Lining the Military field at Robermont Cemetery in Liege, Belgium, there is a row of medal recipients of both world wars on the left looking towards the WW1 monument. The graves standing side by side under the tree line are all Belgian nationals, except for one headstone further back between the trees. This is the grave of Dutch resistance member Nicolaas Erkens, a Bronze Lion medal recipient (Dutch: Bronzen Leeuw), who was executed by the Germans in 1943. After the war his remains where brought back to Liege and interred here at the cemetery.
Resistance Group Erkens
Before the outbreak of WW2, Dutch born Nicolaas Erkens had married and moved to Liege, Belgium, working in the company of his father-in-law. But when Erkens was called back to The Netherlands for the mobilization of the Dutch Army as Lieutenant in Reserve of the 17th Infantry Regiment, he joined the Etappen-intendance which managed the Army’s food and clothing logistics and supplies and was stationed in Rotterdam.
After the Dutch surrender Erkens is assigned to re-dispatch the Dutch Army supplies under German supervision, giving him access to the Dutch Military domains. This puts him in the perfect position to make part of the stocks disappear unseen and stored away for the Dutch resistance. Together with two other officers he starts “Group Erkens” a.k.a. “Little Red Riding Hood” and quickly develops into an important key figure between the Dutch and Belgian resistance movements. His resistance group is active on many fronts; they help keep Jews and crashed Allied airmen out of German hands by establishing an escape route to the South. They also gather intelligence, commit sabotage and distribute weapons and explosives to other resistance groups. In many of these acts Erkens is personally involved.
It doesn’t take long before Group Erkens activities are noticed. Early in 1942 German intelligence undertake considerate actions to uncover members of the Group. Playing a cat and mouse game, but unwilling to flee, Erkens is eventually arrested on the 11th of November 1942 following an infiltration of the group. He is heavily tortured and after 9 months sentenced to death in August 1943.
Erkens was executed by firing squad at Fort Rhijnauwen near the city of Utrecht together with ten other members of the resistance group on October 9th 1943.
You can visit the grave of Nicolaas Erkens at the Robermont Cemetery in Liege, Belgium.