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Gerrit Kastein

Dr. Gerrit Willem Kastein (25 June 1910 - 21 February 1943) was a Dutch communist, neurologist and resistance fighter and leader during World War II.

Contents

  • Early life 1
  • World War II 2
    • Gemachtigden van den Leider 2.1
    • Operation Silbertanne 2.2
  • Arrest and death 3
  • Postscript 4
  • References 5

Early life

Kastein was born in Zutphen, the eldest son of Albertus Gerhardus Kastein and Gerdina Leurink. He studied medicine and became a neurologist. He was married and had two children.

During the 1930s Kastein became an ardent Communist, who often gave lectures. For that reason he was being watched by the Dutch authorities. During the Spanish Civil War he joined the efforts as a general doctor, who along with a Dutch ambulance team to provide assistance.

On returning to the Netherlands, he later provided medical assistance to fellow-communist Arie Kloostra during a riot in Den Haag, whom he would later join in the Dutch resistance. Kastein was strongly against racism, and wrote a book on the subject.

World War II

Immediately after the Dutch capitulation, Kastein joined the Dutch resistance. On 17 May 1940 he attended the inaugural meeting of the Hague branch of the illegal CPN, at the home of Toon van der Kroft. During the meeting, the Spark Group was founded. Kastein was also one of the initiators of the medical Resistance. Kastein sympathies and activities came under suspicion, and the first attempt to arrest him was on 2 September 1941. But forewarned, he ducked under.

Kastein formed the Communist Dutch resistance group CS-6, named after their address Corellistraat 6 in Amsterdam, where the two brothers Boissevain lived. The members were: Jan Verleun; Pam Pooters; Reina Prinsen Geerligs; Leo Frijda; Hans Katan; Sape Kuipers; the brothers Jan Charles Boissevain and Gideon William Boissevain; their cousin Louis Boissevain.

Kastein also choose to work closely with non-communist resistance groups. He gathered extensive pictures of German coastal defences along the Dutch coast, and planned to send them to the Dutch government in exile in London via a neutral Swedish ship via Gothenburg. He was provided with a contact in the form of Anton van der Waals, who was also a double-agent for the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). This meant that the Germans gained a copy of the film, which was altered before being forwarded via Kees Dutilh.

Gemachtigden van den Leider

After Hitler had approved Anton Mussert as "Leider of the Netherlands" in December 1942, he was allowed to form a national government institute, a Dutch shadow cabinet called "Gemachtigden van den Leider", which would advise Reichskommissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart from 1 February 1943. The institute would consist of a number of deputies in charge of defined functions or departments within the administration.[1]

On 4 February Retired General and Rijkscommissaris Hendrik Seyffardt, already head of the Dutch SS volunteer group Vrijwilligerslegioen Nederland, was announced through the press as “Deputy for Special Services”. As a result, CS-6 concluded that the new institute would eventually lead to a National-Socialist government, which would then introduce general conscription to enable the call-up of Dutch nationals to the Eastern Front.[1] However, in reality the Nazi's only saw Mussert and the NSB as a useful Dutch tool to enable general co-operation, and further Seyss-Inquart had assured Mussert post his December 1942 meeting with Hitler that general conscription was not on the agenda.[1] However, CS-6 assessed that Seyffardt was the first person within the new institute eligible for an attack, after the heavily secured Mussert.[1]

After approval from the Dutch government in exile, on the evening of Friday 5 February 1943, after answering a knock at his front door in Scheveningen, Den Haag Seyffardt was shot twice by student Jan Verleun who had accompanied Kastein on the mission. In the later Nazi lawsuit against Verleun, he declared that he was accompanied by Kastein, other sources suggest that Leo Frijda accompanied him in the attack and that Kastein was only present during preparation. A day later Seyffardt succumbed to his injuries in hospital.[1] A private military ceremony was arranged at the Binnenhof, attended by family and friends and with Mussert in attendance, after which Seyffardt was cremated.[1]

On 7 February, CS-6 shot fellow institute member “Gemachtigde voor de Volksvoorlichting” (Attorney for the national relations) H.Reydon and his wife. His wife died on the spot, while Reydon died on 24 August of his injuries.[1] The gun used in this attack had been given to Kastein by SD agent Anton van der Waals, and was used to track Kastein.[1]

Operation Silbertanne

Seyffardt and Reydon's deaths led to massive Nazi Germany reprisals in the occupied Netherlands, under Operation Silbertanne. SS General Hanns Albin Rauter immediately ordered the murder of 50 Dutch hostages and a series of raids on Dutch universities.[2] By accident the Dutch resistance had attacked Rauter's car on 6 March 1945, which in turn led to the killings at De Woeste Hoeve, where 117 men were rounded up and executed at the site of the ambush and another 147 Gestapo prisoners executed elsewhere.[3] A similar war crime occurred on 1–2 October 1944, in the village of Putten, where over 600 men were deported to camps to be killed in retaliation for resistance activity in the Putten raid.[4]

Arrest and death

On 19 February 1943, Kastein was scheduled to meet fellow CS-6 member Piet Wapperom in The Crown public house, Delft. However, Wapperom had been arrested by the SD Rotterdam in Utrecht, where a subsequent search of his rooms found a notebook with details of the meeting with Kastein. Compromised, Wapperom agreed to co-operate, but the SD also tied a broomstick down his trousers to ensure that he could not escape. After entering the public house as agreed at 10:00, Kastein was arrested.

Taken to a waiting car, he was placed in the back with Ernst Knorr of the SD Hague. A struggle ensued, in which Kastein managed to seriously shoot Knorr. A subsequent search of Kastein at the local SD offices found a notebook scheduling a second meeting that day with fellow Dutch resistance member "Luc" at a cafe near the Binnenhof. Kastein agreed to co-operate, with the meeting scheduled to take place at a coffee shop in Voorburg, Den Haag. Taken there in a car by SD agent John Hoffman, a struggle ensued during the journey where by Kastein shot SD agent Martin Kohlen who was driving the car in the leg. Kastein then tried to make an escape, but was quickly recaptured, although four resistance members who exited the cafe attempted to rescue him.

On the return journey to the Binnenhof, Kastein tried to retrieve a hidden weapon from his body, but it bounced out and was taken by the SD agents. Placed in an interrogation room and tied to a chair, while left alone he jumped through a closed second floor window while still attached to the chair. On landing he fractured his skull and died a few hours later. A colleague of Kastein from another hospital and the wife of another colleague attended him and were witnesses to his injuries and death.

After the war, it emerged that Luc was in fact a pseudonym for Anton van der Waals. It was hence interpreted that Kastein had recognised Van der Waals as a double agent, and had set up the meeting to interrogate the traitor.

Postscript

Dr. Gerrit Willem Kastein was posthumously awarded the Dutch Cross of Resistance. He is buried in the military cemetery in Loenen.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h
  2. ^ The 'SILBERTANNE' murders from Niederlanders in de Waffen-SS. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  3. ^ The Hins' World War II Collection – Memorial Woeste Hoeve. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
  4. ^ Brute force hit small Dutch town fifty years ago, from GoDutch.com, first published October 23, 1994. Retrieved 11 April 2008
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