Monday, January 10, 2011

Family Legend, True or False? Part 1: Uncovering a Tale

Back in March 2010 I spotted a local history book when walking into my local bookstore. It was about the Second World War and its aftermath, and specific to my town. I’d long coveted the book, knowing many of my ancestors would be mentioned there. Several of my ancestors were either active in the resistance or big names in the town during and after the war, so they were sure to be mentioned.

I looked through the names index in the back, seeing many names I was expecting: van Aken, Lamboo, Bolle, all familiar names and ancestors of mine. But one name greatly surprised me. My grandfather Adolph Knura was mentioned in the book! He was born in Bottrop, Germany and came to the Netherlands in 1932. His sister, Anna Knura, was married to L.J. van Aken and he came to live with her and work for L.J. van Aken’s painting company. He met my grandmother Henriette Geertruida Lamboo and got married. By the time the war broke out, they had two children. But however much my grandfather had integrated into Dutch society, he was still legally a German citizen. And so it came to pass that my grandfather was called to serve in the German army. He didn’t want to, but he still had parents and siblings in Germany and if he didn’t comply, they would feel the wrath of the Nazi’s. It was only after the war ended that he returned home, so I was not expecting him to be mentioned specifically in the book.

Adolph Knura, 1942-1944, German military

Of course I bought the book and when I got home I looked up the page my grandfather was mentioned. There really were only a few sentences about him, but what a shock they brought! Instead of saying something about him being called on to serve in the German army, it said that my grandfather, as a German national that lived in the Netherlands, was arrested after the war and imprisoned for a year. He was accused of being a traitor, but eventually released. The source was an interview with someone not known to me or my older family members. My mother didn’t even know anything about this, but she was born some fifteen years after the events would have happened. So I called my aunt, who was four years old during these alleged events.

My aunt remembered the events mentioned in the book quite clearly for a four year old. She recalled visiting her father in Kamp Vught, where he had been imprisoned for less than a year according to her. She also recalled that my grandfather and his whole family were to be transported out of the country, but that the major of Voorschoten wrote a letter to keep them in the country. She said that she believed that if Adolph had been a common soldier instead of a medic in the army, they would’ve had to move to Germany. She didn’t know much else.

I decided that the memories of my aunt and the mention in the book were enough to think the story was true, but I wanted proof. Paper proof that is. I figured it wouldn’t be hard to find evidence of my grandfathers imprisonment, once I figured out where the archive of Kamp Vught was kept, that is. But finding the archives wasn’t as easy as I thought…

The story will continue on Wednesday with Part 2: Lost: One Archive


  1. What a dilemma for your grandfather.

  2. Yes, it was a though choice. In fact, he'd been called to serve once before and refused, but this time he did not have a choice. He didn't like it though, but what are you to do when your parents and siblings are in danger if you don't comply?

  3. Gripping story, it must have been very hard for the family. Thank you sharing.