Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Last Words: Hannie Schaft


“I could shoot better.”

- Hannie Schaft

Jannetje Johanna (Jo) Schaft (1920 –1945) was a Dutch resistance fighter during World War 11. Her secret name in the resistance movement was Hannie and she became known as The Girl with Red Hair.

As a law student she became friends with a number of Jewish students and opposed Nazi persecution. She refused to sign the declaration supporting the Nazi occupation of Holland and instead became a member of the Dutch resistance movement, helping people escape the Nazis. Initially nvolved in the distribution of illegal resistance newsletters and the theft of ID cards, which she'd turn over to her Jewish friends, she later also carried out attacks on Germans, collaborators and traitors.

On 17 April, 1945, seven weeks before the liberation of Holland, she was captured at a military checkpoint in possession of underground pamphlets and a pistol. Realising that they now had in custody the resistance member who had been on their hit list, the Nazis ignored the agreement that had been reached with the Dutch authorities to stop executions. 

Three weeks before the end of the war she was taken to the sand dunes of Bloemendaal by a Dutch driver, three German soldiers and the Dutch detective, Maarten Kuijper. The 24 year old Hannie, Kuijper and German Mattheus Schmitz led their prisoner into the dunes, a man with the shovel bringing up the rear. Schmitz, walking a few paces Hannie, drew his pistol and fired, causing her to cry out in pain from a wound to the head but not fall. She said to the men in front of her “I could shoot better”. Kuijper then levelled a machine gun at her and shot her dead. Kuijper then helped the others bury the body in a shallow grave.

After the war, in these dunes the remains of 422 resistance people were found, 421 men and one woman, Hannie Schaft.

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Hannie Schaft was reburied at the honorary cemetery at the dunes in Overeen in the presence of Princess Juliana and her husband Prince Bernard. Later, as queen, Juliana unveiled a bronze commemorative statue in the Kenau Park in nearby Haarlem, her birthplace. Hannie Schaft also received the 'Wilhelmina resistance cross' and a US decoration.

Because Hannie had been a member of a Communist resistance movement cell, the one she thought was doing the most to oppose the Nazis, she is generally identified as having been a communist. With the increased involvement of the US in Europe post WW2 and the escalating opposition to communism, her popularity decreased for a period to the point that the commemoration at Hannie's grave was forbidden in 1951. Today there are schools and streets named after her and she is remembered each year in November during a national event in Haarlem, Holland, where she was born and raised.


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Kuiper was one of the major betrayers of Jews in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland and arrested Anne Frank and her family.  It is now believed by some authors and historians that Kuiper was both the arresting officer and the betrayer of the Franks, that it was he who made the anonymous phone call in 1944 which led the Gestapo and Dutch security police to the concealed annexe in a canalside house where Anne Frank and her family had hidden for almost two years.  It is believed that Kuiper learned of the Frank family being in hiding from a Dutch Nazi by the name of Ahler, a former business associate of Otto Frank, who was also a paid informant.

Maarten Kuiper was sentenced to death by a Dutch court and executed on 30 August 1948. 




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