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Major General Dr. L. A. D. Kranenburg


Born in  South of Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Served in the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces


Date of interview: 24 August, 1989

Place of interview: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Interviewer: Petro Potichnyj

Length of Interview: 44 min.



DUTCH OFFICERS AS PRISONERS OF WAR


On the fifteenth of May [1942], I think,  the Germans called all the officers of the capitulated Dutch Army, Navy, to become prisoners of war, first in Nuremberg and then in Stanislav. 


THE GERMANS EVACUATE DUTCH OFFICERS FROM THE STANISLAV POW CAMP


When the Russians came further West, the Germans evacuated various camps. And also Stanislav was evacuated. We didn’t know where, to which other place. But in the end we went on the eleventh of January [1944], I believe, I am not quite sure,  with the train, with on the well-known cattle wagon trucks [cattle cars].


ESCAPE FROM THE TRAIN


I with three friends, and we had, of course, already long thought about escaping. And Byl de Roe was a really capable man in handicrafts. Soon as we were inside this truck [the cattle car] with plenty of people. I am not sure how many, but anyway, if one turns his body from right to left the others have to turn their bodies also from right to left. So you can imagine it was not very spacious. Byl started making a hole. And he made very cleverly a cut so that this wood could not fall out, so it had kind of angle. As soon as such a piece of wood was loose he could take it and later on it could have be put back again, which was very convenient for the  people who otherwise could have caught a cold. So, in the end when it was ready and the train started and began to work. And then we went through. And then first Brackel jumped and then, I think, I, and later Bentinck, and Byl de Roe also. This went very well. So as soon as I got out I went, of course, behind the brushwood. And there was no fire, no shots. And train went on. I went in the direction from where the train came.


FINDING  HIS FRIEND


Then I tried to find Janz Bentinck. I started whistling an old alarm signal we had learnt in military academy. In the beginning I didn’t get an answer, but later on I got an answer. And then again I whistled and I walked in that direction and again I whistled and the sound was louder. Well, we found each other.


MOVING DEEPER INTO THE CARPATHIANS


We went on and on. I don’t know how late we started. It was dark, anyway. And then, in the end, we heard a noise, a roar, and we went on and it became louder, and in the end it appeared to be a kind of dam. We went on it and after there was very much noise, because it was the Dniester doing this with all that pieces of ice making noise by rubbing against each other. We could not cross. That was not possible.


CROSSING THE DNIESTER RIVER


We saw a little village and it was the first house on which we knocked. And there was a woman with a man, a neighbour apparently, and a little boy about ten or twelve years old. And they were very friendly. We could come in. And we got something I don’t know what and I don’t remember. Then we said that we wanted to go across the stream. I don’t know the words, we couldn’t speak any Ukrainian, of course, but it’s surprising that how well one can express oneself even if one doesn’t speak the language. This boy was prepared to go over. We went with a young man to the boat and he brought us over poling through the ice.


POOR FARMER SHELTERS TWO DUTCH OFFICERS


And then we knocked again at the door and immediately it was opened. And there was small man and we had to come inside and he was friendly in every respect. It was a very small house. Alexander apparently appeared to be his name. I think he must have said his name. Anyway, I went on my knees and he saw that I was limping a bit. And he came with a bottle with a little bit of camphor spiritus in it. And he started.. I had to do everything out... and he started to rub my knee. Well, it was touching, really. And we wanted, in fact, only to have a place somewhere in a haystack or so. But we had to go to a bed. And we went to bed. Well, we deserved our sleep, really, because we had not slept since Stanislav and we walked all the time in that journey.

In the middle of the night, it seemed to us middle of the night, we were awakened and there were a lot of people and amongst them there was a French woman, a woman who spoke French. And next morning a neighbor came and he had promised that he would lead us out, through the village.


AMERICAN IN THE CARPATHIANS


It was again getting late and then we wanted to know where we were. We saw a farm on the top of the hill. We knocked at the door and out came a very big man, tall man. And somehow we asked for Dolyna [pointing] ...you know, that way. And then he said: “Yes, six miles”. And he was pure American. I think. And we asked him. And he said: “Yes”, and we asked “How did you get here”? “Trapped by that f... war”. And that certainly must have been true. And I think also that was about six miles.


FOLLOWED BY SOME MYSTERIOUS PEOPLE


We met a sledge with an old man, I think. And he pretended as if he didn’t see us, but when I looked around, he looked around too. So he noticed us. And then a little later I had again a notion that someone was following us and that there were two or three men, I think three. Well, again we tried to lengthen our steps but without any results. In the end we thought: “Well, we can’t get rid of them. We will stop”. And we stopped and they came. And they said very friendly and asked for “Ausweis” . And we showed what we had and we told our story and that we wanted to go in the direction of Dolyna.


HELP FROM THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE


And we went on and again we took the first farm, that we met with a little light in it and we knocked at the door. And we said: “Zymno, zymno”... I only knew what was “zymno”, that was cold, I think. “Zymno, zymno” - was very cold. And “Nezymno” - was very hot. That was about all our vocabulary. So they said we should come inside and we came inside. And there was a smell of napkins and milk, and smoke, perhaps also.. Anyway it was warm and smelly. And there were plenty of children and a mother, of course, was very busy, little children with a mother. In the meantime, the farmer, he had a talk with his wife and there came a kind of sour milk with potatoes, boiled potatoes. And we should eat it. Well, it was impossible to eat it all, because there came so many potatoes and so much milk. Well, we tried to be polite, but we couldn’t eat more, really. And Janz was very good with the children. He had sugar and he gave the children sugar. Chocolate he had also. But they didn’t like chocolate. They wanted the sugar more.


MEETING WITH THE UPA


We wanted to sleep and there were two benches and we could lay there, we were very fortunate. And we were just trying to get out of our clothes and all of a sudden the whole room was full with people. Then we were called “agents provocateurs”.  And then I took off my identification mark as Dutch officers [demonstrates his mark]. Then we had to go and there was a sledge with two horses for it. We went on and it was snowing and I felt like Napoleon. I mean it was wonderful. And we went on and on through woods. And then we came in the village where we had to be very quiet. And....there was a big room, it was rich “kulak’s”, they said, farmer. And we went to sleep. There was Ukrainian partisan, I must say, with a rifle sitting next to the door. He was apparently not allowed to say anything at all. And he didn’t say anything at all. He didn’t move either. He didn’t sleep. We stayed inside and we slept soon. Then we stayed there a whole day. And there was a lovely lady, a wife of the farmer. She had delicious soup and bread with sausage. Wonderful. Everything was wonderful. Now, well, then in the evening, I don’t know whether it was the evening of the same day or the next day, there came a man with a fur coat again and he said that: “We should go on”.


THE UPA HELP DUTCH OFFICERS REACH HUNGARY


Interviewer: So from there on you went on to Hungary?

Kranenburg: Yes, then  I became really a man in a group. I just followed the leader.


UNDERSTANDING THE  UKRAINIAN FREEDOM MOVEMENT


This man with the fur coat told us a little bit about the Ukrainian history. Well, that was that. And of the first War and of Vlasov. Of course, living South of Rotterdam, I knew also, I  had forgotten the name, I beg you pardon, but that Konovalets was there given that “parcel” [booby-trapped box of chocolates] which exploded. But that was in 37 or 38 I am not sure.


IMPRESSIONS ABOUT THE UKRAINIAN INSURGENTS


Positive. Certainly.

Interviewer: But they treated you on the whole correctly?

Kranenburg: Very well. Yes. No complaints. Not at all. And also, of course, for the farmers it was not always so pleasant to have two or more hungry young men to be their guests.

As soon as I was brought from this one farm that we were. From that moment on we were with the right people. That was the feeling. And where it would end. Well, we hoped for the best. And it was the best.


FEELINGS OF GRATITUDE


I am very grateful for the way I have been treated. I have been so fortunate. We didn’t know that the Germans would shoot every prisoner of war they would get. We didn’t know. And afterwards, apparently, they did, and nearly everyone who left the camp during that transport and was not immediately arrested, later was killed and murdered, and tortured in Mauthausen and in other places. Even people who managed to get as far as the Dutch border and got caught there were liquidated in Mauthausen.

The interviews can be accessed at the UCRDC. Please contact us office@ucrdc.org

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excerpt from the Interview with Major General Dr. L. A. D. Kranenburg
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