September 4, 2011

Fleeing from Nazis in a Chevy-powered boat

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 12:30 pm

During World War II about 1,900 people fled Dutch territory to unoccupied lands, sometimes to be safe, sometimes to help the allies fight the Nazis. These people were called Engelandvaarders (England-goers), regardless of whether they actually went to England.

The New York Times blog has a story about five of them, students, who fled the country in a DIY motor boat after the Nazis required all students to sign a loyalty oath.

Their engine, commonly known at the time of its manufacture as the cast-iron wonder, was introduced in 1929, giving Chevy customers “a six for the price of a four,” as the advertising slogan said. Displacing 194 cubic inches, it produced 46 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. Fuel consumption was 19 m.p.g.

The men bought the engine from a marina operator in western Holland, paying 700 Dutch guilders. Fitting it to their seven-meter launch required numerous modifications, including an underwater exhaust outlet to suppress noise. The driveline and propeller were clandestinely built.

The five made it to England safely—in the end they were picked up by the British navy.

One of the most famous Engelandvaarders was Leiden University student Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema who was portrayed by Rutger Hauer in the Paul Verhoeven film Soldier of Orange, after Hazelhoff Roelfzema’s autobiography.

(Source photo: a still from a video by Captain A.J. Hardy, now in the public domain)

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June 12, 2011

96 year old WW II hero admits to post-war killing

Filed under: History by Branko Collin @ 12:43 pm

“During one of the first days of this year” Atie Ridder-Visser sent a letter to the mayor of Leiden admitting that she had shot dead Felix Guljé on March 1, 1946, mayor of Leiden Henri Lenferink reported last Wednesday.

In the final years of the occupation (1944,1945) Ridder-Visser had been part of an underground team that located and assassinated traitors. Guljé, owner of a construction company, collaborated with the Nazis in the open but was a resistance member in secret. As he had several high-ranking members of the Dutch Nazi party NSB on the payroll, he could not openly defy the Germans.

So many threads coming together in this one—also echoes of both Steinbeck’s The Moon is Down and Couperus’ Old People and the Things that Pass here—it would take me a day to make something coherent in English of it. If you read Dutch, follow the link above. The mayor took trouble to tell the story in detail.

As the statute of limitations which was in force at the time of the execution has passed, Ridder-Visser will not be prosecuted. The statute of limitations was dropped for serious crimes in the Netherlands in 2006, but not retro-actively.

Link: Kulture Live.

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June 28, 2009

Hans Koning’s aphorisms online

Filed under: Literature by Branko Collin @ 10:36 am

Hans Koning (1921 – 2007) was one of that rare breed, an author who successfully traded his native tongue for another, in this case Dutch for English. A member of the Dutch resistance and a writer for the Groene Amsterdammer weekly, Koning emigrated to the USA in 1951. His publisher has put his book of aphorisms online, Hans Koning’s Little Book of Comforts & Gripes:

The tool for judging by those who don’t understand a thing about the arts is: categorizing. “What kind of books do you write?” they ask. “What kind of painting do you do?” It may seem harmless until art becomes dependent on money controlled by these ignorant men. Recently some people made a motion picture ‘based’ on Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” They hadn’t really understood much of the book and the film was a disaster. Now Hollywood producers know that “Dostoyevsky movies don’t sell.”

(Slide 53. It’s a pity that the book is published as images rather than text, and that it is riddled with spelling errors.)

See also: his New York Times obituary; his ever changing Wikipedia entry.

(Via Eamelje.)

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