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Military blouse, trousers, and General Service Cap worn by a Dutch Jewish corporal in the Prinses Irene Brigade

Object | Accession Number: 1991.119.1 a-c

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    Military blouse, trousers, and General Service Cap worn by a Dutch Jewish corporal in the Prinses Irene Brigade

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    Brief Narrative
    Military blouse, pants, and General Service Cap worn by Jack Grootkerk, 29, who served in the Dutch Free Forces, Prinses Irene Brigade from September 1942 to September 1945. The Brigade was formed in England in 1941 by the Dutch government in exile and Dutch Army personnel who had escaped German occupied Europe. The unit wore British battledress uniforms with Dutch insignia. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. In December 1941, Jack was told to report for forced labor in Germany. He and his brother Erich fled to France and Spain, and were interned several times. In fall 1942, they reached Great Britain and Jack joined the Brigade. In July 1944, the Brigade entered combat in Normandy. The Netherlands was liberated on May 5, 1945. Most of Jack and his wife Hedi’s family were killed in German concentration camps.
    use:  approximately 1942 September-approximately 1945 September
    manufacture:  approximately 1942-approximately 1945
    received: Great Britain
    manufacture: Great Britain
    manufacture: Glasgow (Scotland)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Paul Grootkerk
    a. interior, right breast pocket, stamped, black ink : [arrow inside a circle]
    a. interior, right breast pocket, stamped, blue ink : BATTLE DRESS / (SUSE?) SERGE / SIZE No. 7 / (HEIGHT?) 5’5” to 5’8” / BREAST 35” to 36” / (?) Uniform Co. Reg’d. / 1944
    b. interior, left waistband, stamped, black ink : SIZE 10 / 5FT.9IN.-10IN.
    b. interior, left pocket, stamped, black ink : (HEIGHT?) 5’9” TO 5’10” / (WAIST 31?) TO 32 / (?) 31 TO 33 / (?) PANT CO. LTD. / (?) / JUNE 5 1944
    b. interior, back waistband, stamped, black ink : [arrow inside a partial circle]
    c. interior, top, stamped, blue ink : 7 / A. & J. GELFER / GLASGOW / 1945 [upward arrow]
    c. interior, top left, stamped, black ink : (?) / 1865
    Subject: Jack Grootkerk
    Manufacturer: A. & J. GELFER
    Jacques Grootkerk was born on July 25, 1913, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Izak (Isaac) and Pauline Servos Grootkerk. Izak was born on October 31, 1882, to Jacob and Sofiah Grootkerk, a middle class Jewish family that had been in the Netherlands for many generations. He was a fabric merchant in Amsterdam. Pauline was born on January 27, 1885, in Germany, to Salomon and Regina Liman Servos. Jacques had one younger brother Erich, born on November 30, 1919, in Amsterdam. The family was not religious. On March 6, 1940, Jacques married Hedwig (Hedi) Justus, a Jewish refugee who had fled to the Netherlands in 1934. Hedi was born on February 27, 1918, in Nieder-Ohmen, Germany, to Juda (1878-1923) and Klara Wertheim (1881-1943) Justus. Hedi had 5 siblings: Julius, Herman (Herbert), Bertha, Rosa (Ruth), and Ludwig. By early 1940, three of Hedi’s siblings, Ludwig, Ruth, and Julius, had emigrated.
    In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The Nazi occupied government implemented anti-Semitic legislation restricting the rights of Jews and created laws to punish anyone helping Jews hide or escape. By January 1941, all Jews had to register with the authorities. Jacques was summoned by the Jewish committee for a forced work placement in Germany, and he fled. Jacques and Erich left Amsterdam on December 3, 1941. They biked to Antwerp and were caught crossing the French border. They were released and walked to Maubeuge, France. The brothers travelled south, through German patrolled zones, to Paris. Sympathetic family friends there helped Jacques and Erich find people who could get them to Vichy France. They went to Tours and met with men who told them to cross the bridge during the changing of the German guards. They continued to Loches on foot. Once they arrived, a French detective found them and threatened to arrest them. The next day, the detective explained that he was a counter-intelligence officer and wanted to help. He bought them train tickets to Toulouse, where the brothers joined a group of Dutch refugees waiting to go to Curacao in the Dutch West Indies.
    In February 1942, tired of waiting, Jacques and Erich decided to cross the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain. A winter crossing was too difficult, so they went to Lyon. They were caught crossing the Swiss border, and transported to a camp for foreign workers in Annecy, France. After two weeks, Jacques, Erich, Van Crefelt, and a Spaniard escaped. The Spaniard stole their money and bags, but Jacques, Erich, and Van Crefelt crossed the mountains. They made up fake British identifies and rehearsed background stories. They were arrested in Figueras, Spain, and sent to a prison near Barcelona. After a typhus outbreak, they were quarantined in the prison and barely fed. Erich contracted tuberculosis. After three months, Jacques, Erich, and Van Crefelt were transported to Miranda de Ebro concentration camp in northeastern Spain. There was little food and Jacques had dysentery. Jacques, under the name D. Ritmeester, began exchanging letters with his wife Hedi in France. On March 6, 1942, Hedi and her brother Herbert had escaped Amsterdam and followed the same route taken by Jacques and Erich. Hedi and Herbert arrived in Vichy France after Jacques and Erich had left. They did not want to cross the mountains, and stayed in France.
    In late July 1942, Jacques, Erich, and Van Crefelt were allowed to leave under the protection of the British. They travelled to southern Spain and sailed to Ireland in late August. The British military gave Jacques, Erich, and Van Crefelt tickets to Wolverhampton, England, where the Dutch government in exile had established the Dutch Free Forces. The Forces consisted of Dutch soldiers and male citizens between 20 and 35 who had escaped to Great Britain following the German invasion. In August, all Dutch men living in Canada, Ireland, and the United States were called up for service. The Forces fought as part of the British army. Jacques joined the heavy machine gun section in the Prinses Irene Brigade, Erich became a paratrooper, and Van Crefelt a commando. Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands visited the camp and presented a medal to those who had escaped from the Netherlands. Jacques asked the queen for a British visa for Hedi and Herbert, who had gone to Switzerland in September. They received the visa, but it was too dangerous for them to leave. Jacques began using the nickname Jack. In 1943, Erich married an Austrian refugee, Lissy. In late summer 1944, Jack’s Brigade landed in Normandy and moved north towards Belgium. In September, his brigade participated in Operation Market Garden. By March 1945, the Brigade had liberated much of the southern part of the Netherlands. In April, Jack and Hedi were reunited at the Gare de Lyons railroad station in Paris. Jack had to return to the front, and Hedi was not allowed on the military train with him. Two soldiers that knew Jack helped them board the train and hid Hedi. From Antwerp, Jack and Hedi walked to the Dutch border. Hedi had trouble crossing the border because she was a civilian, but another Dutchmen helped get them past the guards. Jack returned to the front and Hedi stayed with friends. Shortly after Jack’s return, the Brigade mobilized northward toward Amsterdam.
    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Jack’s brigade was quartered in the Hague. The following month, the Prinses Irene Brigade entered Amsterdam as part of a liberation parade. Hedi joined Jack in Amsterdam in the summer. In September, Jack was demobilized. The couple had a son, Paul (1946-2015). Jack and Hedi learned that most of their extended family was killed during the Holocaust. Jack’s parents, Pauline and Izak, were sent to Westerbork transit camp and then deported and killed in Sobibor killing center on June 4, 1943. Hedi’s mother, Klara, was sent to Vught and Westerbork transit camps and then deported and killed at Auschwitz concentration camp on February 5, 1943. Hedi’s sister Bertha Stern was killed in Minsk, Poland, in 1943. Erich and his wife Lissy tried to immigrate to Palestine, but were detained in Cyprus. In 1948, the State of Israel was established and they settled in Regba. In September 1952, Jack, Hedi, and Paul sailed on the S.S. Zuiderkruis to the US. Hedi, 74, died on May 15, 1992, in Palm Beach, Florida. Jack, 85, died on March 26, 1999, in Palm Beach.

    Physical Details

    Clothing and Dress
    Physical Description
    a. Long-sleeved, waist length, brown wool serge battledress blouse with 1 button epaulets and a pointed collar with a concealed buttonhole tab and button closure. All buttons are brown painted metal with finished buttonholes. The straight cuffs are secured by a concealed, 1 button closure. The front has a full-length, concealed placket with 5 buttons and 2 exterior breast bellows pockets with top flaps and concealed 1 button closures. The waistband has an extension tab, with a slide buckle and cloth belt loop, and 3 back buttonholes. Below each armhole are 3 reinforced eyelets. The interior collar, cuffs, placket, pocket flaps, and waistband are lined with light brown cloth. There are 2 very large, interior, welt breast pockets.
    Looped under the left epaulet is an orange and blue twisted cord invasion-lanyard, with a blue knot covered with an orange net; an orange cord with a looped bottom hangs from the knot.
    Sewn to the upper left sleeve are 3 cloth patches: the unit insignia, an arched, brown bar with Dutch text; a Netherland lion, a flared rectangle with a curved bottom and a gold, embroidered, rampant crowned lion holding a bundle of arrows and a sword and standing on Dutch text; and Corporal’s insignia of 2 brown chevrons.
    Sewn to the right sleeve are 4 cloth patches. On the upper arm: the unit insignia; an Infantry regiment service strip: a horizontal, red bar; and Corporal’s 2 chevron insignia. On the lower arm is a British overseas service chevron, brown with 3 printed, red chevrons, for 3 complete years of service.
    Above the left pocket are 3 ribbon bars. Pinned on the left is the Dutch War Commemorative Cross ribbon, 1 small bronze star, and 3 vertical stripes: green, wide orange, green. Sewn to the center is a British France and Germany Star paper ribbon bar with 5 vertical stripes: dark blue, white, red, white, dark blue. Sewn to the right is a Dutch Cross of Merit ribbon bar with 3 vertical stripes: wide blue, orange, wide blue.
    b. High-waisted, brown wool serge trousers with a 6 button concealed front fly and 4 belt loops with buttonhole ends. All buttons are brown painted metal with finished buttonholes. There are 7 buttons around the waistband exterior. There are 2 patch pockets on the upper front thighs: a large, left pocket with a flap top and concealed 1 button closure and a small right pocket with a partial box pleat, open top, and 1 button closure. There are 3 welt pockets: 2 sewn into the upper side and one on the back right with a pointed top flap and concealed 1 button closure. The interior waistband, fly, pocket flaps, and crotch are lined with light brown cloth. There are 6 buttons along waistband interior. Seams and hems are finished. The pants have been altered along the back seam and on the belt loops. These pants do not have cuff tabs, which may have been removed, altering them from combat dress to walking out dress.
    c. Brown wool serge cap with a flat oval crown and a wide body panel sewn between the stiff headband and crown to give the hat height and shape. The crown is quilted, the panel has burlap padding and 2 metal grommets in the back, and the interior is lined with light brown cloth. A hand cut, oval, orange felt patch is handstitched to the front side. Sewn to the patch is a pressed, brass colored metal badge featuring a left facing Dutch lion; a rampant, crowned lion with extended tongue, holding a bundle of arrows and a sword and standing on a ribbon of Dutch text.
    a: Height: 21.000 inches (53.34 cm) | Width: 15.125 inches (38.418 cm)
    b: Height: 27.875 inches (70.803 cm) | Width: 14.500 inches (36.83 cm)
    c: Height: 2.875 inches (7.303 cm) | Width: 10.500 inches (26.67 cm) | Depth: 10.000 inches (25.4 cm)
    a : wool, cloth, metal, thread
    b : wool, cloth, metal, thread
    c : wool, cloth, metal, thread
    a. left arm, upper patch, embroidered, light brown thread : PRINSES IRENE
    a. left arm, lower patch, embroidered, gold thread : NEDERLAND
    b. interior, right waistband, handwritten, black ink : MELL (FA?)
    c. front, insignia, embossed : NEDERLAND

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The military uniform was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991 by Paul Grootkerk, the son of Jack Grootkerk.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-01 09:52:44
    This page:

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