An assault on a German military car at the Oldenallerbridge near the village of Putten in the Netherlands on 30th September 1944 is the start of a series of events, horrible and cruel beyond imagination.
Over 650 men from Putten are captured in a razzia on the 1st of October, carried out to revenge the assault. During the razzia several villagers are shot and more than hundred house are set on fire. The men are locked in in the local church, transported to Camp Amersfoort on the 2nd of Ocotober and deported to German labourcamps some ten days later.
During the months following the events in Putten until the liberation of prisoners in German camps in April and May 1945 more than 500 men from Putten died of exhaustion, illnesses, starvation and acts of brutal violence.
Geurt Dirksen is one of the men from Putten who dies. On the 1st of October he gets arrested, despite the fact he is warned by neighbours that a razzia is going on. He carries with him his registration papers that show he worked in German industry in 1942 and he assumes he will not be taken hostage.
After the war the official date of death of Geurt Dirksen is set on 18 April 1945. It is uncertain, if he ever reached Stalag X B or not. He may have died during the transport from the main concentrationcamp in Hamburg Neuengamme to Stalag X B in Sandbostel, which lasted for 9 days, he may have died on arrival at Brillit Station.
Geurt is born 1903 as the eighth child of Janna Geurts and Hendrik Dirksen. He is Grietje Dirksen’s younger brother. Grietje is Ruurd van Schuijlenburg’s grandmother.
During the years after the war the people of Putten have a hard time dealing with the immense tragedy of losing so many men, sons, fathers. Some of the victims are seldom spoken of.
ART AS A TRIBUTE
Together with thirty-two others Geurt Dirksen died under extreme and horrifying circumstances, about which relatives later rather not think, let alone speak of. People rather remained silent.
Seventy-five years later Geurt’s life and death are subject of Ruurd’s reflections. Who was Geurt? What did he go through in those seven months in captivity? Ruurd looks Geurt in the eyes and portrays the man. Ben Middelkamp sees the result and is immediately fascinated by the impact of the story. He knows the history of Putten and of German camps in the Emsland region. He painted expressive artworks of the former ‘Lager Bathorn’.
Ben and Ruurd decide to honour Geurt and with him the other victims who died in Sandbostel, but also those who survived Stalag X B. An impressive series of intimate portraits and expressive pieces of art, related to places the men may have witnessed come into being. The end of this creative journey: Stalag X B in Sandbostel.
This art-project is a tribute. It speaks for itself. It is also an invitation to speak. Or to just remain silent.
Contact the artists?
Ben and Ruurd are very much willing to share thoughts and experiences with you.