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In May 2012, I came across an article in a local newspaper. My mom pointed out to me that this particular story was about my granddad’s nephew. My granddad was a victim of forced labour who was sent to Poland to work for the German war industry. I never knew this story about his cousin, who was active in the local Resistance and gave his life in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The name “David” was used a lot in the family. My granddad, like David, has the same second name. His full name was Hendrik David van Dam. His brother was David Hendrik van Dam and now I learned about their cousin, David van Dam.
With permission from the “Groene Hart Archives” the story of David van Dam is published on the LandmarkScout website.
David van Dam (1926-1945)
Annually on May 4th, the casualties of war are remembered in the Netherlands. Our thoughts usually go to those who fell during wartime, soldiers and Resistance members alike.
But this is just a part of the story. Even after the war the members of the Resistance stayed active, trying to get lives back to normal.
An important task was assigned to the youth in Gouda. Many boys had to accomplish a variety of jobs by order of the Dutch Resistance. One of these boys was David van Dam.
For Dutch Freedom
David was fourteen years of age when the war started. He was probably attending vocational school. By 1945 he was working as a lathe operator for the Bron Company on Kleiwegstreet in Gouda.
Now that he was a little older he wanted to do something for his fatherland, so he joined the local resistance group in Gouda. The group named itself “For Dutch Freedom”. The Group was started in 1942, by 5 or 6 boys from the centre region of Gouda. The boys attended three different high schools and chose a local swimming pool as meeting point.
Active for the Dutch Resistance
The boys prepared to assist the Allies as soon as liberation was at hand. They were active during wartime as well. They published and distributed an illegal newspaper in the city. They kept track of the number of German vehicles and troops moving over the roads from and to the city.
The group was led by Wim de Jong and Jan Versveld. The group grew slowly, and by the end of the war it had 180 members.
When liberation came, the group was housed in an orphanage on Spiering Street in Gouda and was put under the command of the Homeland Forces. This was a much larger organization which was better able to restore order and lock up traitors.
The Resistance group had the important role of guarding the turncoats and traitors until they went to their trial.
Being a member of a resistance group during wartime is obviously not without risk. David was betrayed by an unknown informer and had to hide from the Germans. His younger brother Cornelius, only ten years of age at this time, still remembers how David hid in a kitchen cupboard when the Germans entered the house in search of him. They stabbed their bayonets into the wooden floorboards to check for hidden compartments.
In the lasts month of the war, David moved to another safe house on the Karnemelksloot, a street with a small canal just outside city centre.
Guarding collaborators and defectors
Right after the liberation of Gouda the collaborators, defectors and Nazi Party (NSB) members were hunted down, arrested and imprisoned by the Homeland Forces. Prisoners were locked up in two production halls of the local candle factory. This “prison” was given the nickname “Camp Westerbork”, referring to the largest concentration camp on Dutch soil.
A few weeks after the liberation of Gouda, more than 200 men and woman were being kept prisoner in these production halls.
The leaders of the Inland Forces couldn’t prevent the harassment that some of the defectors had to endure during their stay in the candle factory. Hence, the help of David’s resistance group was more than welcome to keep an eye on the treatment of the prisoners.
Members of the Nazi party who had a passive attitude during the war, or had caused no harm to other Dutchman or Allied soldiers were soon released.
The severe cases associated with the betrayal of resistance fighters, Jews or people who went into hiding were led to a tribunal.
A tragic accident
On Friday afternoon, July 27 1945, almost 3 months after the ending of the war, David van Dam was walking with a number of female collaborators. It was around 5:45 p.m., and they were heading to one of the halls at the candle factory.
A Sten gun was hanging carelessly on his back. When he reached the house of C. Van Loon, the director of the candle factory, he tried to take the Sten gun of his back.
Unfortunately it got caught behind his belt. It went off as he tried to pull it free, and the bullet penetrated the back of David’s skull.
Doctor A.W. Vegter, a local pediatrician, rendered first aid and transferred David to the hospital. David died the following morning around six a.m.
That evening, members of the resistance group visited the family home to give their condolences to the family.
Three days later, on 31 July 1945, David van Dam, only 18 years of age, was buried in the Catholic cemetery on the Graaf Florisstreet in Gouda.
Source: Groene Hart archives
Author: Nico Habermehl
Link to the original story with more photos and information on: David van Dam in the Groene Hart Archives (Dutch)
Many thanks to the Groene Hart Archives, who gave permission to use their information on David van Dam.