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Unknown stories of rescue

Dutch officers ( F. J. G. Brackel, L. A. D. Kranenburg, Harteveld, H. J. Lineman, P. J. de Ruijter, J. J. Signor, E. J. C. van Hootegem, S.van der Pol, Byl de Roe, J. A. Baron Bentinck) during stay with the UPA after escape from Stanislav POW in January 1944. Picture is made by the UPA.


Between mid-1942 and the beginning of 1944 the German prisoner of war camp Stalag 371 in Stanislav (now city of Ivano-Frankivs’k in Western Ukraine) was used to house some 2400 Dutch officers as prisoners of war. After Germany occupied the Netherlands in May 1940 most of the Dutch officers were taken as prisoners of war and sent to German POW camps in Germany and later on some of them were sent to POW camp in then occupied Stanislav.


In the beginning of January 1944 the Soviet Army was advancing to the West; as a result, the Wehrmacht planned to transfer the Dutch officers from the POW camp in Stanislav to a new location “somewhere” in Germany. Finding out about these plans, some of the Dutch officers started making their own plans for escape. Around 142 officers escaped from the POW camp in Stanislav. Most of them enjoyed only a very short moment of freedom: some were shot to death by German firing squads, some died in Soviet prison camps, some were murdered in Mauthausen, and some vanished.


Ten of the Dutch officers (see photo above) were fortunate to meet with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) soldiers, who rescued them, gave them food and shelter, and led them to Hungary, providing an armed escort. Dutch officers believed that Hungary would intern them and not give them back to the Germans.


We know about three groups of Dutch officers who successfully escaped from the POW camp in Stanislav. One group, consisting of seven Dutch officers, chose to stay and hide in one of the buildings of the POW camp. This building had been a theatre before WWII and now served as the German inspection point, where Dutch officers were processed before their transport out. These escapees crawled under the stage, behind an imitation wall, which they had previously erected. There they huddled in two tight rows, squeezed together like “sardines in a can”, scared to make a sound for two whole days. Only two of them, Joop Singor and Syp van der Pol, made their way to freedom. The other five officers died in Soviet and German concentration camps. The second group, consisting of six officers, among them Edward van Hootegen, Harteveld, Lieneman, and Ruijter, successfully jumped off the moving train while being transported out of Stanislav. Two other officers were not that fortunate: Gerry and Jan were caught by the Germans after trying to jump off the train, and were later murdered in Mauthausen. The third group escaped successfully. One of the officers, Byl de Roe adeptly sawed a hole in the back of the train car. He and three other officers, Baron Bentinck, Leen Kranenburg, and Brackel jumped out near the town of Halych.


These are unknown stories of rescue, where ordinary Ukrainian farmers, along with UPA soldiers choose to act in extraordinary ways: a poor farmer welcomes two exhausted strangers, who turn out to be runaways from the German prisoner of war camp, he rubs their wet and cold feet and shares with them the little food he has; a tall and lean UPA commander armed to the teeth promises to help Dutch officers and bring them to Hungary through the Carpathians; a company of Dutch officers and UPA partisans share food and jokes in a hidden camp in the Black Forest. All of the rescued Dutch officers praised the UPA for boosting their morale, guarding them and guiding them to Hungary. These stories of humanity amidst cruelty should be known and remembered.


In the eyes of the Dutch officers the Ukrainians who helped them are their heroes. Their stories are brought to us through live interviews, which were recorded as part of the UCRDC’s World War II Oral History project. They were conducted in August of 1989 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands by Professor Peter J. Potichnyj. Six of the ten rescued Dutch officers provided the interviews. Some of them passed away and some were ill at the time of these interviews. The recorded interviews are stored as part of the Oral History Archives at UCRDC in Toronto.


One of the Dutch rescuees, Lieutenant General, Edward J.C. van Hootegem, formed a lifelong friendship with one of his rescuers, Lieutenant Colonel of the UPA, Ivan Butkovsky. In commemoration of Ivan Butkovsky and other UPA partisans, Edward van Hootegem wrote his memoir “My meeting with the Ukrainian Insurgent Army”. You can see the excerpts of the interviews on our website. Also the recorded interviews and Edward van Hootegem’s memoir are stored as part of the Oral History Archives at UCRDC.

Please contact us at: office@ucrdc.org


The ten rescued Dutch officers:

1. Major General J. A. Baron Bentinck

2. Major General F. J. G. Brackel

3. Colonel Byl de Roe

4. Colonel Harteveld

5. Lieutenant General E. J. C. van Hootegem

6. Major General Dr. L. A. D. Kranenburg

7. Lieutenant Colonel H. J. Lineman

8. Major General S. van der Pol

9. Lieutenant Colonel P. J. de Ruijter

10. Lieutenant General J. J. Singor

 
World War II: Dutch Officers & 
The Ukrainian Insurgent Army

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Major General J.A. Baron Bentinck

Born in 1916, Jakarta,
the Netherlands’ East Indies

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: 34 min.

Major General Syp Van Der Pol

Served in the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces


Date of interview: 25 August, 1989

Place of interview: Amsterdam,
the Netherlands

Interviewer: Petro Potichnyj

Length of Interview: 34 min.

Excerpts from the interviews

Colonel Harteveld

Born in Surabaya, Indonesia

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: 28 min.

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.

Major General F. J. G. Brackel

Born in 1914, the Hague,
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: 1h. 32 min.

Lieutenant General J. J. Singor

Born in 1920, Bussum,
the Netherlands

Served in the Royal Netherlands
Air Force


Date of interview: 25 August, 1989

Place of interview: Amsterdam,
the Netherlands

Interviewer: Petro Potichnyj

Length of Interview: 103 m.