Heroes or collaborators in Velser affair?
Fresh investigation into the Velser affair of WWII may possibly reveal the truth at last.
THE NETHERLANDS – The province of North Holland has agreed to partially fund a new investigation into the Velzer affair, a murky World War II case involving the betrayal of communist resistance fighters and collaboration with the Nazi occupiers.
Hannie Schaft: why was she killed?
So far there have been 12 investigations into the case as well as dozens of books, including the best-selling novel The Scandal by Conny Braam, along with several films, including The Girl with Red Hair. But despite all that, the truth has not yet surfaced.
More than 60 years after the end of the war, the rumours are still swirling and accusations are still flying.
People in Velzen are still asking why several communist resistance activists were picked up and handed over to the Nazis and liquidated and why the left-wing resistance fighter Hannie Schaft was shot dead in the Bloemendaal dunes just three weeks before the Netherlands was liberated.
According to some historians, Velzen's chief of police and several officers collaborated with the Nazis and some of them were members of the Dutch National Socialist Party (NSB). The same officers also managed to gain leading positions in the resistance and towards the end of WWII, they rounded up several left-wing and Communist resistance fighters and handed them over to the Nazis, who executed them.
For the past 60 years there have been rumours that the government-in-exile ordered the eradication of Communists and other left-wingers to ensure that Dutch society would continue to operate along the same lines in the post-war period as it did before the war. The Communists were fast replacing Hitler as enemy number one.
There was an investigation into the Velser Affair after the war, but there was little chance of the truth coming to light as the wartime police officers now occupied senior positions within the Velzen force and they hampered the enquiry.
In 1946, a journalist writing about the case for De Ochtendpost, an independent critical newspaper, received a telephone call warning him to stop writing about the case unless he wanted "a shot in the neck".
Two other investigations were broken off as they were not in the national interest. In 1951, Commissioner W J Gorter was shot at because he was leading an enquiry into the case.
Author Conny Braam, who grew up in Velzen's main town, the port of Ijmuiden, confirms that the atmosphere in Velzen was threatening and intimidating. "People were afraid. One police officer who attempted to investigate the affair was removed from the case in the 1950s and another one got a bullet fired through his window. In Velzen they always say, if you want to live a long time, keep your mouth shut about the affair."
The Scandal, her 2004 novel about the Velzer Affair, reignited interest in the case and eventually led to the establishment of the Association for an Investigation into the Velser Affair (SOVA). The association is calling for an independent enquiry into the case and has just received a EUR 50,000 subsidy towards the costs.
Truth at last
Professor of History Bob de Graaf is advising SOVA. He said: "Quite apart from reconstructing the facts, I think it's very important to investigate the effect that this case is still having one the community. It's also very important to determine what role of the Cold War played in the past investigations". He added: "history can play an important role in coming to terms with grief and restoring faith in a just society." Professor de Graaf is planning to investigate all 25 strands of the case that together make up the Velzer Affair.
Cees Weij, who was just 10 years old when his father was executed for being in the Communist resistance, is pleased that finally and at last, an independent investigation is going to be launched.
"It is about time that finally someone looked at all the individual parts of the affair and investigated the relationships between them," Weij said.
"For decades, the authorities have persistently denied that there was a case to be investigated, and that persistent denial makes you suspicious, makes you think that something has been swept under the carpet. It has also had a severe emotional effect on generations of people from Velzen. We need to know what really happened, is important that this generation as well as the next one".
[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]