At 7.30pm, there will be a speaker representing the Municipality and parish. After 8pm, a short memorial concert will take place.
Commemoration at the Hofkerk
There are at least three historical facts associated with The Hofkerk which relate to the horrors of World War II. When we consider the church organ, the name of Elisabeth de Bruin comes to mind. She was a Jewish parishioner who helped make the purchase of the organ possible. Elisabeth de Bruin was murdered in Auschwitz. In addition, the Hofkerk commemorates ten young people who were deported and did not return. Their names are written in marble and kept in the church’s Maria chapel.
Previously, the May 4th commemoration was held in the Christus Koning church. This was a votive church, built in gratitude for the fact that Amsterdam was spared during bombings. Currently, the parishioners of the former Christus Koning church are part of the Hofkerk parish.
Entrance is free of charge. A collection will take place upon exit.
For more information visit: Hofkerk’s website
The Hofkerk in Watergraafsmeer is an imposing church building with a robust steeple. However, the church does not have such a strong presence at street level as it tucked behind the busy Middenweg road, hidden in the rustic Linnaeushof. It is from this hof (a courtyard, formerly surrounded by alms houses) that the church takes its name: ‘Hofkerk’.
The listed building still serves as a Catholic parish church. Upon entering, churchgoers see the small, intimate Mariakapel. It is a place of remembrance; candles are almost always lit. On the side wall, next to the statue of Maria, is a memorial plaque bearing the names of ten people closely associated with the church and the parish. All perished during World War II. It reads “Carried away and not returned. We unite ourselves with their sacrifice”. On the evening of 4th May every year, a memorial service is held in the church. Flowers are laid at the memorial plaque and more candles are lit. The programme includes an organ recital or other musical performance. Speeches are given, and the names of the 10 parishioners killed in the war are mentioned.
Jan van Beers is one of these parishioners. Jan was the eldest of a large Catholic family of 11 children living in Watergraafsmeer. His primary school was at Linnaeushof, where the Hofkerk is located. At the start of the German occupation in 1940, Jan was 19 years old. He left for The Hague where he trained to become a police inspector. When the police force was placed under German control, things suddenly changed. The occupying forces wanted to have a firm grip on law and order. Police officers were expected to cooperate by rounding up Jews and assisting in raids. Few officers had the courage to ignore these orders as refusal was punished severely.
Jan van Beers’ police unit also had to deal with strict German regulations. Jan was told to sign a declaration that stated that he would faithfully comply with German directives and cooperate with the occupying forces. This was all too much for him and he couldn’t reconcile it with his own values. By refusing, he effectively signed his own death warrant. On 16th September 1944, Jan (a citizen of Amsterdam) was arrested along with forty other officers. He was given three hours to reconsider his decision and cooperate, but he remained steadfast in his refusal. Due to this, he was transferred to the dreaded Nazi camp Neuengamme in northern Germany, a notorious place due to the heavy forced labour that was performed there. Jan van Beers died of exhaustion and dysentery on 15th December 1944, aged only 23.
Jan’s family had few of their son / brother’s personal belongings left to remember him by. Sixty-five years after the war however, something special happened. Researchers were investigating another event that took place during the war. By coincidence, they came across Jan van Beer’s wallet while going through inheritence documentation. During the 4th May memorial service in the Hofkerk in 2010, the wallet was returned to the family. In this emotional service, two of Jan’s sisters received this personal item and were able to look through his documents, letters and photos. They were filled with pride. Their brother had great compassion and showed huge determination. Because of this, he made the greatest sacrifice of all.