Arie Verouden

 

POW No. : 104882

Camps : Stalags XIA, VA

 

On the 17th November 1937, Arie Verouden was sent to the Navy barracks, Willemsoord, and shortly after he served aboard Hr. Ms "Gelderland" and Hr. Ms. "Wachtschip Vlissingen". It was in Vlissingen that he met his wife in the Bellamypark and they married on the 23rd August 1939. Arie lived in Vlissingen with his wife and his parents-in-law. In 1940, their first child Henk was born.

 

In 1939, complete mobilisation was announced, and in April 1940, the Arie's wife left with their child {he was six weeks old}, together with her parents, brother and sister, for Delft because it was not safe in Vlissingen. Arie's father owned a house in Delft {next to the famous church on the market}. It was a long journey and they first arrived at Rozendaal, with other evacuees, and stayed in a large barn where there was also a French detachment waiting. After a couple of days it was possible for them to continue their journey on a train

 

On the 10th June 1940, Arie was placed at the Marinedetachment in The Hague, and on the 15th July 1940, he was dismissed by the Germans from the Sea Service under granting of guard money. A month later his second child was born, Jorina, and two years later a third child, Jan. At that time they lived at Westerstraat 55 in Delft, next door to Arie's father at number 57.

 

Systematically, the Germans took military Prisoners Of War and sent them to camps in Holland from where they were transported to several camps in Germany for slave labour. Those who refused were transported to punishment camps in Poland. Arie hated the Germans but on the 13th May 1943 he presented himself at Camp Amersfoort as a Prisoner Of War and was transported that same day at Stalag XIA, Altengrabow in Germany.

 

On the 27th May 1943, he was transported at Stalag VA at Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart. At that time Stuttgart was under the Command of Wehrkreis V. His P.O.W.number was 104882. In October 1943, he escaped from Stuttgart but was captured by the Gestapo at Bietigheim towards the end of December that year. In January 1944, Arie was sent by the Military Court at Ludwigsburg and was sentenced to two years in prison. They put him in prison for questioning and used brutal methods. The Germans kicked and beat him and, with a revolver placed against his head, they threatened to kill him. In answer of all the questions Arie kept repeating his name, rank and military number with a smile on his face, which made the Germans angrier. They knocked some of his teeth out with the revolver, but Arie just kept on saying his name, rank and military number with some extra information like: "Your old mother".

 

Once back in his cell, a German guard brought him a peace of bread and handed it to Arie so that he could take it. Arie had not eaten in a long time and as he reached for the bread the guard threw it on the dirty floor near Arie's feet, throughout the guard kept on looking straight at Arie. Arie bent down to pick up the bread, but then the guard came forward and stepped on the bread with his dirty boot and broke it up into crumbs. While he was doing that he kept on looking to Arie with a provoking smile on his face, waiting for a reaction. Arie was angry but kept it to himself because he knew that the guard wanted to provoke him. Both men stood there for a while looking at each other, both waiting for a reaction. Eventually the guard's smile disappeared and he left the cell. When Arie was alone, relieved that there had not been a fight, he picked up the remains of the bread and ate it because he was starving.

 

In that prison camp in the winter of 1944, Arie became very ill and was suffering from pneumonia. At that camp there were lots of Frenchmen. Having waiting for his chance, Arie escaped for a second time in April 1945, and this time he was successful. He travelled to Stuttgart, then Ulm and Strasbourg. He walked during the night and hid himself in the woods or a good sheltered place during the day. On his travels, when he passed farms he stole food several times in order to survive. On one occasion he stole a chicken and ate some of it raw. During this escape Arie heard, by the sounds that he recognized from earlier escapes, that the Germans and their Shepherd dogs were searching for him. At the time he was near a mortuary and so he went inside to hide. As the sounds came nearer, he hid himself inside a coffin and kept quiet for a very long time. He was more afraid during this, his second escape, not only what the Germans would do to him if they captured him again, but most of all he was feared that he could fall asleep be buried alive by the undertaker. In later years, Arie had several nightmares about this experience. He remained still, and after several hours when all was quiet, he came out of the coffin and, in the dark, he continued his long journey home.

 

After passing through parts of Germany, France and Belgium, he finally reached Holland on the 21st April 1945. All he had with him was a spoon and a fork that he had stolen from a prison camp. The back of the spoon is inscribed: "KODAK dr.Nagel Stuttgard". The back of the fork inscribed: "berndorf KODAK art.krupp STUTTGARD".

 

On the 11th May 1945, Arie presented himself to the Navy Office in Breda and was sent on a short period of leave. On the 2nd July 1945, he reported to The Haque and was sent on short leave again. 

 

Before he could return to service with the Marines, Arie had to sign the following statement. "On May 1943 I did Service at the Hr.Ms."Wachtschip Vlissingen"; after the capitulation I spent a few weeks at home. Then I went through Bergen op Zoom and Breda to The Haque {Commandment of the Sea in Holland}. 15 July 1940 I was {dismissed by the Germans} under granting of guard money and lived in the West-street nr.57 at Delft. Until I was a P.O.W. I did not have work. On 13 May 1943 I presented myself as a P.O.W. and was sent that same day to Germany. October 1943 I escaped from Stuttgard and tried to go to Holland but I failed. The end of December 1943 I was captured by the Gestapo and was sent to a Camp. Early April 1943 I escaped again and after the liberation I went through France and Belgium to Holland where I presented myself at Breda and was sent on leave. 2 July 1945 I presented myself in The Haque and was sent on leave again. On 26 October 1945 I was in Service again. I was not a member of the N.S.B. {Dutch traitors in favour of the Germans during WWII} or other Organizations of that type. In my Family there are no members of the N.S.B. either or other Organizations of that type"

 

On 26th October 1945, he returned to the Marine forces and was placed with the department of the Command of the Navy in Holland. On the 20th March 1946, he was sent to the former Dutch East Indies and remained there until the 4th April 1948. Following this time he continued to serve in the Marines until 1958/59. Arie Verouden died at his home on the 16th February 1988.

 

Thanks to Marga de Haan-Verouden for this account.

 

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