Across the border
The rural parts of the Achterhoek border region were extremely suitable as a hiding place for the hunted. There is a richly varied landscape here, with forests and lots of thickets, numerous farms with barns, many haystacks and – at the time – poorly accessible access roads. For people who were unfamiliar with the area, it could often be confusing.
There was selfless hospitality towards refugees, people in hiding, in this region. They were usually included in a family context and were part of the family. The helpers considered it their Christian duty to offer shelter to the other and in this way to offer passive resistance to the reign of terror of the occupier.
Many of the stories collected show that the people in hiding felt safe with their host family. They noticed that German soldiers who came to the door were convincingly beat off. But especially that they could keep their mouth shut extremely well. Often also with family and neighbors. The children were also thoroughly taught the art of ‘hearing, seeing and being silent’.
Family across the border as an advantage
There are many stories of people who can trust and offer help to each other. Cor Verheule from Utrecht worked in Bremen, but got diphtheria and was allowed to go home in January 1943. Through a pastor and via Ome Jan, he ended up at the Heusinkveld-Hartemink family in the hamlet Haart near Aalten. During raids, he fled into the shelter of the neighbors, which had an entrance on Dutch and an exit on German territory. In 1952 Cor married the sister of his hiding family.
Wildenbeest from Breedenbroek had to register for the Arbeitseinsatz in Germany. He went to his uncle, just across the border in Süderwick, as a servant. He participated in German family life less than a kilometer from the border with the Netherlands. The Kopatz children in Süderwick were orphans, ‘divided’ in the 1930s among a number of farmers in the neighborhood. One of the sons did not want to be in military service and left for his married sister, who lived in Assen, Netherlands. He went into hiding there and managed to get through the war safely.