Losing a connection to the past

Theo van Haaren met Jan van Boeckel in Haarlem. They were in love with two sisters and went to dancing lessons together. Theo inspired Jan to think outside the box, outside the conventions of religion. Theo was a rebel who held an exposé about Nietzsche at his Catholic school and was immediately requested to transfer to another school. Through his nephew Jan van Mierlo, Theo became a courier for the Dutch resistance.

Theo and Jan had long discussions together as they watched the Allied bombers pass overhead on their way to Germany. The boys often met in the dunes at Kraantje Lek. They craved to leave the yoke of the German occupation behind them and seek freedom. Their first attempt to escape did not succeed, the second did, and in 1944 they made their way through southern Holland to the Ardennes. They fought for freedom as maquisards. Jan was eventually arrested and deported to Germany where he died due to extreme maltreatment in a concentration camp. Theo was lucky enough to avoid arrest and went on to fight with the Secret Army after D-Day.

1944 Maquis (3)
Theo lying down, Jan second from right

After a long search I was able to locate him at the end of last year. Theo never forgot Jan, and was extremely glad that I contacted him. I interviewed him about Jan and everything they had experienced together.  He remembered the adventures, the discussions and how they went for long walks together along the river Ourthe when they were not involved in resistance activities. He helped me understand how young they had been and how dangerous their chosen road was.

Our paths crossed just in time. Theo died on the 20th of April 2016, taking all his memories with him. Thank you Theo for all you shared about Jan. Your adventures will live on in the story about Jan van Boeckel.

May you rest in peace.

7 thoughts on “Losing a connection to the past

    1. Yes – I am so happy that I listened to my instincts to follow Jan’s story with all the power that is in me and try to follow any line of inquiry that presents itself. It is a hell of a job, but it has brought me to people and place that I would not have missed for the world. And I am now really able to piece his story together.


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