Military history


BY NOON ON SATURDAY, September 16, the German proclamation was plastered on bulletin boards all over Arnhem.

By order of the Security Police, the following is announced:

During the night an attack with explosives was made on the railroad viaduct at Schaapsdrift.

The population is called upon to cooperate in tracing the culprits of this attack.

If they have not been found before 12 o’clock noon on Sunday, September 17, 1944, a number of hostages will be shot.

I appeal to the cooperation of all of you in order that needless victims be spared.

The acting Burgomaster,


In a cellar, leading members of the Arnhem underground met in an emergency meeting. The sabotage of the railroad viaduct had been badly botched. Henri Knap, the Arnhem intelligence chief, had not been happy about the mission from its inception. He felt that, “at best, we are all rank amateurs when it comes to sabotage.” In his view, “it is far better to concentrate on feeding intelligence to the Allies and to leave demolition jobs to men who know what they are doing.” The chief of the Arnhem underground, thirty-eight-year-old Pieter Kruyff, asked for the others’ opinions. Nicolaas Tjalling de Bode voted that the members give themselves up. Knap remembers thinking “this was a very steep price to pay—the lives of the hostages, innocent people—for a small hole in a bridge.” Gijsbert Jan Numan was conscience-stricken. He had been involved along with Harry Montfroy, Albert Deuss, Toon van Daalen and others in procuring the materials for the explosives and in planning the sabotage, and no one wanted innocent men to suffer. Yet what was to be done? Kruyff heard everyone out, then he made his decision. “The organization must stay intact even though innocent people may be shot,” he decreed. Looking around at the assembled leaders, as Nicolaas de Bode remembers, Kruyff told them, “No one will give himself up to the Germans. That’s my order.” Henri Knap had a feeling of dread. He knew that if the Germans followed their usual procedure, ten or twelve leading citizens—doctors, lawyers and teachers among them—would be publicly executed in an Arnhem square at noon on Sunday.

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