Holandia / Historia

A Hague evacuee's ‘Journey to Drenthe’ - Assen after the war - eyewitness report in two parts - part 1




“It was the end of January 1945. For quite some time, hunger had held the Holland provinces in the western part of the Netherlands in its grip. I was getting weaker, that was plain for everyone to see. The doctor told me: ‘Take a rest, go outside. Try to get to the North.’ On the doctor's advice, I was given two months sick leave by my employer, the Dutch Pensions Council. The North, how could we get there? The German authorities refused to give us a statement that would allow us to go by train. Food trucks would not take us either. After serious consideration and at the repeated urgent request of our son Loek, who was barely nine years old, we went on foot.” This is how Gerrit van Lochem's story begins about the journey he managed to make together with his wife and son to escape the Hunger Winter in the western part of the Netherlands. On 17 February 1945, at six o’ clock in the morning, they left their home in The Hague. By way of the provinces of Zuid-Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel, they ended up in Drenthe many days later, to find shelter there from the beginning of March until the end of the war with the family of farmer Jan Enting in Grolloo. The impressive account of the journey and the time in Grolloo can be read on the website of the Old Grol Foundation. This is the story of the period after the liberation of Grolloo on 12 April 1945.

Living and working in Assen - part 1

“Grolloo was free from occupation. I mused a little. Such a pity that the Canadians were gone. The next morning prowling around here and there. I was getting a little bored with that. The country had almost been liberated. Now we would be going back to The Hague. Suddenly, I started to long for home.  

I wanted to work, do useful work, make a contribution to reconstruction. I therefore applied to a military institution in Assen, asking them whether they could help me get a job in The Hague, preferably with my former employer, the Pensions Council. But they couldn't. The war was still going on there.  

I could, however, start working for the Military Authority in Assen, as head of the Documentation Service. The names of NSB members and similar persons had to be taken from stacks of papers and jotted down on cards. A monumental task. But right up my street! I accepted the offer. And thus, the next step would be a move. 

My work location was a building at the Stationsstraat (this location, ed.), which immediately bordered on the building of the Political Investigation Service. These two mansions were connected by a corridor. 

A few houses away from my office, there was a building that had housed the SD (Sicherheitsdienst, the German Security Service). It was still furnished, and the co-occupant, who was suspected of collaboration with the enemy, had been taken prisoner by the Canadians. That house was now confiscated by the Military Authority.  

The Inspectorate of the Political Investigation Service took up residence at the front, and we were given the back side. A splendid house. Add to this the fact that it had a large garden, and you can understand that my wife and I were very pleased. 

The house had been cleaned from top to bottom by NSB members and their wives, whom I had put to work with permission from the Director of the Detention Centre. We had taken on one of the women, a German, but a very decent woman, in fixed employment.” 

From: Eyewitness report by Gerrit van Lochem, spring 1945 
Born 11-8-1900, died 18-7-1986 

Re-edited by son Loek van Lochem, December 1995.