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Hiding in Friesland
The number of people who went into hiding during the Second World War in Friesland is estimated at 23,000. This is just a rough guess and is probably too low. Reliable sources covering the whole of the war are not available.
Considering this its important to answer the question, who exactly do we consider a person going into hiding. Was it someone who hid for a longer period of time in a strange house away from the outside world or do we also think of someone who crawled under the cupboard-bed for a couple of hours when there was imminent danger as a person in hiding. In order to get a good idea of all aspects concerning the theme ‘Hiding in Friesland’ we use the term in the broadest sense of the word for this website.
Friesland as a province for hiding
Why was Friesland an ideal province to hide? There are three factors to be considered. Firstly the province had hardly suffered any damage by the German invasion and apart from the ‘Waddeneilanden’ the occupation was relatively light. The fact that the countryside was vast with many remote farms and houses offering good opportunity to hide was even more important. The final crucial factor was the regular shipping connections between Amsterdam and Friesland. The Lemmer-ferry is the best known but there were also market-boats who took care of transport.
How it started
The Jews were the first group to be persecuted. During the summer of 1942 deportations began. Part of the Jewish community could not or would not realize what this would lead to. Others who did see the gravity of the situation tried to find a safe haven. Initially, this was very difficult. There was no question of any organization at first. In order to find a hiding place you were dependent on reliable personal contact.
In Friesland most people did not realize the seriousness of the persecution of the Jews. Still, during the second half of 1942 a network was established of contacts between cities in the West and Friesland. This network was mainly used to accommodate Jewish children from Amsterdam.
In the winter of 1942-1943 the ‘Landelijke Organisatie voor hulp aan Onderduikers’ (the national organization helping people to hide) was founded, LO for short. There was a provincial division in Friesland. The ‘LO’ was the largest organization within the resistance. Many other organizations such as the “knokploegen” ( the groups who delivered ration cards and identity papers obtained at raids), the Nationaal Steun Fonds (for monetary purposes) and falsification bureaus (for the falsification of identity papers) were important suppliers for the ‘LO’. How did the ‘LO’ work?. By means of markets, provincial as well as national, supply and demand were matched. The networks of preachers and teachers played an important part when finding addresses to hide. The organization had the following kinds of contributors:
- People who accompanied persons during their travel to the first place of reception; Jewish children were mostly accompanied by female students.
- People who took care of the first reception.
- People who took care of the definite housing at foster families and who later visited to deliver ration cards and the like.
The organization had an initial main point in Sneek and from there people were distributed over the rest of the province. A second main point was Leeuwarden.
The aforementioned ‘LO’ in Friesland had five districts: Dokkum, Drachten, Leeuwarden, Sneek and Stiens.
These include the following municipalities:
- District Leeuwarden: Leeuwarden
- District Stiens: Barradeel, het Bildt, Franeker, Franekeradeel, Harlingen, Leeuwarderadeel, Menaldumadeel, Terschelling
- District Dokkum: Achtkarspelen, Ameland, Dantumadeel, Dokkum, Ferwerderadeel, Kollumerland, Oostdongeradeel, Schiermonnikoog, Tietjerksteradeel, Westdongeradeel
- District Drachten: Idaarderadeel, Ooststellingwerf, Opsterland, Smallingerland, Utingeradeel.
- District Sneek: Baarderadeel, Bolsward, Doniawerstal, Gaasterland, Haskerland, Heerenveen, Hemelumer Oldeferd, Hindeloopen, Lemsterland, Rauwerderhem, Sloten, Sneek, IJlst, Weststellingwerf, Wonseradeel, Wymbritseradeel.
To go into hiding was not easy. First of all one had to find a reliable hiding address. Secondly one needed falsified papers: identity cards and distribution documents etc. The ‘LO’ increasingly managed to get better at meeting the demands.
People in hiding ended up in a totally different world. The transition from the city to the countryside was enormous. One had to get used to different food and often a different kind of language. It was important to adapt as best as possible to minimize chances of being discovered. Some were better at this than others.
After the war
After the liberation people started to emerge. In newspapers there were calls for the people who had been in hiding to get registered at a ‘LO’-bureau. Part of the Frisian administration, concerning 5415 individuals, has been preserved. The registration forms of those who were born over a hundred years ago have been made public and are shown on the website. In 2017 this includes the forms and cards of 2582 people. Every year on the first of January ‘new’ forms will be released.
Most people in hiding were gradually able to go back home. For the Jews this was often a complicated affair. Many found out that the better part of their families had been killed in concentration camps. There have been long and heated debates about the future of the Jewish orphans leading to all kinds of disadvantageous consequences for the children.