Saturday, January 3, 2009

WW2 | Hans de Beaufort, Resistance Fighter

I have been continuing to research Hilda van Stockum's papers about World War II in the Netherlands, where two HvS books are located (The Winged Watchman and The Borrowed House).

Hans de Beaufort is one of the Boissevain Resistance fighters. He was the son of Teau Boissevain de Beaufort, the youngest child of Charles Boissevain and Emily MacDonnell Boissevain. Teau died of leukemia in 1922 at the young age of 37.

After the war, a motorcycle racing award was named for Hans, to be awarded to a motorcyclist whose character reflects the bravery of Hans. The next section is from the motor cycle magazine.

Hans de Beaufort's Resistance Work (from Motor Cycle Magazine)

One Dutch [Motorcycle] Rider Hans de Beaufort ... was heavily involved in helping Allied Airmen to safety in Switzerland, so absolutely sad & how touching that he was later executed by the Germans on April 9th, 1942... the squandering of human life wars bring about.

Currently, author & historian Jan Melsser is compiling the story of Hans, son of a well-to-do family who became a journalist on the weekly Motor Magazine from Piet Nortier. Not a winner of great competitive prizes, he was, however, a man with a determined sense of justice & was incredibly active in his aims particularly to forge papers & help crashed Allied airmen to return from enemy held areas & was strongly active within the Resistance movement.

In February 1942, when he was 27, he left Holland by train to try to reach UK via Switzerland. He was captured in Besançon, then taken to Dijon prison where he was shot along with two other Dutchmen held there & buried there. In 1956, however, his remains were transferred to the Dutch Military Cemetery at Orry-la-Ville. In 1947 the KNMV Sport commission instituted a Hans de Beaufort Beker (Cup) only to be awarded to motor sportsmen that had not only excelled in competition but also in decency plus perseverance. Since 1947 it was not even awarded on eight  occasions when a suitable rider was not found. Someone such as this can make men humble & incredibly respectful. Thanks to Jan Meissen.

Hans de Beaufort, Letter from Dijon Prison

The following letter from Hans de Beaufort in prison, dated April 9, 1942, was translated from the Dutch by Hilda van Stockum in 1945:
I write this letter to you but it is meant for all those I have known and loved. For I must take leave of you all; yesterday a court martial has condemned us to death because we tried to escape. I need not go into the reasons why I took the decision to leave in February; I only want to explain why I didn't let you know. That was to spare you anxiety and to avoid your being considered accomplices. Now it has all gone so differently from what I had hoped I am very sorry that I did not take leave of you for the last time.

You must not worry, father. Everything is all right, for I had already in prison a presentiment that I would not live long any more. And I have tried from my heart to make peace with God and the world,which I am now going to leave. It has been most difficult to put aside all my unfulfilled plans and ideals and I would so much have liked to write down all my thoughts and experiences so other people could profit. God has given me a fine life. I should also have liked so much to make it up to people I have done wrong to. And I would have liked to have been happily married and have the help of a wife and children to raise for a better world.

But I can accept it all now wholeheartedly. I have learnt ONE important thing lately and that is that the most beautiful and most important part of prayer also the most difficult is: "Thy will be done." I think every day of you and all the others and I pray that it may go well with you. Please don't let a second of life go unused in which you can do something for one another; there is so much suffering in the world.

I only realize now how privileged I was and how many chances I've missed to make the world better for others. I feel now more strongly than ever that this whole war was caused by wrong feelings inside people. When everyone has in his heart a firm will to do right and follow God, WHICH IS POSSIBLE, then no one need ever be afraid. And fear and uncertainty are the greatest tortures a human being knows. I know I probably express myself obscurely but so much still lives in me that tries to come out.

I no longer feel hate or resentment towards anyone. I only hope that all will be forgiven me which I have not been able to make good. On Good Friday I have tried to sing in my cell all I remembered of the Matthew passion and I thought of you and of last year when we all listened to it together. I saw those last days, my whole life pass again before me, and I remembered suddenly things I had long forgotten.

I rode again with my mother in the donkey carriage and played "fireman" again with Nella and Charley. Thousands of those memories I experienced again and it was as though my eyes were opened and I could enjoy them properly for the first time. The months April and March are full of memories: the wedding of Willem and Jacky, Father's birthday, Easter. I have thought of you all and hoped you would not be too anxious.

And in a few weeks the cherry tree at home will be in bloom again and then you stand on the terrace and look out over the woods where the new green begins to glimmer. And later the lilacs bloom and the front of the house is covered with vines and ivy. Yes, life has been very good. All my life I have feared this parting but now it seems that this perhaps is the easiest way. And perhaps much suffering will be avoided when I am no longer there. Do you remember that I once said that I dreaded most to have been of no use in the world? I still mean that and I hope fervently that my life has not been in vain. There is much I would like to have done better if I got a second chance but most I could not have done differently.

I don't know when you'll get this letter and if you'll get an official notice of my death. If I may ask one thing of you: Don't go into mourning for me. (Here follows a list of things he bequeaths to friends.)
Father, I can never be grateful enough to you for all you have done for me. I know I caused you much worry and sorrow and I am very sorry that I didn't show my love for you more. God give that with this, all suffering may cease. Willem and Jack, we have also learnt to appreciate each other lately. I am sorry I so often passed by a chance to be kind.

And to Nella and Carel and their children, if they read this, goes the same. And for Uncle Theo [Hissink] and aunt Nella whom I have hurt so often and whom I always neglected. I am so grateful to aunt Nella that she brought me close to God and taught me how to pray and listen to His voice. Without God's help I could never have come through this time of fear and uncertainty.

Dear people, I must stop. I hope I have not hurt anyone more than was unavoidable. I did what I thought my duty. I did what I could but at a certain moment it is too much and you can't manage any more. From that moment you have to leave it all to God's care. Now I can happily say: "Thy will be done" and give body and soul back to Him from Whom I got them.

I greet you all with deepest love, all without exception just as I take leave of life with gratitude, hope of forgiveness, and trust in God. 
Hans de Beaufort