On Saturday 31 March 2018, the day before Easter, also called Silent Saturday, we took part in a unique tour in the Biesbosch near Dordrecht on the line crossers. The tour was organized by Battlefield Tours. We sailed through the Biesbosch and listened to the story of the guide about the 'crossers' in the Biesbosch. During World War II there were many people in hiding and resistance fighters in this area. The liners crossed in the winter of 1944-1945 crossing De Biesbosch to transport information, medicines and people. While sailing through the creeks we reached the ark where people in hiding kept themselves hidden.
We gathered at the information center De Biesbosch for the start of the tour.

We boarded the boat that would sail us through the Biesbosch.

During the tour we also enjoyed the beautiful nature and the silence in the Biesbosch.

We viewed the information panel 'De Rol' about the crossroads through the Biesbosch.
 
De Biesbosch during the war

The Biesbosch consisted of a maze of creeks, pilot whales, forests and waters. It was a difficult accessible area, where you could easily get lost. We saw that when we sailed through that beautiful nature reserve. As a result, this area was an excellent hiding place for people in hiding in the Second World War during the war. The Germans were afraid to enter the area and the actions they carried out had little effect. When the Biesbosch came to lie between the lines of the Germans and the Allies at the end of the war, many 'crossings' were carried through the area by brave people, where important people and information often reached the Allies. Here the first resistance against the German occupier began. A number of people spread across our country called on the population via chain letters to show symbolic and open resistance against the Germans. These 'Geuzenberichten' stimulated many Dutch people to protest and they refused to comply with all kinds of German measures, especially those relating to the Jews. In the course of the war the resistance grew to an underground army, and many who were threatened and persecuted by the occupying forces were helped, protected and cared for by resistance people, and were able to go into hiding with other people.

Albrecht Group

During the cruise our guide told exciting stories about the events in the Biesbosch. He told about the Albrecht group, among other things. This resistance group gathered information about German troops, airports and weapons depots. The espionage reports were sent to the headquarters in London via a transmitter in the Biesbosch. To get all these reports together, we worked with couriers, who brought the information to the central dispatch point in the Biesbosch by train and bicycle from all over the country. From this point on, the information was distributed further. Because of bombing, train strikes, checks and the decommissioning of ferry services, that courier work became increasingly difficult. This made it almost impossible to reach the sending station in The Biesbosch. In September 1944, the station was moved to Rotterdam from The Biesbosch.

Crossings

In the winter of 1944-1945 the front ran through the south of the Netherlands. The Biesbosch was also on the front line. Brabant, Limburg and Zeeland were liberated. Zeeland only after heavy battle to make the Scheldt navigable for ships with war material that were unloaded in the port of Antwerp. But north of the big rivers our country was still occupied. Due to the failure of operation Market Garden (Battle of Arnhem from 17 to 25 September 1944 the Allied offensive struck and the Netherlands remained occupied for the entire winter of 1944-1945 by the Germans, who practiced a true terror.) It was the winter of war. The German SD fiercely hunted the resistance, but the resistance was also getting tougher, while knokpegs were attacking distribution offices to obtain coupons for people in hiding and families of striking railway workers, since at the beginning of Operation Market Garden, the Dutch government had called for an overall strike by the Dutch Railways, and attacks were also carried out on German soldiers, which led to reprisals by the occupying forces.

 
Back to The Biesbosch. From November 1944 the Netherlands was divided into a liberated and occupied territory. And in between was water and land, the labyrinth of the Biesbosch. Unavailable to anyone who did not know this area, and then, through that maze of channels and creeks, a connection is established. This is the beginning of the crossings.
There were two crossroads (Crossen: crossing, crossing, going through the enemy lines), along which a regular service quickly developed, the Military Courier Road. This crossing work was carried out by 21 people, who together made about 370 crossings. Often they were on board four nights a week with these dangerous journeys, where the chance of discovery by the Germans was great. Not every crossing has succeeded and sometimes people were forced to return.
The crossings took place in moonless nights in rowing boats or rowing boats. Preferably in poor visibility and weather to prevent the chance of discovery.
There were many setbacks and dangers by German machine gun posts along the route, patrol vessels, wind and rain, snow, fog or storm. Yet there had to be dangers. The crossline lasted until the end of the war. The cross-lines were used for military messages, transport of instruments to occupied territory and transport of allied pilots, persons with important government assignments, agents with secret channels and for the transfer of people who were in danger in the occupied territory. The cross-line also provided services for transporting scarce medicines, such as insulin, to occupied territory
 
The 'Crossline monument' in Sliedrecht is a bronze statue of two squatting male figures. The sculpture is placed on a natural stone pedestal, on which a copper memorial plate is attached. The memorial is 2 meters high, 3 meters wide and 1 meter deep. The men depict resistance fighters who lie on the lookout.
 
The cross lines

There were cross routes:

1. Sliedrecht - Nieuwe Merwede - Amer -> Lage Zwaluwe (15 km):
This route started at the port of Sliedrecht through the Hel lock to the Huiswaardsloot,
then the rowing boat was towed over the Overtoom and through de Nieuwe Merwede to the port of Lage Zwaluwe.

2. Werkendam - Biesbosch - Amer -> Drimmelen (13 km):
Over land from Werkendam to Bruine Kil, further on by rowing boat through Bruine Kil over Steurgat, along the polder Pauluszand through Nauw van Paulus, in the direction of  Spijkerboor, over the Amer to the port of van Drimmelen.

 
Piet van den Hoek

We were told about Piet van den Hoek, one of the most important crossers in the last war year in The Biesbosch. In total he made 37 times a connection between occupied and liberated Holland along a route of about 18 kilometers
squeezed past hostile posts and patrolling German schnellboote. We have the book written by him Biesbosch-Crossings 1944-1945.

Cornelis Pieter (Piet) van den Hoek (Leerdam, 7 June 1921 Werkendam, 12 February 2015) was a Dutch resistance fighter. Van den Hoek was one of the few knights of Militaire Willems-Orde.
IIn 1942 he was arrested and taken to a labor camp in Cologne. During his leave in November 1943, he went into hiding. He found shelter on an ark in the Biesbosch, where three others were already in hiding. Proviand they received through the resistance organization Ordedienst (OD). He joined the resistance and joined the 'De Partizanen van de Biesbosch'. He became one of the 21 line-crossers and made 37 crossings, transferring people, messages, goods or medicines.
After he was arrested again, he was sent to the Waterloo labor camp in Amersfoort, where he arrived on foot with 42 other prisoners. He escaped from the camp, walked back to Drimmelen and regrouped as a line cross. In 1993 Piet van den Hoek described the work of the line-makers in 'Biesbosch-Crossings 1944-1945'. On his initiative, a monument in Werkendam came in 1989 to commemorate the crossers and their work. He died at the age of 93 in Werkendam.

 
Arken

Arken were often used in the Biesbosch to house reed and bee cutters. Although of course it was not too spacious to stay, it was still better than the whale chain in which the barges have to stay. In an ark you could burn it relatively warm in the winter, had less trouble with rats and with high water your stay was floating instead of being flooded. In the Second World War the arks were hidden deep in the Biesbosch for the Germans and served as hiding places for resistance fighters and people in hiding.

 

Here we are standing at the remains of the ark of barley worker Pieter de Koning who was a member of resistance group Albrecht, who were found a few years ago. His ark offered shelter to people in hiding during the war.
Here was the toilet in the ark, which the people in hiding used. You can still clearly see the drain pipe.
 
Pieter de Koning

Another resistance hero was Pieter de Koning. He worked at a dredging company in Papendrecht, but in the winter he worked in the pilot whales of the Biesbosch. He traded the wood. He has worked in China to work on the construction of a port in Shanghai. Back in the Netherlands, he married Wilhelina in 1911. It set up a barrage trade and had leased large pilot whales in the Brabant and Dordtse Biesbos and worked with his sons. As a result, they knew this area like no other, which came in handy when it comes to bringing people to safety in the winter1944/45.
The war broke out and soon Pieter de Koning realised though times were ahead. He tried to help where it was possible. He provided hiding addresses for American and English pilots and parachutists, together with members of the Koning family that also provided courier services and
provided food for people. He provided hiding addresses for American and English pilots and parachutists, together with members of the Koning family that also provided courier services and provided food for people.
These dangerous journeys could only be carried out by strong people who were familiar with the pilot whales in the Biesbos, the Merwede and the Nieuwe Merwede because of their work. Who had grown up with it and were used to rowing. Everything depended on the correct use of ebb and flow, in case of a wrong estimate and you could get stuck on the way and there were still the dangerous current at the cribs. The whole family De Koning became involved in the crossings. The eldest son Flip de Koning and his younger brother Cees de Koning, then 17 years old, often led the many dangerous journeys. As if by a miracle they were never caught by the Germans.

Pieter de Koning's fisherman's house is still there.

We saw these newspaper clippings from 1991 about Pieter de Koning.

 
Boat at the Sterlingkeet in the Griend
 
At the beginning of 1944, the brothers Kees and Lambertus van Veen brought a Jewish woman with her baby to the already liberated Brabant, via the Hel lock. It almost went wrong because the baby started to cry in the vicinity of a German guard post. Eventually the group arrived safely, but this was the last time the brothers performed such a nightly trip. After the war the boat was transferred to brother Klaas, the father of Henk Veen, who works at the Biesbosch Center on the "Halve Maen". Henk inherited the oak boat in 1980 and donated it to the 'shack group'.
 
People in hiding
 
 

The Biesbosch was an ideal area for people in hiding because of the tidal water, mud flats, islands with bushes, reed buntings, pilot whales and polders. Those who did not know the area easily got lost and those who knew the way could apparently disappear from the face of the earth. Soon people in hiding came into the area. They were often housed in an ark of the barrow workers. The first Dutch military who refused to surrender as prisoners of war. In 1943 the number of people in hiding increased because many young men refused to work in Germany. Together with a small number of Jews, with people who were wanted for their resistance activities and with shot pilots, they found shelter with farmers or on one of the arks that lay in the area. Farmers were warned about impending raids via the Biesbosch post office on the Kievitswaard. Because of the set up alert service these messages also reached the people in hiding on the barges.

 
Helsluis
 
With our boat we approached the Helsluis. This lock is located on the Dordt side of the Biesbosch. In the night of 9 on 10 May 1944 the underground lures a number of land guards into the Biesbosch. This by spreading false messages. On the Merwede near Sliedrecht the N.S.B.-ers fall into a trap. The resistance people opened fire from the Helsluis. The land guards immediately answer the shot bullets. Resistance man Kristiaan Ketel from Sliedrecht is hit. Two people are killed among the land guards. The Germans take revenge with a raid on May 16, 1944. 900 men are arrested and sent to Camp Amersfoort. Many are home again within a period of six weeks. Some of the men are not released, but sent to 're-education camps' in Germany on the night of 6 to 7 July 1944. A large number of men will never return to Sliedrecht.
 
General Hackett escapes to liberated territory via the Biesbosch

Since 1943 General Hackett had the command of 4th British parachute brigade. During Operation Market Garden he landed with his brigade on the Ginkelse Heide on 18 September 1944. On 24 September 1944, the day before 'Operation Berlin'  was to start, he was seriously wounded in his stomach. He was admitted to the Elisabeths Gasthuis in Arnhem and survived the operation. After ten days he was then kidnapped by resistance man Pieter Kruijff and he went into hiding. He was cared for four months by the De Nooij family in Ede. When he recovered sufficiently, he cycled through the snow to Sliedrecht on 30 January 1945. With a false identity card, he was brought to Holland by line-crossers via the Biesbosch as Mr. van Dalen. He arrived in Lage Zwaluwe on 5 February and returned to his wife two days later.

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