The Brabant village Oisterwijk and Operation Market-Garden

Wehrmacht deserter Ernst Haalboom

Wehrmacht deserteur Ernst Haalboom

The following is the story of Imperial German and former German Wehrmacht soldier Ernst Haalboom. Ernst Haalboom deserted the Wehrmacht in September of 1944 and ended up in hiding in Boxtel during the last months of war during 1944/45. While in hiding Haalboom would play a modest role in the Boxtel underground movement. This story is based on a hand-written report by Ernst Haalboom, the Haalboom family archive, the Netherlands Property Administration Institute (Nederlandse Beheersinstituut or NBI), documentation from the Dutch National Archives (2.09.16), files 84891, 3394 (PE27'1645) and 5706 (WFV 3603), a report on the Boxtel underground movement and the hidding Allied airborne troops in the Kampina forest written by the Boxtel resistance man Klaas Dekker, official documents from the municipal of Boxtel from 1945 and interviews with survivors and eye witnesses. Special thanks’ to Pieter van den Hout.

 

 

 

 

Ernst Haalboom was a good German

 

 

Imperial German (Reichsdeutsche) was the name for all German citizens of the German Empire as it existed between 1871 and 1945. Most Imperial Germans who were called for military service did so because they had no choice. After all, those who refused risked certain death for desertion.

 

Imperial German Ernst Haalboom was born in Ellinghausen-Dortmund Germany on 16 December 1906. By 1929 he resided in the Dutch town Winschoten in the northern Dutch province of Groningen. Haalboom thanked his Dutch surname to his Dutch ancestors. In March of 1941 he married the Dutch Sietske Haalboom-Pruissen and from this marriage a son came forth who, like his father, was named Ernst. The young Ernst was born in November of 1942. Sietske always said she had a feeling that her husband would not survive the war and therefore her son was named after his father.

Before the outbreak of the Second World War Ernst Haalboom worked as a tailor at the Groenewold company in the Dutch village Musselkanaal. He was a respected worker and known as a good craftsman. Haalboom was a fierce anti-Nazi man and since the German invasion of the Netherlands in May of 1940, and the subsequent Dutch capitulation, he had a very difficult life. Already early after the outbreak of the war the Germans had stated that all Imperial Germans would be treated as Germans, which automatically meant that these men could be called for German military service.

 

From 1942 Haalboom was almost constantly harassed by the German authorities and through calls from the German District Commander of Groningen who ordered him to report for duty and to comply with German law. Haalboom did not comply with these calls and he refused to appear for duty. Instead he and his family moved to the village Stadskanaal were they moved in to a house in street Handelskade on number 323-1. During this period a benevolent doctor from Stadskanaal was able to keep him from military service by reporting him sick again and again. Finally, in 1943, the Dutch police and the Dutch National Socialist Movement (N.S.B.) managed to track down Haalbooms address and planned to arrest him at his home. Ernst however was luckely tipped on forehand on the plans which led him to escape his house. The day they came for Haalboom villagers had gathered in the street after word had spread that he was to be arrested. However, on arrival of the authorities Haalboom was long gone. Previously he had agreed upon with his wife that he would send a postcard signed with the name J. Groenhof when he would be in hiding at a safe place. After some time this postcard indeed arrived in Stadskanaal and, with the knowledge that her husband had found a safe hiding place, she decided to move to another place with the young Ernst. She did not want to stay in the house alone with her son and therefor moved to the nearby village Meeden near Groningen were her sister ran a hotel annex restaurant.

Eventually Ernst Haalboom was arrested in Winschoten by German authorities in the beginning of 1943 and he was sent to a prison camp for conscientious objectors. Several of these kind of camps existed in the Netherlands. Already from the beginning of World War II German conscientious objectors were locked up by the German authorities. For instance in a Jewish refugee camp named 'Vianda’ in Hoek van Holland (from 1939), in concentration camp Camp Amersfoort (from 1941/42) and in seminary Haarendael in Haaren (from 1943). It is presumably during his imprisonment that Ernst Haalboom had a number tattooed in the inside of his upper left arm. During this time Haalboom got a forced military training and, according to a photograph of him in his military clothing, he got attached to a military unit. As a German private he was assigned to carry out guard duties at various places in the Netherlands. Eventually in august of 1944 he managed to desert his military unit and from the area of the village Bussum he fled to the town of Boxtel where he hid on various locations until 1945. It is likely that Ernst Haalboom came in to contact with a Dutch underground or resistance movement, or even a German resistance movement, during his military service between early 1943 and August 1944. After his desertion Haalboom would experience numerous of dangerous assignments while with an underground/resistance movement. About this period Haalboom wrote a simple but nevertheless very valuable report. In it he described how he, as a German Wehrmacht deserter, ended up in hiding in Boxtel in the province North Brabant and who of the Boxtel population helped and hid him. It is clear that after his desertion he cycled on a bicycle from Bussum in the province North Holland all the way to the southern Dutch province North-Brabant where he carried out reconnaissance assignments for, most presumably, the Dutch underground.

 

After his forced military training Ernst Haalboom got attached to regiment Sicherungs-Regiment 26. This regiment was tasked with the guarding of bridges and warehouses in the Netherlands. He was placed in Einheit 8. Kompanie II (unit eight of the second company). This regiment was stationed in a barracks in the village Laren near Bussum, and in this area Haalboom most presumably was tasked with guard duties. Not far from Laren lay the city Amersfoort where around 1941/42 the Germans ran Camp Amersfoort, a transit camp for deporting Dutch Jews.* In 1943 began an expansion of Camp Amersfoort and about one hundred Imperial Germans worked on the construction of the camp. Afterwards some of the Imperial Germans were actually stationed at the camp as guards.

 

*Considering the fact that in this period also conscientious objectors were imprisoned in Camp Amersfoort it could be possible that Ernst Haalboom may have been locked up at the camp or that he was involved in the guarding of Camp Amersfoort.

Wedding picture of Ernst Haalboom and Sietske Haalboom-Pruissen.

Ernst Haalboom dressed in his military clothing.

 

A number of Imperial Germans that served in the German Wehrmacht from 1942 were stationed in Laren, just as Ernst Haalboom. Located here was the Crailo barracks ore Camp Crailo, a former Dutch army barracks and military training facility, also known as Camp Laren, a name the barracks got in the First World War. At Camp Crailo an Imperial German by the name of Ulrich Rehorst secretly ran a German resistance group from 1942 together with a couple of his German comrades. Ulrich Rehorst was also attached to Sicherungs-Regiment 26 just as Ernst Haalboom and also a firm anti-Nazi. Around mid-1942 Rehorst came in to contact with a member of the Dutch underground in Laren and Blaricum-Eemnes. It was the Laren architect Cornelis de Graaff. Rehorst suggested to De Graaff the idea to form a resistance group and to work together. De Graaff accepted the idea and the Rehorst Group was born. De Graaff then became the main contact between the Dutch team and the group led by Ulrich Rehorst. As Wehrmacht soldiers these men were a valuable asset to the Dutch cause. By the Dutch resistance therefore an urgent appeal was made to all German group members to not desert their posts. The members of the Rehorst Group not only passed through German military information to the Dutch resistance, but also provided them with weaponry and uniforms. They further played an important role in the transfer of German military intelligence to the Allies. It is quite possible that Ernst Haalboom was also a member of the Rehorst Group.

 

Haalbooms’ desertion from the Wehrmacht presumably took place on 1 September. Within his regiment however, it was announced on 4 September that Haalboom had disappeared. Nevertheless there was made no official report, neither of his missing nor of his death. It is known that Haalboom stayed at Bussum after his desertion.

In his hand-written report that he wrote shortly after the liberation of Boxtel he describes how he left Bussum on 1 September of 1944. He left the village at half past six in the evening and traveled by bicycle to the village Hedel at the river Maas, in the province Gelderland, just north of the city 's-Hertogenbosch. Here he arrived at 3 o'clock in the night and he would stay here for a total of three days. In those three days he ate no food and on the third day he opened a secret letter.* It is most likely that the content of this secret letter brought him to Boxtel, because in his report he described how he went from Boxtel to the Moerdijk bridges at the river Hollands Diep near the village Moerdijk. Haalboom however did not describe who he met during those days or what he exactly had been doing.

 

*Contact resistance? Was Ernst Haalboom doing reconnaissance for the Dutch resistance at the bridges of Hedel (bridge over the river Maas) and Moerdijk, and did he maybe had to flee for the Germans when he returned to Boxtel from Moerdijk when he perhaps was stopped and checked?

 

Haalboom managed to return to Boxtel again as his report reveals he somehow managed to escape from Boxtel in the morning at half past seven. Haalboom then found a hiding place outside of Boxtel at a farm that was run by farmer Antoon ‘Toon’ de Groot. This farm was situated in hamlet Lennisheuvel along road Lennisheuvel on number 53, today named road Kempseweg number 10.* Here he stayed hidden for thirteen days in a two meter deep hole in the ground behind the farm in the Kampina forest. During the evenings farmer De Groot brought him something to eat. After large numbers of airborne troops had landed in North Brabant on 17, 18 and 19 September Haalboom left his hiding place and was brought deeper in to the forest. Local forester Aalt van den Ham provided him a place to hide in his house which was named ‘Huize Kampina’. Haalboom described that he was captured here two weeks later on Sunday 1 October by five Germans and also that he managed to escape thereafter. A cousin of Haalboom remembered a conversation with him after the war in which Haalboom explained how he was captured and in which way he had escaped. After German soldiers had stopped him they had demanded his papers. Haalboom had not been able to identify himself as his papers were still at Van Hams’ house in his room on the first floor. He was then taken to the house of forester Van den Ham under the threat of a gun, and once at the house Haalboom went up the stairs to his room. Instead of returning with his papers directly Haalboom took a weapon and from a window took aim on the German soldiers that were waiting in front of the house. He fired some rounds and in doing so hit and killed one of the German soldiers. In the commotion that followed Haalboom was able to escape from the house and flee in to the dense forest of Kampina. During his escape he would run in to the Boxtel resistance members Klaas Dekker and the married resistance couple Grard and Door van der Meijden. Klaas Dekker described this encounter in his report on the aid to the Allied airborne troops in Kampina that he wrote after the war for NIOD, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation. In that period the Boxtels resistance had hidden over more than one hundred Allied airborne soldiers in the Kampina forest. Due to a variety of reasons these soldiers had landed prematurely by glider and parachute in a wide area around Boxtel during operation Market-Garden. Local resistance people had helped these soldiers in their hiding and had assisted in forming them into a large group. Then, aided by the Boxtel resistance, they had found Kampina to be their perfect hiding place.

 

*Forester Aalt van den Ham originated from the north of the Netherlands and he pronounced De Groots’ name as Antoon instead of Toon. This is the reason why Ernst Haalboom referred to De Groot as Antoon de Groot in his report in which he also wrote names from people that assisted him during his escape and hiding.

*Authors note; Boxtel resistance man Grard van der Meijden took part in the work for a Pilot Escape Line. Van der Meijden was befriended with farmer Toon de Groot and forester Aalt van den Ham. It is possible that Van der Meijden was the contact person for the resistance in Boxtel to Ernst Haalboom.

 

American glider men of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Division in the Kampina forest show their sandwiches in front of the camera. Standing between them the Boxtel resistance man Roel Dekker.

 

In this report Klaas Dekker also described how forester Aalt van den Ham had two men in hiding in his house. Dekker described the way Van den Ham was stopped one day by five Germans when he was in the forest together with one of his hiders. The Germans had demanded their identity papers and, while Van den Ham had correct papers on him the hider could not provide any nor could he sufficiently proof his identity. While the forester was allowed to walk on the hider was detained. Just as Ernst Haalboom also this hider originated from Stadskanaal, and while the Germans subjected him to a short questioning it occurred to them that he was pretty nervous and that he did not have the Brabant tongue. They then became suspicious and forced him to tell them the truth. It didn't take long until he admitted to his interrogators to be a hider and the Germans demanded he showed them the place where he was hiding. They then took him to the forester house ‘Huize Kampina’. When they arrived at the house the hider somehow managed to escape through the back door and to disappear in to the dense forest. This hider from Stadskanaal must have been Ernst Haalboom. Klaas Dekker also described that when he and the couple Grard and Door van de Meijden were on their way to the airborne camp, then located along the small stream called Beerze in the area between the foresters house and the hamlet Balsvoort, he noticed an unknown man in the direct surroundings of the airborne camp. One of the American guard posts had also spotted the man when he tried to dive out of sight. Klaas Dekker, who was armed with a small pistol, directly went after him together with Grard van der Meijden. Both resistance men had soon caught him and under the threat of Klaas’ pistol the man showed them his papers that he took from his right shoe. This man appeared to be a German deserter that had just escaped from his German captors. They then gave the deserter, who was dressed in civilian clothing, the advice to quickly disappear and pointed him in to the right direction, away from the airborne camp. (this was in all probability Ernst Haalboom) The consequences of Haalbooms’ escape for the forester and his family were that they now also had to hide for the Germans who, on the next day of Monday 2 October, in revenge completely destroyed their home. Ernst Haalboom stated in his report that the foresters house ‘Huize Kampina’ was set on fire by the Germans the next Monday. According to an official Boxtel report made up directly after the war this was a direct result of Haalbooms’ resistance activities. During this time Haalboom had great fears that the Germans would raid the area of Lennisheuvel. Luckily for the inhabitants of Lennisheuvel, for unclear reasons, this raid never happened. Probably this is to be thanked due to the fact that the German forces in the area had completely different things on their minds after the Allied airborne landings of 17, 18 and 19 September at Best, Eerde and Heeswijk-Dinther and the subsequent battles with American troops in the area between Veghel and Eindhoven. Haalboom further wrote in his report that he escaped from Kampina forest to Boxtel were he hid at the Pennings family in street Ons Doelstraat on number 14. Ons Doelstraat was also the street were Klaas Dekker and his brother and fellow resistance man Roel Dekker lived. Also resistance man Jan Kwant, who provided assistance to their cause to help the stranded airborne men, lived in Ons Doelstraat. Klaas lived on number 13 while his brother lived on number 6 and Jan Kwant on number 8. Soon after his arrival at the Pennings family Haalboom was provided forged identity papers.

The family Pennings house at Ons Doelstraat 14 in Boxtel. Here Ernst Haalboom hid during October 1944.

Toon de Groot, the farmer who hid Ernst Haalboom in a deep pit in the forest behind his farm was a courageous man. In the period that the Americans were staying in their camp along the Beerze in Kampina it was amongst others Toon de Groot, together with his neighboring farmer Jan van Antwerpen, who supplied the food and milk for the soldiers in support of the Boxtel resistance. The farm of De Groot was located along the main entrance to Kampina forest and close by ran the route the resistance people used to reach the American camp in Kampina. Farmer Jan van Antwerpen was responsible for collecting the milk that the Americans drank. Farmer De Groot was the one that brought the milk churn to Huize Kampina where the milk could be heated. The Boxtel resistance than brought the milk to the soldiers. During times when Huize Kampina could not be reached due to German activity in the surroundings the milk churn was placed in concealment in one of the ditches in the forest. When the coast was clear the resistance could then take the milk churn further in to the forest by bicycle. The use of these milk churns however was not without certain risk as these churns often were numbered. Would the Germans find one or more of these milk churns and connect them to resistance activities the numbers could lead them to the rightful owners.

 

After the loss of the forester’s house, because the Germans had destroyed it, a number of other farmers near Kampina were found willing to also commit to the food supply for the Americans. Two farms near De Groot were included in the supply line. They were the farms of farmers Theo Kurstjens and Martinus ‘Tinus’ de Groot. In addition to the willingness of farmer Theo Kurstjens to bake some extra bread with its own oven also the Boxtel baker Van de Laar delivered his secretly baked bread for the soldiers at these farms.

Also meat and other foods collected for the soldiers in and around Boxtel came to these farms. All these collected foods were then picked up by the resistance people themselves and brought to the American camp. The fewer people knew of the whereabouts of the location of the American camp the better the resistance had agreed upon, so only a few actually visited the camp. The bread was often transported in large reed baskets while other foods were often hidden in milk churns or taken to the camp with the use of a wheelbarrow. The foods collected in Boxtel reached the farms in many different ways. In addition to the Boxtel resistance people also a number of Boxtel citizens were involved in the collection and transportation of foods. Even Imperial German Ernst Haalboom was involved in the food transports from Boxtel to Kampina while he was in hiding in street Ons Doelstraat. Dressed in his German uniform he walked ahead of the transport to make sure the coast was clear so no problems would arise and to be able to intervene when they were checked.

 

Despite the courage of the farmers and citizens there were great dangers to once involvement to these resistance activities. Would the Germans have discovered once involvement reprisal measures would surely have followed. Fortunately it often went well. Still, on a day in early October, something terrible took place in Kampina. Not far from Lennisheuvel, on Oisterwijk territory in Kampina, lay the tiny hamlet Balsvoort. Here, in the first week of October, a German raid took place which resulted in the murder of two young Balsvoort farm boys, the Schut brothers. On suspicion of being involved in resistance activities German troops raided Balsvoort and in particular the farm of the Schut family. During this raid farm boy Bernard Schut was shot dead when he tried to escape, his brother Hein Schut was murdered by the Germans the next day. Hein Schut had first been transported to Oisterwijk were he was interrogated and the following day, after he had dug his own grave in the Oisterwijk woods, he was murdered by the Germans. After a search in the woods a month later the body of Bernard Schut was finally found. His body was found in a shallow pit covered with leaves. During the war also the Schut brothers had been active in the help to people in hiding. During that time they had accommodated refugees on their farm from the nearby village Oirschot and also the Oisterwijk Mayor Verwiel had found a safe hiding place at Balsvoort. The brothers were also involved in the food supply to the airborne men whose camp was located not more than a several hundred meters from the hamlet. The Schut family had previously shown sympathy for the Oisterwijk resistance group by agreeing to hide people on their farm who were wanted by the Germans. The resistance group had recently captured a number of German soldiers in the woods around Oisterwijk and, after disarming them, had imprisoned them on the Balsvoort farm. The German soldiers were held captive on the large attic while one armed resistance boy guarded them from the top of the stairs, the only way up the attic. Not more than a little bit of daylight shone through a small window with bars at the end of the attic.

Haalboom, who ended up in hiding in Ons Doelstraat in Boxtel after he had fled from Huize Kampina, would support the Boxtel resistance with their aid to the airborne troops in Kampina. From Ons Doelstraat he accompanied food transports to Kampina. The Boxtel resistance must have figured that the chance that their food transports to Kampina would be discovered was much lesser when in the company of a German soldier. The destinations of these transports were, besides the farm of De Groot, the farms of farmer  

Tinus de Groot and Jan Kustjens. Haalbooms’ role had not limited to only the food transports. His army clothing was of great importance when it came to his resistance role. He also guided people in hiding from one place to the other while dressed in his army clothing. According to an official post war report from the Boxtel Political Recherche Haalboom made numerous risky and life threatening enterprises along with members of the resistance. One of the airborne men stated that midst them had been a German deserter that had the boldness to visit the German field kitchens around Kampina in search for food. The farmers had to watch powerlessly how the Germans set up their field kitchens in their yards during the last occupying weeks. In that way the kitchens were located close but nevertheless at a safe distance from the frontline. One of those kitchens was located on a farm bordering Kampina. The food that was prepared here during the day was brought to the German troops along the frontline during the night. With a lie Haalboom was able to arrange some additional food for the troops.

 

Ernst Haalboom wrote at the end of his report that at one point he had escaped with a German machine pistol, a rifle, and a pistol plus 300 cartridges, which he turned in to the Boxtel underground. Could it be that Ernst Haalboom had been involved in the theft of German weapons from the Duinendaal complex in Boxtel, described by G. Segers in his work 'images from the occupation years'? According to Segers’ description it was Klaas Dekker who, shortly after 16 September 1944, stole about 300 pistols and rifles from the weapon room of the complex that was located on the second floor. The number of weapons seems to me to be not only very large but also very much to be stolen by one single man. Klaas Dekker will certainly have to have had help from more people.

 

Boxtel was liberated on 24 October, first by the airborne soldiers who had been hiding in Kampina, and the next day, on the 25th  for the second time by troops of the British 51 Highland Division. These troops had approached the village from the East. Haalboom mentioned in his report, without any further details, that during that time he saved a child. After the liberation of Boxtel Haalboom returned to the De Groot farm where he once again went into hiding. The fact that the area was liberated and free from Germans did not exactly mean that for his good deeds for the Boxtels resistance Haalboom did not have to fear for his own life. For fear to be interned by the Allies, or to be lynched by locals, Haalboom was offered secret accommodations at the farm of Toon de Groot. From there Haalboom was soon able to make contact again with his wife and his family and various letters would follow between Ernst Haalboom in Lennisheuvel and his family in the North of the Netherlands. In Lennisheuvel Haalboom not only worked for farmer De Groot but also for other farmers in the area. At night he slept at De Groot in his barn. At that time he was constantly on the alert in order to not to be discovered, and when unexpected visitors came to the farm he hid straight away and disappeared. Eight-year-old foster son Jan was explained that Haalboom stayed in Kampina, at forester Van den Ham in his temporary house. That house was the temporary replacement for their destroyed home ‘Huize Kampina’.  Jan was further told that the house was so drafty during the night that Ernst was provided a place to sleep in the barn of the De Groot. During that time his knowledge on the making of clothing benefited him very much as for many people he made or repaired clothing. With the collaboration of the former Boxtel resistance on 28 November Ernst Haalboom reported himself at the Allied military authority and the Dutch political recherche in Eindhoven. Here Haalboom was questioned thoroughly and the story that he told his interrogators was found credible, and after being checked in Boxtel even confirmed. The fact that Ernst could prove to be no Nazi was sufficient enough to not to be interned. An official document from the military authority of the time mentioned that "given his actions during the German occupation, and in view of his good deeds to the Allied cause, it was decided that Haalboom was not be declared a Prisoner of War.” Instead he was pledged full cooperation. He was not designated to a mandatory residence but completely free in his movement. After his interrogation Haalboom stayed the night between the evacuees and displaced persons in the Phillips Veem building in Eindhoven. In anticipation of his papers he returned to Boxtel the next day, back to De Groots’ farm in Lennisheuvel. In his report from 18 December he further mentioned the impact of a German V2 missile in Boxtel (unmanned German ballistic guided missile) which caused many casualties.

Doelstraat 7 and resistanceman Klaas Dekker from Ons Doelstraat 13. With this safe conduct in his pocket, which was addressed to the check points of the liberated areas in the Netherlands, Haalboom was free to return to Stadskanaal once the area there was liberated. Until the end of May 1945, still more postcards and letters arrived at Toon de Groots farm addressed to Ernst Haalboom but Ernst would never read them as he had left. Life after the war in Lennisheuvel was picked up again and farmer Toon de Groot, his wife Anna and their foster son Jan moved to hamlet Vrilkhoven in Liempde in 1948, after Toon and his brother Willem de Groot exchanged farms because the brother had a large family and the farm in Vrilkhoven had become too small. In Boxtel and in Lennisheuvel nothing was ever heard again of Ernst Haalboom and it had never become clear whether Haalboom ever reached his wife and child in Stadskanaal.

 

Ernst Haalboom did make it to Stadskanaal. He was reunited with his wife Sietske and his young son Ernst. Sietske had moved in at her sisters place in the town Meeden, just north of Stadskanaal, when Ernst had fled Stadskanaal in 1943. Here Sietske had placed a picture of Ernst dressed in his army fatigues on a prominent place in the house. As a single woman with a child she had had the hopes that it would prevent difficult questions from any Germans that stayed at the hotel ore ate in the restaurant. The picture of her husband had reached her in one way or the other. However, in the autumn of 1945, during an investigation by the Dutch authorities on Haalbooms Wehrmacht period, Ernst was imprisoned in an internment camp for Imperial Germans in Assen named camp ‘Vlessing’. In that period the Netherlands Property Administration Institute (Nederlandse Beheersinstituut or NBI) took seizure of all of his belongings. (Operation Black Tulip) These possessions served as financial compensation to the war damage suffered in the Netherlands. The NBI was founded in August of 1945 as part of the Council for the Restoration of Rights (Raad voor het Rechtsherstel). At camp Vlessing Haalboom was declared politically reliable in February of 1946 by F. Boersma, a former district leader of the resistance movement and the local commander of the Dutch Domestic armed forces (NBS). Shortly after Haalboom was released he could again return to his wife and child in Stadskanaal. During that time Haalboom applied for Dutch citizenship by naturalization in Winschoten, but because of financial difficulties he could not proceed. He never received any official declaration by the NBI that proved he was no enemy to the Netherlands anymore. He and his son Ernst officially kept considered as former enemies of the Netherlands. Instead of the aforesaid declaration Haalboom and his son did receive a residence permit for which they needed an official stamp from the Dutch authorities again every year. To Haalbooms wish and desire to be neutralized to Dutch citizen the Dutch authorities never responded. Ernst Haalboom passed away on 15 October 1980.

Ernst Haalbooms handwritten report about his desertion and his subsequent hiding and resistance work in Boxtel.

 

When during the spring of 1945 the liberation of the northern part of the Netherlands was only a matter of weeks Ernst Haalboom had only one thought on his mind, to return to his wife and child. From the British Security Service at Eindhoven eventually a message was received which stated that Ernst Haalboom was to be provided the freedom of movement in connection with his meritorious work for the Allied cause. Through the Boxtel Municipality Police and the Political Police Recherche division Boxtel Haalboom got a safe conduct to return to his hometown as soon as it was liberated. This safe conduct was signed by the Acting Superintendent of Police, W.G.A. van  Almkerk. Ernst Haalboom also got a safe conduct from 1st Lieutenant H. van den Broek, head of Staff of the N.B.S Guards Company for Boxtel and Esch. (N.B.S. Nederlandse Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten, Dutch Domestic armed forces)Van den Broek stated in this document that information to Haalbooms’ political reliability could be obtained through the Boxtel Police Officer Th. Kemperman from Ons

Farmer Toon de Groot and Anna

de Groot-van den Meulengraaf.

The De Groot farm at Lennisheuvel.

 

The safe conduct from the Boxtel Municipality Police that Haalboom used to return to his wife and child in Stadskanaal.

 

Ernst Haalboom had not been the only German Wehrmacht deserter in hiding in Boxtel.

 

After the liberation of Boxtel it became clear that Ernst Haalboom had not been the only German Wehrmacht deserter that had found a hiding place in Boxtel. An in-law of the Verhoeven family, a farmer’s family from the hamlet Tongeren at Boxtel, was the imperial German named Jupp Gerecht. Jupp Gerecht, who had lived in Boxtel with his Dutch wife until the beginning of the war, had reported himself for compulsory military service in 1940. By the end of 1944 Gerecht was doing guard duties at the bridges over the river Hollandsdiep near Moerdijk. While there he decided to desert the Wehrmacht. One day he left his post and with a friend* he walked to his home and wife in Boxtel. Once at Boxtel however Gerecht had to hide. For a number of days he found a place to hide under an inverted box-cart on a piece of land of the Verhoeven family, located at the edge of Kampina near stream Beerze. At a later date, when he was able to contact the Boxtel underground via mister P.J Smits from Boxtel (head of the Crisis Control Service) he found refuge in Kampina for a long period of time. After the liberation of the area Jupp Gerecht was taken Prisoner of War by the British forces at Boxtel. He was transported to Great Britain were he was imprisoned in a POW camp and questioned on his military service. When it became eminent to the British that he was not a Nazi he was released. Gerecht could return to his wife in Boxtel where after the war in Europe he joined the Dutch railways.

 

* Ernst Haalboom?

Ernst Haalboom German service details

 

 

Diensteintrittsdatum/date in service:

 

Erkennungsmarke/Identificationtag:

 

Truppenteile/Unit:

It. Meldung vom /report on 23.03.43

 

 

 

 

Am/On 04.09.44

nicht angegeben/unknown

 

-1248 - 1./E./.Pol. I.R. 1

 

 

6.Kompanie Landesschützen-Batailon Niederlande

 

Zugang/entry: von 1.Erzats-Kompanie SS-Polizei-                            Infanterie-Regiment 1        

                     Standort/based at: Ede/Holland

 

8. Kompanie Sicherungs-Regiment 26

Unterstellung/subordination: Army command in the Netherlands

 

Abgang/Retirement:

Fahnenflügtig/Deserted

In that period there was another, less serious incident, which luckily went just fine. At one day resistance man Grard van der Meijden came down the road from hamlet Roond on a motorcycle and approached De Groots’ farm. For reasons unknown he was being pursued by a German vehicle. Once at the farm Grard noticed the Groots’ barn doors were wide open. When he took the bend in the road opposite the barn he steered to the right and drove right into the barn through the open doors. He then jumped from his motorcycle and together with De Groot, who had witnessed Grard approaching his farm, quickly closed the barn doors. The Germans had not noticed Van der Meijdens actions and drove right past the farm and disappeared into the distance. Farmer Toon de Groot was married to Anna van den Meulengraaf. The couple had no children and the mother of Toon, ‘Grutje’, lived in with the two. Anna had a brother who lived with his family in the town Best near Eindhoven. During the fighting around Best their house had sustained tree direct hits during a bombardment which had left their home destroyed. The family was left homeless and had to be accommodated somewhere else. First they had found accommodations in the village Aarle and thereafter, around 23 October, in the village Haaren near Oisterwijk. There, on 28 October, the family split up and a niece and nephew were brought to the De Groots’ farm in Lennisheuvel. Toon and Anna had enough space and the two children knew the area and farm well as they already had spent a holiday there. When the family could return again to Best the nephew of Toon and Anna, the eight-year-old Jan van de Meulengraaf, stayed behind in Lennisheuvel. The young boy enjoyed living on the farm and by that time he went to a nearby school. They had furnished a small room for him in the attic and Jan was treated as a son by Toon and Anna. On the farm the eight-year-old boy Jan van de Meulengraaf would also regularly meet the German deserter Ernst Haalboom.

The German soldiers had nowhere to go. The presence of these German prisoners however created great disorder on the farm amongst the refugees and soon a major disagreement arose as to what to do with these prisoners. Executing them was extremely risky because of the obvious retaliation that would occur should those in hiding and their helpers would be arrested or taken prisoner. It was therefore decided to release the German soldiers. They were first blindfolded and then led around Kampina for some time to confuse them. Then they were released far away from Balsvoort. Unfortunately it didn’t take them long to find their way back to their own troops in Oisterwijk and raise the alarm. One way or the other the German soldiers must have been able to establish where they had been held during their captivity because a few days later, at about 3pm, a large German force raided the hamlet of Balsvoort and the Schut farm.

The Balsvoort brothers Bernard and Hein Schut.