had been betrayed by the “misterke”. I admire my mother’s courage tremendously,’ explains Jeanne admiringly.
He fell for it
Shortly after, the ‘misterke’ called in again to ask whether Herman and Leny had caught the right bus. ‘My mother insisted that they had got on the bus and the “misterke” fell for it. Who exactly he was and where he lived has always been a mystery.’
‘Heavy boots overhead’
The bus trip was not the only time that Jeanne’s mother had cause to suspect the ‘misterke’ of having a double agenda. Even though no one knew of the Jewish couple, the Germans nevertheless stormed the building one day. The Jewish couple were living on the ground floor, but thankfully the Germans only searched the upper floors and the latch on the door to the room in which Herman and Leny were living was barely visible. ‘It really was their salvation. It was so awful, I can still hear those heavy boots overhead. We had very narrow steps in our house and the Germans charged upstairs with such aggression.’
Still in contact
After the war, Leny and Herman emigrated to Brazil. To this day, the two families are still in contact.
Marinus and Anna Voets (Image: private ownership, Voets family, undated)