This is a mobile proxy. It is intended to visit the IOMfAtS Story Shelf on devices that would otherwise not correctly display the site. Please direct all your feedback to the friendly guy over at IOMfAtS!

Being Johnny

by Nigel Gordon

Chapter 29

"Betrayed?" Luuk asked.

"Yes, by the boy I had considered my best friend. He betrayed me and two others, giving us over to the Gestapo. I am sorry, but this is not the place to talk of such things, and I have a train to catch."

He started to move off towards the Dam, hobbling on his two sticks.

"Can you make it? Can't we get you a taxi?" Luuk asked.

"Do not worry, I will make it. I make this walk every year. It is part of the remembrance of those days. It is something I have to do, something to be done alone."

We watched him as he hobbled along. Given his impediment, he moved at what was a surprising speed and had soon crossed the canal and moved from our sight.

"Shit!" I exclaimed. "I hope he will be alright."

"He survived the camps," Luuk stated. "Those who survived are a lot tougher than they look."

"Yes, like Aunt Ruth," Joseph commented. Luuk looked at him, so he then had to explain who Aunt Ruth was.

We started to make our way back along the Keizersgracht towards the station. Soon, though, we turned right and crossed over a couple of canals, then walked through a maze of side streets and alleys until we came out onto Damrak, the main tourist drag from the Centraal Station to Dam Square. We still had the better part of an hour before we had to get our train back to Apeldoorn, so we went into a café and got coffee and cake. Earlier, I had tried to give Luuk some money for spending the day showing us around the city. However, he had refused, saying that Gert had sorted it out with my father. Sitting on the terrace of the café, I realised that the electronic shop just along the street was still open, no doubt making a killing selling memory cards and batteries to the tourists who had run out.

I told Luuk and Joseph what to order for me and that I had to slip into the shop and would only be a few minutes. Actually, it took more like fifteen minutes as there was a queue of customers. I did manage to get what I wanted and left the shop with yet another bag. Joseph gave me a look when I got back to the café, one that said, 'Where the hell have you been all this time?'. It also said, 'What have you got there?'. I did not say. However, I did not put this bag in my backpack, which is what I had done with everything else I had bought earlier. I doubt if I could have got it in; we had bought so much stuff as we had wandered around the city.

Coffee and cake consumed, we made our way back to the Centraal Station. When we came to the spot where we had met Luuk this morning, he checked the departure boards and told us which platform our train was on. Then both Joseph and I hugged him as we said goodbye. Just as he turned to leave, I called him back and handed him the bag.

"That's a thank you from Joseph and me for your help today. You've got our email addresses and telephone numbers. Keep in touch. If you get over to England, we'll show you London."

He laughed, thanked us for whatever was in the bag and said he did not think he would be in England, at least not for a few years. Then we had to part; we only had a few minutes to get our train.

I was surprised to find that even though we had first-class tickets, the first- class section was fairly full. We did manage, though, to find a set of four empty seats, which let us both look out of the window. Once we were seated, Joseph asked me what was in the bag I had given Luuk.

"Well, I noticed how he looked at your camera when you were taking photos of the buildings," I stated.

"Yes, he said to me he envied me having a good camera. He only has a basic one."

"Well, earlier when you were photographing the Commodities Exchange, I had looked into that tech shop, and they had a very similar camera in there. So, I got one for him."

"Good. He's a nice lad and he deserves some luck," Joseph said. "You'll have to let me pay half. How much was it?"

I told him. Then he stood and seemed to be signalling to someone. I half stood and turned to see who Joseph was signalling to. Then I saw it was the man who we had met at the Homomonument. He was looking for a seat in the I compartment. He saw Joseph and came to where we were. Joseph indicated the empty seat, which the old man took. As he sank down into the seat, he introduced himself.

"My apologies, but I did not introduce myself earlier. I am Henk de Groot."

Joseph and I introduced ourselves. Henk asked why we were on the train. He had clearly presumed we were tourists staying in Amsterdam.

"His father is fronting a documentary film that is being filmed in Holland," Joseph said, indicating me. "So, we are staying over here with him in Beekbergen for the week."

"So, you are going to Apeldoorn?" Henk asked.

"Yes," I replied. "How far are you going?"

"I also go to Apeldoorn. I live in Ugchelen. It is a suburb of Apeldoorn, close to Beekbergen."

The train started to move out of the station. As it did, I commented that Henk appeared to have an Australian accent.

"Spent forty years out there," he stated. "Had a really good life."

"Then why did you come back?" I asked.

"I didn't want to but had no bloody choice. The person who betrayed me in '44 betrayed me again in 1990."

There was a moment of silence, broken when my phone pinged. I pulled it out and saw that there was a text message for me from Luuk. It was to thank me for the camera.

I remembered then that I had to send a text to Dad letting him know which train we were on and when we would be in Apeldoorn, which I did.

Henk gave a sigh. "I really should tell my story, but this is not the time or place. How would you two like to join me as my guests for dinner tomorrow evening?"

"I think we can do better than that," Joseph stated before I could say anything. "Why don't you join us as our guest for dinner, though I warn you we may well have Johnny's parents with us?"

There was a bit of negotiation back and forth, but by time the train pulled into Amersfoort, it had been agreed that we would meet Henk de Groot at seven tomorrow evening at the Chinese restaurant by the station in Apeldoorn.

The rest of the journey to Apeldoorn consisted of him telling us about his life in Australia, much of which had been spent running tourist boats on the Great Barrier Reef. As the train approached Apeldoorn, Henk suddenly got serious.

"If you two want to know about what went on during the war, go to the museum on Zutphensestraat, it tells about the Apeldoornse Bosch ; that was a real atrocity."

We helped Henk off the train when we got into Apeldoorn. Once on the flat, he was relatively mobile even if his gait did seem more of a hobble than a walk. It was just steps that gave him problems. We then made our way to the car park at the rear of the station, where Dad had texted that he was parked.

On the way back to the vakantie parc, we told Dad about Henk and the fact we were meeting him for dinner tomorrow evening.

"Sounds interesting. Any chance that I could join you?" Dad asked.

"Don't see why not. Joseph said my parents would probably be there."

Mum, it seemed, had enjoyed her visit to Oosterbeek. Whilst visiting the museum, she had come across a photo which had her uncle in it. The museum staff had promised to send her a copy to give to her grandmother. She had also found her uncle's grave in the war cemetery.

"You know, they do keep those places so neat and tidy. There were little posies on some of the graves. The attendant there told me that schoolchildren come on trips to the cemetery, and they bring the flowers."

Friday, Dad did not have to be anywhere to film till mid-afternoon, so we went as a family to visit the Apenheul in Apeldoorn; it's a zoo that specialised just in monkeys and apes. That was something of an experience: free-roaming monkeys running all around the place. You have to keep a tight grip on your belongings as they have a habit of snatching anything that is loose. Although I have a general dislike of zoos, I found this one interesting, mostly because of all the information about their conservation work. It was also amusing to find out that the armoured-glass barriers between us and the great apes were not to protect the public from the apes. They were there to protect the apes from the public. Apparently, the biggest danger to the great-ape breeding populations they have in the Apenheul is them catching a common cold or flu from a passing human. As a result, the zoo tries to keep apes and humans separate for the apes' safety.

Once we had finished at the Apenheul, we checked on the map as to where Zutphensestraat was, and it did not look that far from the town centre, so Dad dropped us at the top end of the high street before he and Mum went back to the vakantie parc. Joseph and I went off down the high street in search of some Dutch junk food. We found some and filled up. Then we set off to walk down to number 76 Zutphensestraat.

It was a much longer walk than we had expected. To make matters worse, we realised we would have to walk back. I had been expecting to find a museum building of some kind. What was there was a normal family house. This was the Herinneringscentrum Apeldoornsche Bosch, which we were informed by the lady inside was the Memorial Centre for Apeldoornsche Bosch.

I think both Joseph and I found the story told there disturbing. Strangely, I think I found it more disturbing than Joseph. It was almost as if he expected what we learnt there, as if this was something he already knew about. In a way, I think it was. After all, the Holocaust is burnt deeply into the Jewish psyche, and this was just a story of a Jewish psychiatric hospital in what was then a wooded area outside a provincial Dutch town. There were over nine-hundred patients there plus some seventy-two children who suffered from one form or another of mental retardation. Then there were the nursing and domestic staff who looked after them.

On the night of the twenty-first of January, 1943, members of the German SS arrived to 'evacuate' the asylum. A total of one-thousand-two-hundred-and fifty-eight men, women and children, patients and nursing staff were loaded aboard lorries. Many were in their night clothes and given no opportunity to change into warm clothing that would be needed on such a cold night. They were taken to a waiting train of cattle waggons into which they were loaded. The train took them to Auschwitz and straight to the gas chamber; none of them survived.

"You're very quiet," Joseph commented as we walked back up Deventerstraat into Apeldoorn.

"Sorry. I was thinking."

"About what we've just read about?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Don't," Joseph replied. "Just accept that it happened. Don't try to work out why or who was responsible. There is no explanation which makes sense. If you try, you just drive yourself mad with questions. The only thing you can do is accept that it happened and promise yourself you will never let it happen again."

Rather than try to negotiate the Dutch bus system — actually the bus system was good; it was just the ticketing that I could not understand — we got a taxi from the town centre to the vakantie parc. Even so, it was well past five-thirty when we got there. I was somewhat surprised to find that Dad was not back. Mum was busy dolling herself up. When I commented on it, she informed me that she would not be joining us for dinner with Henk at the Chinese. Sylvia and Margarite, another woman on the production team, had invited her to join them for a girls' night out. She was looking forward to finding out how a Dutch girls' night out was different from an Essex girls' night out. I dreaded to think.

Dad got back just after six, muttering a series of expletives under his breath. I really need to be careful about my use of language. I am sure he has picked up a couple of them from me.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

"Somebody fucked up the filming permits," Dad replied. "I'll tell you about it on the way to the restaurant. I just want to shower and change."

He went over and kissed Mum. "Sorry, love, I'm going to have to come back here tomorrow night; we are going to have to film on Sunday."

"What's happening tomorrow?" Joseph asked.

"De heer Wilhelm has arranged a block of six tickets for a gala show in Amsterdam. They were waiting for us when we got back from the Apenheul. Given that we would be in Amsterdam Saturday night and you have to be a Schiphol early Sunday morning, I booked us rooms at the Terminal Hotel."

I could see that made sense.

"Look, we can talk about it in the morning. I need to hurry if we are to make our dinner appointment."

With that, he went to the bedroom. Joseph and I went up and got dressed for dinner. We had showered whilst waiting for Dad to arrive.

In the end, we were only a couple of minutes late getting to the restaurant. Henk was already there, seated at a large round table in the corner by the window, looking out at the station. I introduced Henk to Dad but before I could introduce Dad to Henk, Henk got in first.

"Mr. Carlton, I have seen you on television and heard you on the radio," he said as I gave Dad his name. Dad expressed surprise that he had heard him on the radio.

"I much prefer the English language to my native Dutch for radio. I lived in the English-speaking world, if you count Australian as English, most of my life. Since I have been back in the Netherlands, I have listened to the BBC on your World Service and Radio 4 Longwave when it was not broadcasting cricket. Even though I was in Australia for forty years, I never got into that game."

"Neither have I," Dad stated.

"You don't know what you're missing," I stated. Joseph glowered at me.

To be honest, I am not really that much into cricket, at least not so much into playing it. However, I do enjoy lazing around on a hot summer afternoon watching a game being played. Not that I am following the game; it is just there to give me an excuse to lie on a grassy bank in the summer sun.

The waitress came to take our orders. Henk suggested to Dad that he order the rijsttafel. That was, Henk informed us, a selection of all the dishes that the restaurant offered (except for a few specialities). Dad said it sounded like a good idea, so ordered that for us all; we only had to order the type of rice we wanted to go with it.

The servers started to bring out dishes which were placed on the Lazy Susan that sat in the centre of the table. Then they brought out the bowls of rice that we had ordered and placed them around the table. I had noticed that the table was set with chopsticks, not knives and forks. That reminded me of something that Clive, my mother's former boyfriend, had once told me: that good Chinese restaurants lay out chopsticks and make you ask for knives and forks. Mediocre ones make you ask for chopsticks.

Dad and Henk chatted for a bit about Dad's broadcasts. Henk, it turned out, was very interested in climate change and environmental issues.

"For thirty-plus years, I ran charter trips to the Great Barrier Reef," he informed Dad. "I saw the changes on it and the loss of habitat. I knew something was going wrong before people started to talk about it."

"So, what made you come back here?" Dad asked.

"That is a long story and one which maybe we should wait for coffee to tell. I do not want to spoil our appetites with gruesome details which must be told. However, it is a story I feel I need to tell, although I have not thought of telling it to my fellow countrymen. They have a habit of burying things which do not fit their view of how things should have been. I was hoping that telling it to your son and his friend might give it a chance to be heard. I think telling it to you will make sure it is heard."

We proceeded to enjoy our meal, during which Henk told amusing stories about parties of tourists he had taken out to the Great Barrier Reef. Once we had finished our meals, Henk spoke to the waitress that was clearing our table.

"I told her we have a lot to talk about and we will be some time. She has assured me that it will not be a problem. As you can see, they are not busy tonight; it is yet a bit too early, anyway. Also, they know me, and we are old friends."

He did not say how they came to be old friends, I noticed.

"Mr. Carlton, yesterday afternoon I made a trip to Amsterdam to leave flowers in memory of my school friends, who like me were betrayed by one we regarded as our friend. I met your son and Joseph as I laid my flowers at the Homomonument. They were most considerate to me and assisted me with negotiating the steps of the monument. For a man of my years those steps present some difficulties, as do most steps.

"I later met them on the train returning to Apeldoorn, where I promised to tell them my story. This is the first time I have told it. It needs to be told, but it is not going to be easy for me; therefore, I ask that once I start, please do not stop me or ask questions until the end."

Joseph and I assured him that we would not.

"Would you mind if I recorded what you have to say?" Dad asked.

"Not at all. I can see benefit in such an action," Henk stated. Dad pulled out a digital recorder and placed it on the table, switching it to record. He then stated where we were, what the time was and who was present at the recording.

That done, Henk started his story. "I was born here in Apeldoorn, in 1928. My mother was from Ugchelen, at that time a village outside of Apeldoorn. My father was from Amsterdam. He owned a fleet of barges that moved cargo along the river and canal network. We were what was considered to be comfortably off. My father had a house in Amsterdam, and during the school year, we lived in Amsterdam; however, during the holidays, I would be in Ugchelen at my grandparents or on one of my father's barges. By time the war broke out, I could run one of my father's barges as well as any of his captains.

"By the time I was eleven, I knew I was different from other boys, at least most other boys. There were a few boys who I found out had similar tastes to mine. We formed a small gang at our school — Bart, Rom, Lex, Tomas and me. Bart and Rom were lovers and remained so all their lives. Lex, Tomas and I were not lovers, though we enjoyed our times together. I think Lex and Tomas had been more involved for a time, though nothing came of it, which might have been the cause of the problem.

"However, I get ahead of myself. I had just turned twelve in 1940 when the Germans invaded. To be honest as a twelve-year-old in a middle-class household, the arrival of the Germans did not make much difference. In fact, there were many in the Netherlands who quite welcomed them, especially out here in the east of the country, where many spoke German as their second, or in some cases, their first language. Both my parents spoke fluent German, and it was frequently spoken at home. Indeed, Papa insisted that we speak German at least two days a week. He said I needed to be fluent in the language if I was going to take over running his barges. The country as a whole, though, had much stronger bonds with Germany and sympathy for Germany, rather than with the British, with whom we still had some territorial disputes and had a bad feeling about because of the Boer War.

"Of course, it did not do us any harm with the Germans that we spoke their language. It also helped that Tomas's father was a big figure in the NSB, the Dutch Nazi movement. Even my father knew Anton Mussert, the head of the NSB, and he had been a guest for dinner at our house on a couple of occasions. But so had the head of the communists; we had also entertained the leader of the socialists. Even the Black Widow had been a guest at our table, although she was also a distant relative. Papa always said that trade has no politics."

I was dying to ask who the Black Widow was but remembered the assurance we had given Henk before he started.

"Due to our friendship with Tomas, all of us boys had gone to NSB events and camps prior to the German invasion, and I suspect that, although my father was not a member of the NSB, he was considered by them to be a supporter. I know he had many friends amongst the leadership of the movement. Then again, he had friends amongst the socialists and the communists.

"By 1942, though, many of us, including many of those who had initially been pro-German, became resentful of the way that the Germans were acting in our country. The general anti-Semitism of the Nazis was replaced with downright persecution, which did not go down well with many of my countrymen. However, it had little impact on our group. Bart and Rom were in a clear relationship and Tomas and Lex were very close. The only one of us who did not have a partner was me.

"By 1942, the official Dutch resistance, which had been set up by the government in exile and Churchill's Special Operations Executive, had been effectively penetrated by the Germans. So much so that it effectively was being run by the Germans. There was, though, an unofficial Dutch resistance, mostly built up around communist cells and independent church groups, that was operating separately. Due to the fact that it was getting no support from the British via SOE, they were not well-equipped, and there was little they could do in terms of active resistance to the Germans. However, they did set up an effective network to enable people to vanish. Anne Frank's family was not the only Jewish family to be hidden during the war. There were a number of others, mostly more successfully than hers.

"There were also the divers: those young men who were likely to be conscripted by the Germans who went into hiding. There were a lot of those. My maternal grandfather was a pastor in the Lutheran church and, as such, got involved with the unofficial resistance movement. Given that I moved regularly between Apeldoorn and Amsterdam and had papers allowing me to do so, I got involved in carrying messages for such groups.

"I do not know how Lex knew I was involved, but in August 1942 he approached me and said that his family had been warned that they were likely to be picked up. Although they were Lutheran, Lex's paternal grandmother was Jewish. With Papa's assistance I got Lex, his sister and his parents out of Amsterdam and to Apeldoorn. They were hidden there for some time, but circumstances were such that they were forced to separate. Lex, I heard, eventually made it to England in 1944; he stayed there. His parents were not so lucky; they were both picked up and sent to the camps. His sister was kept hidden until the liberation. She married a Canadian soldier and moved over there.

"With Lex going into hiding, our group was now the couple, Bart and Rom, then Tomas and me. Although I liked Tomas as a person, I was not strongly attracted to him. Yes, we played around with each other, but that was it, just sexual play, though I had the feeling that Tomas would have liked to have had something more. However, the four of us continued to be friends.

"In August 1943, the penetration of the official resistance was exposed after Pieter Dourlein and Ben Ubbink escaped and got to the Netherlands Embassy in Switzerland and informed the government in exile of the situation. That resulted eventually in SOE setting up new networks in the Netherlands, and the unofficial resistance starting to get supplies, all of which resulted in a number of assassinations and acts of sabotage being carried out. As a consequence, it became much more difficult for me to move about the country as a courier.

"In late 1943, I got involved with a young man who worked with the railways. What had started as a fairly casual relationship developed into something a lot more serious. I am not sure I was ever actually in love with Kurt, but I was very fond of him, and I think he may have loved me. I was somewhat protective of him, though.

"Kurt had lost a foot in an accident as a youngster. As a result, he was not subject to conscription for labour. He was working in the offices of the railway service planning train movements. This meant he had information on the movement of troop and ammunition trains, information he passed on to the resistance.

"I was the means by which Kurt passed the information on. Therefore, I used to meet with Kurt frequently. This led to us getting involved with each other and more meetings. Given the situation, probably more than was safe.

"During the first couple of months of 1944, I increasingly distanced myself from Tomas, partly because I was afraid that Tomas might find out that Kurt was passing information to the resistance via me. He was, after all, the son of a leading NSB member and fairly active in their youth movement.

"I am not sure what happened, whether Tomas suspected that Kurt and I were working with the resistance or not, but on Tuesday the eighteenth of April, 1944, he followed me to a rendezvous I had with Kurt. Kurt was supposed to have been bringing some papers detailing train movements, but something had gone wrong and he had not been able to get them, which is probably fortunate for me.

"I had not been in Kurt's room more than a couple of minutes when the Gestapo burst in. Although nothing incriminating was found that could link either Kurt or me to the resistance, Tomas, who was with the Gestapo party, denounced us as homosexuals. We were taken into custody and the following day appeared before a German magistrate. Bart and Rom were also there. It seemed Tomas had denounced them as well. The trial was a farce. Tomas, standing there in a Nazi uniform, stated that we were known homosexuals. We were not given any chance of a defence, just found guilty and sentenced.

"All four of us were sentenced to four years. Bart, Rom and I were shipped off to a labour camp in North Belgium to work on the building of what you call the Atlantic Wall. What happened to Kurt, I never knew. Because of his disability, he was no use in the labour camp, and according to the records, he was shipped to a prison in Gelderland; however, after that the trail goes dark. All I know is that he did not return home after the war."

"Immediately after sentencing, we were kept in the prison in Amsterdam, but within the week, we were moved to the work camp. The three of us wore the pink triangles that marked us as being homosexuals. Six weeks later, we heard the news that the allies had landed in Normandy. It seemed that the Germans then realised that building the Atlantic Wall in the Netherlands was a bit of a waste of time now that the allies had landed and were effectively behind it. We were all shipped to a new camp in the Ardennes. Word was we were building something for one of Hitler's superweapons that would turn the tide of the war. As you can imagine, work on the project did not progress all that quickly, and there were a lot of mistakes made, like letting one pour of concrete set before the next pour commenced so the layers did not bond correctly.

"I do not know what it was that Rom did, but apparently he was caught in some act of sabotage. The commanding officer had the whole camp line up for roll call. Then Rom was brought out before us. He was naked and his hands were tied behind his back. The commanding officer read out that he had been found committing an act of sabotage and been sentenced to death. He then said that hanging or shooting was too good of a death for a queer. They put a metal bucket over Rom's head, then started banging on it with sticks. It went on for ages, until blood started to run down onto his body; then they let their dogs loose on him. At first, the dogs just circled him, growling. One of the officers took his riding crop and hit Rom with it, under the balls. He then jiggled Rom's cock up and down with the end of his riding crop. One of the dogs jumped forward, grabbing Rom's cock in his jaws. As the blood poured forth, the other dogs attacked. He was torn to shreds.

"Bart had been in the roll-call line-up a bit further along from me. He ran out of the line, no doubt wanting to save Rom. The guards shot him."

Henk started to sob. Dad signalled to a waiter and asked for more coffee and a glass of water. When it came, Dad put the glass of water in front of Henk. Henk took a drink.

"Thank you," he said, then took a deep breath before he continued. "After that, the German engineers kept a much closer eye on what we were doing, but we still managed little acts of sabotage where we could.

"Then the RAF bombed the place. They were using some type of bomb that went off underground, collapsing the tunnels. At first, the Germans tried to clean the site up and get it back into some sort of order, but after a second air raid they gave up. We were then dispersed to other camps, this time in Germany. In the months that followed, I was moved three or four times until I eventually ended up in the hell that was Belsen. Fortunately, that was not long before it was liberated. Even so, I was very ill, and it was many months before I recovered enough to be considered for repatriation. I was not till the spring of 1946 that I got finally repatriated to the Netherlands."

Henk paused, as if thinking of something. I knew this was not the end of his story.

"So, then what happened?" I asked.

"The authorities in the Netherlands decided that I had been convicted of a criminal offence. Remember, homosexuality was illegal in the Netherlands at that time. As a result, I still had to serve the rest of my sentence. I was imprisoned until April 1947. When I got out, there was not much here for me. My parents had died during the Hunger Winter. My father's fleet of barges had been destroyed during the war. The house in Amsterdam had been left to my sister. It seemed that my parents had disowned me on hearing of my conviction as a homosexual.

"Fortunately, one of the barge captains who had worked for my father knew of my work for the resistance. He had been part of the same organisation. Through him, I got a job as a seaman on a steamer doing the run to Batavia, in what were the Dutch East Indies, you know it as Jakarta today. I did four runs out there. Then, on the fifth, sailing the Sea of Timor, we hit an old Japanese mine. Fortunately, we were only a few hundred yards offshore of one of the small islands and were able run the ship aground. It was, however, a write-off. The remains of the hulk were still there twenty years later, stripped, of course, of anything useful.

"By that time, I had managed to qualify as a deck officer — not hard to do when you have a mostly native crew. So, I got a berth on a tramp steamer out of Darwin. That's where I met Robert; he was the first mate. Turned out his uncle owned the ship. The uncle ran half a dozen tramp steamers that traded around the Western Pacific. They were mostly old supply ships that the Yanks had left behind. I can't say it was love at first sight when I met Robert, but it was definitely lust. That lust soon turned to love and stayed that way for over forty years.

"Over the next ten years we sailed across most of the Western Pacific. Robert rose to captain, and I became first mate. I also acquired Australian nationality. We got ourselves a place in Bowen, which is where Robert's mother was from. His father actually ran a fishing boat out of there. When we were ashore, which was not often, we would spend the time in Bowen, often going out with Robert's father to fish on the reef.

"When Robert's uncle died, there was a lot of talk about what to do with the fleet. The uncle had left a one-third share to Robert and had indicated he wanted Robert to take over running the fleet and to keep it going as an active business. In fact, Robert and his uncle had been in the process of putting things together so that would happen no matter what Robert's two cousins might want. Unfortunately, a heart attack at fifty-five put a stop to that, and the uncle died before anything could be put in place. Robert's cousins had no interest in shipping and a lot of interest in money. They insisted that the fleet be sold and the money split in accordance with the will, which left Robert and his cousins a third each.

"The fleet was sold to some Greek shipping consortium, and Robert gave up his captaincy. I resigned as well, and we moved permanently to Bowen. Most of the money Robert got he invested, but he used some of it to buy a state-of-the art boat to run tourists out to the reef. The tourist business was just starting to take off back then, and Robert thought it would be a big thing. He was not wrong. We lived a quiet life in Bowen running tourist charters. Not that we needed the money, Robert's investments did us very well, and we had enough to live off and then some.

"In 1997, Robert started to have problems. He complained about a weakness in his grip, and he had a couple of falls. Although I did not mention it, I did notice that sometimes he slightly slurred his speech. He was diagnosed with motor-neuron disease, and we were told that he had a life expectancy of about three years. He did not even make that, though I suspect he asked his mother to help him die. Robert was a proud man, but by the end of 1999 he could not do anything for himself and was having problems communicating. His mother used to come in to care for him when I was out running a charter. Robert's nephew, Daniel, crewed for me. One day when I got back, his mother met me at the door and told me she thought Robert was near the end. He was unconscious when I got to him. I held his hand and told him how much I loved him. His mother told me that he knew, that they had talked about it earlier in the day. Robert stopped breathing about two hours after I got there.

"I had no heart to keep on running the charter business, so I gave it to Daniel. Robert and I had agreed he should have it when we retired; he had first started crewing for us during his school holidays. He loved the business and was happy to take over.

"I had to go to the state capital, Brisbane, to sort out some of Robert's estate. As I was leaving the offices of the lawyers who were handling Robert's and my affairs, who should be walking in but Tomas Leeman, the boy, now a man, who had betrayed me fifty years before. I just looked at him, then I walked out. He knew I had recognized him.

"Three days later, immigration officials arrested me for making a false declaration on my immigration papers. They had information that I had served a prison sentence in the Netherlands. There were a lot of legal arguments going on about whether the sentence was legal and recognised, as it had been given by a German magistrate in an SS court. The lawyers who had handled my application for Australian nationality stated that they had been informed by immigration that such convictions did not stand. However, the immigration people claimed they had been misled. In the end, I got sick of the whole thing and tired of sitting in an immigration centre, which I can assure you is not the best of places. My lawyers did a deal for me. I surrendered my Australian nationality and returned to the Netherlands. Fortunately, I had never formally revoked my Dutch citizenship. I know I should have, but I never did. I did manage to get a visa which allowed me to visit Australia for up to ninety days a year, even with my conviction.

"For the first few years I was back, I made use of it every year. I would go out just after Christmas and stay till the last week of March. I still owned the house there, and it was kept ready for me. I would stay there and visit Robert's mother and sister. His father had died some years before. When I was not there, they would manage the house for me, renting it out for holiday lets.

"Robert's mother died in two thousand and four. Since then, I have only been back a couple of times. Now my doctor advises me against flying, so Daniel and his mother come to visit me."

Henk stopped, with a finality that made it clear that he had finished their story.

"I would have thought you would go back to visit Robert's grave," Joseph stated.

"No, he does not have a grave. Robert was cremated, and I brought his ashes back with me. When I die, my ashes will be mixed with his, then Daniel will take them and scatter them at sea."

"You mentioned the Black Widow," Dad said. "Who is she?"

"Ah, yes, you would not know, not being Dutch. She is Florentine Rost van Tonningen, the wife of the second leader of the NSB. Her husband was the director of the National Bank during the occupation. He died in prison while awaiting trial for his crimes during the occupation. Many suspect that he was murdered as he knew too much about illegal money dealings and prominent Dutch families, including members of the royal family.

"Florentine was a distant cousin of my father and, before the war, used to come to our house two or three times a year. I believe that my father and she both inherited some shares in a business venture, but I never knew what it was. After the war, she was a leading Holocaust denier and an advocate for far-right views. She died a couple of years ago."

We chatted a bit more, asking a few questions about what had been told us, but now the restaurant was starting to get busy. Dad switched off the recorder, paid the bill and left a generous tip. We offered Henk a lift home, but he declined, saying he was going to meet some friends in a nearby bar. Dad expressed a desire to talk to him again whilst he was in the Netherlands.

"I would be most happy to. Here is my card. Please do not phone before ten in the morning; at my age one values one's sleep. I suspect you wish to know more about the details of my story. I will tell you them, but this is not the day."

In the car going back to the vakantie huis, Dad was very quiet.

"What is it?" I asked as we turned off the main road and into Beekbergen.

"That story. It needs to be told," he observed.

"You want to tell Henk's story?"

"Not just Henk's, but Bart's, Rom's and even Kurt's if we can find out what that is. What needs to be told is the story of all those gay men who ended up in the camps. It needs to be told soon, for there are not many of them left."

Mum was not back when we got to the vakantie huis just after nine, so we went down to the bar/café by the gate as Dad said he wanted a drink. That I could understand. I could do with one myself after listening to what Henk had to say. However, like Joseph, I had to settle for a cola.

Over our drinks, Dad started to speculate about what would be required to make a documentary about the treatment of the gay men who were sent to the camps.

"The big problem is the research; somebody has to find these men and interview them. Then, there is all the documentation that would have to be found."

"Use Gert," I told him.

"I can't do that; he works for De heer Wilhelm."

"No, he doesn't, Dad; Gert is freelance."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Dad, Luuk told us."

"The problem is how to approach him?" Dad said.

"Well, you've got two spare tickets for the gala show tomorrow. Invite Gert, and you can also invite Luuk," Joseph suggested. "I'm sure the chance to spend some time with his brother will get him to accept."

Dad pulled out his mobile and phoned Gert. I noticed he had Gert's number in his contacts. When Gert answered, Dad told him that Joseph had suggested that Luuk and he joined us for the gala show in Amsterdam tomorrow evening. There was a bit of talking back and forth, with Dad clearly answering questions about transport and things. Then Dad hung up.

"He's going to phone Luuk, then he will call me back. I have suggested that we get to Amsterdam about one so we can visit the Rijksmuseum and have a meal before going to the Gala Show."

I inwardly groaned at the thought of another museum. My groan had just about come to an end when Dad's phone rang. It was Gert, who confirmed he would be taking up the offer of tickets for the show, and Luuk would be meeting us. Dad arranged for him to come to the vakantie huis at ten in the morning. I only hoped Mum would not be too late.

She was not. She was waiting for us when we walked back from the bar. That was about ten-to-ten. Dad explained where he had been and what he was thinking of doing.

"All I need to do now is work out how to get the finances," he stated.

"How much will it cost?" I asked.

"Three- to five-hundred thousand," Dad stated.

"I'll put that up," I told him.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead