Who are we?

Stichting Urk in Oorlogstijd / Urk in Wartime Foundation
Houtrib 10
8321 SL Urk (Niederlanden)

E-Mail: info@urkinoorlogstijd.nl

Bankdetails:
Account number / IBAN: NL48 RABO 0134 9388 01
BIC: RABONL2U RABONL2U
Bankaccount: Rabobank
At the name of: Stichting Urk in Oorlogstijd te Urk

urkinoorlogstijd_logo

The Urk in Wartime Foundation was established in September 2007 by Pieter Hoekstra, an amateur who has been actively involved in matters regarding the history of (Urk in) World War II for a number of years. He conceived the idea to gather all of the information about Urk during the Second World War that has been accumulated over the past number of years and display in on one site. The Foundation Urk in Wartime completed its first official activity with the launch of the website www.urkinoorlogstijd.nl.

Mission and cultural historic importance

The Urk in Wartime Foundation wants to highlight Urk’s history during World War II to a wide audience in an innovative and attractive way. The foundation wants to awaken recognition and bring readers closer to the ‘big story’ of the Second World War by focusing attention on local history.

One cannot understand the present without knowing the past is a statement that contains a large core of truth. Today’s society is formed by yesterday’s happenings. The Urk in Wartime Foundation hopes to make an important contribution in increasing the historical awareness of the youth of Urk through its activities. The Urk in Wartime Foundation plans to lay a foundation of knowledge about the Second World War and its impact upon Urk by means of this website and other educational projects so that those events will never be forgotten.

Air Warfare

Although there was hardly any air warfare in the First World War, bombing became one of the characteristic features of World War II warfare. At the beginning of the war the Germans held the advantage in the air. However, in the year 1943 this advantage turned, partly due to the intervention of the United States, the tide turned and the Allies got the air advantage. This resulted in massive day and night bombing of German cities.

Urk became one of the landmarks of the air route to Germany, thanks to its location between two dikes. Around the Ijssel lake, the Germans had built a radar network which localized the allied planes in the Ijssel lake region. It was often the German fighters from the Leeuwarden air base who hunted the Allied bombers. During the war, many Allied aircraft crashed near Urk, not only in the Ijssel lake but also in the newly reclaimed Northeast polder. Most of the pilots were arrested by the Germans, but sometimes they managed to escape by hiding in the taller-than-man polder reeds.

Several people in Urk were active as auxiliary pilots. Two men from Urk, Piet Brouwer and Pieter Hakvoort, gave their lives for this aid to allied pilots. They were deported to a concentration camp and did not survive the hardships there. Two streets in the old village of Urk were named after these men (District 5 and District 1).

During the war, about 175 crew members of allied pilots were recovered in Urk. The population of Urk displayed an overwhelming reaction as the first pilot who was washed up in Urk was buried in the churchyard of the Chapel by the Sea. Rev.Van Wieringen led the ceremony which culminated in an overwhelming demonstration of sympathy for the allies. Thereafter the Germans forbid the organization of such elaborate funerals and others stranded appear to have been quietly buried.

Liberation

Urk was liberated on April 17, 1945, more than two weeks before the capitulation of Germany.

Precursors of liberation
On Saturday, April 14, the phone links with the mainland were severed. The Germans who were still present in Urk had started to make preparations to leave. On Sunday, April 15, they sunk two ships in order to block the lock. As they left the Bethel church on that Sunday morning, church-goers saw Germans lugging bedding from the church parsonage. That afternoon these Germans left on two ships, while two other Waffen ships were left behind in the port.

That night explosions were heard as a crane was sunk to block the Urk harbor. The next morning, on April 16, the last Germans left the island via the dike. There was still no road to and from Urk; this was finally made in 1948. On that Monday evening, the last Waffen Ships left the Urk port: Urk was neither occupied nor completely isolated and freed. The lone Urk land guard tried to escape through the dike, but was rebuffed. Collaborator Mayor Landman tried to run away in a punt, but he too was stopped. On the night of April 17/18 the Interior Forces came into action and picked up a few collaborators who had initially been brought into the polder by boat.

On Wednesday April 18, the first flags were displayed on the houses of Urk. People took to the streets and everyone was elated. That afternoon there was a massive participation as the Urk population came together to sing at the port. Liberation Songs, poems already written in September, were sung in full. The first thanksgiving service was held that evening.

The next day, Thursday, April 19, brought a nasty aftertaste into the memories of the citizens of Urk. The girls who had had intercourse with a German during the war were picked up and brought to the town hall. Here they were shaved bald in front of a great crowd of citizens. In the middle of these festivities shots were accidentally fired and two young men lost their lives. As in the rest of the Netherlands, the situation in Urk at the liberation was rather chaotic. Urkers who were merely suspected of being enemy contacts and of reporting to the collaborators were arrested. After Liberation the collaborators , including guards from Urk were interned in a camp near Emmeloord, where they were subjected to a rigorous discipline.

Canadians in Urk!

No liberators or occupiers had been reported in Urk since April 16. Finally, on Friday, April 20, the first Canadians showed up in Urk. They were received with great joy and exuberance. Finally the tales could be told. It turned out that collaborating mayor Landman unknowingly had been sitting on the Liberation proclamations that were supposed to be hung up at the liberation. They had been hidden in the seat of his chair… The names of those who had hidden and had continually helped Allied pilots were revealed. Four men, Jelle Visser, Lub Hoekman, Lub Hakvoort and Joh. Gerssen received a laudable certificate for this.

A two-day long liberation party was zealously celebrated in Urk at the end of June. A procession was organized for the children and it was followed by a children’s party. A procession past the graves of the fallen and a memorial service were held. The landing of the Prince of Orange was simulated and a bonfire was lit. A sailing competition, a football match, fireworks and a film were also not forgotten. Psalm 124 was often sung in the thanksgiving services:

If the LORD had not our right maintained
And if the LORD had not with us remained,
When cruel men against us rose to strive,
We’d surely have been swallowed up alive.

Blest be the LORD who made us not their prey;
As from the fowler’s net a bird may flee,
So from their broken snare did we go free.
Our only help is in God’s holy Name;
He made the earth and all the heavenly frame.

Life after liberation

Netherlands was liberated, but its misery was not yet over , in Urk it was the same. There were still many problems. Many products were rationed for a long time because of scarcity. The fishing boats which had in the course of the war been used by the Germans had to be recovered. Several people from Urk searched within the Netherlands and abroad in order to locate their fishing boats and get them back on track. Most fishing boats were eventually recovered. Deported Urkers gradually returned, but not all of them. Mayor Keijzer returned from captivity on May 14.

The local newspaper had a cheerful announcement to report every week. For example, a strip of the North Sea was again released to fishing, the scarcity of goods decreased, work was resumed on the dikes and the ferry service to Enkhuizen, Kampen and Amsterdam was restored. There was joy whenever a recovered fishing boat entered the harbour. The light from the lighthouse burned once again and the church telephone was once again put into use. The ships in the harbour that had been sunk were lifted up and a ship carrying stolen church bells was brought afloat outside of the harbour.

The good news prevailed in the second half of 1945, but Urk did not come out of the war unscathed. Fallen pilots often washed up onto the shores and were temporarily buried in Urk. There appeared to be fishing boats from Urk that had been lost and not all citizens returned. In Urk the population prevailed, they were aware that other places had been more severely affected, including the Veluwe village Putten and the inundated Walcheren.

Urk had not been faced with the horror of shelling, bombing, shooting and extreme hunger during the war. The number of Urker citizens that did not survive the war was relatively low and the damage was not that bad. Only the large-scale reclamation of Urk fishing boats remained a challenge. Over time, more and more big and small stories about the Second World War in Urk were put into writing so that this significant period of the history of Urk would not be forgotten . Although many Urkers who personally experienced the war are now deceased, their stories live on in the books that have appeared over this period.