Translation by Berto van Veen with the help of his daughter Melinda van Veen MacLean. Klik hier voor de versie in het Nederlands.
From the bicycle path between the farm with house number 9 and Hotel Mijdrecht Marickenland, the white cross (under the weeping birch) is best visible, albeit from a distance. Photo shows the view from the bicycle path (with binoculars). Photo (HB) on the morning of May 5, 2020: 75 years of Freedom. Thanks to the cooperation of the SC Johnson Europe, the view of the cross has become maximum again for the passer-by. All this has been taken into account in the redesign of the garden.
=> Tip: click on any picture to get it enlarged.
The cross is on the spot where Koop Peters was executed by the German occupier on 6 September. The day before September 6, 1944 was Mad Tuesday, Dutch people who co-operated with the occupier and the occupier became quite nervous. In the night of 6 to 7 September, the Resistance had dug a trench across the full width of the road here on the Provincialeweg. When the Germans discovered the obstruction, they forced a dozen people from the neighborhood to close the road again. When the work was nearly finished, they were lined up by the Germans, apparently to shoot them. For an unknown reason it turned out differently. Only Koop Peters was taken out of the lineup and taken and shot in the back while walking. The others had to finish the job.
About Koop Peters
The article below was written by Jan Rouwenhorst (2 May 2021) in response to the placement of the new cross. The pictures with captions is an addition on my part. Henk Butink.
The murder of Koop Peters
In silence, a new cross has been placed in the garden of SC Johnson – along the Provincialeweg N201 – in memory of Koop Peters. The new cross comes from the United States. Like the previous cross, it is a reminder of a war crime that took place in the early morning of Wednesday 6 September 1944, the day after Mad Tuesday. In reprisal against a sabotage action by the local underground, 43-year-old farm worker Koop Peters was then shot dead at nine in the morning. He is the father of five children.
One shoe and a clog
At the time was in the landscaping from SC Johnson’s was ones the home of the Krul family. Griet Krul – later married to Dirk van Veen – she is 24 years old when it happens. The underground had dug a trench across the Provincialeweg – then paved with bricks (cobble stone). Through traffic was impossible. Griet Krul: “The hole must be dug before four o’clock in the morning, because by then a group of German soldiers arrived. They then picked up our neighbor across the street, the farmer Jan Winkel from the farm ‘Vee- en Bouwlust’. A German soldier smashed a window in our house. We were in bed and we were shocked. We had to come immediately in nightwear. My father was wearing one shoe and a clog (wooden shoe), and I was wearing slippers. Together with Jan Winkel, we removed the rails from the road and put them to the side. It was about a quarter past four. Then we could go home again. Farmer Winkel showed that group of Germans the side road.” Via it Waverveense path the Germans could still go towards Uithoorn. “The first group of soldiers at four o’clock were with one car.” Griet Krul does not go to sleep anymore and helps her father with the milking. “I can still see Koop Peters coming. Laughing very loudly.
“Suddenly more German soldiers”
Griet Krul then goes to her fiancé Dirk van Veen, who lives in the Nutslaan in Mijdrecht. He says: “She came to us and was a bit upset. She told what happened and stayed with us for a while. Then I took her home. It was about eight thirty am. When I was talking to her father at the back of the yard, all a sudden German soldiers came running up to us. I got a gun in my neck and a bullet whizzed past me. They ordered that we had to bring shovels to close the hole in the road. The Krul family’s farm has been demolished and the site is still somewhat recognizable due to a slight elevation on the edge of what is now Johnson’s garden.
Koop Peters with daughter Jentje.
On the other side of the Provincialeweg, the military arrested the dairy farmer Jan Winkel as well as the agricultural worker Koop Peters and his 22-year-old daughter Jentje. Dirk van Veen: We had to go to the open trench in the road. Once there, farmer Winkel told the Germans not to carry on like that. He said the hole would for sure be closed again. The soldiers then grabbed him and knocked him to the ground. When we closed the trench in the road, the Germans went back to their car. They had not yet reached the trench in the road or a second group came from the direction of Vinkeveen. Commander of the second truck ordered that all of us – there were ten of us – move to one side of the road. That was at the orchard on the side where Johnson is now. Farmer Jan Winkel (36), Koop Peters (43) and his eldest daughter Jentje (22) also stood in line.
“We heard shots”
Dirk van Veen: “About ten soldiers came to stand across from us. Each with the gun ready to fire. We took turns telling them where we came from. Koop Peters was taken out. We were told: “You can close the hole first and then you can bury your comrade.” Dutch and German were spoken. A little further down the road was a country road. Now there is Johnson’s landscaping. The Germans took Koop Peters down the country road. A moment later we heard that shooting was going on, but we could not see what was happening. After the shooting of Koop Peters, the second truck drove on immediately. We also left.”
“I was terribly afraid”
Mrs.Griet van Veen talks about the execution of Peters. Together with her mother she hides in the garden of their farm ‘Noorderhoeve’. “We saw him – Koop Peters – arrive between four soldiers. They walked into the dead end of the Country Road (Groene weg). Then we heard shooting. Four shots. Probably every German once. I was terribly scared because I thought the Germans would shoot everyone in line. Her husband: “I then went back to the Nutslaan together with my fiancé. On the way there, my fiancé went to Dr. Van den Berg in the Dorpsstraat and told him everything.”
“His whole back was open”
Mrs. De Graaf, born in 1927 as daughter Luchiena from Koop and Jantje Peters: “Together with my sister and a number of other people, he was arrested by German soldiers to repair the road. We lined up along the road. Then my father was picked out of the lineup. He did put his shovel in the ground and walked along, accompanied by four soldiers. He had to walk down a path. There has been some talking, but what will have been said? There was also the gate, on which he often sat to look out over the country site. He was shot from behind. He fell over. His whole back was open.”
Brought home on an ladder.
He got brought home on a ladder. We then gave him a kiss. My sister later told me that when she got in line, she could not think about anything except when the triggers would be pulled. Why didn’t the underground put a note in the mailbox to warn us? Then we would have fled. Why my father? You will not receive an answer to that. He did not ask for it. He thought – like so many – that the war would soon be over. At home we had already elatedly told our parents that we would go out with the English soldiers. Father then said that their brother Harm had to be home first. He had been employed in Germany since June 1943.”
Ms. De Graaf: “My mother kept a piece of father’s last sandwich and his last self-made cigarette for a long time. He grew tobacco and took the leaves to (the local cigar maker) Pieneman, who turned it into a rolling tobacco blend. “
Koop Peters leaves behind a wife and five children. The youngest is then six years old. Harm, the eldest son, was employed in Germany at the time. There he hears of his father’s death. He only returned to Mijdrecht in June 1945. In October 1945, widow Jantje Peters-Sloots moves with her children to Avereest. Mrs. De Graaf, daughter of Koop Peters: “We often came back after the war. We were always warmly welcomed by Griet and Dirk van Veen. I consider Griet a sister. … When Johnson’s factory was being built, we feared the cross would disappear. Fortunately, we were then assured that the cross would remain in memory of what had happened to my father.”
During the commemoration of the dead in 1967, the relatives of Koop Peters are shocked when they see how the grave in the cemetery looks like. His son Harm Peters writes a letter about this to City Hall, and he describes the situation as a “ragged situation”. He blames the Board for failing to fulfill agreements made with his mother and sister. He wants to be informed about the ownership situation and says: “We wanted to renovate the grave ourselves so that the execution site and the grave may be a sign for the younger generation. So that they will not forget the 1940s-’45s either.” The Peters family is fobbed off with a reference to the War Graves Foundation. The municipality regrets that the agreements made for the maintenance of the grave are not properly fulfilled. The family of the war victim has to do with that. The attitude of the municipality annoys Mrs. Griet van Veen immensely. A tombstone was only placed on her initiative in 1970. She receives help from municipal official Joh. Kramer. The tombstone was paid for from corporate donations. “The gravestone was a big surprise, especially for my mother”, says Harm Peters in 1992.
The new cross
Dirk Niklaas van Veen died in 2001, his wife Grietje van Veen-Krul in 2007. She turned 87 years old. Berto – one of Dirk and Griet’s four children – emigrated with his wife Bep to the United States in 1975 and now lives in the state of California. Berto (71) made the new cross there and sent it to the Netherlands. “My brother and sisters helped pay for the shipment. I had hoped to be able to place it myself, but unfortunately it is not possible due to the Corona. At the time before our mother passed, we promised that on May 4th each year at Memorial Day we would put flowers at the place where Koop Peters was murdered. Last year I received a photo from Mr. Adri Lakerveld, manager at SC Johnson. The company had then placed flowers itself. I was shocked when I saw how bad the cross looked.”
“After my brother Flipco contacted SC Johnson, permission was soon given to build a similar cross. I made it out of cedar wood here in California. I worked the sharp corners and engraved the letters with a laser cutter. I made the letters dark green as a reminder of the name of the old farm road that ran past the farm of our grandfather and grandmother Krul. There on the Green Farm Road (Groene weggetje), Koop Peters was shot too dead.”
Remembrance and tribute
“I am pleased that my brother-in-law Giuseppe Antonioli and his friend Kees Lakerveld the cross have assembled and installed. It has a long steel pin, and that is fixed in concrete to prevent wood rot. The cross is a reminder of what was done to the innocent Koop Peters. And it is also a special memory of our parents and especially a tribute to our mother, who was so connected to what happened to Koop Peters and his family. Here in California in 1994, our mother did meet an involved member of the underground who was involved with opening up the road. My mother went also with him to the elementary school and used to be neighbors. At that meeting she was full of emotions and she was incredibly angry with him. Fortunately, things turned out fine and the following year she sent him a beautiful coffee cup in memory of the 50-year liberation. That cup is now in our house.”
Pain and grief
“We, as four children – Joke, Aly, Flipco and I – experienced the pain that our mother had every year in the weeks around May 4. Around that time, she became incredibly sad for quite some time. That was how deep the events were with her. In the past, Koop Peters’ family came to our parents for coffee on 4 May after laying the flowers. All those years after the war, our mother devoted herself to the war memorial, a well-kept grave and the cross. The ‘bad’ thing that happened should not be forgotten. Unfortunately she has never received much recognition for it and I think that is a great shame.”
The first wooden cross on the grave of Koop Peters was made by Jan Veerhuis at the time. The second cross was made by his grandson Jan Veerhuis, together with Chris Woerden. The new cross (2021), as already mentioned, was made by Berto van Veen in the USA.
Other objects that remind us of Koop Peters
In the state archives in Utrecht there is a note in a folder about ‘executed and drill grounds’ with the text ‘ AAN DEN PROVINCIAL WEG NEAR THE TOWN IS A GOOD DUTCHMEN AS REPRESALE MEASURE SHOT DEAD ‘. Mr. Rouwenhorst found the text during his historical quest and proposed this text for the Memorial Tables on the square in front of the Town Hall.