Op 25 april 1944 werden in Bedum honderden jonge mannen opgepakt
en door de bezetter weggevoerd. Velen van hen keerden nooit terug.

Vorige persoon (A. Kamstra) | Terug naar de lijst | Volgende persoon (J. Kerkhof)

Naam: Mattheus Kamstra
Geboren:Zondag 6 Maart 1921 te 't Zandt
Adres: 59
Woonplaats:Middelstum
 
Anmeldung Lippendorf 37 Grafmonument Mattheus Kamstra Mattheus met zijn vrouw Renziena de Jonge 1950 Black tin bowl gebruikt op de Kippe
 
Opgepakt bij de Razzia in Winsum, Bedum, Middelstum, Zuidwolde en omstreken van 25 april 1944 in de 59, Middelstum.
 
Op dinsdag 26 april 1944 per trein afgevoerd naar het PDA in Amersfoort
 
In het PDA werden alle persoonsgegevens genoteerd waaronder het beroep van de gevangene.
Beroep:Landarbeiter
Gevangenenr:937
 
Tussen 25 april 1944 en 7 juli 1944 werden een aantal gegijzelden vrijgelaten
Mattheus Kamstra is NIET vrijgelaten
 
Op 7 juli 1944 's-morgens om 02:30 uur werden de gevangenen afgemarcheerd naar het station in Amersfoort om per trein naar Duitsland vervoerd te worden.
 
Kampen in duitsland:
Plaats, kamp: Schkopau, Schkopau
Plaats, kamp: Lippendorf, De Kippe
Plaats, kamp: Peres, Alpenrose
 
Werkplekken in duitsland:
Plaats, plek: Böhlen / Lippendorf, BRABAG en de A.S.W.
 
Overleden: Zaterdag 30 September 2000
Begraven: te Burlington
 
Persoonlijk verhaal:
 

Gegevens uit "Aanslag en Represaille" blz 44 en 45: Mattheus was: "Landarbeider". "Ausweis L.no.004772." Daarna geschreven "Vader ziek". In 1952 emigreerde Mattheus met zijn vrouw Renziena en hun dochter naar Ontario/Canada.

 

Zijn persoonlijk verhaal is geschreven door zijn kleindochter Karen

 

The black tin bowl has a story to tell…..

This is the story of Mattheus Kamstra,   

He was born on March 6, 1921 in a little town called  ‘t Zandt in Groningen.  He grew up on a dairy farm and lived his life in Toornwerd. Mattheus was the eldest child of Pieter and Jantje Kamstra. He had four siblings, Annie, Harm-Jan, Duurt, and Tetje.

In 1939 WW2 started under the Nazi regime in Germany.  The story starts in the Spring of 1944.  Holland was under Nazi control and under Hitler’s regime.

 

In April of 1944, in Groningen, the city close to the town where Mattheus lived, a high ranking German SS officer was shot and killed.   The Nazi’s said it was a young Dutch man that did this,  3 days later, in retaliation, young men between the ages of 17-26 were being picked up by the Gestapo to be sent to a concentration camp.  

All of Groningen was alerted of this razzia (hostile round-up), so when the ladies in the house called out that the Gestapo were coming up the laneway, Jantje and Pieter the parents of Mattheus urged their sons Mattheus and Herman to “go underground” and hide in the hiding spot, a 2 feet deep hole under the floorboards of the walk in closet in the house.  Herman quickly got into the hiding place, but 23 year old Mattheus went into the barn to keep busy among the cows to avoid being noticed, convinced his agricultural worker card would exempt him from being picked up. When his father Pieter met the Gestapo, they were livid since they had not found any young men from the last 3-4 farms they went.  They went right into the barn, saw Mattheus and took him away.  They didn’t care that he had a card to exempt him from becoming a prisoner of war.

On that day the Gestapo, the police for the Nazi’s, rounded up and took away more than 650 young men from all of Groningen and of those 150 men came from four small towns where Mattheus lived.  They were all detained at a Gestapo Office and on April 26 all 650 young men were transported by train to the Amersfoort prisoner camp.  Mattheus’ journey through the concentration camps had begun.  

 

AMERSFOORT

Once he arrived at Amersfoort, whatever personal belongings he had were taken away.  All the prisoners went through a system of first emptying their pockets, taking their shoes off etc.  Than they would go to the next room, completely undress, and weren’t allowed leaving anything on.  From there they went, naked, into the next room and had their heads shaved, completely bald. 

Mattheus was given prison clothes and shoes made out of cardboard.  All of his belongings were now owned by the Nazi’s.  He was no longer Mattheus Kamstra but was to be known in Amersfoort Prison Camp as Prisoner No. 937.

He, along with the other men were given work braiding and weaving rushes or cane, to make wicker furniture.  They were given this work while they awaited their trials.  Camp Amersfoort was a prison camp, a tool of the Nazi’s where more than 35,000 prisoners were officially registered.  Many death sentences were carried out at Camp Amersfoort.  Conditions were poor.  He (along with everyone else) was offered one cup of a water a day and one sandwich.  He was given this at roll call, every morning.  He was woken up at 4 am and roll call was at 5 am. Roll call is when everyone would gather together in line formation in the centre of the camp and the officers would make sure you were present and then go off to work from 6 a.m., to 6 p.m., 12 hours!

 

On May 22, 1944, about a month after being in Camp Amersfoort, Mattheus could appeal his imprisonment.  It was normal that you never got a fair trial, or not a trial at all.  He was asked one question.   Why should we let you go home?  He responded “My father is sick and there is no one on the farm to help him.”    He was denied.  He would continue to work as a prisoner, in Camp Amersfoort.

Between April and July, a few men from that round-up in Groningen were released from Camp Amersfoort and could go back home.   

The end of June Mattheus, with the remaining prisoners from that round up, 650 in total were selected for transport to Germany to various concentration camps.  

About a week went by, it was July 7 1944, it was night and everyone was sleeping when at 2:30 a.m. they were woken up suddenly and they had roll call.  The prisoners were to parade/march in the court.  Well, they figured out soon enough that they were being transported by train.  They were soon all lined up in rows of 4, all 650 of them and they boarded the cattle cars at 4:30 a.m. 

The train travelled through Germany and made stops at Bentheim, Braunschweig, Halle, and finally Leipzig dropping off prisoners at each location.  Along the way, 150 out of the 650 prisoners died due to disease, malnutrition, lack of food, mistreatment and suffocation of being crammed in the cattle cars.

There were three different work camps that Mattheus was brought to. They were Schkopau Shkopau, Dekippe Lippendorf and Peres Alpenrose.

 

SCHKOPAU

Mattheus, with the remaining prisoners on the train (roughly 200 men) ended up in Schkopau, Leipzig in a concentration camp there.  The head camp was Buchenwald and Leipzig was a sub camp of this camp. (a smaller camp meant for forced labour) He, along with about 200 others didn’t stay there long.  After about 10 days they were told to march south.  They walked 22 kilometers to a Work Camp known as DeKippe, in Lippendorf.  He also worked out of the camp called Peres Alpenrose. You can imagine how difficult that was for them as every day they were losing weight as they were so malnourished.

 

DEKIPPE, LIPPENDORF

Hitler and his men had Camp DeKippe built for the roughly 200 prisoners that came all the way from Groningen.  DeKippe was a sub camp which were in general more severe than the concentration camps.  They were set up this way intentionally.  These camps were made for prisoners and the idea of these camps was to work the people to death.  These camps were sold to the German public as a place lazy workers would learn how to work better.   To better the prisoners in there so that in turn they would become better contributing members of the country.  The concentration work camps, were beyond what we can really understand.  To give you a bit of an understanding here a few things about daily life in the Camp DeKippe.

  •  It took no more than 2 months to reduce a man to skin over bones.  It was quite common for a prisoner to lose 20 kg (44lbs)
  •  They got barely any food and if the soldiers were feeling nice that day, a cup of coffee
  •  There was no medical-help or care
  •  No toilet or shower
  •  Crowded living quarters
  •  Severe beatings with shovels, the butt end of the gun, or kicked by the German prison guards.
  •  Forced to watch people being killed – either shot or hanged.

 

When Mattheus arrived at Camp DeKippe he was given, like all prisoners, slacks, a gray jacket, 1 pair of foot patches (like a square sole about 40cm x 40cm strapped onto your feet, kind of like sandals), one cup, one spoon, and one dish, the black tin bowl (he kept the dish and brought it to Canada, his daughter has it now and will pass it on to the next generation for a reminder of what happened in the concentration camps in Germany).

They were told to search for a cabin as it was dark and so Mattheus and a friend he made and met in Amersfoort, tried to stick together.  They ended up in the same cabins.  Now, we call them cabins instead of barracks since they were round, not long and rectangular like a barrack.  These cabins were about 16 feet in diameter and were about 200 square feet.  They had to house 30 men.  In these cabins, there were bunks. A recorded witness account said that he and all the other prisoners were given a handful of straw for bedding.  Can you imagine, that’s all you have to sleep on or to keep you warm?  There was also no toilet and they had to dig a hole in the ground inside the cabin for these men to use as a toilet.  Can you imagine the smell in those cabins in such a tight living area and having your body waste only in a hole in a ground where you sleep? 

They were put to work within a week of arriving at DeKippe on the coal train.  There was a business (Bohlen) about 7 km away that used the workers from Camp DeKippe to shovel coal into trains.  This coal was being converted to a synthetic gasoline that was used for the German equipment - cars, tanks, airplanes, etc.….  It was very hard physical work as this was not lumps of coal but powdery creating a dust cloud while shoveling, filling the lungs and nostrils with coal dust.  If there was a wind the dust would blow off the shovel making it difficult to fill the required amount on to the train car.   

A normal day for them was up at 4:30 am.  roll call then off to work.  No breakfast or anything to drink.  No washing up, no changing of your clothes.  They walked those 7km every day to and from work.  (it was about a 1 hour walk when you are healthy, think dead tired) Every day you worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. then walked back home.  No weekends off, not even Sundays.  Mattheus couldn’t worship God on Sunday, he had to work, but he prayed as he worked.

Once they arrived back at camp they were given 1 cup of water and 1 potato that was not cooked or peeled or cleaned, to share with 10 other men.  They would occasionally get the brown fluid that they pressed out of the used coffee grinds and have coffee.  And occasionally they would get grains to eat with water, mainly cow feed.  They could mash this grain up with water in their pans.  

Mattheus’s weight went down to 70 lbs.  He knew he had to get more food or he would die.  The concentration camp he was in had a potatoe mound close by and that’s where they got the food for the prisoners   He knew where the potatoe mound was so he and his friend decided they would try to sneak out of the camp borders and get more potatoes out of the potatoe mound.  You see, the soldiers would, on some nights, party it up, drink too much alcohol and not pay attention as well. But you should also remember that it is all still quite well guarded.  There would be soldiers and their dogs walking around the outside of the camp, there are tall towers with soldiers in them that have machine guns, there are flood lights that spin and there is a barbed wire wall around the camp.  It seems that getting more potatoes was impossible. Mattheus and his friend figured they would try it on a night there was partying going on.  They were daring enough to sneak out, if you were caught out of your cabin at night you were shot at on the spot.  But since the soldiers were partying they didn’t get seen. Mattheus and his friend would slowly creep and army crawl forward.  They would only move when the light was not shining on them and only be able to move a couple of inches at a time. He said it took a really long time to get to the potatoe mound since they had to get through the barbed wire as well. When they got there they would dig up a few potatoes and take back each 2-4 potatoes.  When they got back inside the camp,  Mattheus and his friend buried the potatoes close to the edge of camp so they didn’t have as far to go to get them. They weren’t going to bring them into the barracks for fear someone might tell or it would most likely start a fight among each other.  The next time Mattheus decided to go out his friend didn’t want to go, so he went on his own.  Creeping slowly forward and making it to the potatoe mound he started digging up more potatoes.  Woof woof, a German Shepherd dog came running towards him.  Mattheus crouched down behind the potatoe mound, put out his hand, and said ‘nice doggie, nice doggie’ in Dutch of course.  He knew German Shepherd dogs since he grew up with them back home on the farm.  He had to keep the dog calm and get the dog to stop barking.  Mattheus told us that he thought he would be killed right then and there since it was common practice that when the dog barked and there was movement the soldiers would just shoot.  Mattheus said ‘God was gracious to him that night.  From that night on he was able to sneak out and get himself more potatoes since he had gained the dogs trust.  Mattheus did this a few times, as long as he physically could.

Mattheus said the hardest thing he had to endure was the nights the soldiers would party and think it would be fun to just randomly shoot at the prisoner barracks while they slept.  Mattheus recalled that this happened more often than not.  There were times when his barrack wasn’t shot at but the ones around him were.  He said that when you woke up from gun shots you knew you had to get close to the ground in your own barrack so that you wouldn’t get hit by a random bullet from another barrack or from the shots being fired at your barrack.  There were deaths as a result every time of course.  Even if you had a gunshot to the arm or leg it would be left untreated and you couldn’t work.  You knew that even if you got injured on those ridiculous nights you wouldn’t survive. You would be killed the next morning since you weren’t able to work.  

 

After about 8 weeks of being there Mattheus got dysentery.  That is a sickness that is in your intestines.  It is very painful and you can’t keep anything in your body.  Your intestines in a way, bleed.  He still got up every day and went to work.  After a couple of days of dysentery it got really bad and he wasn’t able to work hard enough for the Nazi’s.  He was kicked, got hit with a shovel, and got hit with the butt end of the gun in his ribs.  All prisoners were treated this way when they didn’t work hard enough.  A lot of times these men couldn’t get back up after receiving the beating since they were so sick from lack of food and their living conditions.  They would die as a result of the beating right on the coal line.  Sometimes they were even just killed by a gunshot if they didn’t work hard enough.  God gave Mattheus the strength needed to walk home that day from his forced labour.  He went to bed that night knowing it was his last night.  Mattheus knew he wouldn’t live to see the next night.  He knew that he was too weak to go back to work on the coal trains.  He was convinced he would either collapse on the walk, get shot at or beaten and left to die.  He prayed and prayed asking God for a way out to somehow make it possible that he didn’t have to go back to the coal trains.  

That night was another night of partying for the soldiers.  And once again, they were shooting at prisoner barracks.  It wasn’t near Mattheus’ barracks but they all hit the floor to take cover.  No one was injured in his barrack but they all thought they were going to die since soldiers came in yelling at them later in the night.   All of a sudden the head cook opened the door to the barrack and pointed at Mattheus calling out “you, come with me”. He was taken to the kitchen and showed where he was to be in a couple of hours to make breakfast.  He was sent back to the barrack where he slept, but before he went to bed he knelt with tears pouring down his face he prayed and thanked God.  He said that Psalm 116 came to his mind, how God had heard him and his plea for life and that God was gracious and delivered him from death. Mattheus wasn’t going to die on the coal trains.   

The next morning he grabbed his dish (the black tin bowl) as he had to use that for cooking and off to the kitchen he went.  He wasn’t sure what to do but he watched the other cooks in there and copied them.  He said that God just gave me the knowledge to know what to do with the food.  He later found out that the cook he replaced was shot and killed in the barrack shootings the night before.  It was hard for him knowing someone else died so that he could get out of shovelling coal on to the trains.  But he also knew that this was God’s plan for him.

Since Mattheus was in the kitchen he had easy access to food and no longer snuck out at night to the potatoe mound.  He would collect the potatoe peels from the potatoes they cooked for the soldiers and save and bury them for him and his friend.  He would add extra food for the soldiers, take out what was extra and eat it while they cooked.  Keep in mind it wasn’t like he was eating a lot.  Basically scraps here and there.  He said all you heard around you was people’s stomachs making noises because of the hunger and then you all got to a point that you were so hungry you forgot how hungry you were.    

He said so many people died there from starvation.  You would just continue to lose weight.  It’s so hard to explain.  He remembered mounds of people that had died at Camp DeKippe and how they were bulldozed over and pushed into big pits.  

 

 

 

THE ESCAPE

April 1945

Buchenwald, the head camp and the sub camps, like the one Mattheus was in, got notice that the Allies (Canada and USA soldiers) were coming to help Holland and that the Allies were getting the Germans out of Holland.  The Nazi’s were starting to be defeated in Holland.  The Allies came north through Groningen and through to Germany to get the prisoners free.  

It was decided to move the prisoners of Camp DeKippe further into German occupation, into Poland.  The Nazi’s wanted to keep their workers and still help the war on Hitler’s side.

 

 One afternoon they were told they would be leaving that evening to move to another concentration camp.  They weren’t told why of course.  That evening they were lined up in 2 rows with nothing in their possession.  All the soldiers surrounded the prisoners guarding them with guns.  The soldiers told them that if they tried anything they would be shot.  At 11p.m. they started marching.  As they marched, prisoners would collapse since they couldn’t keep going.  If they fell on the road the soldiers would shoot them and kick them into the ditch.  After seeing this Mattheus said to his friend, who was placed behind him ‘if we don’t escape tonight we will be dead, just follow what I do”.  After about an hour of walking Mattheus pretended to drop down dead, but he made sure he fell into the ditch in the tall grass to avoid being shot at instead of falling on the road or too close to the roadside. His friend copied him.  They laid there as quiet as can be.  After about 1-2 hours they got up and walked back to the concentration camp DeKippe. They knew it was deserted so food and supplies would be available.  They walked the 1 hour back, ate some food and grabbed a pillowcase from the German soldier’s barracks filling it with whatever food was left.  Mattheus was also sure to get his dish, the black tin bowl to take with him as a reminder that it was used to cook in for the soldiers who treated the prisoners brutally as well as his way out of the coal trains. 

 

Mattheus and his friend knew they had to head north.  Before they left on their journey home they decided to stay in camp DeKippe that day to regain some strength. That night they left on foot to start the long journey home. They walked during the night and slept during the day for most of their journey.  During the day they would hide and take cover in hay mounds and pray that the farmer wasn’t collecting hay from the mounds they were sleeping in.  They made sure to stay away from civilization and sometimes even hiding in out buildings or barns.  When they ran out of food they would keep an eye on the farm they were close to and once the farmhands were gone they would sneak into the barn and steal grain to eat and even milk the cows to get something to drink.  

Since they figured they were getting closer to Holland they got a bit risky and started walking when the sun would start to set, so there was still daylight.  The first person he saw since leaving the concentration camp was a big black American soldier driving a jeep, smoking a cigar. As they were walking through a farmer’s field, in the middle of nowhere close to a laneway the American soldier saw them and called them over.  Mattheus and his friend were half his size, never saw a black person before and they both thought, this is it.  We came this far and now we are dead.  Even though they couldn’t understand each other well they soon figured out that this soldier wanted to help them.  They realized they were close to the front lines and that the Allies were battling the Germans not far from there.  Mattheus and his friend were walking right into the area occupied by German soldiers.  You see here too how God used the Amercian soldier to guide Mattheus and his friend away from danger and continue on their path home.  The American gave Mattheus and his friend, some cigarettes, invited them to ride in his jeep, got them out of imminent danger and told them about a friendly German farmer who would take them in and feed and clothe them.  

Mattheus didn’t give much detail about his friend but we know that he never made it with him to the friendly German farmer (his friend was shot by a German soldier?) We don’t know if they split up or were together when this happened.  

Mattheus continued travelling by night and slept during the day.  After 4 days he got to the friendly German farmer who let him sleep in his barn, gave him food and milk. The next morning he gave Mattheus directions for his journey back to Holland.

He walked for about 5 weeks straight.  Once he got to the Dutch border he didn’t know that Holland was declared free on May 5th, 1945 and so he still travelled by night and slept during the day once inside Holland.  It took him another 4 days of walking before he arrived home.  He walked roughly 800 km to get home from the concentration camp that he was at in Germany.

 

 On the day he arrived home his mother Jantje was working in the kitchen with his sister Teddy.  His father Pieter and his brothers Duurt and Herman were in the barn while his sister Annie happened to be standing by the front door.  She saw someone coming down the lane way close to the sloped bridge andwasn’t sure who was coming to see them.  She yelled out in Dutch, ‘who is this, who is this’?  She didn’t recognize her brother until he was closer to home.  She recognized Mattheus’s jet black hair and shouted through the house, “Mattheus is home, Mattheus is home”.  She ran to the barn and shouted it there too.  The rest of the family said, ‘no, you are being delusional, that’s impossible. They all raced through the front door and ran down the laneway and hugged him and greeted him and they said yes, this is Mattheus, this is his jet black hair!  In the laneway, close to the house, the family stopped, Mattheus wanted to just stop and sit in the middle of the laneway. Once inside they were inside the home they prayed and thanked the Lord for sparing him and bringing him back home.  He had a long road to recovery but was never able to really put a lot of weight back on.  

Mattheus  married  Renzina de Jonge after the war, they were engaged before he was taken to the concentration camp and Renzina said she always believed he was coming back!  He’s a fighter!  They were blessed with one daughter in Holland and they then made the move and immigrated to Canada in 1952.  He became a carpenter and a brick layer eventually here with his brother, Herman.  They also  built country homes for their families after establishing jobs in Canada.  

Mattheus said that Psalm 116 is what he kept singing and saying in his head over and over again during his time in the concentration camp.  He had no Bible and this Psalm brought him a lot of comfort.  

The family home on Headon Road filled up with 9 children who grew up, married and moved out. In 1998 the property and house were sold and the purging to downsize began. On a warm September day in 1999 Anita his daughter offered to help them pack up and get rid of stuff not needed, helping dad ((Mattheus) go through boxes in the basement.  Mattheus picked up a black tin bowl and set it aside to dispose of, Anita picked it up it and asked, “What is this? Why have it in a box in the basement?” He was reluctant to give a reason but his demeanor indicated the black tin bowl was the link to to a significant event, a story that needed to be told. He tried to dismiss the questions but that only spurred on more interest as to why keep it so long? Then Mattheus started to really open up for the first time in over 50 years and relay the story of the black tin bowl.  Mattheus relayed, that dish, the black tin bowl is why I’m here and my family is here. It is a piece of my life that reminds me how good God is.  God gave me that dish to use as a cook.   It brings me back to a time and place that reminds me what shaped me as a Christian and that I am a child of God.  It helped me deal with the awful memories I have.  It reminded me that God was near in such a dark and evil place and never let go of me.

Compiled by Karen VanderHoeven nee Poort, daughter of Anita R Poort nee Kamstra and granddaughter of Mattheus Kamstra

 

Psalm 116:1,4

I love the LORD; his faithfulness I praise

He heard my cries for he is always near me

In tender mercy he bent down to hear me

I call on him in worship all my days

 

 

 

 

 

To helpless ones the LORD a shield will be

He rescued me from peril and affliction

Come O my soul find rest in his protection

God in His mercy has been good to me

 

 

 

 

 

 


Vorige persoon (A. Kamstra) | Terug naar de lijst | Volgende persoon (J. Kerkhof)