Church raid

It is 30 January 1944, the first beautiful Sunday after a long, cold winter. A good day for people in hiding to go to church again. That’s what the Germans think as well, and that’s why they go to Aalten around church time to raid the churches. They are looking for men between the ages of 19 and 23 who are evading compulsory labor in Germany and are in hiding.

The churches in Aalten are packed that Sunday morning, a lot of people in hiding are attending as well. The plan of the Germans is to go to the Oosterkerk and the Westerkerk, but they don’t know exactly where they are. They ask the way to the Oosterkerk in Aalten, but the helpful Aaltenaar consciously shows them the way to a smaller church, the Christian Reformed Church. The Germans managed to pick up six men there.

The next stop is the Westerkerk, where the men are already moving to safety in the attic, but through the window the Germans see what they are doing and the men have to get out of the attic. 42 men are arrested in the Westerkerk, one of the churchgoers manages to escape in a very creative way: he puts on the traditional costume of a evacue from Scheveningen.

The arrested men are taken to the dome prison in Arnhem, where they are being questioned heavily. A day later they are brought to camp Amersfoort. They stay there for a while before most are put to work elsewhere. Some are allowed to work at a farmer just across the border, others end up in the Neuengamme and Ravensbrück concentration camps.

Five men who were arrested during the church raid did not survive as a result of the harsh war conditions or hardships in the camps. The men who survived carried the consequences of this throughout their lives. This event also caused a major wound in the families and community of Aalten.

Overval op de Chr. Ger. Kerk Berkenhovestraat Aalten 30 jan 1944 © J.H. Bennink
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Roy KayGemmeker, de kampcommandant van Westerbork