Roelof Blokzijl, one of the leaders of the LO-Enschede.
(LO = Landelijke Organisatie voor hulp aan onderduikers)
This chapter concerns Roelof Blokzijl. He was one of the Enschede Leaders of the LO - an organization that gave assistance to onderduikers. Roelof, like Johannes ter Horst, came from a Dutch Reformed family and this governed his whole life. He could not just stand by and watch the Jewish people being apprehended and assassinated, but wanted to take action. It is noteworthy that Roelof was shot at the same time as Johannes ter Horst.
This chapter is a bit disorderly because I will begin with a report of a conversation with a resistance man named Bertus Lassche via Gejo Alberts. That conversation took place on July 8, 2003. Bertus died on Saturday, October 11, 2008.
Bertus Lassche had many contacts with resistance people in Enschede. One such person who made a particular impression on him was Roelof Blokzijl.
Who was Roelof Blokzijl? The answer follows below.
Further information on the arrest and the death of Roelof Blokzijl follows further in this chapter.
'Roelof Blokzijl gave me extra strength'
Boekelo - Bertus Lassche received much support from this assassinated resistance fighter. In Roelof's honour, a street in a new district in Bleekerij Boekelo was named after him. Roelof Blokzijl was 56 years old when, together with Johannes ter Horst, they were gunned down in Usselo on September 23, 1944.
Bertus Lassche felt indebted to this relatively unknown resistance fighter and struggled with this sentiment to the end of his life.
Bertus Lassche (85), born and raised in Enschede, was employed in 1943 as an administrator in a gas-works factory. That year he was called for the German labor service. He refuses and goes into hiding.
From his youth work in the Reformed Church he knows Johannes ter Horst who plays a leading role in the "Illegaliteit in Twente". Ter Horst was known for his spectacular raids, for example in such places as the "Huis van Bewaring" - House of Detention - in Almelo.
Bertus Lassche accompanied Ter Horst several times on these missions doing odd jobs including keeping a lookout for Germans and taking away airmen by train. It was very risky work that amazingly always went well. Because he had gone "underground" Bertus Lassche did not live at home, but in another Enschede location.
On July 3, 1943, in the early morning as Bertus is bicycling home over the Kuipersdijk, he has the misfortune of being only a few streets away from where Pieter Kaay, an Amsterdam policeman who searches out Jews, is executed on the Haaksbergerstraat. The suspects, probably members of an Amsterdam resistance group, escape to Wooldriksweg via the Kuipersdijk.
Someone who works for the Germans, sees Bertus Lassche in the area and makes a report. Later Bertus is pursued by the Germans as the suspected person who shot Pieter Kaay.
"When I uncovered this, I left for Deventer to the home of a daughter of our neighbour. I stayed there with a SD high official!!
When I was being sought also in Deventer, I fled to a family in the town of Blokzijl, Sint Jansklooster. Strangely I was unexpectedly visited there by Roelof Blokzijl. He was a complete stranger to me. He came to ask if there was anything I needed to live while in hiding.
I found out later that Blokzijl was someone who, from his Christian conviction, helped onderduikers. He had a Dry Goods store on the Lipperkerkstraat. He was head of a large family of 6 children, of which one was Martha a Courier.
She has since emigrated to Canada. Many people were disillusioned after the war. People who had worked for the Germans during the war and had had good jobs, were the ones who filled the churches during commemoration services on May 5. Martha had a lot of difficulty with this."
Bertus Lassche recounts that Roelof Blokzijl visited him regularly. That gave him extra encouragement during that time in hiding. For that reason he feels morally obliged to tell others of the existence of his benefactor.
Lassche noticed that Blokzijl's son spoke to the Mayor at a new year's reception asking to have a street named after his father. He never got an answer.
"For this reason I have thrown my complete weight into the fight. "I heard that the street name commission was considering Boekelo. Since I had been employed by the Audit Department of the municipality, I knew how that procedure worked" (which he says as he winks). He continues, "Roelof Blokzijl was a man who had no blood on his hands. He never used violence." As head of the LO Gelderland and Overijssel, Blokzijl was responsible for obtaining money, ration cards and identity cards to relieve and care for the onderduikers.
"All this he did because of his Christian commitment. Unfortunately he fell by treason into the hands of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). Who therefore will have to answer for this, I do not know. Roelof Blokzijl was, together with Johannes ter Horst, executed on September 23, 1944 on the Haaksbergerstraat, at the highest point where the Crematorium is now situated.
"I found out afterwards that the bodies had been mistreated and beaten considerably. In all this Roelof Blokzijl did not give in and would not speak, otherwise I would undoubtedly have been picked up at my onderduiker address."
"He was 56 years old when the deadly shots echoed. Sadly, his widow died shortly thereafter, in an accident on the Oliemolensingel."
Bertus Lassche adds that in the last while he slept very restlessly. He has nightmares associated with his past war history. That now a street is named after Roelof Blokzijl is consolation for his wounded soul.
"A street in Enschede was named after Johannes ter Horst a while ago. That the Roelof Blokzijlstraat is in Boekelo is great and makes no difference to me there or elsewhere. One thing about the war I would yet like to speak about. It is unfortunate that the fallen resistance people and others of Enschede that did not die during the war are not commemorated by the municipality on the 1st of April. That is after all the day the city was delivered. On the 5th of May you honour people who you do not know."
Arrest of Blokzijl
On September 23, at around 7:00 a.m. the house of Blokzijl at 265 Lipperkerkstraat in Enschede was surrounded by SD Unit under the guidance of Karl Schober. They arrested the 56 year old manufacturer Roelof Blokzijl who was nicknamed "Max." Hereafter he was brought to the Service Department (Dienststelle) Head Office of the SD at 8 Tromplaan in Enschede. Two onderduikers staying with the household were also arrested and brought to the Police Station.
Blokzijl in the course of time played an increasingly important role in the resistance organization. In the summer of 1944, together with Wieger Mink the leader of this organization, both were forced to go into hiding.
This lasted until "Dolle Dinsdag" (Mad Tuesday) September 5, 1944. Blokzijl had the feeling that it would not take long before the liberation would take place. For this reason he decided not to stay in hiding any longer, but simply to go back to his house on the Lipperkerkstraat. By this decision his life took a decisive turn.
In the first interrogation, Schober asks Blokzijl if he knows a certain Johannes ter Horst. Blokzijl: "Ter Horst? I do not know a Ter Horst."
Schober: "What do you have to do with Knokploegen and Onderduikers?"
Blokzijl: "I do not know what you are talking about! I have nothing to do with something like that."
Schober: "But you had a note-book which said something about a payment to the KP. What is that then?"
Blokzijl: "I do not know what you are talking about!"
The death sentence
Schober subsequently speaks personally to Ter Horst and Blokzijl and informs them that this evening they will be executed.
Johannes does not react. He has already taken into account that his life is at an end in the event he is not set free. Blokzijl, who has not given up just yet and is not aware that he must pay for his arrest with his life, said to Schober: "My God, you Germans would not do that?" (comment - Mom says that her father would not use such language!! Quote is also mentioned in "De illegalen" by Coen Hilbrink page 191.)
To those who have fallen
In the 'Geuzenliedboek' - song book - are moving empathetic poems for the resistance combatants who await their execution, also moving prayers of which a good example is "Those who have fallen".
It is not for nothing that I incorporate this verse in the chapter concerning Roelof. It certainly applies to him as well as to Johannes. Both expected their rescue from their Saviour and King.
To those who have fallen
Remain with them, Lord, as quietly appears the dark night;
The darkness deepens, be their faithful guard,
As helpless their friends flee far from them;
Oh Thou, who can help, remain close to them.
Fast ebbs their young lives to their death;
Gladness goes away, cold in the sunset;
Destruction and ruin stand at their side;
Thou Imperishable, remain close to them.
Lord, carry them into Your presence!
Your arm overcomes the Evil One in the struggle;
Who is a Guide, a Helper, Lord like Thou?
Thou dost remain the same Lord, remain close to them.
No enemy to fear through Your strength.
Thou dost dry their tears and silence their bitter complaint.
Where is O death, your sting, your honour?
More than conquerors they are in the Lord.
Hold Thou Your cross high before their failing sight,
A beacon directing them on high,
Shadows flee; Gods' eternal light shines forth;
In dying, remain close to them.
October 2, 1943
Johannes ter Horst and Roelof Blokzijl are executed
It is 10 p.m. Schober and Becker take Roelof Blokzijl and Johannes ter Horst from their cell. "It is time. You know what is going to happen," says Schober. Indeed they both knew that they had a short time to live. The only thing that would strengthen them is their God.
They say a silent prayer and are silently driven from the building of the SD via the Haaksbergerstraat, At the second culvert through the city, they come to a stop.
Johannes knows this place. He and his KP team had tried to blow up this culvert in order to hamper the Germans in travelling to Enschede. This sabotage action had only partly succeeded.
Johannes and Roelof are instructed to get out of the car and stand together on the shoulder of the road. There is nothing more to say.
In a moment their thoughts go to their loved ones. There is no more hope of rescue. Their time on this earth is over. They are going to their Promised Land.
Both Johannes and Roelof are shot in the place where they stand.
The bodies are found
It is Sunday, September 24 at 9:00 a.m. when Lambertus Borske, who lives at 80 Spoordijkstraat in Enschede, informs the Police that there are two bodies lying nearby, probably Netherlanders. The guard commander reports to the head inspector Van de Wal. He instructs the investigators Van Veen and Van Gendt to go to the site. Also the Captain Superintendent Berends is informed and will attend to the matter.
At around 9:30 a.m. the police force arrives at the place with Superintendent Berends. An NSB police commander contacts the SD in Enschede and asks if they know anything about these bodies. Berends gets to hear that it concerns two terrorists who have been shot by the SD in Enschede. Among other things, they have attempted to blow up the culvert on which they lie. Berends has the names of the two bodies: Roelof Blokzijl, born in Ambt Hardenberg, July 13, 1888, retailer in Manufacturing, residing at 265 Lipperkerkstraat and Johannes ter Horst, born in Enschede, April 1, 1913, border patrol residing at 36 Bloemendaalstraat in Enschede.
Having heard this, Berends makes no investigation but has the bodies brought to the mortuary of the hospital. It was prohibited by the SD to show the bodies to the family or other persons, especially because of outward signs indicating the maltreatment of Johannes.
For the statement of the daily report, the Police Watch Commander at 11:30 a.m. receives from Captain the following information: "Both were properly tried in place. The bodies have been released and have been brought to health care. Policeman Slothouder has informed the families. The reports have been made by the teleprinter.
From the foregoing it appears that Captain Berends has made contact with the SicherheitsDienst (SD) concerning this event and has informed them as to what happened. Berends does not speak of one "murder" but about "judgment". He undertakes no investigation of the suspects. The bodies are released and transferred to the hospital. Therefore, for him, the matter is apparently closed.
Report of Martha Visscher-Blokzijl
In 1979, Martha Visscher-Blokzijl, the eldest daughter of Roelof wrote the following moving (touching) report. It begins on Sunday morning, September 24. She did not know at the time that her father was executed.
"Meanwhile, it was Sunday and the family had not heard anything about Pappa or Wim. Therefore after church I mentioned to my mother that I wanted to go to the Enschede police station, and if they were not there, to go on to Almelo. We needed to know what had happened to them and to find out if the KP could get them released. We had just arrived at home from church and there was my father-in-law. He said he would go with me to the police bureau in Enschede. At the station an NSBer told us to come inside and sit down. The agent said to me, "Your husband is here but your father has not been here. He is dead!" I replied, "Then they have shot him because yesterday he was still alive." The agent said, "Yes, but it was his own fault. He should not have given orders or assignments to young boys to blow up bridges and other things." (p. 33-34 of "The Life History of Margje Johanna Visscher -Blokzijl" - translated from De ARP Enschede p. 58-59)
"After about three months Oom Herman, of his own accord, approached the SD to ask if our family could have our house back since we were spread out all over the city. He spoke to Becker, the head of the SD in Enschede, who told Oom Herman that the Germans were unable to get anything out of Pappa, only that the whole day they had to listen to him talk about his faith in the Lord and his religious beliefs." (p. 36 of Mom's History Book)
"Later I had to identify this man, an NSBer whose name was Mensink and who was a leader with another "Mof" (German) during the surprise attack on our house. Wim and I had to go to him in his prison cell to identify and expose him. At first he acted as if he did not recognize me, but I knew who he was. He said they had to listen to my father speak of his faith the whole day. I said to him, "You are getting the death penalty, I hope you will still repent." He replied, "You have nothing to do with that." (p. 39 of Mom's History Book)
And so we have experienced much and everything comes to the fore. "In all this I can still remember Moe's reaction. Pappa and I were coming home from Arnhem where we had just attended an important meeting. I was a "Koerierster" at the time so I had gone to the meeting as well. Pappa said while we were travelling, "We should really stop this work with two involved from one family, something could happen and it will be too much for Moe." When we arrived home in the evening Moe was sitting on the front porch waiting for us, as she often did. Pappa told her what we had talked about. Then she said, "No, you can't do that, you have not chosen this work yourself. The Lord has set you on this path and the work must continue!" (p. 26 of Mom's History Book)
From this answer it becomes clear again from what motives Blokzijl and his LO men did their work. How their belief in God's calling to help their fellow man was foremost. That was more important to them than their own lives.
THE WAR IN THE PICTURE SHOWS HOW TERRIBLE IT WAS!
Ecce Homo, zie de Mens. A moving picture and at the same time atrocious. Don't the Christian Germans realize that Jesus was also a Jew?
For Jewish onderduikers and also for fellow countrymen Roelof Blokzijl and his comrades have given their lives. We remember their deeds of brotherly love with gratitude.
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