I am researching a World War II Dutch escape line which assisted approximately
150 Dutch Jews to escape from The Netherlands into Belgium. The escape line also
assisted French prisoners of war, Dutch patriots, and Allied airmen who had been
My plan is to write a book about the escape line, known as the Smit-van der
Heijden Line, and its two leaders, Karst Smit, a member of the Dutch Royal Military
Police (Marechaussees) stationed in Baarle-Nassau, and Eugene van der Heijden,
a teacher from Hilvarenbeek. Both have been honored by Yad Vashem. You will
find them on the list of Righteous Among Nations for The Netherlands.
I am trying to learn more about the help that the line gave to the Dutch Jews.
Would it be possible for you to let your members know about my research and that
I would like to correspond with any persons helped by the line or with members of
I can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
or by phone: (530) 273-6442
Many of the people aided by the line came by way of Tilburg. They were then
guided across the Dutch-Belgian border typically by one or the other of three routes:
(1) Hilvarenbeek-Esbeek-Landgoed de Utrecht (a forest estate on the Dutch side of
the border)-Weelde-Turnhout, (2) Goirle-Poppel-Weelde-Turnhout, and (3) Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog-Turnhout.
Anyone who passed through the above towns from about April 1942 until mid-November 1943 might have been helped by the Smit-van der Heijden Line. Typically
the helpers were members of the Marechaussees in Hilvarenbeek, Esbeek, Goirle,
or Baarle-Nassau/Baarle/ Hertog, members of the Van der Heijden family of Hilvarenbeek, and sometimes students hiding in the forest between Esbeek and
the Dutch-Belgian border.
In response to your question, here is a little more about how I became interested
in the subject. My mother and her family were Belgian refugees in WWI, fleeing to England in September 1914. I grew up hearing family stories that greatly interested
me. In about 1975 I visited Belgium for the first time and met my great-uncle, the
only living family member of that generation. He was Dutch and had been living
in Brussels in WWII. During our talk, he showed me a document signed by General Eisenhower thanking him for helping Allied airmen. He was quite elderly then and
died not long afterwards, before I could learn more about what he did.
After I retired at the end of 1998 I decided to investigate further. By the end of 2000
I obtained his dossier as a member of the Resistance from the Belgian Surete' and learned that he hid nine people from the Nazis, including two Jewish families, two members of a Belgian intelligence network, and an American airman. The American airman was the last person to successfully pass through the Dutch escape line that I
The escape line was penetrated by the Germans on November 15, 1943. Eugene
van der Heijden went into hiding and survived the war but two of his brothers and
his father perished. Karst Smit joined another escape line but was betrayed, arrested,
and was sent to Buchenwald, Dora, and Ravensbruck but survived. After the war he was part of the Dutch personnel assigned to the war crimes trials.
Please see below for the names of people helped by the line.
For further information about my research, please see my web site: http://wwii-netherlands-escape-lines.com/.
Any help you can give me on my research would be greatly appreciated.
Tel. (530) 273-6442
Fax: (530) 271-7232
I have the following names of people helped by the line:
a. From a report written by Karst Smit in 1945:
Andries Hoek of Enschede
Family Nijkerk, v. Mierisstraat, 10, Amsterdam
Mme. Krol, Nassaukade 36, Rijswijk (Z.H.)
J. Staal, a dentist, and his wife from Dordrecht
b. From a report sent to me by Yad Vashem:
Renee Carla Nieukerk
Van Emden, Amsterdam
Cohen from Amsterdam
c. From an Article and Letter Written by Eugene van der Heijden:
David de Jong and his wife Ré Koster-De Jong
Menko - a family from Enschede
"Klaus" - a young man from Enschede
De Leeuw family from Deventer
d. From the book Over de Grens by F. Gerritsen and G.A. Gerritsen: