Gate memorial Suberg

A dire warning…

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria” .

Deconstructing a myth down to the bare bones, so to speak, is where I thought this quest would end. It seems however, that I have underestimated the proportions of Jan’s reality. The story of Jan is way beyond the measure of his myth. Reconstruction of his story has proven that the scope of the idealism, bravery and adventure are greater than I had ever imagined.  Painfully, the circumstances of his captivity and consequently his suffering and his eventual death are of such dimensions that the myth is completely overruled. This legend of Jan is soon going to lead me to places of hate and destruction, of insane logic by frighteningly normal people. I do not particularly want to go there, but I will. Otherwise this quest will have been in vain.

wood road autumnLet me pick up the tale where I left it. An incredibly strong, determined woman,  Jan’s mother, my grandma is searching for her son, who does not return home after the war.

It is August 1945 and she learns that one of Jan’s friends, M. Vanhove is back home in Belgium after the Saint Leonard prison was liberated.

What she does not know is that Jan wrote a letter home while he was in hiding on the 6th of March 1944. He sent it from a coded address to a friend who was also in hiding, but it never made its way to them until much later. It is a birthday letter for his two smallest siblings, my mother and her younger sister. But it is also a warning, a cryptic letter with a hidden message. My mother did not receive this letter until 1995, my grandma never saw it.

Jan writes lovely birthday wishes  to his ‘sweeties’, the sisters, and asks if they also have snow. Then he continues:

Letter Jan van Boeckel March 1944
…If one day someone comes for me who you don’t know, and who brags that he might be clandestine, then say to him “keep making a mess, we won’t have anything to do with you and Jan is a ‘Safe’ guy”. Because it might well be wrong. And tell the other boarders, because this is a new method of the scum…

Clearly he already felt threatened, wherever he was.

A few years later my grandma writes to the authorities what she learns from M. Vanhove :

Letter grandma to authorities
“From this letter-writer I found out that my son was put on transport from Liege to Cologne in August 1944. I have written to all the addresses I received of fellow prisoners and I have asked the Red Cross in Liege for assistance….”

Will be continued…..

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria”.

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