Onderduiken in Aalten
: Waarom er in een kleine Achterhoekse gemeente zoveel onderduikers waren tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog

Translated title of the thesis: Hiding in Aalten : Why so many people were hiding in a small community in the Dutch region Achterhoek during the Second World War
  • J.L. Vos-Arwert

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    In the Second World War, the local community of Aalten gave shelter to many people in hiding in the village and the surrounding hamlets like IJzerlo and Lintelo. The rural municipality Aalten had about 12.000 inhabitants and the number of people hidden from the Nazis was around 2500, a rather high number.
    In my thesis I tried to answer the following research question: How can the large number of hiding people in a small community in the Dutch region Achterhoek during the Second World War be explained? In order to do so I analyzed geographical, social and religious aspects in literature on Aalten and hiding, as well as ego documents from both people who provided a hiding place, and from people hidden.
    Aalten consisted of many little farms at a large distance from each other, which were accessible by small paths. Those farms were perfect hiding places from the Nazis. Aalten is also located on the border with Germany. Even early on in the War, people in Aalten knew what was going on at the other side of the border because of family ties and friends.
    During the war, Jewish families tried to find a hiding place. In Aalten many Jews were livestock traders who asked their clients, the farmers in Aalten, for a place to hide, which was not easy. Other reasons for needing a hiding place were the refusal to report to the Arbeidsdienst or to sign the declaration of commitment to the Germans as a student.
    The men in need of a hiding place went to Jan Wikkerink, the district resistance leader. He was a contractor and knew many people in the area. He was also active in the reformed church in Aalten and was in very good standing in the community. He persuaded the people of Aalten to offer a hiding place. Many did not dare to refuse his request.
    In the ego documents, the reasons for offering a place to hide varied between the duty as a Christian for charity or just the commitment to helping people in need. Regarding to Jews, they were seen as belonging to the same people as Christ himself. People also wanted to resist the Germans because of patriotism and love for the Dutch queen. Only once did I read that somebody wanted to convert a Jewish family to the protestant belief.
    The churches in Aalten cooperated with those who provided a hiding place by assisting with church services at the farms. The community of Aalten acted almost as a whole. The way of life as a close neighborhood, called naoberschap, also stimulated the possibilities of providing a hiding place.
    The conclusion is that, in Aalten, the way for so many people to find a place to hide was paved by people like Wikkerink, who took the lead in providing hiding places, in combination with the Christian faith and the naoberschap.
    Date of Award2 Jun 2023
    Original languageDutch
    SupervisorSusan Hogervorst (Supervisor) & Pieter de Bruijn (Examiner)


    • cultuurgeschiedenis

    Master's Degree

    • Master Kunst en Cultuurwetenschappen

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