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Major General Syp Van Der Pol

Served in the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces

Date of interview: 25 August, 1989

Place of interview: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Interviewer: Petro Potichnyj

Length of Interview: 34 min.


Syp Van Der Pol was in the group of seven escapees who chose to hide inside the POW camp and wait two whole days until the Germans completed their inspection and left the premises. They hid under the stage of one of the camp buildings, which had been a theatre before WWII. It was now used as a German inspection point for the processing of Dutch officers before their transport out.

We make that escape by making a place under the theatre, by making false wall. There was space for not more than seven people. The false wall was made by blackout paper. And it was camouflaged by dust thrown against it. It looked rather real. Now, in the morning we moved the checkout of all the people was planned in the yard of the camp. So we said goodbye to the people from our room and we went quietly down. And we tried to settle under the theatre, under the stage. Then one of our helpers called out that the Germans were coming. And we had to move fast. There were only few minutes we had. So we dived under the theatre...and luggage as well. And we laid down around the opening...And afterwards our companions came in and they had the checkout just above us and making lot of noise. And that gave us time to crawl behind the wall. And that took a lot of time, I think two or three hours to go there and not making too much noise...  

We stayed behind that wall till the end of the checkout. And in the evening they had found out that seven officers were missing. So the first thing what happened was that the German feldwebel and captain ca me to check out. And that feldwebel was famous. He could find out every escapee. He was very famous for that. And that captain said that it was not possible for seven officers to escape in this camp. But the feldwebel said that these cadets were under the stage. He was sure. So they first tried to look under the stage, but they didn’t see anything. Then the feldwebel went under the stage but he was a rather fat man and he could not go very far. And later on they came with a dog and they put a dog under the stage, but as the stage was about sixty or seventy centimeters the dog could not move under the stage. But the same evening about three or four times that feldwebel came back and tried measuring the distance and tried to put his bayonet down, so we had to move...So we wait another day  and we had another checkout of officers above us from the main camp. And that night we tried to get out...

Then we went to the far end of the camp where the main building was and the  guards were away because they were in our building...The barbed wire fence was about three meters and behind it was a very high wall with barbed wire and glass on top. So we threw blankets over it and I went out first.


They were all killed. Three were taken by the Germans and killed in the camps, and two were with the Russians, who brought them to prisoner camps in Russia. They died there.


We went to the wood. The idea was to go to the castle. There were people who were against the Germans. And we saw a castle in some distance. I remember we crossed the river on a very long bridge, small long bridge. And we came to the castle, but it was empty church. So we went on again.

Two times we met people. The first time when we were in the straw stack and we saw a girl coming out and Joop Singor open straw and put his head out and called that girl [speaking in Dutch]. The girl dropped her baggage and went away. We had never seen her again. The second time we met a family in a little village. And there we got milk and everything.


We went further and further into the wood. And Joop said to me: “I see people”. I said: “Fata morgana. No people. Not possible”. And we were so tired that we walked hundred yards, then rested, then walked hundred yards...But he said that it was true. There, indeed, were people and he started to shout. He asked them to come out. They came out and they were suddenly  in front or us and we had to lay down the snow. Later they said that they thought that we were Germans or Russians.


They brought us to their main camp in the wood. And there their commander came in. He was huge fellow with all sorts of armament. He was heavily armed.

We met there as well, a doctor, female doctor. She came out of Italy. I think, she was Jewish. She had lost her parents in Italy and came to the free country there in the woods. She helped partisans with doctorship.


We were brought from farm to farm. By walking or by sleds. Then after some travels we met other Dutch officers in a farm house. From there we were taken to the Hungarian border.

As a matter of fact, the partisans in the wood asked us first: “Will you stay with us?” I said: “We are pilots”, and he said: “Yes, you can fly the Fieseler Storch.” But we liked more to go to our troops. It was our duty that when you were in the prisoners camp and you escaped you must go to your own troops.  So they said: “Now, we bring you to Hungary.”   


The first impression was that we were very lucky, of course. And the second impression was if we had not met partisans it would have been very difficult to find our way in the winter to Hungary. I think that rescue of our life and the success of our escape was done by your [Ukrainian] people.

It was exciting experience and the people were kind. Exciting experience.

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excerpt from the Interview with Major General Syp Van Der Pol
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