The Netherlands / Audiospot

Eavesdropping in the Burmania House




In early April 1945, the tension in Leeuwarden was palpable. Liberation was imminent. Fleeing Germans and Nazi sympathisers could be seen all over the city. Headquarters and archives were cleared and evidence destroyed. The resistance listened along via tapped telephone lines in the Burmania House.

During the war, the occupation in Leeuwarden was hard to miss. German troops could regularly be seen on the streets. After the unrest of the Milk Strike in 1943, the central supply roads to the city were closed off with large concrete blocks. This “Mauer Wall” allowed only traffic to enter the city at a walking pace.  

The highest German authority in the province, Beauftragte Werner Ross had set up his office in the Old Burger Weeshuis in Leeuwarden. The SD was in the Spaarbank building on the Zaailand. When it moved to the Burmania House on 25 February 1945, the resistance saw an opportunity to install bugging devices. For the resistance, it was critical to know what the intelligence service was doing.  

With the help of the PTT, the telephone company at the time, microphones were installed and four telephone lines were tapped. The home line of Hauptsturmbandführer Albrecht was also tapped. The listening post listened in on conversations and interrogations day and night. It was an exciting and difficult task. The interrogations in the Burmania House were not gentle: in addition to intimidation and threats, torture was also used. After the liberation, a water chest, sap and thumbscrews were found there. Prisoners were also locked up in cramped cells with no freedom of movement.  

On Saturday, 14 April, the listening post’s work ended. That day, the SD could be heard clearing the premises. Typewriters were removed, and stamps were handed in. When the telephone rang at 21:00, it was not answered. The next morning, the Dutch Forces of the Interior took over the Burmania House as their headquarters. Resistance fighters arrested the last Germans. That same day, the resistance established a telephone link with the Allies. The underground forces were in full control of the city. The first Canadian tanks drove into the city at noon on Sunday, 15 April. Leeuwarden was liberated.