LOVE YOUR ENEMY
Gerda Hoeve, Dreefje 1, Schijf (District of Rucphen)
Ook in West-Brabant ontwikkelde tijdens de bezetting het verzet zich op veel plaatsen. Toen in 1943 de Landelijke Organisatie voor Onderduikers (LO) zich ging organiseren werd Rucphen onderdeel van het district Roosendaal. Een van de plaatsen waar onderduikers terecht konden, was de ‘Gerda Hoeve’, gemeente Rucphen, maar parochieel onder Nispen. Daar vond net voor de bevrijding een onverwachte ontmoeting plaats.
Fugitives and pilot lines
Dairy farmer Tinus Veraart became more involved with taking people into hiding after the Germans had invaded. His two grown-up sons helped him, despite the risks. The oldest son, Martijn, had a temporary job at the town hall as the war had put a stop to him studying Economics in Tilburg. He helped by arranging coupons and maps . The second son, Jef, helped with practical jobs such as collecting fugitives and taking them to the ‘Gerda Hoeve’,the farmhouse which Veraart had built in 1927 in the Dreefje in the village of Schijf (District of Rucphen). It was an impressive building in the Amsterdam School style of architecture. It was also the closest farmhouse to Belgium, with the border being only a few hundred metres behind the farmhouse. Because of this, Veraart was also involved with supplying Allied aircraft crews though one of the pilot lines that were in use in the Netherlands during the occupation. This section of the pilot line had been set up by Janus Jongmans from Roosendaal. Once they had crossed the border, Jef Veraart handed over these airmen to the Belgian resistance, the so-called White Brigade in Essen. It was Monday 4 September 1944, Antwerp had been liberated and German troops were fleeing from the south. Liberation seemed just a matter of days away, but the following day three German soldiers in Luftwaffe uniform suddenly appeared at the front door. Had they been betrayed?
A surprising envounter
Terror turned to relief, but also to uncertainty. It seemed the three were deserters, so Tinus Veraart now had to take the enemy into hiding; the same enemy that he had feared for all those years. But it was more complicated than that, because these three were ‘Volksdeutsche’ (Ethnic Germans). Germany had not only invaded countries, but had annexed large regions, mostly in former Czechoslovakia and Poland. Anyone living there was classified as a ‘Volksdeutsche’, a second-class German citizen, but still one who had to serve in the Wehrmacht. Many of these young men were distrusted by the Germans and most of them didn’t make it beyond the rank of ordinary soldier. What made this remarkable was that one of the three, the Polish Joachim Tometzki had been promoted to sergeant. The same sense of humanity that Veraart had devoted to the resistance now convinced him to offer the three cover, once again at the risk of his own life. And for how long?
Unfortunately Veraart and his family had to wait a long time for liberation. They decided to hide the three in a grain silo, where they would have the least chance of being discovered. After dark, some of them worked on the land. Jef Veraart (24) and Joachim (26) who were about the same age, exchanged stories. Joachim told Jef his tragic story about enforced military service for the former enemy and of his homesickness. The deserters remained in hiding on the ‘Gerda Hoeve’ for two long months. The front came closer from 21 October, but it still took until 26 October before Nispen and the surrounding area were liberated by the British. The three were handed over to the liberators and disappeared in captivity. But that’s not the end of the story.
Several years after the war Joachim visited the people who had saved his life. Father Tinus Veraart had recently died but the bond with Jef strengthened. The Pole told him that there would never be freedom for him. He had served with the enemy and that meant he could never return to his fatherland, and he would never again see his parents and other family members. This separation was a great burden on him and in the end he returned to Belgium and married a girl from Essen. He died in 1969. Members of the Veraart family also attended the funeral to say goodbye to the person who had once been their enemy.