Category Archives: Dutch military history

Prof. Dr. Krieger part 2 – breaking the Japanese code…

In the 1930s Japanese influence in Asia was expanding and felt threatening for most Western powers in the region. The Dutch with their presence in the Dutch East Indies were part of this fear. The actual extend of the threat would finally become clear with the start of the war against the Japanese from Pearl Harbour onwards.

In these 1930s the Dutch Military Intelligence already worked on breaking the codes the Japanese used for their international communications. What I was not aware of when I wrote my blog about some artifacts from the Krieger collection is that Dr. Krieger actually was part of this effort!

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A collecting friend has several items in his collection that relate to this subject and he brought this fact to my attention. It is even mentioned in the book by Robert Haslach about the subject. The dutch Naval officer Nuboer asked for the help of Krieger (also a former Naval officer!) in his effort in breaking the Japanese codes in 1934. Nuboer would eventually be successful in his efforts! You can read some more about him here.

The friend has in his private collection a Naval uniform of Nuboer and a tropical suit that belonged to Krieger. Here some pictures of the Nuboer uniform.

How Nuboer and Krieger came into contact is not yet clear and subject of further research I want to do. What is clear that the help of a former Naval officer with extensive knowledge of the Japanese and their language was valuable to the Dutch Forces.

This was formalized in 1937. Henri Koot, the head of military intelligence requested his official help. Krieger would become, next to his job as Curator of the Asian department of the Leiden Ethnographical Museum, member of the General Staff of the Army in The Hague. His work would only end after the German occupation in 1940. Due to the secrecy of the job and the subsequent war little is known about this period but it will also be subject of further research!

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So even a blog that starts out to be about artifacts and their provenance an unknown (to me) military history link appears, synchronicity?

Sources:

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See also part one: The Krieger Collection – Tsuba’s and Netsuke

 

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The Krieger Collection – Tsuba’s and Netsuke

For a long time I have been very interested in Japanese applied arts, netsuke, inro and tsuba’s mainly. Although I stopped collecting such items actively I still recently bought these 4 items from a friend.

kriegerThe provenance wat too interesting to let them pass by. The friends grandfather was Professor Dr. C.C. Krieger. He collected these items in the first half of the 20th century when he was the Conservator for the Department of Japan, China and mainland Asia in what today is the Ethnographical Museum (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde) in Leiden. He held this position from 1927 up to his retirement in 1949.

In 1935 he became Dr in the Japanese language and the same year he became professor in the same subject at the Utrecht University. In 1947 he was promoted to special professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) in the art history of the Far East including the Japanese language which he held upon his final retirement in 1954, aged 70.

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About 20 years before I had already received his fountain pen as a gift for my collection. Being a specialist in the Japanese language and art he obviously wrote with a luxurious Japanese pen. It was Dunhill-Namiki, a cooperation between the famous London retailer of smoking utensils Dunhill and the Japanese pen company of Namiki (Pilot). These Namiki pens are famous for the lacquer (maki-e) of high quality and also were made by famous artists. Dunhill retailed them in the Western world. In this case the pen was used intensively. It is a rare pen as a size 20 (the biggest they made apart from the jumbo size 50) in a period that watches and pens were still small in general. A very appreciated gift and still one of my favorites!

His extensive collection of Japanese art was divided between his 3 children, amongst which the mother of my friend. She held on to the inheritance and after her death her two daughters inherited the collection and I was happy to gain these 4 objects from his original collection.

Sources: https://profs.library.uu.nl/index.php/profrec/getprofdata/1188/147/183/0

See also part 2: Prof. Dr. Krieger part 2 – breaking the Japanese code…

 

Chris Navis: from WW2 resistance hero to cold war secret (Gladio) agent?

OK this is a stretch for me as a researcher. I like to stick to facts only. Not that I cannot enjoy a nice conspiracy theory related movie or book but for historical publications it is not my “thing”. In this case I have a working hypothesis that may raise some eyebrows.

What I will do is state facts that have been published before. The limitation to facts is difficult in this specific case as the most relevant archives have either been destroyed or will not be open to public for a long time to come. So I will add some interpretation of information as well. Anything that is not a fact comes in the last part of the article and is clearly stated as such!.

So please read and judge for yourself and if you have facts to add please feel free to contact me!

This story is about some paper materials from the estate of Chris Navis. Some I bought, others I received as a gift through a collecting friend (thanks again Henk-Willem) in 2010. The materials came on the market when a house was cleared out, probably that of the late Chris Navis. The stack of papers were very diverse. Before the war Navis was an officer. During the war he had an important role in the Dutch resistance against the German occupation. And after the war he was an officer again, now in the Dutch East Indies. The papers cover a period from the late 1930s into the 1950s and relate to different themes. From congratulations upon his receipt of the US Medal of Freedom with Palm but also buying an officers saddle and some strange papers that are the reason for this article.

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For his work in the resistance he received the Military Order of William 4th class (MWO4). The highest Dutch decoration for (military) bravery. A true rarity and one of my main research interests. So reason for me to be very happy with this paperwork that I  am now the custodian of.

His citation for the MWO4 is an interesting but somewhat difficult text, even in my native Dutch, so I have tried to translate it here to the best of my ability:

“Has distinguished himself during the German occupation by showing excellent deeds of courage, conduct and loyalty by, from August 1941 to September 1944 at first for a paramilitary resistance group and so for the Interior Forces (Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten, the national resistance), fully independently and across the country with great risks as a consequence of frequent enemy infiltration and because he was wanted by the Gestapo, to make and activate the indispensable contacts for the building of the interior military resistance. Due to his uncommonly great experience and critical insight has been able on multiple occasions during his dangerous travels and meetings to barely escape arrest, and on the other hand has been able to warn many for imminent threats and thereby diminishing the vulnerability of the internal connections within the underground resistance.

Thereby and specifically by his outstanding conduct he has highly contributed to the building of a widely extended and safe resistance, that contributed in the fields of espionage and sabotage and other important services to the allied warfare,

Despite his seriously detoriated health as a consequence of his restless activity, tension and starvation, he completed in September 1944 an important mission by moving south and make contact with the Commander of the Interior Forces, the Intelligence Service and the Chief of Staff of the Military Authority.

He was an example of the never selfsparing spirit of resistance.”

Stay Behind network in the Netherlands – not Gladio!

Gladio is a name that rings a bell to many people. Few know exactly what it was but it became a synonym for all Stay Behind networks in Europe. In fact it was the name of the Italian Stay Behind organization that received very negative publicity. Similar Stay Behind networks in other countries also received a negative name due to this and often were wrongfully attached to the same name. I will discuss some basic information regarding the Dutch Stay Behind organization here. My text is based on both the academic and the state publication mentioned in the sources so “facts” not “conspiracy theory” as there seem to be many of these as soon as the Gladio name comes up. These publications only mention names of the leadership of the related organizations who already have passed away and whose names were already known to the public. Names of other members for as far as they have been archived were secret and remain so.

After WW2 the fear for another war was widespread both in Europe and in the US and the risk of a war with Russia was seen as realistic. Experiences in Europe with the resistance, espionage and counter espionage (such as the infamous Englandspiel that caused many casulties) had a strong impact on the steps that would be taken as a precaution for that anticipated war.

As early as 1946 the Dutch Intelligence community started with, what later would be known as, the Stay Behind organization that would be active up to 1992. Most of that period the existence was largely unknown to the general public and kept out of the papers.

In 1946 a main person of the Dutch resistance Dr. Henk Veeneklaas (also knight MWO4!) contacted Prince Bernhard as head of the Interior Forces regarding the forming of a Stay Behind network. The Prince brought him in contact with L. Eindhoven the head of Dutch Intelligence who was soon convinced of the use of such a network. The network would, in case of an occupation by presumably the Russians, be the foundation of the new resistance, espionage and sabotage. No such organization was in place at the start of the German occupation despite plans to do so dating from before the war. The complete resistance, communication etc. had to be organized during the war from scratch by people like Navis. They did so at great personal risk and with many casualties in the process.

Veeneklaas was backed by the Dutch Minister President of that moment and started the training of new agents for this new organization. For the organization he sought mainly agents and instructors that had participated in the resistance in occupied Holland. The organizations official name would, like its Anglo-Saxon counterparts,  be an acronym I&O, for Intelligence and Operations (Inlichtingen en Operaties).

Chris Navis – I&O /Stay Behind agent or instructor?

The above mentioned characteristics would have made Navis a very fitting candidate for a role as agent and/or instructor in the new I&O / Stay Behind organization. Reading his MWO4 citation he was an accomplished agent during the war with loads of actual experience that only a few survivors could boast and on top of that a military background and training.

The names of the agents and instructors of this organization are still secret today and unfortunately most documents were destroyed and not archived so the question of who were part of the I&O organization may never be fully answered.

But there are some documents in this group of papers that caught my interest. To be honest I did not know what to think of them at all until I started reading about the Dutch I&O / Stay Behind organization a few years later.

My working hypothesis is that Navis was an agent/instructor in the I&O organization

So from here onward it is speculation, based on a few documents that were part of this larger group of papers. No  hard facts but only circumstantial information!

So let’s start with reviewing some of these papers. First two small letters signed by a person named Van Eyk. They indicate some sort of working relationship that existed between March 30th 1951 and February 2nd 1953.

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The first is the planning of an appointment. The second letter states that this Van Eyk is sorry for the loss of energy spent by both sides (he indicates the receipt of a letter, probably a resignation) but that the content of the statement made on March 30, 1951 (the date of the meeting in the first letter) will be unabated applicable to him. 

Ok any significance? Maybe. Van Eyk was the alias Veeneklaas used during the WW2.. Based on the Pivot report (see sources) he continued to use this name during his role in the post war Stay Behind operation. So is the Van Eyk of these letters Dr. Veeneklaas or is the name just a coincidence? And what is the statement Navis will be held to, one of secrecy?

And than the typewritten text below:

“You will sit on the given date at 20.00 hrs in the 2nd class restaurant of the Central Station in Utrecht. In front of you on the table you will have a copy of ELSEVIER while you are reading a copy of LIFE yourself, of which the cover will be clearly folded outward.

You will be spoken to with the words “Have you been waiting here long?” on which you will reply “four minutes”.

You will use an alias.”

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Ok any significance? Maybe. The text is not for a normal meeting I would say. And it is not a wartime text either as LIFE was not available in German occupied Holland. It sounds like a secret agent type of meeting. Maybe training? If I had found this paper outside of this Navis collection I would probably  have laughed about it because of this stereotype spy text. Maybe not so stereotype yet in the 1950s?

Next two letter covers. Of what they exactly are I have no clue.

Ok any significance? Maybe. What I found interesting is that both were sent from Utrecht Central Station. The location of the meet up above. And who sends letters from a Railway Station anyway? Not the most regular location. You write a lettercover with a typewriter (at home or in an office) and then you carry it to the railway station to send it away? It is a neutral location in a big city so not traceable, very spylike again?

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And what is going on with the material of these envelopes? Made of maps? Wartime surplus stock maps recycled? I honestly do not know. I do know I have not seen such covers before or after and none of the other period covers in the group are like this or have a railway station stamp.

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And finally a 4 page questionnaire with the most amazing questions. Way to much to translate but with questions that I cannot place in any regular environment apart from a secret organization. And the heading is clearly very organized too.

A quotes from the starting text:

“The information you will give will be considered secret and be viewed by 2 persons only, namely the boss of the organization and the memeber of the staff that will review if you are qualified for the service and for the task that you will recieve there. This information is also aimed at use in the case of operational circumstances”

The organization – without naming it that is a bit peculiar, right? Secret and only viewed by 2 people, that does not seem to be for a regular job interview? And what are operational circumstances? After that loads of questions regarding military service and resistance work like below:

39. have you in any way done resistance work. if so in which form and when.

40. in which special operations have you, in regard to this, had experience (courier/espionage/sabotage/coding/falsifying papers etc)

Questions about personality, spouse and her personality, family etc etc. totaling to 125 separate questions.

 

Conclusion?

No conclusion – but my working hypothesis remains that Navis was a member of the I&O / Dutch Stay Behind organization in the 1950s.

His wartime experience would have made him an ideal candidate, the timing fits with the building up phase of the I&O organization and these additional papers seem to hint at such a type of organization. Together they make it a distinct possibility. And so far no facts have come to light to dismiss the hypothesis…..

What do you think? Do let me know!

Sources:

 

Opa’s en de oorlog: van onderduiken en persoonbewijzen

Een speciale blog, in het Nederlands, voor Tibor en groep 8 van OBS De Border

Wat weet je eigenlijk van je overgrootouders en wat die in de oorlog hebben meegemaakt? Waarschijnlijk leven ze inmiddels niet meer dus de vraag is of ze veel verteld hebben aan je opa’s en oma’s, die de oorlog misschien zelf al niet meer meegemaakt hebben.

Ik onderzoek historische thema’s en schrijf artikelen en blogs en werk mee aan boeken. Toch als ik naar mijn eigen opa’s kijk (de overgrootvaders van Tibor) dan weet ik erg weinig. Eén opa heeft in de meidagen van 1940 meegevochten tegen de Duitsters, hij was gemobiliseerd als dienstplichtige. De andere opa was ondergedoken in de oorlog, de broer van deze opa zat bij het leger (KNIL) in Indonesië (toen Nederlands Indië) en heeft tegen de Japanners gevochten en daarna aan de Birma spoorweg gewerkt en in de Japanse kampen gezeten. Mijn oma en mijn moeder (toen 5 jaar) moesten in 1944 vanwege de slag om Arnhem (de “brug te ver”) vluchten uit hun huis in die stad en te voet naar familie in Apeldoorn – terwijl opa ergens ondergedoken zat. Ze kwamen terecht op de boerderij van de ouders van de ondergedoken opa. Op de boerderij was er genoeg te eten en eigenlijk was de oorlog er bijna niet te merken.

Zo heeft iedere familie zijn eigen “oorlogsverhalen” en het lijkt misschien alsof je best veel weet. Als je dan verder gaat onderzoeken blijk je soms toch weinig te weten. Waarom was opa ondergedoken? Waar zat hij tijdens de oorlog eigenlijk en hoe heeft hij alles overleeft. Niemand die nu nog leeft kan het vertellen. En de andere opa waar heeft die gevochten? Op de Grebbeberg misschien? En de broer van opa, wat deed die eigenlijk in het Indische leger en wat heeft hij gedaan tijdens de Japanse aanval? Hoe heeft hij de ontberingen van het kamp kunnen doorstaan? Allemaal verhalen die verloren gegaan zijn. Na de oorlog wilden ze het er niet meer over hebben en vooral aan een betere toekomst werken.

Zo kom je als onderzoeker ook verhalen tegen waar je met je onderzoek gewoon vastloopt en je niet meer verder komt. Dit is zo’n verhaal waar ik hoop toch nog ooit het precieze verhaal op te kunnen schrijven….

Drie persoonsbewijzen en wat foto’s….

Een vriend komt ze brengen, gevonden in een boekenwinkeltje. Hij weet dat ik dit soort dingen interessant vind dus hij heeft ze gekocht.

Wat kan dit zijn? Persoonsbewijzen zijn in de oorlog door de Duitsers ingevoerd. Het was zo gemakkelijk om te controleren wie je bent net zoals nu met een ID bewijs. Dat was lastig als je “illegale” dingen wilde doen of niet met de Duitsers wilde samenwerken. Als je niet kon laten zien wie je was werd je direct opgepakt en opgesloten. Daarom wilde het verzet, ook wel de illegaliteit genoemd, valse persoonsbewijzen hebben. Soms gemaakt van echte persoonsbewijzen met bijvoorbeeld een andere foto erop en soms ook volledig nagemaakt.

Zo’n vals persoonsbewijs was dus belangrijk voor bijvoorbeeld Joodse mensen om ervoor te zorgen dat ze niet naar de concentratiekampen hoefden. Ze kregen dan een nieuw vervalst Persoonsbewijs waar niet de grote letter J van Jood op stond. Dan waren ze relatief veilig. En mensen in het verzet van wie de echte naam bekend was bij de Duitsers hebben ook een andere naam nodig en dus een ander persoonsbewijs.

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Wat is dit? 

Drie persoonsbewijzen met steeds dezelfde foto maar een hele andere naam en ook een andere Gemeente. Een drieling met verschillende namen? Nee de kleding is ook echt hetzelfde dus het moet wel dezelfde man zijn. Als onderduiker of Jood heb je aan 1 vervalst persoonsbewijs genoeg en het hebben van 3 geldige persoonsbewijzen is zelfs gevaarlijk omdat het dan direct duidelijk is dat er iets niet klopt. Jullie hebben toch ook niet 3 geldige paspoorten met verschillende namen?

Het verzet, het kan bijna niet anders toch? En als onderzoeker wil ik dan meer weten. Wie is de man en wat heeft hij gedaan in het verzet? Op de persoonsbewijzen staat natuurlijk niet zijn echte naam. En op de foto’s staat ook niets geschreven. Maar de foto’s helpen wel. Het is te zien dat hij een officier in het leger was. En hij deed mee aan de internationale militaire vijfkamp – een soort van olympische spelen voor militairen. Dat levert me uiteindelijk zijn naam op. Met die naam is ook zijn militaire carrière als officier te achterhalen en zijn medailles zijn terug te vinden:

Zijn naam is G. Struijs en hij is geboren in 1911. Voor de oorlog is hij reserve officier: reserve 1e Luitenant der Artillerie per 1 jan 1937. Na de oorlog doet hij dienst in Indonesië als officier: hij wordt reserve Majoor der Artillerie per 1 nov 1949. Tijdens zijn dienst als officier en voor zijn verzetswerk kreeg hij de volgende medailles:

– Vijfkampkruis NOC
– Bronzen NOC medaille
– Oorlogsherinneringskruis met gesp ‘Nederland Mei 1940’
– Ereteken voor Orde en Vrede met 3 gespen
– Officierskruis XX
– Verzetsherdenkingskruis

Het verzetsherdenkingskruis bestaat sinds 1980 en werd alleen gegeven aan mensen die in een verzetsgroep gezeten hebben. Dit bevestigt natuurlijk het vermoeden dat hij in het verzet gezeten heeft. Ook blijkt hij in de oorlog gevangen genomen te zijn door de Duitsers is in het NIOD archief terug te vinden. De persoonsbewijzen hebben hem dus niet helemaal kunnen redden en misschien had hij wel een 4e persoonsbewijs bij zich toen hij gepakt werd? Hij heeft vastgezeten in in Scheveningen en in diverse kampen in Duitsland. Die gevangenis in Scheveningen had als bijnaam “Oranjehotel” omdat daar veel verzetsmensen werden vastgezet. En het verzet was natuurlijk voor ons Koningshuis, de Oranjes en niet voor de Duitsers.

En dat is de huidige stand van het onderzoek. Zo snel als ik weer een stap verder ben zal ik het arikel updaten of een deel 2 uitbrengen…

Maar misschien is het tijd om eens met je opa en oma te gaan praten (als je ze nog hebt) en vragen wat zij en hun ouders meegemaakt hebben in de oorlog? Zo kun je een stukje geschiedenis bewaren, zeker als je het ook opschrijft voor later! Een goed idee voor een werkstuk?

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