Elsje Boon, leader of a University of Leiden student-run escape line, when interviewed about her group after the war, said it was not so much an “organization” as a “list of contacts.” By contrast, the Smit-van der Heijden Line probably came closer to being an organization in the conventional sense because it could rely on the services of a significant number of armed, trained police stationed in permanent locations. But even so, Karst Smit and Eugene van der Heijden depended on their contacts with other groups to receive and forward airmen and other fugitives from the Nazis. The following is a tentative list of some of those groups. I will be adding more as time permits.
Armée Secrète (Secret Army) – Karst delivered intelligence to Albert De Coninck of the A.S., or Secret Army. According to researcher Philippe Connart, the A.S. was the largest Belgian Resistance organization, formerly known as the Légion Belge, and was based on regular Army servicemen. It had the closest relationship to London of any Belgian Resistance group.
BM Line – Leiden University escape line of students led by Elsje Boon and Pieter Wibbens. Boon would meet Karst Smit in Baarle-Nassau to plan when she would cross the border into Belgium with her charges. Boon knew the family of Karst Smit. After the destruction of the Smit-van der Heijden Line, she asked his family where he was hiding. They told her and she enlisted Karst into a new escape line. She was one of many betrayed by Christiaan Lindemans, also known as King Kong. She escaped from the train taking her and other prisoners to the concentration camp at Vught. In 1946, Elsie Boon and her future husband appeared in a film dramatization of their Resistance activities, which can be viewed at http://wn.com/Zes_jaren_1946. For more on her, see http://www.eindhovenfotos.nl/Els_boon.htm.
Bravery Line – In March 1942, Edouard Cleeren, a Belgian Army officer, was parachuted into Belgium to reorganize the BRAVE line into what became the BRAVERY line, an exclusively intelligence line. Charlotte Ambach began to work for him. When he was arrested, she contacted Ernest Van Moorleghem, whose name had been given to her by Cleeren. Subsequently Van Moorleghem was put in touch with Alphonse Escrinier of Service EVA. Consequently, Karst Smit, through his contacts with Charlotte Ambach, her mother Elise Chabot, and Ernest Van Moorleghem, was connected to the Bravery Line and Service EVA.
CDJ/JVD (Comité de Défense des Juifs/Joods Verdedigingscomiteit) – In English this was the Jewish Defense Committee of Belgium. Contact with it would have been through Benjamin (Benno) Maurits Nijkerk and possibly Mauritz Bolle, both also part of the Dutch-Paris Line. The CDJ/JVD had as its number one priority the rescuing of Jewish children. The organization is credited with saving 3000-4000 children.
Comet Line – Its escape route ran from Brussels to Spain. It was the best known escape line, aided the greatest number of Allied airmen, and lasted the longest, in spite of arrests of many of its members. Elise Chabot, Charlotte Ambach, and Ernest van Moorleghem maintained contact with the Comet Line (see p. 83 of Stepping Stones). See references to them under Bravery and Luctor et Emergo/Fiat Libertas elsewhere on this page.
CS-6 – In a letter to Yad Vashem, Eugene van der Heijden listed as one of their contacts, “Boissevain, Corellistraat 6, Amsterdam.” According to the Amsterdam Stadsarchief, Jan Boissevain and his wife Adrienne Minette (Mies) Boissevain-van Lennep, and their children lived at that address. Since Jan was arrested in 1941, it appears that Van der Heijden’s contact probably was with Mies and/or one of her sons, Janka and Gi. Their address may have been the origin of the name of their Resistance group, CS-6. The connection to the Boissevain family may have been through Elise Chabot and Charlotte Ambach. According to Charlotte, the Boissevain family was related to friends of Chabot. In the late 1930s two of the Chabot sons, John and Fred, stayed at the Double Arrow Ranch in Montana owned by the Boissevain family, first as guests, then as employees. Another possible source of this contact was Alphonse Theissing who, according to his Stichting 1940-1945 file, was a part of the “Boissevain Group.” See “Dutch Paris” below for more on Theissing. Ed Veterman, a member of the Fiat Libertas organization, in his book Keizersgracht 763, p. 45, mentions how Willem Bierens de Haan walked into a Gestapo trap at the home of Mrs. Boissevain on Corellistraat. It appears that Veterman was aware of the Resistance work of the CS-6 group of Mrs. Boissevain.
Dutch-Paris of Jan Weidner. Connections through (1) Benno Nijkerk (see above under CDJ); (2) Alphonse Theissing, a businessman from Amsterdam; (3) Nol van Dijk, a banker from Den Bosch married to Josina Swane, a member of Dutch-Paris, (4) Dick Meerburg, a lawyer in Enschede, and (5) Joke Folmer of Fiat Libertas knew David Verloop of Dutch-Paris (see Stepping Stones, p. 86). Alphonse Theissing and Dick Meerburg were identified by Eugene van der Heijden in a letter to Yad Vashem in 1978 as persons through whom the Smit-Van der Heijden Line was able to help Jews. Nol van Dijk, a friend of the Raaijmakers brothers, arranged for the meeting of Adriaan de Noo with the Raaijmakers brothers at which de Noo turned over to the brothers the American airman Tom Applewhite.
Groupe Albert/Rolin/Mariette – Members of this group who overlapped with the Smit-Van der Heijden Line included Charlotte Ambach, Elise Chabot, Ernest Van Moorleghem, Elsie Boon, and Marie Krauss. Henriette (Jet) Roosenburg and Jan Wannee of the Fiat Libertas/Luctor et Emergo group also appear on the list of contacts in Groupe Albert, etc.
Group Andre of Sprang-Capelle. See below under Sprang-Capelle.
Jules Haeck Group of Hengelo. According to Bob de Graaff in his book Stepping Stones to Freedom, p. 107, “the Haeck group … maintained contact points along the Tilburg-Goirle-Baarle route.”
L.O./L.K.P. – There were extensive contacts with this group through Cor van der Hooft of Breda, Ton Hoogenraad of Tilburg, and Piet Coumou of Zeist (see reference to Coumou under Trouw).
Leermakers, Piet of Biest-Houtakker. He was an intermediary for some Allied airmen passed to him by the Moergestel group whom he passed on to Karst Smit’s group.
Luctor et Emergo/Fiat Libertas of Jan Wannee. Connections between the Smit-van der Heijden line and Fiat Libertas were numerous and included the following:
- Joke Folmer of Fiat Libertas knew Willem Schmidt of the Smit-van der Heijden Line, both being from Zeist. A report by Nel Lind in Joke’s helper file lists Schmidt as someone with whom Joke worked and Schmidt’s helper file lists Joke Folmer among people with whom he worked.
- Elsje Boon was a friend of Henriette “Jet” Roosenburg at the University of Leiden and later took over some of the latter’s Intelligence work for Fiat Libertas after Roosenburg was arrested.
- Sometimes Boon was assisted in crossing the Dutch-Belgian border by Karst Smit when she was guiding people into Belgium. She knew the Smit family in The Hague and when Karst went into hiding she asked them where he was to be found. She then approached Karst about joining another escape line.
- The family records of Pieter Wibbens, boyfriend of Elsje Boon, show him as working with Jet Roosenburg, Nel Lind, and Jan Kielstra of Fiat Libertas.
- The escape of Engelandvaarder Captain Charles Pahud de Mortanges across the Dutch border into Belgium was assisted by Karst Smit and Jet Roosenburg (see the biography of Pahud de Mortanges, Man en Paard, by J.P.A. van Ballegoijen de Jong, and Karst’s list of Engelandvaarders he helped).
- Nel Van Gellicum in Brussels was helped by Karst Smit to escape from The Netherlands and put Jan Wannee in touch with Elise Chabot and her daughter Charlotte Ambach of the Bravery intelligence line. When Willem Schmidt did not return from guiding Nello Malavasi to Brussels (both were arrested in Turnhout) and no one answered the phone at the apartment of Chabot and Ambach, Karst Smit went to Nel Van Gellicum to learn what had happened.
- Ed Veterman’s book, Keizersgracht 763, p. 17, mentions Mrs. Chabot as forming a link to the “Belgian Intelligence Service” and on p. 36 says that the police of a suburb of Brussels [probably Ixelles and, therefore, Ernest van Moorleghem] were a major customer of false ID). Charlotte Ambach in an interview mentioned that she obtained false ID from Veterman.
- Charlotte Ambach identified the Bergmans of Bree, passeurs for Fiat Libertas, as contacts and appears to have picked up airmen from them on one occasion.
- Mrs. Drukker of Amersfoort, who on at least one occasion directed Willem Schmidt to some downed airmen, was the sister of Nel Lind, head of the escape line for Fiat Libertas.
- Jan Wannee, in a statement in his helper’s file, said that he kept in close contact with Karst when using the Baarle-Naasau-Weelde route, meeting with him before crossing the border.
- The National Archives II (College Park, Maryland) helper file on Jan Wannee contains a report by Wannee mentioning the important role played by Van Moorleghem.
- In the Fiat Libertas organization chart prepared by Gerbrands, he shows Wannee’s links to “Ernest” (Van Moorleghem) and “Chabot”. For more on Luctor et Emergo/Fiat Libertas, click here.
- The helper file of Fiat Libertas passeur Alphonse Bergmans of Bree mentions Charlotte Ambach as taking one or more airmen to Brussels in July 1943.
- An undated, handwritten statement by Charlotte Ambach at the Belgian WWII archives, CEGESOMA, mentions Mr. Bergmans, pastry chef from Bree, involved in lodging and passage of airmen at the border, and his son Jan. In an interview with her by Lynn David, February 1997, she described going to Weert (where Bergmans was born) where she picked up from a baker four airmen, two Irish, one British, and one American, and with Bergmans, guided them by bicycle to a bus station where the baker bought them tickets. The rest of the trip to Brussels was by train with Charlotte guiding the four airmen by herself.
- Pieter Coumou, in a report to Allied Military Intelligence in 1946, said that he began his aid to airmen in September 1943 through Willem Schmidt. Among his contacts were “Oom Fons” (Alphonse Bergmans) and Jan van Dongen, one of the students at the hideout in the Landgoed de Utrecht used by Karst Smit to house fugitives until they could be safely moved across the border. Coumou also worked with Joke Folmer, Henriette Roosenburg, and Rudolf van Baarle, all of the Fiat Libertas line. In the biography of Pieter Coumou by Els Hekkenberg, Van brandal tot Commandeur Herinneringen ban Pieter Coumou, Coumou says that after the arrest of Willem Schmidt, he traveled to Belgium with Henriette Roosenburg in order to determine where Schmidt was being held. They crossed the border near between Weert and Hamont. Upon returning to The Netherlands together, they were both arrested but pretended not to know each other. She was released and later arranged for someone from the White Brigade to visit him and offer to help with his release.
Meppel-Staphorst line of Peter Van Den Hurk. A portion of the airmen helped by Peter van den Hurk were passed on to the Smit-Van der Heijden Line, namely, Conroy, Cullum, Fidler, Mellor, Penney, and Woollard.
Portemine (Porte-Mine) of Service Zero of Alphonse Escrinier and René Ponty in Brussels. Contact with Service Zero was also through Marie Krauss, also of Brussels, who cited René Delvozal and René Caussin as her contacts to Zero.
Service EVA in Brussels – Contacts were through Charlotte Ambach and Elise Chabot. There also was some contact with Alphonse Escrinier, one of the leaders of EVA by phone. To see my interview with Charlotte Ambach, click here.
Sprang-Capelle. Also known as Group Andre. The helper files of two key figures in the Sprang-Capelle group contain references to contacts with Theo Soontiens (Soontjes), secretary of the Hilvarenbeek town hall, suggesting a possible link to the Smit-van der Heijden group. He was one of those listed by Karst Smit in his letter of 26 Sept. 1945 regarding a reunion in Baarle-Nassau of helpers of Allied airmen, by David Jonkers in his Vragenlijst of his contacts, and in Chapter 7, De illegaliteit, of Kees van Kemenade’s book, Hilvarenbeek, 1940-1945.
ter Galestin Group. According to the book Stepping Stones, pp. 114-115, engineer C.J.A. (“Caspar,” “John”) ter Galestin (Caspar ter Galestin), a civil servant in the State Office for Chemical Products in The Hague, led an intelligence-gathering service. In 1943 “ter Galestin was approached about moving downed airmen. This brought him in touch with Brummans of Weert who had established an escape line named ‘St. John’ on behalf of Piet Gerbrands and Fiat Libertas.” The ter Galestin line was infiltrated by Abwehr agents Christmann, Leemhuis, van Bree, and Rouwendaal. Mr. and Mrs. Jannink of Enschede of the Smit-van der Heijden Line, came into contact with the ter Galestin group and unwittingly received the American airman Elton Kevil from Van Bree, who was pretending to be a legitimate guide of airmen for the Resistance, in October 1943. They were arrested the following January. Kevil made it successfully to Gibraltar. That he was not arrested even before being delivered to the Janninks and that the Janninks were not arrested until some three months after receiving Kevil suggests that the Abwehr was seeking to infiltrate and destroy the Smit-van der Heijden Line. How the Janninks came into contact with the ter Galestin group remains to be determined.
Trouw (Resistance newspaper). Both Willem Schmidt and Pieter Coumou distributed the Resistance newspaper Trouw before Schmidt was enlisted by Karst Smit in guiding Allied airmen. Coumou continued his involvement with Trouw after Schmidt’s arrest. See the book by Els Hekkenberg.
Westerweel Group. Led by teacher Joop Westeweel, this group aided several hundred Jews, predominantly children, in escaping to Spain. Pieter Coumou’s foster sister, Miep Wonder (also known as Kitty Zwaan), worked as a nurse at a Jewish nursing home and was engaged to Leo Cohen, a member of the Westerweel Group. (In the book by Els Hekkenberg, Coumou describes an unsuccessful attempt to move a group of Jewish children before their arrest.)
Wijsmuller-Meijer, Mrs. G. Mrs. Wijsmuller-Meijer, according to the Kindertransport Association, “was a Dutch Christian who faced down Eichman in Vienna and brought out 600 children on one train, organized a transport from Riga to Sweden, and helped smuggle a group of children onto the illegal ship Dora bound from Marseilles to Palestine. She was the one who sped the last transport through burning Amsterdam to the Bodegraven in 1940.” In the Stichting 1940-1945 file of Alphonse Theissing there is a statement by her that she worked with Theissing through Group Nijkerk of Brussels. Theissing, in a statement by him in his Stichting file, said that he worked with Nijkerk from 1941 to January 1943 in helping Jews flee to Switzerland and unoccupied France and that this resulted in a collaboration with Mrs. Wijsmuller-Meijer and Mrs. A. Boissevain. (See CS-6 above.) Theissing assisted Eugene van der Heijden of the Smit-van der Heijden Line with advice and financial aid for the line’s activities. Theissing also worked with Marie Krauss of Brussels who, for a time, was part of the Smit-van der Heijden Line.