Unexpected meeting in Nuremberg
After all the research done on the Klemke and van Perlstein families, I kept wondering if there were any remaining relatives of Johannes Gerhardt, who had died in the South of Holland in 1944. After all he had been closely involved in the underground network, and much more than that I didn’t know about him.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many Germans had gone in search for long lost relatives. Several organizations are specialized in this field. That’s how, through a good friend in Berlin, I got in touch with the Kirchlicher Suchdienst. Whatever information I had about Gerhardt I sent to them, with little hope of finding anything after nearly 70 years. But, as it should be in a feel good movie, they did find someone. It was his niece Marianne, born in 1941, daughter of Gerhardts sister Lotte.
She lived, of all places, in Nuremberg, a town which is still associated with the birthplace of the Nazi racial laws, and the stadium where Hitler kept his infamous speeches in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 200.000. And of course it is the place where the postwar Nuremberg trials took place, where some of the war criminals were put on trial, convicted and some, like Arthus Seyss-Inquart, high commissioner of the Netherlands during the war, sentenced to death.
But all the associations aside: there we were at Marianne’s place, welcomed with homemade cheesecake for her guests from Holland – the country she knew where her uncle had died. She had absolutely no clue about his involvement in the resistance, his connections with the van Perlsteins and was utterly surprised by the many photo’s and letters, even books we had involving Gerhardt. That her relative was instrumental in the saving of so many lives, gave her a completely different picture of the man, whose only photo she had was in his Wehrmacht uniform.
So there we were, in tears about things that happened nearly 70 years ago, just to show that there is no expiration date for being moved by the courage, goodness and integrity of an exceptional person.
New eyewitness to Klemke’s story
Welcome to the brand new website about the fascinating episode around the Dutch van Perlstein resistance group and their German buddies Klemke & Gerhardt during WWII.The Dutch press
loves the story, if you don’t read Dutch, you can at least have a look at the newly found pictures. You can read the full article by downloading the PDF here
.One of the reactions to the article was from a gentleman from Amsterdam, who (to his shock) recognized the German soldier in the photographs. As a boy he used to play at his uncle’s house in Amsterdam, where he was startled to see a German soldier. The soldier calmed him down (in poor Dutch), and his uncle assured him that this was a ‘good’ German. After the war his uncle Van Graafland turned out to have been heavily involved in the resistance.
So: keep following this ongoing story – nearly every day something pops up…