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NEDERLANDSE VERSIE | ENGLISH VERSION

Text updated March 23rd, 2017


  A   c l i n i c   d u r i n g   w a r t i m e   

 
The Beatrix maternity home at the end of the 1930's

    This building stood on the Zijlweg in Haarlem, The Netherlands until the mid 1980s. The Beatrix, a maternity clinic, was established by my parents Wilhelm Becker and Gré Becker-Janssen in 1937.

    After the Second World War, Gré and Wilhelm were arrested under suspicion of collaboration with the Germans. It was only long after the end of the war that questions were raised about why the couple had been interrogated and detained by the Dutch judicial system. While Gré and Wilhelm dismissed these questions as “unimportant”, recently discovered documents indicate that there is more to this story. Further research may shed some more light on what transpired at the clinic during wartime.

    Desertion

    The couple were actively anti-Nazi. Nevertheless, under the eye of the German occupier they managed to keep their maternity clinic running. In the fall of 1944 the southern part of the Netherlands were liberated by the allied forces. Because Wilhelm was a German living in the Netherlands, he then was conscripted into Hitler’s army. Instead he deserted and went into hiding with his family — transferring the management of the maternity clinic to a midwife attached to the institution. After the liberation of the Netherlands in May 1945 the couple were arrested by the re-instated Dutch police force.
    From the initial enquiry, it seems evident that the clinic was confiscated by the Dutch government. During the interrogations Wilhelm and Gré denied any accusation of collaboration – on the face of it these accusations were fairly serious. The reasons for these accusations are still unclear, and many details of the case seem to contradict one another. There are indications that attempts were made to extradite the family to Germany.

    People in hiding

    What we know now is that during Nazi occupation Gré and Wilhelm actually hid more than 40 Jews and fellow resistance fighters, including seventeen Jewish women who gave birth to children at the clinic.

    After the war, the couple did not really want to draw any attention to this side of the story. The main thrust of the post-war Netherlands was rebuilding a nation shattered by the war. For this reason they felt no need to dwell on the past.

    Reactions to a newspaper article

    In the Haarlem daily paper ‘Haarlems Dagblad’ of 1st November 2012 Cees van Hoore wrote an article titled 'Er was dag en nacht reuring in dat huis', in which he highlights the things that occurred in the clinic during and after the war. As a result of this article there were many responses: amongst others from previous patients and some of those born in the clinic between 1937 and 1958, and from families of those involved in the war resistance work and several doctors attached to the clinic.

          


    Questions

    The research, begun in 2013, was basically concerned with finding answers to the following questions:

    • What happened to the people who were in hiding in the maternity clinic during the German occupation? Are their children or other family members able to provide any information about them?

    • What happened to the babies who were born in the clinic? Were they ultimately reunited with their parents?

    • Who was present in the clinic at that time, either as a worker or following vocational training?

    • Which people and organizations were involved in the judicial process of Wilhelm and Gré after the liberation? What were their motives? Who paid attention to their two children?

    Archive research

    Early 2015 the Nationaal Archief (National Archives) in The Hague granted permission to do some research into the files concerning Gré and Wilhelm in the archives of the post-war investigation services, the CABR (Central Archive of Extraordinary Justice), as well as in the NBI (the Dutch Institute for Hostile Property Management). The documents found in the archives provide a fairly complex picture of what occurred in and around the maternity clinic before and after the liberation. There is some evidence of ‘heel dragging’ of the judicial process.

    In the meantime another research project has been started into the archives of amongst others the war resistance movement, the German Occupation Committee and the re-instated Forces of the Interior, all of which can be found at the NIOD (the Dutch Institute of War Documentation). Old photo and film material has also surfaced.

    It is expected that the archive research will be completed sometime during the course of 2017.

    The identity of those gone into hiding

    Most of those who were in hiding will in the meantime have passed away. Some of the babies and young children from that time may still be alive. With the help of a summary survey and letters that have been found, an attempt to ascertain their identities has been made. Thus far, in a few cases, with success, which has led to meeting up with these people – thanks to the efforts of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington DC and the Jewish Social Network Institute of the Netherlands.


            
    Martin Sturkop, Hans Becker, Peti Pieper          
    research team 'Maternity Clinic'          


    Aim

    The aim of this project is to produce an as accurate as possible reconstruction of events connected with the clinic at this particular point and time. Accuracy of the provided material is paramount and the processing of it will still take some time. The final product, in the form of a book and a film documentary is expected to appear in 2018.