Friday, January 14, 2011

Family Legend, True or False? Part 3: Answers At Last?

Last time, I talked about the fact that I had not found any evidence as of yet that my aunt’s memory of my grandfather’s arrest and the story in the book was true. I’d not been able to find mention of my grandfather in any of the archives of Kamp Vught. But then, at last, the answer to my inquiry to the NIOD came. They did not have any records of my grandfather at Kamp Vught either, but they told me to try the CABR archive kept at the National Archive.

The CABR is an archive that consists of files of people who came into contact with the Special Justice that was instated after World War Two to investigate anyone who was suspected of having sided with the Germans. If my grandfather had been arrested, or even just questioned, there would be a file about him. It’s a restricted archive, though, which means you need permission to view it. Luckily for me, my grandfather is deceased and I am a direct descendant, which is the best case scenario for getting access to my grandfather’s file. Provided, of course, that there was a file. I sent my enquiry and then the wait began.

The reply was thankfully quick and a positive one: there was a file on my grandfather and I had permission to view it! There was no guarantee to what was in there though. So I went to the National Archive. My mission was to prove or disprove these three facts:

- My grandfather served at the Eastern Front (book and family stories)
- My grandfather was arrested and imprisoned at Kamp Vught for several months (my aunt) or a year (book)
- My grandfather got to stay in the Netherland because of intervention by the Mayor of Voorschoten (my aunt)

Did I find my answers? Why, yes I did! And they were quite unexpected.

My grandfather served at the East Front

From his own statement, I was able to prove this fact. My grandfather didn’t only serve on the Eastern Front in the north, he served in several other countries as well.
Due to his statements, given at different times, I’ve been able to make a nearly complete reconstruction of the happenings since the Germans attacked the Netherlands (started preparing for War, even) until the capitulation of the Germans, which brought my grandfather back in the Netherlands with his family. I’ll write this up in a separate post at a later date, as it’s quite a story on its own.

My grandfather was arrested and imprisoned at Kamp Vught for several months or a year

This was the most important reason I went to the National Archive. I desperately wanted to know if this was true. One of the first papers I viewed after I opened the file was in fact an official message from Kamp Vught declaring the release of my grandfather! It was true and the proof was right in front of me. Reading the file, I found more documents proving this.
Although I have not been able to find my grandfather’s arrest date in the file, the earliest date I can place him at Kamp Vught is 22 August 1945. My aunt is right in this case, he was there for less than a year, as he is transferred to prison in Leiden on 1 December 1945. He’s released completely on 20 December 1945.

My grandfather got to stay in the Netherland because of intervention by the Mayor of Voorschoten

Before I get into what I found out about this in the file, first a little history on this. Before the war, law in the Netherlands was such that if a woman married a man, they assumed the man’s nationality. So when my grandfather’s sister Anna Knura married the Dutch Lambertus van Aken, she got the Dutch nationality. In reverse, when my grandfather married my Dutch grandmother she became a German national, as did their two children who were born before the war.

After the war, all German nationals were deported to Germany. My grandfather was first arrested, which delayed the deportation of him and his family, but they were supposed to be deported. However, in the file, the following note was found:

“Would initially be deported. Permission to stay only given because of exemplary behavior of the wife during the war.”

There was no sign of anything the Mayor might have written. There was a letter of recommendation from my grandfather’s brother-in-law Lambertus van Aken, who was a famous resistance fighter and also a big name in the clean-up after the war. In the end though, it was my grandmother’s actions in the war that kept the family in Voorschoten.

What were my grandmother’s actions, you might ask? Well, she helped Lambertus hide Jews and other wanted people during the war. There’d always been stories in the family about this, but I’ve never once heard my grandmother mention it, nor was there any proof. However, in Lambertus’ letter he comes right out and says she helped him by doing this, plus the note also indicates this happened. So by disproving this tidbit of the family legend I was researching, I proved another one!

Tuesday, in Part 4: Endings and Beginnings I will tell you about the very unexpected gems of information I found in this file – which of course brought me new questions I am still struggling with – as well as neatly wrapping up the research into this particular family legend.


  1. This is such a great find! always interesting to see which parts of family stories are true and in what way. I look forward to reading the next part of the story.

  2. How proud you must be of your grandmother. The CABR really held a treasure trove of information for you.

  3. Wonderful series - complete with "happy" ending! Thanks so much for sharing this.

  4. Thank you all for your comments. It was indeed a great find.

  5. Thank you for your story I too have wanted to know if my father was imprisoned in Vught from mid 1945 to mid 1946. All information in hand suggest he was and you have given me hope and a possible way of proving it.