Interview with Karst Smit,
July 6-7, 2002
Side-Heading Page No.
Before the War…..……………………………2
Service During the Invasion…………..2
Van der Heijden Family…………………..3
Local Nazis in Hilvarenbeek…………….4
Tilburg; Bertram Brasz…………………….4
Money-Raising to Pay Expenses………5
Ambach & Chabot Contacted……………5
De Jonge Hertog Inn, Nuboer,
The Route to Brussels……………………….9
Communications Across the Border….9
Willem (Wim) Schmidt……………………….13
Jan Naaijkens; Germans in Hilvarenbeek ….14
Arrest of Malavasi & Schmidt……………..14
The Paris Line, Leiden Univ., King Kong……..15
King Kong and Karst’s Arrest……………..16
Concentration Camps, Escape from Germany…..17
After the War…………………………………….18
Suggestions from Karst………………………19
Before the War
Karst’s parents and family were all anti-Nazi. The Dutch Reformed Church was anti-Nazi, as were all the members and the ministers. All his school teachers and friends were anti-Nazi.
He had one brother, Romke, who hid in France and joined the FFI (there is a photo of him in uniform). After the Normandy landings he joined the Princess Irene Brigade and was killed the last day of the war in The Netherlands. Karst’s parents were notified the same day that both Karst and Romke had been killed. Then he turned up.
Before 1940 Karst was a civil servant in The Hague. In 1937 he was called to military service. It was in 1937 in The Hague while serving in the Jagers when he met Ton Hoogenraad. In 1938 he became a sergeant in the Jagers Regiment and one battalion (his) was sent to Tilburg. (At home he has a photo of the regiment showing him marching in front of his men with Hoogenraad along side.)
Service During the Invasion
In May 1940 he was commander of a group in charge of blowing up drawbridges near Tilburg. Next he went to Dunkirk. He and 1700 men of his regiment embarked on the ship Pavon for England. At midnight a German plane bombed the ship. It was leaking and burning and had to return. The attack killed five NCO’s and many soldiers. It was a catastrophe.
Karst returned to The Hague and wondered what to do. He decided to join the Marechaussees, the Mounted Police. There are photos in his collection of him as a sergeant of the Jagers and as a Marechaussee.
In 1942 he was assigned to Hilvarenbeek with the Marechaussees. He and a colleague were patrolling in the woods. They saw two men who tried to flee from them, who proved to be French POW’s who had escaped from Germany. This was the first involvement by him in the escape line. Among others, he helped 88 French POW’s.
In 1943 Hilvarenbeek was a small village. The church tower has been there since 1400. The Roman Catholic church is right next to the town center, The Centrum. The Centrum is called the Frithoff [Frijthoff?]. In former ages judges tried cases there. The street which after the war was named after the Van der Heijden family [which runs along the right side of the property] was then just a dirt road without a name.
One day they got a phone call from the Germans that the Dutch Nazi Party was going to have a rally in the Centrum. Since they were the local police, the Marechaussees were to keep order. Karst [and the other Marechaussees?] told all the people living around the town center to stay inside their homes. But Eugene van der Heijden’s brother and some of his friends, after climbing up the church tower, began ringing the powerful bells to disrupt the meeting. The Nazis tried to get inside the church to stop the ringing but the boys had blocked the doors and kept it up until the meeting had to be called off.
The Van der Heijden Family
There was a teacher in Hilvarenbeek, Eugene van der Heijden, a good, reliable Dutchman. Karst asked him to help with hiding places. Eugene said he would ask his parents, who said OK. Thus many Allied airmen stayed there one or two nights. Later, Eugene’s father and two brothers were arrested and died in concentration camps. Karst has a picture of the van der Heijden home and the Marechaussee barracks.
On the other side of the street from the VDH home were just open fields and farm houses. The van der Heijden home is located at what is now 105 Diessenseweg. The corner street, which runs along the right side of the property, then an unnamed dirt road, is now Van der Heijdenstraat. A little to the east is the modern day highway N 269 that heads south to Esbeek and beyond. The building that housed the Hilvarenbeek Marechaussee HQs is now 85-87 Diessenseweg, roughly midway between the center of town and the van der Heijden home.
The Putters Brothers
Jan Putters and his brother were old-fashioned dressmakers who worked in the window of their shop. Everyone entering Hilvarenbeek passed by it. They would phone Karst if the Germans came into town.
Local Nazis in Hilvarenbeek
There was a man named Kuijpers, called “tall Kuijpers,” who had a leather factory. He was pro-German and friendly with German officers. The notorious German police was the Green Police (see below). Kuijpers had friends among them and had parties with them. He wife was “too friendly,” i.e., was having sex with the officers. After the war he was punished but not with a long sentence. Karst is confident it was he who informed on Piet Leermakers. [See comments by Emmanuel Naaijkens about how Kuijpers’ employees were afraid of losing their jobs if they opposed the Nazis.]
The Marechaussees in Hilvarenbeek had no contact with the Green Police [Deutsch Grenschutz]. But later, while Karst was in Baarle-Nassau, sometimes when he was at the barracks, the Green Police from Breda would come to arrest Dutch people in hiding. When they arrived, they would give the list of wanted persons to Smit’s commander. The Green Police then would spend their time in the sitting room while the Marechaussees made copies of the lists. The Green Police knew the people were being given advance warning. “It was very odd,” said Karst None of the wanted men were captured while he was in Baarle-Nassau.
In the town of Breda was an illegal organization whose chief was Cor van der Hooft. They did a lot of Resistance work, including sabotage. Ton Hoogenraad worked with him.
Tilburg, Bertram Brasz
Karst had a good friend, Bertram Brasz, in Tilburg who had been born in Enschede near the German border. One day Brasz called and invited him over for tea. During their meeting, Brasz said he knew a Jewish hat-seller who wanted to go to Brussels where the man had a friend, Marie Krauss. It was too dangerous for the man to remain in The Netherlands. This was how Karst began sending people to Brussels.
Money-Raising to Pay Expenses
They raised money for the costs of the escape organization by smuggling cigarettes. His sister sold “very bad tobacco” to her colleagues and turned the money over to him, which they used to buy railway tickets to Brussels. [See more on this in Karst’s NARA file.]
Karst’s policy was that the Marechaussees would pay the costs of escapees while they were in The Netherlands, while the Belgian helpers would pay those on the other side of the border. But Marie Krauss wanted to be paid for helping the airmen. [Previous Jewish refugees apparently had been able to pay their own costs but the Allied airmen couldn’t.] Karst would not go along with her demands. It was this that prompted him to go looking for a different contact in Belgium.
Krauss had earlier created other problems for them. One time she showed up in Hilvarenbeek dressed up like a big city Brussels woman wearing rouge. This was dangerous in a village of farmers like Hilvarenbeek.
Ambach and Chabot – Contact Established
Karst had heard of a Protestant minister in Brussels by the name of Maaskant and asked for his help. Maaskant gave him the name of Pleyte, who put him in touch with Charlotte Ambach and her mother Elise Chabot. Karst only knew Ambach, Chabot, and Ernest Van Moorleghem. He knew nothing about the fishmarket, Prosper Spilliaert, et al.
Ernest was a nice-looking young man, rather tall. Karst didn’t think he was a commissioner of police.
Some days before Karst had to flee into hiding (see below), Ernest met him at the Marechaussee HQs in Baarle-Nassau. Ernest had a very friendly relationship with Lottie (Charlotte Ambach). He brought with him a bundle of letters for her. Karst hid them under the floorboards of his room in the HQs. In 1945, after returning from the concentration camps, he found them still there, retrieved them, and handed them over to Lottie. Karst was astounded when I told him that Ernest was already married.
One day he was patrolling near the In den Bockenreijder inn when he saw footprints and followed them. He came to an open place and found four or five young men. They didn’t like that fact that he was patrolling or that he was a Marechaussee. They were students at the Agricultural University of Wageningen. The Germans had ordered that all students sign a declaration of loyalty, otherwise they would be arrested. Even if they signed the oath, they didn’t trust the Germans to honor its terms; they felt it would be better to go into hiding.
The Netherlands had a civilian German government because of plans to incorporate the country into Germany. Because the Germans didn’t trust the Walloons in Belgium they installed a German military government and the German general wasn’t too bad.
The students were living there in the woods. They had dug two holes in the ground, one with a sitting room and the other a sleeping room. There were book shelves in one or both. They got food from a farmer nearby. On Diessenseweg in Hilvarenbeek, was Mr. Hendriks, a baker, who provided them with bread without requiring coupons.
Karst urged them to be careful. “If I can find your footprints, so can the Germans.” With the number of arriving airmen exceeding his organization’s capacity for hiding them, Karst needed a new hiding place. He asked the students if he could bring the fliers to their cabin in the woods. Many Allied fliers subsequently lived there a few days.
From the VDH home they would guide the fliers past a church to Esbeek. Most Americans couldn’t bicycle, so they would have to walk. Sometimes they could use a car. A man living in Hilvarenbeek [Piet Van Geel] had to use his truck to deliver straw to the German Army. For fuel, he was provided with benzene by the Germans. The Marechaussees received only a little gas for their motorcycles, so Van Geel provided them with extra German benzene for their use.
Prins Hendriklaan was a small country lane on which the In den Bockenreijder was located south of Esbeek. [Actually the inn is on Dunse Dijk which connects with Prins Hendriklaan.] (Ages ago there were bandits who robbed people called “Bockenreijder,” or billy goats.) The airmen and their guides would turn onto Dunse Dijk. [The topo map of the Landgoed de Utrecht area shows Prins Hendriklaan intersecting the main Hilvarenbeek-Esbeek road at the point where Maillee, the forester, lived in a white house a little south of Esbeek. In case of danger, Maillee would warn them. Dunse Dijk connects with Prins Hendriklaan at right angles and goes directly to the In den Bockenreijder.]
The airmen went close by the inn on their way to the cabin. The forest ranger [see note above] lived in a house on the way to the inn. Karst does not think that the ranger was the practical joker Tom referred to.
During WWII there were only local farmers eating at the In den Bockenreijder inn. There were no cars. De Bruijn and his family lived in the white painted building opposite the inn with its thatched roof. The building, which is over 100 years old, is much the same now as it was then during the war. As you enter, there is a large fireplace on the right wall, sand on the floor, farm implements in the rafters, and a bar at the other end of the room. [There is a photo of the de Bruijns over the fireplace in the inn.]
The path in the woods to the cabin still leads off to the left. It is a 20-25 minute walk according to Karst.
De Bruijn did a lot of good. He provided food for the students and airmen.
When the weather was really bad, the students and airmen went into the de Bruijn barns.
The chicken coop was the place where young people could stay in the summer. The Marechaussee Jonkers met a girl at the chicken coop whom he married after the war.
Now the In den Bockenreijder inn is only used as a restaurant.
There was a lake near the cabin where the students sometimes would go for a swim. The Germans prohibited people from using it because the British had landed amphibious planes there.
The practice of members of the escape line was that if they heard that someone had been arrested, they would avoid going near there. The students were careless. They had been warned by Eugene VDH [actually the warning came from Albert Wisman, although Eugene might have been the one to warn Wisman]. Karst’s understanding of what happened is that they had left their luggage at the cabin in the woods, stayed temporarily at some farmers’ farms, and then went to retrieve their bags. But the Germans had left soldiers there and that is where they were captured. [Note that Karst appears to have it wrong; it was at the home of the assistant forest ranger Maillée where one of them had been storing his luggage where two of them were arrested.]
De Jonge Hertog Inn; Dr. Nuboer; Raaijmakers Brothers
Karst had never heard of the De Jonge Hertog inn where Jan Naaijkens picked up Tom. [This suggests that Eugene VDH may have made arrangements directly with the Raaijmakers brothers as to where Jan would pick up Tom without involving Karst.]
Karst didn’t recognize the name of Dr. Nuboer. I didn’t ask him about the Raaijmakers brothers because I didn’t learn about them until later.
One day during a heavy thunderstorm he was guiding two airmen to Weelde. A local farm girl by the name of Jeanne Willems invited them in out of the rain. She joined the escape line. She had a bad concentration camp experience [but survived].
There no longer are any Dutch-Belgian border markers. But in 1943 the border was patrolled by the German Grenzschutz [sp?] troops.
Sixty years ago there was a very narrow path (now a paved one-lane road) across the border. It was about one hour by foot from the In den Bockenreijder inn to the village of Weelde. [It seemed a lot longer, judging from our car ride.]
On the road to Weelde, the guides walked along the dirt road while the fliers or Jews walked along a ditch. A pre-arranged signal from the guides would warn the fliers or Jews. Part of the road is paved. Countryside on either side of the road is now open fields but then the fields were woods.
The Route to Brussels
From the student’s hideout, Karst and a colleague took them to the nearest village, Weelde. [It appeared to me that Weelde was more than an hour’s walk, judging from how long it took to drive there.] Weelde is little more than a bend in the road. [Judging from my 2004 visit, Weelde is now a fair-sized town. What we saw in 2002 may have been Weeldestraat.] From Weelde to Turnhout they would take a bus with a charcoal powered unit pulled along behind. Sometimes, however, that bus was controlled by the Germans. There was also a steam train, the “stoomtram,” used only by farmers. It was safer. (Unlike what Jan Naaijkens thought, they would not have taken Tom to Poppel; there were too many Germans.) Opposite the train station in Turnhout was the Café Jos Engels. [Is this the one where Malavasi and Willem Schmidt were arrested?]
At Turnhout they took a very fast electric tram, #41, to Antwerp. It doesn’t exist any more. Now there is a bus #41. [Eugene VDH in his article “De Studenten,” refers to a tram between Turnhout and Antwerp. The next stage was by train from Antwerp to Brussels. There they took an electric street car to Rue Le Jeune #4 where Charlotte Ambach and Elise Chabot lived.
Communication Across the Border
[We drove through Poppel.] Constant Heeren of Poppel, a Dutch travel agent who lived near the border, helped them. Karst gave all mail for Brussels to Heeren’s sister-in-law, Octavia (last name unknown), who lived on the Belgian side of the border. She had a pass to cross the border to help take care of her sister, Heeren’s wife. She would cross back into Belgium, carrying the mail for Brussels in her underwear.
Karst had very few civilians in his organization. For the most part he relied on military men, most of whom had become Marechaussees. Jan Naaijkens didn’t do field work. [His aid to Tom was the exception.] Jan provided their organization with false Belgian ID cards. Karst thought that Jan made complete ID cards.
The escape line originated in Hilvarenbeek. The local Marechuassee commander was OK with what they were doing but not involved; he was elderly and married. [Is Karst here referring to the commander in Hilvarenbeek or De Gier, the commander in Baarle-Nassau?] There was only one place they used to cross the Belgian border.
The regional Marechaussee commander, De Wilde, had his offices in Tilburg. Ordinarily no one of Karst’s rank would be contacted directly by someone as high up in rank as De Wilde. Nevertheless Karst got a call to see him. De Wilde told Karst to come to his home. They didn’t trust De Wilde because he went drinking with German officers. He said, “Smit, I know what you are doing—helping Jews and fliers. What can I do for you?” Karst responded, “You seem to be a friend of the Germans.” De Wilde explained, “My fraternization is a cover.” Karst said, “I will have to consult with my colleagues.” They decided to accept De Wilde’s offer, but to shoot him if he was not being honest. Karst warned De Wilde he would be killed if he betrayed them.
Karst told De Wilde that he wanted three crossing points for the airmen, Baarle-Nassau and Goirle as well as Hilvarenbeek. He also told the commander that he wanted two of his colleagues, David Jonkers and Huub Meeuwisse, to be assigned to Goirle with himself at Baarle-Nassau, where the local commander was De Gier, a former officer in the Jagers. One of his reasons for selecting Baarle-Nassau was because he knew De Gier and some other people there. De Wilde ordered it. They now had their three crossing points. It worked out very nicely. In addition he had contact with other Dutch escape lines.
To transport the Allied airmen, sometimes they used a motorcycle with a side car. The airman would be given an extra Marechaussee jacket and hat to wear and were carried in the side car, with a real Marechaussee on the motorcycle.
Karst heard that his former lieutenant in the Jagers, Ton Hoogenraad, was hiding in Den Bosch and that he was already involved in escorting people to the Belgian border. Karst had been sent on other business to Den Bosch when he ran into Hoogenraad, who was in hiding, very pale, had not had enough to eat, and had refused to sign the declaration of loyalty to the Germans. Karst offered him a job in charge of the students, providing him with food and lodging. Hoogenraad became a chief there and stayed in the cabin in the woods. He supervised the students and fliers. He was a very brave man, absolutely reliable. Hoogenraad was still there in November 1943. [According to Jan Wolterson or Dick Los, Hoogenraad wasn’t able to bring any discipline to the students and left, probably well before Nov. ’43.] He became a captain after the liberation.
After Karst had had himself reassigned from Hilvarenbeek to Baarle-Nassau, he had contacts with doctors at all three of his border crossing places (Hilvarenbeek, Goirle, and Baarle-Nassau). The one near Goirle was Dr. Aussems. One day, while Karst was at the Marechaussee HQs in Baarle-Nassau, Dr. Aussems called asked him to come to Goirle “for a physical.” Some local farmers had told Aussems that they had a Canadian airman they had found near Goirle and wanted to know what to do with him. Dr. Aussems told them to bring the man to him, since he was the only one who could speak English [in that area?]. The man claimed to be a German who had emigrated to Quebec. The way the man spoke French raised questions about his truthfulness. Aussems didn’t trust him. Aussems said he knew a lady who had lived in Quebec. Aussem’s house was very old. Two rooms had sliding doors. The lady who had lived in Quebec hid behind the sliding doors and listened to their conversation with the Canadian. Afterwards, she said that the Canadian’s French was not right.
Karst took the Canadian to the hideout of the students in the Landgoed de Utrecht forest and told them to watch him. They put a series of questions to the man. He didn’t know what “Next of Kin” in English meant and filled in a number instead. He did it again. He wouldn’t answer the rest of the questions. He said, “I don’t trust you. I want to see your chief.” [The interrogation questions are in the court judgment in the trial of Chabot, Ambach, and the others that Karst gave me.]
At that same time Elise Chabot and Ernest Van Moorleghem were staying at a hotel in The Hague on family business. Smit asked ______ [probably his father] to go there and ask them to see him in Baarle-Nassau, which they did. Van Moorleghem went with Karst to the woods and interrogated the man. The “Canadian” finally admitted to not being a member of the RCAF, saying he was fed up [with Hitler?] and wanted to go to England.
Karst gave a pistol to Hoogenraad before turning the “Canadian” over to him to be eliminated. [This is inconsistent with the memories of the student Jan Wolterson.] The man was Kopp, a German captain, or “Hauptman.”
When Karst was arrested in Paris in 1944, he was interrogated by a German policeman. He pretended not to speak German, only Dutch. A colleague of the German asked the interrogator in German, “Is he the murderer of Kopp?”
After the war they disinterred Kopp’s body and it was reinterred at Eiselstein, a German cemetery in Holland.
Karst thought that Cornelis Keurhorst was Tom’s guide to the hideout in the forest. However, he said that playing practical jokes [Tom’s reference to the border guard jumping out and scaring him] was not part of Keurhorst’s behavior; he was a very serious young man.
Keurhorst was transferred to another village near Breda. He helped airmen to cross the border. He was arrested while guiding some of them. (Karst was in prison by then.) He was sent to the concentration camp of Vught and shot. He was a very nice fellow.
The Marechaussee HQs in Baarle-Nassau in 1943 was in an old building going back to 1600. It still had very old-fashioned toilets and an old-fashioned pump in the kitchen for pumping ground water. Karst had a room of his own on the first floor (our second floor) on the left. [The picture Karst’s sister provided me must be the sitting room Karst referred to, not his own room.] The barracks building wasn’t damaged during the war but was torn down anyway and replaced with the present day brick building. There was also a village pump in the town center between the restaurant and the Marechaussee HQs.
To the left of the Marechaussee HQs in Baarle-Nassau was a café. The lady in charge let him hide airmen in the attic. [This would be the business run by Cornelia Geeraerts, according to Hans Slockers and the Baarle-Nassau historian Mr. Moors.] My hard-to-read phonetic notes have the name of the café as “Bekkenbakker” but Slockers and Moors say it was known as the “Het Wappen van Nassau.” [Moors spells the name as Wapen, not Wappen.] Karst used both it and the cabin in the Landgoed de Utrecht to hide the escaping airmen.
Cees Verheyen, who owned the restaurant across from the Marechaussee HQs in Baarle-Nassau, provided food for the escaping airmen.
Everyone in Baarle-Nassau helped.
Dreé Van Kuyck, a village official in Baarle-Nassau who had a job at the city hall, furnished false ID for the escape line.
Karst showed me the monument in Baarle-Nassau dedicated to Maria Verhoeven and two of the Marechaussees. All three were executed. She had eight children and had been involved in helping airmen get to Antwerp. He pointed out the place on the monument where his own face was to have been.
Willem (Wim) Schmidt
While Karst was serving with the Marechaussees in Baarle-Nassau, he encountered Willem Schmidt. There was a large Dutch community in the Belgian town of Mechelen (Malines) north of Brussels and roughly midway between Brussels and Antwerp. Willem was carrying Underground literature. The volume of escaping Jews and airman had gotten so heavy that Karst asked Willem for his help. Schmidt did a lot of good work in guiding escapees. He was a theology student at the University of Utrecht who had gone into hiding.
It was difficult to get Dutch ID cards. Jan Naaijkens made a three-panel Dutch ID card. The Germans never searched the Naaijkens family printing business. Jan and his brother made the cards. They made the stamps on Hilvarenbeek.
Karst’s false ID identified him as “Gerardus Antonius Gevers.” [See the photos that his sister provided me of it. It is the three-panel design that Karst mentioned, with a date of issuance supposedly of 29 December 1941 in Baarle-Nassau. According to it he was born in Eindhoven on 10 July 1917. It contains entries dated 13 Jan. 42 and 22 Feb. 42. I have a real date of birth as 10 June 1917. Check this.]
Karst, whose first name was the Frisian equivalent of Christian, also used another false name, “Teddy,” during the war.
See above under Baarle-Nassau for references to Dreé Van Kuyck and his help on false ID’s.
Jan Naaijkens; Germans in Hilvarenbeek
According to Emmanuel Naaijkens, Jan’s future wife was working as a student nurse at a hospital in Tilburg at the time of Jan’s involvement in the Resistance. They were already engaged but didn’t marry until 1946.
It was a 3 ½ minute walk from Jan Naaijkens’ house to the Marechaussee HQs.
Karst said there was little chance of Tom and Jan Naaijkens encountering Germans when he was being moved from place to place in Hilvarenbeek. There were no Germans in town, though there were some in Tilburg. They knew when Germans were likely to be in the vicinity [probably thanks to the Putters brothers—see above on p. 4]. [Karst’s recollection that there were no Germans may be correct for the period when he was in Hilvarenbeek but not for the entire war. Ida Simons spoke of a German soldier being quartered in her house. And Emmanuel Naaijkens said the Germans took over the vicarage, known as “The Vatican,” for their officers and that two Germans were quartered with Jan Naaijkens family.]
Arrest of Nello Malavasi & Willem (Wim) Schmidt
Karst had warned his men not to be in close proximity to the persons being escorted. In the case of Malavasi and Schmidt, Wim violated this. He does not believe that Schmidt and Malavasi were betrayed [as Malavasi told Eugene van der Heijden when the latter visited him in the U.S. after the war]. The restaurant they entered during the rain storm was the only place they could have gone.
When Wim was arrested, the German police forced him to continue on his trip to Brussels, only with them accompanying him. Lottie [Charlotte Ambach] was waiting at the North Station in Brussels. Wim tried to pass along without looking at her but she went up to him and said, “Hello, how are you?”
When Wim left The Netherlands, he told Karst that he would return immediately because he had a meeting in Utrecht. Karst was waiting at the frontier to escort him to Baarle Nassau. Karst asked his superior if it would be OK for him to go to Brussels to check on what had happened. Charlotte Ambach had a good old lady friend, Nel Van Gellicum. Karst went to her home where she told him everyone had been arrested. Mrs. Van Gellicum had secret papers and was concerned that they might be found in case of a raid. Karst hid the papers under the seat of an antique chair that she owned. When she returned from imprisonment, they were still there.
Karst is still alive thanks to Eugene VDH. On the morning of __ November 1943, Eugene saw some German cars passing his house with policemen on their way to arrest people. Eugene thought they were going to the In den Bockenreijder to arrest the students. All the students were shot [Karst didn’t seem to be aware that Wolterson and Los escaped]. Eugene attempted to call Karst at the Marechaussee HQs in Baarle-Nassau, where he was sleeping after returning from night duty. The commander, De Gier took the call. Eugene told him, frantically, “Hurry, hurry, Karst has to leave!” Karst’s CO woke him, saying “Dress yourself and get away from here!” Karst had just finished getting dressed when the GFP (German secret military police) from Antwerp arrived. The CO spoke with them at the front door while Karst went out the back door, grabbing his bike and peddling to the home of Dr. Bloem. There he left his uniform with the doctor, who buried it in his garden, and changed into civilian clothes.
It seems that the Germans regarded him as very important—they closed all roads to Baarle-Nassau. Karst “went camping,” as he put it. He hid behind a campsite owned by Mr. [Marcel] Slockers, who made a place for Karst to stay and three times a day would bring food in a wheelbarrow covered with tree branches. After three days the Germans gave up and left and Karst bicycled to the town of Breda where he went into hiding. Five of his colleagues escorted him on bicycles, two in front, one along side, and two behind.
After that he hid in The Hague in a Protestant church. With services only on Sundays, he could bicycle around inside the church the rest of the week in order to keep fit.
The Paris Line, Leiden University, King Kong
Karst had contacts among members of a student Resistance organization at the University of Leiden. The city is a famous university town. Some of the students had formed an illegal organization which helped people flee to Brussels. One of its leaders was Lisbet Boon, who, at the time of the interview was still alive. After the war she resumed her studies and became a lawyer. Karst had met her in Baarle-Nassau.
In November 1943 Boon went to the church to meet Karst, having gotten his location from his father. She told him that her student organization had received a request from the Dutch government-in-exile in London that they create a new escape line. She asked him to help. They had an escape line to Brussels, another from Paris to Bordeaux, and yet another from Bordeaux to Spain. But it was not the Comet Line. There was a man by the name of Christian Lindemans, known as “King Kong,” who was involved in it.
In March 1944, Karst traveled to Paris. For the Brussels to Paris leg of the trip he used a German Army train (!), because King Kong had all the papers to allow them to do so. At the hotel in Paris was King Kong’s wife.
King Kong and Karst’s Arrest
King Kong (Christian Lindemans) was a famous falsifier. He had all sorts of German Army and police papers. At the Hotel Motelon (sp?), a couple of Dutchmen and King Kong’s pregnant Dutch wife were all arrested by the Germans along with the owner [of the hotel?]. King Kong had arranged that the curtains be positioned if something was wrong. He saw it and went in. [I need to clarify this from the tape.]
The Germans had conducted a razzia (raid) and everyone had been arrested. King Kong was very upset. With Karst was a lawyer from ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Van Hugenpoth Totdau Beerenclauw, who was to have been responsible for the Paris-Bordeaux part of the new escape line, while Karst was to have handled the Bordeaux-Pyrenees segment. King Kong was scheduled to train Karst. King Kong offered the Germans to go over to them and to hand them a complete Resistance group if they released his wife and brother.
Karst and Van Hugenpoth were arrested at an artist’s pension, Avenue desterness 38. King Kong was to have met them at the pension the next morning at 9 a.m. Karst and the lawyer were expecting him. Instead, it was German police who knocked at the door. “Lie down, arms and legs spread,” they were told. They were taken to the HQs of the Sicherheits Polizie on Rue des Saussaies. Karst was interrogated by a German policeman who was “not too bad.” The same day he was taken to Fresnes Prison. Three days later they interrogated him again at the rue des Saussaies HQs. It was there that he heard one of the policemen say to another policeman, “Was this the murderer of Kopp? [the “Canadian”]. He was not beaten. The German policeman, who spoke a little Dutch, treated him as a colleague, since they were both policemen. Van Hugenpoth, who was arrested along with Karst, died in prison.
Concentration Camps; Escape from Germany
The last concentration camp he was in was Ravensbruck. He could hear Russian artillery in the distance. The SS camp commander gathered them on the parade ground. He announced that the prisoners should divide into two groups: those who could not walk should go to the right and get on the trucks; those who could walk should go to the left. The prisoners who went to the right died on a ship to Denmark which was bombed.
They walked for some days. He recalls sleeping on the grass in a meadow at one point, the next night in a farmers’ village where the farmers were threshing corn where the prisoners were put in a barn. The SS guards were tired and only one man was assigned to their barn to watch them. Karst and some other prisoners escaped together. They found another barn where they could sleep. The marched the next day to the main road. One member of the group, a Dutchman, had had a job at the concentration camp which entitled him to wear an armband. So he pretended to be their commander looking for members who [notes incomplete]. Next some Poles joined them.
They arrived in a village called Putlitz, where they found a farm and hid in the attic, after pulling up the ladder to it. There were many German refugees from the east of Germany. At 5 a.m. the first Russians arrived. They demanded watches. A Russian soldier would have several watches on his arm. [See the same description in Henriette Roosenburg’s The Walls Came Tumbling Down.] Karst and the others were still wearing concentration camp dress with stripes. This was too dangerous. They obtained civilian clothes. He got a black wedding suit with a red triangle as a political prisoner. They showed their clothing to the Russian commander, who let them take bicycles from the villagers. (In 1984 Karst and his wife visited Putlitz. It hadn’t changed at all.)
Now mounted on bikes, they cycled west. They arrived at a large estate owned by an aristocrat, where they were well received, given food, and allowed to rest. The next morning the count told them he had two Americans in hiding, who joined their party. But they had to teach them how to ride bicycles first.
Arriving on the east (Russian) side of the Elbe, they found a madhouse. There was turmoil on the east side, with the Cossacks shooting in the air. The Americans were on the west side of the river and would sometimes come across by boat. The two Americans in their party shouted across to the men in the boat to get their attention. They returned with a larger boat to ferry Karst and his group across. Having left their bikes on the east side of the Elbe, they needed transport. An American major was in possession of a former German Army vehicle repainted with U.S. colors which he gave them. They now headed in the direction of Holland.
Karst was never hospitalized, though a doctor did come to see him. He was down to 45 kilos (at 2.2 kilograms/lb., he was 99 lbs.) and he was suffering from a skin disease.
After the War
At the end of 1945 Karst became an investigator for the Netherlands War Crimes Commission. He was stationed at Bad Oeyhausen, the British HQ’s, then at Wiesbaden and attached to the U.S. Air Force. Then he joined the Netherlands Secret Service, the Binnelandse Veiligheidsdienst (literally the Secret Service of the Interior). After that he worked for the Commissariat for Emigration, doing security investigations of people trying to emigrate. He had contacts with the secret services of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the U.S., and Canada. He had weekly contact with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. [Many Dutch emigrated after the war.]
In the picture I took of Karst holding his medals, they are, from left to right, Dutch, the American Medal of Freedom with silver palm, Member of the British Empire, French, and French. Only 14 people in the Netherlands received the Medal of Freedom with silver (?) palm. He has five Belgian medals, for a total of 16 medals. Yad Vashem also awarded him a medal. As part of the ceremonies, he planted a tree in Jerusalem.
Karst said they were not the Bravery Line; it was a different organization. His group didn’t have a name.
Karst is married to Irene and they have a daughter, Saskia, and a son, Romke. Karst had two sisters. He has three grandchildren.
Karst said, “I am 85 years old, have had nine heart bypasses and three [?] open heart operations, and I’m still going strong.” On the second day of my visit for a while he was troubled by dizziness—I think he said it was Menieure’s disease—but he refused to lie down and rest as his wife and daughter wanted; he wanted to continue our discussion.
Suggestions from Karst
Karst recommended to me the book Hilvarenbeek 1940-1945 by Kees van Kemenade. Emmanuel Naaijkens gave me a copy. He also mentioned a book [which one?] that resulted in a big celebration when it came out. Karst was picked up by a military plane and a reception was held.
He also gave me a contact:
Nederlandse Vereniging Van Pilotenhelpers Uit Tweede Wereldoorlog (publishes “The Escape” bulletin). The chairman is:
7511 AR Enschede
Another name Karst mentioned was Pagensticker-von Warendorff. Who was that? Or was it just Von Warendorff?
The name Geffers was not familiar to Karst.
 According to Werner Warmbrunn’s The Dutch Under German Occupation, 1940-1945, p. 41, the Green Police, or Order Police, “carried out arrests, mass raids, deportations, actions against strikes, and executions. Therefore it became the incarnation of the German police terror.”