Photo contributed by A.M. "Toon" Blokand.

Bio: Klaas Siersema

I recently got a message from my uncle asking what I might know about Klaas Siersema, my great-grandfather. Well, the truth is I know a lot, I’ve been remiss in writing down all in one place, and I would love to know more. So, here goes. If anyone has additional information about Klaas Siersema, please let me know in the comments!

Thanks for the kick in the pants, Uncle Mike!

Klaas Siersema.

Klaas Siersema.

Klaas Nicholas Siersema was born on September 15, 1895, in Groningen, Netherlands, to Arentje Vermaas and Gerrit Siersema.

Klaas was the youngest of three siblings. He had two older sisters, Helena Elisabeth “Leentje” Siersema and Elisabeth Helena “Bets” Siersema. Leentje eventually died of starvation during World War II and Bets was rumored to be a medium who could speak to the dead much like her grandfather.

Arentje left Gerrit, who was supposed to be a terrible drunk, taking their children with her when they were still young. She later worked in a shop, but it was likely she went to stay with relatives and did not wholly support herself and her children. It’s possible she stayed with Jacoba Antoinetta van Eijsden in Brielle (I like this theory because in 1909 when Jacoba died, she left half her house and courtyard to Arentje). Jacoba also left Klaas 50 gilders, according to the record Cousin Anje found online.

Mystery Photo No. 3. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Family Photo. (Courtesy Philip Siersema)

Klaas would go on to become a career military man. He had joined the Royal Netherlands military by the age of 20, and I believe he was a Vaandrig (officer cadet) when photographed with fellow soldiers in Kampen in 1915.

He was promoted to Tweede-Luitenant (second lieutenant) on September 25, 1917, by the Ministry of War–although this was during WWI, the Netherlands was neutral in the war.

After what was in part a long-distance courtship, Klaas married Helena Frederika de Wit at the Netherlands Reformed Church in Hertogenbosch, where her father was a highly respected member of the congregation. According to their calling cards, Klaas and Helena both lived in Hertogenbosch prior to their nuptials. At 27 years old, Klaas was listed on their wedding certificate as a First Lieutenant of the Infantry. They wed on August 28th, 1923, and he was eight years her senior.

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena "Lenie" Frederika de Wit.

Wedding portrait of Klaas Siersema and Helena “Lenie” Frederika de Wit.

Their first son, Johan Nico “Hans” Siersema, was born in Venlo a little more than a year later on October 9, 1924.

Antony Dirk “Tonny” Siersema, their second son, was born on November 15, 1927.

The death of Tonny on August 1, 1929 precipitated Klaas and Helena’s eventual divorce in that it brought the family doctor deeper into their lives. Helena would go on to have a committed relationship with the doctor for about 50 years.

Klaas remarried to Maria Wilhelmina van Erp, whom he remained married to until his death.

Klaas and Wilhelmina van Erp's wedding portrait.

Klaas and Wilhelmina van Erp’s wedding portrait.

Together, they supported Je Maintiendrai, one of the most prominent underground newspapers in the Netherlands during WWII.

By March, 1938, Klaas had achieved the rank of Kapitein (captain) of 2e Compagnie II Bataljon in the 6e Regiment Infanterie, according to a newspaper clipping. He was photographed with fellow military personnel on July 15 with three stars pinned on either side of his collar.

In 1942, Klaas was captured by the Nazis as a prisoner of war. He was held at Oflag XIII-B, a prisoner of war camp for officers that was at the time in Hammelburg, Germany. There or sometime after, I believe he drew this sketch. He also wrote letters to his wife.

Following his release, his son Hans also escaped from a POW camp. According to one family story, when Hans returned home, Klaas saw the car pull up outside and immediately went into his backyard to hide in the bushes. He thought the Nazis had returned for him, but it was only his son returning home.

Klaas is said to have done important work at the Militair Revalidatie Centrum Aardenburg, where as Director of the institute he helped pioneer new methods of treatment for shell-shock soldiers. According to my step-grandmother, those suffering from what we now call PTSD could live on the grounds with their families, which was unheard of at the time. The hospital does cutting edge medical work to this day. Klaas was succeeded in his position at the MRC by Lcol. Th.A.J. van Erp, according to A.M. “Toon” Blokand.

In 1952, Klaas was named an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau, which honors selective individuals for their contributions to society through either civilian or military efforts.

KlaasMilDoc-A

Klaas died of a heart attack while reading “Mein Kampf” at the age of 60 in Doorn on October 14, 1955. I’m not sure if that phrase means he was literally reading it, but that’s how I’ve heard it referenced. My mom still has the book with  his bookmark in it.

Click on the photos below to enlarge them.

Click here to see the images Klaas kept in his pocket photo book.

Johan “Hans” Siersema in G.H.B.S. photo

Johan "Hans" Siersema and friends.

Johan “Hans” Siersema and friends.

UPDATE: Cousin Anje was able to track down a Ducth newspaper clip that said Johan graduated from Gooisch Higher Citzens School in  Bussum in 1943, indicating that this is a school photo. She posted more details in the comments.

ORIGINAL POST: This photo almost could be filed under Mystery Photo Series on this blog. It includes my grandfather Johan “Hans” Siersema (fourth in from the right), but I have no idea who the other people in the photo are. The writing on the back says only G.H.B.S. Google searches brought up a hockey club called Gemeentelijke Hogere Burger School for those initials, and hockey is fairly important in my family. My opa played in an adult league after immigrating to Canada and my uncle said he thought my opa broke a couple ribs playing. However, this club is in Groningen and to my knowledge, Hans didn’t spend any time there. If anyone else has ideas, I’d love to hear them.

WWII: Wartime letter from Halbo Kool, Christina Kolle in Haren, Netherlands

Wartime letter from Halbo C. Kool, Christina Kolle

Page one of a wartime letter from Halbo Kool (b. 1873) and Christina Kolle. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

Wartime letter from Halbo C. Kool, Christina Kolle

Page two of a wartime letter from Halbo Kool (b. 1873), Christina Kolle. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

Halbo Kool, son of Halbo Christiaan Kool and grandson of Halbo Kool (b. 1873), sent me this wartime letter from 1942 — from Halbo Kool (b. 1873) and Christina Kolle to their grandchildren — along with an extremely helpful translation with annotations. Halbo Kool called it “A bit off the cuff and not very polished translation but rather close to the original.” I call it a godsend on account of me not being able to read Dutch. Google Translate still isn’t user friendly. Without further ado…

START LETTER

Haren 24 July 1942

(Haren is a place near Groningen where my grandparents had a house on the Rijksstraatweg in a residential area. It was requisitioned later and my grandmother lived for years with her brother-in-law Hendrik, but moved in 1956 back to her house in Haren (but got only half of it, the rest was still let) and lived there till she died in 1957.)

Dear Children!

The last few days it was here too an unpleasant atmosphere. Sunday all the man’s bicycles were seized and Monday they asked door by door to hand them over. Then there was suddenly the rumour that the blankets were also asked for but it appeared to be a false alarm.

What a situation these days, I can understand that it’ll be bad in Amsterdam. Is it true of all those suicides?  People say that Amsterdam and Rotterdam have been surrounded with barbed wire, is that true as well? There seems to be much tension in the air, everybody is very nervous.

As far as food is concerned things aren’t to bad here, we still have a regular supply of potatoes and vegetables. Milk is getting difficult and is going to be rationed from August. It’s a big problem for Dad (Halbo Kool b. 1873) as I’m always making porridge from the bread, the grains (larger bits) stick in his throat and then he must cough terribly. (Christina’s note: Halbo Kool (b. 1873) died the following year)

The weather is a bit rotten these days and we don’t go out of the house now that’s it’s almost August.This morning we received a letter from Kees (her son Cornelis Kool) and Loes (Christina’s note: Louise Lopes-Cardozo) demanding us a statement about our parents and ourselves so he can prove that we don’t descend from Jews (mixed Aryan-Jewish – excuse me the unacceptable expression – couples were then still had some respite, and it may well have saved Loes and her children from deportation, as it did for the first husband of my sister Anneke’s first husband, Emile Mot. His parents were both Jewish, almost all their family was deported, but he and his parents escaped, they lived in Hilversum, not far from Naarden, and a policeman had — to my knowledge –declared that Emile was his son from an adulterous relation with Emile’s mother.)

What can he do with this, perhaps that things are a bit easier for Loes? We’ll do of course straight away the necessary. Monday auntie Trui (Geertruida Kolle, sister of my grandmother) has her birthday and if at all possible I’ll pay her a visit. Auntie Marie (probably Johanna Maria Kolle, another of her sisters) is there and she’ll be able to tell us where we should go (for the information). Did you already visit Mrs. Cardozo (should be the mother of Loes, who was sent off to a concentration camp with or like her daughter Frederika, neither returned. This information and the names of the aunties was given to me by Anje.) or she you? How terrible all this is, such a family being ripped apart like this. You hear about such things but if you know the people well, you really feel it.

How are you Willy (my mother)? Do you still get extra food and are the children all right again? Are things all right in Haarlem (where Willy’ s parents and sister live). Do give them my greetings when you can. What kind of sugarsweet product is that, Halbo, and under what name is it sold in the shops, is it something for us to buy?

Well, dear children, the very best, greetings and a kiss from your loving Grandpa (and) Grandma. (C. Kool-Kolle)

END LETTER

I find this letter super interesting because it really reflects the issues of the day. It sounds like Cornelis Kool was trying to arrange it so his wife and family would avoid persecution and execution during the war. One of my uncles had said that was possible because Cornelis worked at a paper mill and the Nazis needed paper; therefore, his family was probably lower on a list somewhere (and speaking of commandeering bicycles, he’d saved for years for the car the Nazis took from him and stayed angry about that for many years after). As for this, though, it sounds like maybe he was doctoring some genealogy records? I certainly would.

Editor’s note: The name of Halbo Kool (b. 1973) has been updated in this posting. It was misstated in an earlier version of this post.

Portrait: Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is the third, final, and most recent photograph of Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer that I have. It was sent to me by Halbo Kool. Gonda lived to be 81 years old [1840-1921], spending her whole life in Groningen, Netherlands. She married Cornelis Kool [1838] and they had four children that I know of so far: Halbo Kool [1873], Germ Kool [1875], Elsina Anna Kool [1867], and Hendrik Kool [about 1870].

Portraits of Hendrik Kool

Hendrik Kool, birth date unknown.

Hendrik Kool, birth date unknown. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is a portrait of a relatively young Hendrik Kool and below you’ll find one of him a little older. Hendrik was born around 1870 to Cornelis Kool [1838] and Gonda Maragaretha Duuntjer. Hendrik lived to be 92 years old and died on January 24, 1962. I don’t know anything else about him but would like to, so if you have any information to share, please post it in the comments.

Hendrik Kool

Hendrik Kool. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: Mother, child in Groningen in 1800s

Mystery photo likely on the Kool family side taken in Groningen.

Mystery photo likely on the Kool family side taken in Groningen. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

There’s a good chance the subjects in this mystery photo are directly related to a previous mystery photo subject I mentioned recently on this blog. Both photos came to me through Halbo Kool and both appear to have come from the same place and have similar coloring. In that mystery photo, I postulated that the subject was a brother of Cornelis Kool [1838]. It would stand to reason then that the woman and child in this photo were his wife and child. That’s the best educated guess I have, however, so I’m open to other hypotheses.

Portrait: Cornelis Kool (1838-1923)

Cornelis Kool [1838-1923]. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

Cornelis Kool [1838-1923]. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is another portrait Halbo Kool sent me, this one of our common ancestor Cornelis Kool. Cornelis was born September 9, 1838, in Gieten, Aa en Hunze, Drenthe, Netherlands, to Elsien Cornelis Schreuder and Halbe Geerts Kool. He was both a sailor and a skipper in his lifetime, according to his marriage record and a child’s death certificate, before he died on March 16, 1923 in Groningen.

Portrait: Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (1840-1921)

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer [1840-1921].

Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer [1840-1921]. (Courtesy Halbo Kool)

This is another photo sent by Halbo Kool and one I feel very fortunate to have. The only other photo of Gonda Margaretha Duuntjer (my third great-grandmother) that I have is from when she is much older, perhaps an anniversary photo? She was born and lived her whole life in Veendam, Groningen, Netherlands.

MYSTERY PHOTO SERIES: The man with the chin curtain

Mystery Photo

This photo, while likely taken of an ancestor, is a complete mystery to me and Halbo Kool, who sent it to me.

Look at that beard! I looked it up. It’s not quite an Old Dutchman, funnily enough. This is a style of facial hair often called a Chin Curtain or The Lincoln. I’m going with Chin Curtain, since the one thing I do know about this photo is that it was taken in the Netherlands, not America.

Anyways, this photo was in with others of the Kool family in the possession of Halbo Kool (the living one, not any of the previous generations). He doesn’t know who it’s of, but we are able to tell it was taken in Groningen and you can see a slight resemblance to Cornelis Kool [1838] in the eyes, nose and lips. His clothing is similar to that of ancestors in other photos I’ve estimated to be from the mid- to late-1800s. All this leads me to guess that the ancestor in the photo is likely one of Cornelis Kool’s brothers, of which he had three: Jan Kool [1840], Heero Kool [1844] or Harm Kool [1846]. There was a fourth brother, but he did not live to adulthood.