Kees van Willigen

Kees van Willigen

When the new “Aanspraak” is published, I first read the page with the notices from other readers before I pay attention to the other articles and columns. Probably there are other readers like me who have the same habit, hoping that they hear from acquaintances from the war, or to receive news about them.

This also happened in May of 2006 when I read about a collection of books that dated back to the occupation of the Netherlands' Indies.

The name, Mrs. Martha van Willigen-Knoek, did not mean anything to me until that I went to bed that evening. All of a sudden I was wide awake. This was about Martje Knoek.

The next day I sent an email to the man who placed the ad asking him if he was the son or the grandson.

He answered that was indeed the Son of Martha Knoek and Kees van Willigen. He said that it was very special that we met through this advert and that he would call me very soon. With friendly greetings, Willem Arnold van Willigen”.

Since then we have regular contact, since it was so special for Wim to speak with someone who had known his mother and her family.

Before the War, Martje worked in the Hague as a salesperson in the Jewellery shop of van Willigen and there she had met the son of the owner.

They fell in love and married. Martje was Jewish and her family lived in in Amersfoort.

Kees van Willigen left in 1937 for Batavia (now Jakarta), and after a festive “huwelijk met de handschoen” (Marriage with the glove), which meant that the groom was not present but represented by a family member, Martje was able to join her husband in 1938.

                                                               trouwfoto familie Knoek

Some time after the birth of their son Willem Arnold, they left for Djokjakarta.

The Japanese air-force attacked Pearl Harbour on 8 Dec 1941 and the Pacific war started. Kees was taken prisoner and worked on the Burma Railway.

kees van willigen

Martje and her son were deported to a concentrationkamp and for 3 ½ years endured both psychological and physical suffering.

After the WWII it took another 6 months for the young family to be re-united in Biliton. In 1947 the three were repatriated to the Netherlands. Martje had lost her father, mother, sister and other family members in Auschwitz.

Father Kees van Willigen had no more interest in jewellery and dedicated himself to the art of painting. Some examples are shown on this page. Also see:

Kees van Willigen







(With thanks to Museon - the Hague).

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