Interview of Karst Smit on track 2, By Baarle-Nassau Radio, 1994 (?)(Translation by Dan Van Alderwerelt, July 2011)
Reporter: He was a resistance co-worker in a pilot line that did not only deal with pilots but also Jewish individuals and French prisoners of war. Mr. Smit welcome to this broadcast and we would really like to speak with you about how it was at that time. Naturally we ask how it all started, how it all worked and how you dealt with the very dangerous and risky situations which you encountered.
Smit: At that time we did not see it that way and did not think much about risks. (11.36). And it was of course an adventure. With respect to the border crossings, that started for me when I was a member of the marechaussee in Hilvarenbeek (11.49) where I had been placed in February 1942. On a certain day my colleague Jaap van Maastright and I were on our usual rounds in the woods of “de Utrecht” between Hilvarenbeek, Esbeek and the Belgian border. We had to keep an eye on the paths that Belgian smugglers used. From Belgium they brought in tobacco and took ……………… back from the Netherlands.
That day we were there we saw a couple of men jump into a dry creek bed in order to hide themselves and we assumed the were Belgians. They did not react to our request to stand up and then it turned out that they were Frenchmen who told us that they had escaped from a German camp, that they had walked all the way through Holland while making use of haystacks for shelter and they thought that they were now close to the Belgian border. (13.13). We told them that this was correct and we took the two men across the border in the direction of Weelde. Back in the barracks we talked about it with our colleagues who thought it was a great adventure. And a few weeks later we again came across another group of Frenchmen and then we began to realize that it was not structured very well because it was not really wise to just take them across the border and leave them to their own devices in a part of Belgium that was very dangerous because the Black Brigade was active there and they were paid by the Germans for every person they turned over to them.
At that time I had a friend in Den Bosch, Bertrand Brasz, who telephoned me one day and asked if I could come over as he had a problem. So I did that and he told me that he had received a request from a Jewish man in Enschede named Andries Hoek who asked him if he knew the way across the border because he wanted to go to Brussels. Bertram told him that it could probably be done and when I heard that I said just send him over. That was on May 10, 1942, a date that I well remember because that was exactly two years after the German invasion. (14.52) My colleague David Jonkers and I took him through the woods of “de Utrecht”, took him across the border and pointed the way to Weelde. And so we asked him what was he really going to do in Brussels and then he told me that a past co-worker, a fashion person named Marie Krauss lived there and would help him to get to Switzerland. Then we told him that we fairly frequently had to deal with French prisoners of war who needed to get across the border and perhaps he could discuss with Madam Krauss if there were possibilities of helping them reach the French border. This indeed happened and it was agreed that such Frenchmen and also Jews and finally also allied flyers could be taken to her house and she would see to it through the Belgian police that these people would reach the border.
Somewhat later that year things went a bit wrong and we needed to find a different address in Brussels which became Madam Chabot and her two daughters and from that date on everyone who was fleeing towards France and ultimately to England would go via Madam Chabot and her daughters’ address. It is logical that you can not do this type of work without the cooperation of the commandant. In the meantime I had been transferred to Baarle Nassau where the commandant, Chris de Gier, provided total cooperation in this effort. He approved that I used the motorcycle with sidecar and when the message would come in that someone would arrive at the Tilburg station I would simply drive there with an extra marechaussee cap and marechaussee jacket and near the station was a small café [Is this the Hotel Mulders, now known as the Central Hotel?] where we could change clothes and the allied pilot would put the cap on and would put the jacket on, sit himself in the sidecar and we would leave in the direction Baarle Nassau. It did happen sometimes that on the way we were stopped by the German field police and then I would just say “Guten morgen” and such and then continue on with a friendly waving of a hand and with the pilot in the side car.
With respect to the border work, we always looked for a path that would lead to Weelde and which had another parallel path on the left and one on the right and then we did as follows: one marechaussee would walk ahead on the middle path, a distance behind him would be another marechaussee with the people that needed to cross the border, one marechaussee would be on the path on the left and another on the path on the right, and the last marechaussee would bring up the rear on the center path. All marechaussees would therefore have a pretty good field of vision in case of problems.
Although we never had any problems with this sort of work, it was nevertheless somewhat dangerous. In the village of Weelde we had the address of a café run by Maria Segers-Ooms. She was heavily involved in the resistance and we could change clothes there. Meals were available there and there we would wait for the steam tram to Turnhout. There was also a bus but the steam tram was much safer because there were always farmers with baskets full of chickens, etc. There was seldom or never any German control. So we went by steam tram to Turnhout. In Turnhout we transferred to electric tram no. 41 to Antwerp, that was an express tram, and in Antwerp we transferred to the train to Brussels. From there the tram to the address of Chabot. That was the shortest way.
Reporter: Thank you very much Mr. Smit for this first part of this interview. There was resistance in various countries but also in Germany itself where on 20 July 1944 an attempt was made on Adolf Hitler (19.58) ……..part in German continues to (20.40)
Smit continues: The way it worked was that all allied pilots would be taken to the Chabot address; the French who were independent would verbally be given the address and went on their own, the ones who were not independent would then be taken there.
Reporter: Was that not terrible dangerous if a Frenchman would be caught and under questioning would give up the address then the whole line would be in danger.
Smit: Of course that was a risk. Fortunately it never happened but it was a definite risk. What I really want to come back to is the fact that this resistance work was team work and we were very fortunate, as already mentioned earlier, that we had the commandant de Gier in Baarle Nassau and that the marechaussees in Baarle Nassau were all trustworthy and very active. I also want to mention here the names of my old friends, van Gestel and Gerritsen, who, together with the Belgian resistance worker Miet Cornelissen, were executed, and I also want to think of Henk Niesen, who is still alive, we have been able to do this together. There were of course also civilians who knew about this and the allied pilots who were in the attic of ……………………[Het Wapen van Nassau?] also had to eat and among others who took care of this was Tante Corie [Cornelia Geeraerts] who was our neighbor in the café restaurant “Het Wapen van Nassau”. I also want to mention the address where the marechaussees were quartered, the van Beek family in the …………….. street who provided many meals for the people that needed to get across the border and also the van der Schoof family here in Baarle Nassau looked after lots of meals for our refugees. As far as Brussels is concerned, the fiancée of Lottie, daughter of Madame Chabot, a Mr. Ernest van Moorleghem who was the police commissioner in Elsene [Ixelles] And he was in touch with the comet line. And via him the allied flyers went in the direction of Spain and Gibraltar. I think this is all I wanted to say about the pilot line. If you have some questions, then please say so.
Reporter: Yes, I have a question but first our sincere thanks that you were willing to come here to tell us about these things and that will have stirred up many memories for you. It is already 50 years ago but these memories are for you perhaps like they happened yesterday.
Smit: Yes, that you will never forget. I did not witness the liberation here. After the line which I just described was “rolled up” on 23 March? 1943 through the arrest of our co worker Hans (sic-Willem) Schmidt, we decided not immediately to go underground in Baarle Nassau but to wait and see what would happen next. If you go underground immediately then that is the end of resistance work. A few days later, I had just had night duty and was still asleep, my commandant de Gier came to my bed and said “Smit, get out quickly because the German assault vehicles are rolling up to the door.” I quickly put on a pair of pants and a jacket and behind the barracks jumped on a bike to go to Dr. Bloem, well known at that time, and Dr. Bloem buried my uniform in his garden and gave me civilian clothes. For a few days I was in hiding at Marcel Slockers. Then my colleagues took me to Breda and after a week there I left for The Hague where I went in hiding in a church. Soon I received a visit of someone from the Student Resistance named Elsje Boon who asked me if I was inclined to work on a newly to be created line from the Netherlands to England to move to England people who would have a function in the Military Govern-ment immediately after the liberation. I readily agreed to this and would be assigned to the section Bordeaux to ……………… Other people in this group would be responsible for other sections of the line. In any case, I was in Paris in March 1944 and would be trained by Chris Lindemans who became known as King Kong, not knowing that about that time he had switched and now cooperated with the Germans. So Baron van Hugenpoth and I were his first victims. Thanks to the invasion I survived this because I was scheduled to appear in the German court in Paris in July 1944 but because of the invasion on 6 June the Germans got so busy that they did not get around to handling legal processes. So in ……………? 1944 I was moved to Buchenwald, after that camps Ellrich and the last camp was the camp for women in Ravensbruck.
End @ 28.50.
Index Page Number
Bloem, Dr. 4
Boon, Elsje 4
Brasz, Bertram 1, 2
Chabot, Madame 2, 3
Cornelissen, Miet 3
De Gier, Chris 2, 3, 4
Geeraerts, Cornelia 3
Hoek, Andries 1, 2
Jonkers, David 2
Lindemans, Chris 4
Krauss, Marie 2
Slockers, Marcel 4
Niessen, Henk 3
Schmidt, Willem 4
Segers-Ooms, Marie 2, 3
Van Beek 4
Van der Schoof 4
Van Gestel 3
Van Hugenpoth, Baron 4
Van Maastricht, Jaap 1
Van Moorleghem 4
Hotel Mulders 2
Steam tram 3