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Battling the Germans by bike

As the Dutch resistance veterans prepare to disband, Loek Caspers describes battles old and new.

Loek Caspers joined the Dutch resistance during World War II when she was 18 years old. (Paul Ames/GlobalPost)

THE HAGUE — They defied Hitler, but they can’t defy time.

The association of Dutch World War II resistance veterans has decided to disband next year, on the 65th anniversary of their country’s liberation from the Nazis.

“The people you worked with in the war, they are all gone, so what’s the use in going on?” said Loek Caspers, secretary of the National Federative Council of the Former Dutch Resistance.
“You can better stop now and make your own decision, than wait until there’s nobody left,” Caspers told GlobalPost. “I’m one of the youngest and I’m 84.”

Caspers was just 18 when a friend of the family asked her to escort Jewish children to safe houses around Nazi-occupied Holland.

“Fortunately I was rather dark and I had dark brown eyes, so I could sort of travel with them as if I was their older sister you see,” she recalled.

One particular 3-year-old stands out in her memory. She was taking him from his parents’ attic hiding place to the relative safety of a children’s home.

“We were in the train and he started crying and crying, saying ‘I don’t want to come with you’ and ‘I want my mummy.’”

Things soon got worse.

“There was a Nazi who got on the train, he had a Nazi badge, and I got so terribly scared and put the boy in the corner and he was very, very dark and Jewish-looking and I thought, well if this chap thinks this is a Jewish child we’ve had it.”

The coolheaded teenager quickly invented a story involving a sick mother and an enforced visit to an unpopular grandma and the trip passed off safely. Caspers wrote it up in one the books she has written of wartime reminiscences. Late last year, she received a letter via her publishers from a man in his 60s called Carlo, who turned out to be the young boy she had last seen in 1943. He had been reunited with his parents after the war and lives just a few miles away from Caspers’ home in a leafy suburb of The Hague.

After that close shave, Caspers graduated to transporting arms, passing intelligence reports to British and American agents, sabotage and guiding escaping Allied aircrews out of occupied territory. She worked disguised as a midwife, a job that allowed her to travel during the nighttime curfew and hang on to a vital piece of equipment.