Case File # 12             

Case Title: Deadly Ending of "HiWi's" Uprising

Subject: Russian POW's, put to work at German Anti Aircraft gun positions near the Philips factories in Eindhoven tried to escape one night late in the war. Their captors reacted with machine gun fire and put a deadly end to the uprising.

Date:  Approximately 1944

Location: Eindhoven, Holland

 

Introduction: As a young boy, Battle Detective Tom asked his Mother, who was seven years old in 1944, if she had ever seen 'dead people' during the war. A common question for boys of Tom's age at that time, we learned later. His mother, Greetje Matla, told the story of Iwan. Iwan was a Russian soldier who was kept prisoner by the Germans. Greetje walked by where Iwan was held, on her way to school on Barrier Weg in Eindhoven, Holland. Although she could not actually speak to him, they were able to communicate somehow. She even shared her school sandwiches with the Russian. One morning she walked by Iwan on her way to school, only to find him lying on the ground. Dead.

 

A recently discovered photograph of Greetje Matla at the age of 7

on the day of her First Holy Communion in 1944

 

Unfortunately, Greetje died far too early in 1990. Therefore, Tom had never been able to ask his Mother for more details about this story. However, recent battle detective work sheds more light on Iwan's story. And his death. 

 

The Story: Battle Detective.com talked to Jan and Jenny Van Hout from Eindhoven. Like Tom, they are members of the Association of Dutch Airborne Friends. Jenny was two years older than Greetje and also lived in Eindhoven during World War Two. Jenny lived on Bosch Dijk. She and Greetje probably went to the same elementary school because Greetje's school was commandeered by the German occupiers of Holland and used to billet Wehrmacht soldiers in it. 

 

Jenny told about the Russian soldiers who were put to work at a German Anti Aircraft, or "Flak", position on a vacant lot near Marconi Laan. She also spoke of Russians that she and other school children talked to. Jenny remembers throwing her left over sandwiches across the wire perimeter fence around the gun position.

 

She remembered seeing 'green cupola's', obviously referring to the grassy man-created mounts shown in this period photograph of the gun location on Marconi Laan:

 

Photograph from the two-volume book by author A. Hermens about WWII air raids on Eindhoven

 

Jenny's home was also close to the gun site and one night she remembered hearing the sound of automatic machinegun fire. What struck her at the time was that the shooting was not forewarned by the usual air raid sirens. Therefore, Jenny was not particularly worried. During our interview, she even stated that she sort of enjoyed listening to the drumming sound of the automatic fire. How upset was she the next day when she learned of an uprising by the Russians. Local people spoke of an escape attempt by the Russians who had even tried to kill their captors. The escape had failed and some of the prisoners had been killed. Jenny never saw any of the Russians who where shot during the eventful night.

 

We showed Jenny a detailed and enlarged aerial photograph of the rectangular shaped lot enclosed by Marconi Laan, Bosch Dijk, Lijmbeek Straat and the rail road between Eindhoven and Boxtel. The photograph was taken on the 26th of December 1944. On it, she pointed the various gun emplacements, crew quarters, shacks for the Russian prisoners and other details.
This is the photograph:

(Click on the image to enlarge)

 

 

On this aerial photograph, taken over a year earlier on the 21st of October 1943, the Philips factories are visible in the lower left corner. The rail road runs in front of it.

 

(Click on the image to enlarge)

 

 

The Philips factories were of strategic value to the Germans and therefore they made a prized target for the Allied Air Forces. This is a picture of the factories today. The rail road is now built on a raised ramp.

 

 

The vacant lot in front of the Philips factories in Eindhoven (in the suburb of Strijp) where the Flak gun positions where, has been developed into a residential neighborhood, making a Now & Then-comparison difficult to produce.

 

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Because the vacant lot in front of the Philips factories is now a residential area, it is difficult to make a Now & Then-comparison. The smokestack in the middle of both photographs serves as a reference point.
 
Our photographer stood on the rail road ramp and took his picture in the same direction as the photographer in the "Then-" picture. This was taken from one of the factory rooftops in the winter of 1941. The flak guns had not yet been positioned in the vacant lot at that time.
 

In April 2011 we were kindly allowed to take a photograph from the same window in the Philips Factory "Clock Building" as the one from which the 1941 photo was taken.

 


The Russians
: Most likely, the Russian soldiers were so-called "HiWi's", an acronym for Hilfswillige (Auxiliary Volunteer).

After the invasion of the USSR thousands of captured Soviet soldiers volunteered to fight against the Soviet regime.

Initially the Germans declined their employment, but because of the many casualties in the Eastern Front and in North-Africa, accepted them in non-combat roles. They were given engineer and supply tasks. In Eindhoven these HiWi's were instructed to work in various Flak positions throughout the city and in the Welschap Luftwaffe Air Base.

 

This photograph was taken on the 18th of September 1944. It shows five Russian soldiers, taken prisoner by paratroopers of the 101st at a Flak gun location in Eindhoven. The man with the peaked cap is an Eindhoven Police officer. The paratrooper is of "HQ"-Co./506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, trying to determine whose side these men were on. A small portion of the black helmet of a PAN-resistance member can be seen in the far left edge.

 

We have not been able to substantiate the story about the escape attempt in any documentation so far. We are however pleased that our investigation has confirmed a remarkable story that was told a long time ago.


SEPTEMBER 2012 UPDATE:

On 27 SEP 2012 we attended a lecture by Dutch author, journalist and historian Remco Reiding on the Russian Field of Honour in Leusden, where 865 war victims from the former Soviet Union have been buried.

In September 1941, 101 prisoners of war from mostly Uzbekistan arrived at the railway station of Amersfoort.
The Nazi occupier wanted to show the Dutch people that their ally in the east consists of dirty, badly dressed 'Untermenschen' with Mongolian appearances.
The 101 Soviet prisoners were brought to the Amersfoort concentration camp, where 24 of them died.
On 9 APR 1942 the remaining 77 are executed. After the war their remains were reburied in the Rusthof cemetery.

In the American Cemetery of Margraten another 691 Soviet prisoners of war had been buried.
They have died from illnesses in the last days of the war or directly after their liberation in hospitals in Germany.
After the war the authorities wanted the cemetery at Margraten to become a permanent cemetery exclusively for American soldiers.
The Soviet victims were brought to Amersfoort, where already 101 Soviets have been buried.

Amersfoort became a collecting point for victims from the Soviet Union who were buried in the Netherlands.
Also, the remains of 73 forced laborers and Soviet soldiers in German service are reburied in Amersfoort.

A separate cemetery is created, because Rusthof had insufficient place.
This Russian Field of Honor was opened by minister of defense W.F. Schokking on November 18, 1948.
 

(click to enlarge)

After the lecture and signing Reiding's book on the Russian Field of Honor we walked to the cemetery for a detailed explanation about many of the individual graves.

We told Remco the story of the Russian Hilfswilligen uprising and asked him if one of the Russians in the cemetery could have been the one shot during his escape attempt.

(click to enlarge)

Remco explained the details of a Russian soldier in Row 9 Grave 851 by the name of Aleksandr PETROV.
Aleksandr died on 18 OCT 1943 in Eindhoven and may have been working for the Nazis, as a Prisoner of War or as a Hiwi.
He was originally buried four days later in the Eindhoven General Cemetery of Woensel on 22 OCT 1943 and reburied on the Russian Field of Honor on 18 AUG 1948.
it is uncertain if Alexandr PETROV had been deployed by the Nazis on the Welschap Air Base or as a Flak helper on Marconi Laan.
The detail of the initial burial 4 days after his death is consistent with the witness statements of Greet Matla who saw the mortal remains of a Russian in Eindhoven during the Nazi occupation.

It is our theory that Aleksandr PETROV was the "Iwan" (a common nickname for all Soviets during WWII) little Greetje got to know and, tragically, saw after he was shot during his escape to freedom.

(click to enlarge)
Row 9 Grave 851
Final resting place of Aleksandr PETROW

 
 

Back to Case Files

 
 
 
 
(c) 2007-Present Day Battledetective.com. Email: tom@battledetective.com. all rights reserved.