Four Kloostra Brothers in Dachau
By Mario Kloostra and Rudi Harthoorn/Revision and translation editing by Maria Busch
The Kloostra Family and Brother-in-laws: Arie Kloostra
Like many Dutch communists, four Kloostra brothers and three of their brothers-in-law became victims of an anti-communist operation that started in January 1923 and was continued after the Dutch capitulation in May 1940 on orders from the burgomaster. The 1923 operation was part of the late 1917 anti-communist activities of the Dutch Intelligence and Security Service. 15 members of the Kloostra family and their brother-in-laws took part In the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Four of them lost their lives.
Arie Kloostra was born in the village of Herpt in the south of the Netherlands on 6 March 1918, the son of Tjerk Kloostra and Josina Kooijman. Together with his 11 brothers and sisters, Arie grew up in a communist and antifascist family. The family helped communist and Jewish refugees flee Nazi-Germany by accompanying them from the German-Dutch border to a safe house to prevent the Dutch police from catching and sending them back to Germany.
The Spanish Civil War
On the 17 of April 1937, his brothers Johan and Hendrik (Henk) and their brother-in-law Leendert (Leen) Johannes Triep left for Spain to join the International Brigades. Arie was working as an upholsterer at the furniture factory Pander in The Hague. He also wanted to fight in the Spanish Civil War, but his parents and brothers put a stop to his plan. Being under 21 at the time and therefore underage, Arie had to accept their decision — at least for a while.
Hendrik (Henk) Kloostra
In 1938, Arie was determined to leave for Spain. He sold his motorcycle and had the money delivered to his mother and left without saying goodbye. From The Hague he travelled to the Pyrenees, which he crossed by a 16-hour’s hike and arrived in Spain on the 12 of March 1938. Arie Kloostra was enrolled in the International Brigades the very same day. In the summer of 1938, he served in the Battle of the Ebro — the bloodiest and longest battle of the entire war. Near the town of Gandesa, he received a shrapnel injury to his stomach. When he was later shot in the arm, the wound was treated by the Dutch physician Gerrit Willem Kastein, who would come to play an important role in the communist resistance during the Second World War.
In November 1938, the foreign forces were withdrawn from Spain and Arie returned to the Netherlands 5 of December 1938. Upon his return, as it did to all Dutch volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, the Dutch government stripped him of his citizenship for violation of the Law of Citizenship, which prohibited any Dutch citizen to join a foreign army.
Being deprived of one’s citizenship might seem like a light punishment considering the government’s original plan put all the Dutch volunteers in jail. It had, however, far-reaching consequences: you were in effect stateless, deprived of most rights — including the right to engage in political work. To make matters worse, the requirement to report to the police twice a week made it next to impossible to keep a regular job . In that respect, Arie was lucky: Philip Willem Pander, director Henk Pander’s nephew and a board member, asked him to return to the factory .
Arie’s brother Henk never returned from Spain and his fate remained unknown until 2013—75 years after his death—when Arie’s son Mario learned Henk died of typhoid fever in Spain and was buried with four Spanish Republicans at the cemetery in San Esteban de Litera (cf. bottom of this page).
Before leaving for Spain, Arie was active in the organisation Internationale Rode Hulp (International Red Aid) that supported the International Brigades in Spain. So was Mathilda (Tilly) Petronella Rademakers, who was also a member of the communist youth association Tempo led by Cornelis Teunis ‘Bob’ Brandes. After his return from Spain, Arie and Mathilda were married.
Cornelis (Cor) Rademakers. Photo: Rudi Harthoorn
During the Second World War, Mathilda was involved in transport and concealment of weapons and distribution of illegal newspapers .
His new brother-in-law Cornelis (Cor) Rademakers would be arrested 10 June 1941 and die 15 July 1942 in one of the most brutal concentration camps, Groß Rosen.
The communist resistance
Immediately after the German occupation of the Netherlands 10 May 1940, Arie joined the communist resistance in The Hague and became part of a small armed group which included several brigadists, among them Samuel Zacharias (Sally) Dormits who, in 1942, became the leader of the communist resistance group Nederlandse Volksmilitie (NVM) (Dutch Peoples Militia) in Rotterdam .
Arie cooperated closely with other resistance fighters such as Cornelis Teunis ‘Bob’ Brandes and the German communist refugee Eberhard Rebling and their respective, very courageous (future) wives resistance fighters Marianne (Jannie) Brandes-Brilleslijper and Rebekka (Lin) Brilleslijper aka Lin (Lientje) Jaldati .
Cornelis ‘Bob’ Brandes
Photo: Rudi Harthoorn
Photo: Rudi Harthoorn
Rebekka (Lin) Brilleslijper
Photo: Rudi Harthoorn
Herman Holstege Photo: Rudi Harthoorn
By request of Herman Holstege from the resistance group De Vonk (‘The Spark’) Arie started to collect business data on production, suppliers and business acquisitions and in August 1940 he discovered that the Pander furniture factory had begun manufacturing thousands of aircraft ski undercarriages. In May 1940, the director Henk Pander, a fanatic fascist, had been summoned to Berlin where he received an order for landing gear for the Junkers Ju 52 transport and bomber aircraft. The Germans had made no secret of the purpose of equipping the aircrafts with ski landing gear: a winter war in the Soviet Union. August 1940, Pander began production for which it had to hire an additional 2,000 employees.
A Junkers 52 plane fitted with skis
Arie immediately disclosed the information to the Communist Party of the Netherlands (CPN) in The Hague. After having passed through the hands of several persons, it eventually found its way to Daniël (Daan) Goulooze and Leon Trepper from the Dutch branch of the Wollweber group.
A coded message was sent by radio to Moscow. To Stalin, this message was probably the first concrete indication that Germany was preparing a war against the Soviet Union. Another important military information was the additional message that the German Army supplies would be airlifted. Depending on Stalin’s reaction and war planning, the information might prove decisive for the outcome of the Second World War .
On account of the Dutch Intelligence and Security Service informant van Soolingen (cf. >Part 2: The Fight Against Communism), the mass arrests in the ranks of the communist resistance had by now reached an extensive scale and Arie went into hiding at the home of resistance fighter Cornelis Blom. Arie frequently went for dinner with the wife of Jan Keuvelaar in Peilstraat 33. Occasionally, presumably when his loneliness became too overwhelming, he also visited her in the daytime.
Jan Keuvelaar had been arrested on the 6 June 1941 and was successively sent to the concentration camps of Buchenwald, Neuengamme and Dachau. Keuvelaar arrived 1 August 1942 from Neuengamme to Dachau with the Death Trains. He survived the war.
On the 7 October 1942, the Sicherheitsdienst (SS and Nazi Party Security Service) raided the home of Keuvelaar. Arie fled the house and ran a zigzag through the streets as he has learned in Spain, but when the security service officers started shooting he surrendered. Because Keuvelaar’s wife was not arrested, it seemed obvious that Arie was the target. It is unknown how the Sicherheitsdienst obtained the information that led to his arrest.
In the Scheveningen prison (nicknamed Oranjehotel – the Orange Hotel) Arie was interrogated by the Sicherheitsdienst and the Intelligence and Security Service police officer Johannes Hubertus Veefkind sr. who, in 1922, had accepted the position as ‘specialist of extremist movements’ and had been hunting down communists since 1926. Before the war and on numerous occasions, Veefkind had attended the meetings of the communist party in his police uniform, and Arie immediately recognised him.
Veefkind was involved in almost all arrests, interrogations and torture of communists from 28 April 1941 to March 1943. He systematically beat up communists during interrogations — sometimes within an inch of their life resulting in permanent injuries. He punched and kicked them until blood spattered from their faces, thrashed them with batons, chair legs, whips and revolvers and threw heavy objects at their heads. He banged their heads so hard against the wall that their teeth splashed out and pointed a loaded gun at their heads .
Arie Kloostra was subjected to Veefkind’s interrogation methods before he was sent to the Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort (Police Transit Camp Amersfoort). 2 March 1943, he was transferred to Herzogenbusch Concentration Camp (Vught), where he had to work in the Philips-Kommando.
Herzogenbusch Concentration Camp (Vught), from around September 1944 to 1945 (wikimedia)
A little over 14 months later, 24 May 1944, Arie was transferred to Dachau. In the fall of the same year, the four Kloostra brothers, Arie, Jan, Johan and Rein were interned at the same time in Dachau. The brothers Arie and Johan stayed in the so-called Interbrigadistenblock — the barracks dedicated to the former volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.
Together with his brother Johan, Arie was then transferred to Außenlager Steinhöring, one of the satellite camps of Dachau, where he had to work for the Lebensborn Programme.
Shortly before the liberation in May 1945, Arie was transferred back to Dachau. Here an SS officer ordered him to upholster an armchair. Carrying out this order, he was approached by the communist underground organisation in Dachau and asked to hide a Luger pistol. Arie hid it in the armchair. After the liberation, he retrieved the pistol and brought it back to the Netherlands.
When the Allies were closing in on the concentration camps, the Nazis desperately tried to empty all camps of prisoners. On the 26 of April 1945, the Nazis selected about 7,000 prisoners—among them Arie and his brother Johan—for a death march.
A German fellow combatant in the Spanish Civil War recognised the brothers and replaced their names on the list with those of two black-market dealers. The rest of their lives they would be burdened with guilt for having survived at the expense of others.
Liberation and evacuation
Just three days later, at 5:28 pm on the 29 of April 1945, the American Army arrived at the camp. One of the American liberators was Louis Gordon, who had fought against Franco in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Arie’s son Mario met Louis Gordon in Madrid in 2001 at a Spanish Civil War commemoration.
After the liberation, Arie and his brother Johan assisted the Americans in tracking down escaped SS officers.
Most countries sent rescue convoys to bring home the former concentration camp prisoners, and the majority of the Dachau camp prisoners could now return to their respective home countries — but not the Dutch.
Together with other former Dachau concentration camp prisoners, Hans Teengs Gerritsen, Carel Steensma and Willem Leonard Brugsma got hold of a bus to take them to the Netherlands and request help to evacuate the remaining Dutch from Dachau. Among the 18 passengers on the bus were Arie and Johan. Although they received a lukewarm welcome upon returning to the Netherlands, an evacuation plan was eventually initiated. Jos Schneider and Gijs van Westelaken wrote a book about the bus journey to the Netherlands, which was published in 1987 .
The bus from Dachau,
17 May 1945, just before leaving for the Netherlands. Second from the right (with cap), Arie, above him, in the window (with cap and sunglasses), Johan. Front row: from the third person, right to left, Ed Hoornik, Hans Teengs Gerritsen, Jaap Mesdag, Carel Steensma. Other persons are Willem Brugsma, Louis van Dungen, Dirk de Loos, Piet Maliepaard, Freek Niemeijer, Johan Post Uiterweer, Jannes van Raalte, Nico Rost, Frits Steen, Cas Vermeulen, Bram Wolff
The postwar years
In 1945 Arie started to work at the Pander factory again, but so physically—and presumably also mentally—scarred that he was forced to stop working at the end of 1947. He applied for a pension for resistance workers who were no longer able to work. On account of the injuries he sustained in Spain and the horrible treatment in Dachau, in 1953 Arie was declared incapacitated and finally received a pension.
Spain fighters Arie Kloostra (left) and Piet Laros (right) demonstrating outside the Dutch Parliament
He did, however, remain active in the communist party. Arie Kloostra regained his citizenship in the late 1950s, but many of his fellow volunteers in the Spanish Civil War and the resistance were not that fortunate. He thus remained active in the fight to restore their citizenship. It was an up-hill battle, and some of them only regained their citizenship in the 1980s.
The Dutch fascist volunteers for Franco in the Spanish Civil War were never stripped of their citizenship, and Dutch Nazi volunteers involved in mass murders in the Soviet Union regained their citizenship in the early 1950s.
In 1968, Arie raised money and collected goods for the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War (1954-1975). Accompanied by Eberhard Rebling and Rebling’s wife Lien Brilleslijper, he handed over such goods to the Vietnamese ambassador in Berlin.
From left: Arie Kloostra, Tilly Kloostra-Rademakers, Rebekka (Lin) Brilleslijper and Eberhard Rebling visiting the Vietnamese ambassador in Berlin, 1968
After the return of democracy in Spain in the late 1970s, Arie Kloostra became an honorary citizen of Spain.
Arie Kloostra died in the village of Epse (Lochem, Gelderland, Netherlands) 21 October 1998. His death notice read: Arie Kloostra, honorary citizen of Spain, bearer of the Hans Beimler medal and the Resistance Memorial Cross, passed away calmly and peacefully after a militant life .
Sources and notes:
 Kruizinga, Samuël: ‘The First Resisters: Tracing Three Dutchmen from the Spanish Trenches to the Second World War, 1936–1945’ In: War History, Volume 27, Issue 3, 2020.
 Hendrik Pander was a fanatic member of the fascist party Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland (National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands), but his nephew Philip Willem, also a board member, was an anti-fascist. Philip joined the (non-communist) resistance and was executed 10 April 1945.
 Harthoorn, Rudi: Haags communistisch verzet – Communistische verzetsmensen uit de regio Den Haag, H-N
 Almost all the NVM members were arrested in the period from October 1942 to February 1943, resulting in the imprisonment of about 350 people, about 160 of whom about lost their lives. The Sicherheitsdienst discovered a connection between a communist resistance group and the factory Hollandia-Kattenburg near Amsterdam. That factory had many Jewish employees. Over 300 Jews, and their relatives, were immediately arrested. Thus, over 900 people were arrested, sent to Auschwitz and immediately gassed.
 Bob Brandes, Eberhard Rebling and the sisters, Marianne (Jannie) Brandes-Brilleslijper and Rebekka (Lin) Brilleslijper aka Lin (Lientje) Jaldati hid many people—mainly Jews—in a luxury villa called ’t Hooge Nest (The Big Nest) that was also used as a meeting place for the communist resistance. The German Nazis uncovered the secret hiding place house, and the sisters were sent to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen but they both survived, while many other people who had lived in hiding did not survive — including their parents and a brother. In Bergen-Belsen they met and befriended Anne & Margot Frank.
Roxane van Iperen’s ‘t Hooge Nest was published in 2018 by Lebowski, the Netherlands, ISBN: 9789048841783. English translation: The Sisters of Auschwitz – The true story of two Jewish sisters’ resistance in the heart of Nazi territory, Seven Dials, Orion Publishing, 2019, ISBN: 9781841883731. German version: “Ein Versteck unter Feinden – Ein Versteck unter Feinden: Die wahre Geschichte von zwei jüdischen Schwestern im Widerstand”, Hoffmann und Campe Verlag GmbH, ISBN: 978-3455006452. The book is being translated into other languages and will be adapted into a film in 2021.
 NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies) does not consider the Dutch branch of the Wollweber group as a resistance group although it sent messages to Moscow about the situation in the Netherlands before and during the war. The Rotterdam Security Service supplied the Gestapo with the names of the Wollweber group members. They were almost all arrested in the summer of 1940 and were either executed or died in concentration camp.
 Harthoorn, Rudi: Haags communistisch verzet – Collaborateurs, spionnen, infiltranten en andere anti-communisten, L-Z.
 Schneider, Jos and Gijs van de Westelaken, De bus uit Dachau (‘The Bus From Dachau’), 1987, Balans, Uitgeverij, Nederlands, ISBN: 9789050180276. 2018, Uitgeverij Balans, Nederlands, ISBN: 9789460038303.
 Scholten, Yvonne: Nederlandse vrijwilligers in de Spaanse Burgeroorlog, Arie Kloostra, International Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis.
Photos from the San Esteban de Litera cemetery, April 2015, at the unveiling of a monument in honour of the five brigadists of the 45 Division, including Hendrik (Henk) Kloostra, who died on and were buried in Spanish soil 75 years ago.
The speech at the unveiling of the memorial at the San Esteban de Litera cemetery, April 2015 (Photo: Mario Kloostra)
Mario Kloostra's cousin Corrie Triep (child of Arie Kloostra's sister) laying flowers at the memorial plaques after the unveiling of the memorial at the San Esteban de Letera cemetery, April 2015 (Photo: Mario Kloostra)
Memorial plaque for the five brigadists who are buried at the San Esteban de Litera cemetery, April 2015 (Photo: Mario Kloostra)
The inscription in English:
Here lie the remains of five brigadists from the International Brigades’ 45 Division. Deceased from illness in the military hospital, the men have been given a ‘home’ at the San Esteban de Litera.
They came to defend Spain and they died for it
⋅ Eliseo Carola Castelló, born in Villalonga de Ter (Barcelona), died on the 10 of November 1937 from
⋅ typhoid fever.
⋅ Hendrik Kloostra, born in Nieuw Lekkerland (The Netherlands) died at the age of 32 on the 24 of
⋅ November from typhoid fever.
⋅ Salvador Cabreras died from diabetic coma on the 3 of December 1937.
⋅ Dionisio Giménez died on the 23 December 1937 from a heart attack.
⋅ Ramón Altas died on the 6 of January 1937 from acute nephritis.
‘It is better to die standing than live on your knees.’
Inscription in English:
Here lie the remains of the one who was the last leader of the Guerrilla Group of Alto Aragón (AGAA)
Killed in a skirmish with a civil guard in the area of San Esteban de Literia, specifically in a tower in the Sank Ana district.
⋅ Narciso Villegas, born in Alquezar (Huesca), killed the 7 of December 1948 and buried the 9 December in this cemetery.
Through plains and mountains
go free guerrillas,
the best fighters
of the field and of the city.
The best fighters
of the field and of the city.
Neither pain nor misery
will impede us from victory,
we will proceed forward,
without ever retreating.
We will proceed forward,
without ever retreating.
The combat flags,
like blankets, will cover
the brave guerrillas
who will fall in battle.
The brave guerrillas
who will fall in battle.
Our leaders command us
to attack to win,
we will defeat fascism
without ever backing down.
We will defeat fascism
without ever backing down.
We will defeat fascism
in the final battle.
Comrades, death to Franco,
Long live our freedom
Comrades, death to Franco,
Long live our freedom.
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