They had a nice car and we all got in the car and they told us we were going to see Father - and Father was going to be executed". At 82, Gerard Hueting's memory of his family's torment in World War 2 is unmarred by time. Sitting at home in Mapua,...
They had a nice car and we all got in the car and they told us we were going to see Father - and Father was going to be executed". At 82, Gerard Hueting's memory of his family's torment in World War 2 is unmarred by time. Sitting at home in Mapua, he occasionally asks his wife Jeanette for details of other events, but he vividly remembers the final meeting with his father.He quietly insists on being called by his first name. By September 1942, aged 17, he was incarcerated in Scheveningen Prison near the Hague in German-occupied Holland. His mother and sister were there too. The three were Dutch Resistance sympathisers, imprisoned when the group they assisted was rounded up by German secret police. But Gerard's father Rud was worse off. A long-serving official in the Dutch intelligence, he had been entrusted by the Resistance with stolen German plans to invade the United Kingdom.He was caught but refused to talk to interrogators and by late 1942 he was being held in Utrecht, in the last of a series of prisons and concentration campsThe Huetings' captors were skilled at mind-games: there were preparations for Rud's release that at the last minute turned out to be "mistaken" and prisoners were forced to punish an inmate who stole a potato.Gerard had been in solitary confinement for months and was given no notice that he was to see his family again, or what the visit was for.One morning I was told, "get dressed and you can clean yourself up". I had to run to the front and there were the interrogators who had been dealing with our case.It was his first meeting with his mother and sister since his arrest. The trip to Utrecht was surreal. Despite knowing Rud's sentence "we laughed and made jokes and we sort of ignored our captors". They were escorted to a room at the prison and simply walked in and talked and shook hands. "We were a very, very close family", Gerard says, but his parents met the situation with "the stiff upper lip".Two nights later Rud wrote a letter of love and encouragement - and farewell - to his beloved wife and children (see panel). The next morning he was shot.There are gaps in Gerard's knowledge of what happened to his father - the kind of gaps that might prevent the family from achieving closure. Gerard does not accept that: "This word closure, I have never been able to understand ".Years after Rud's execution, when a the war was over, investigators discovered "some urns with ashes of various people, all very nicely labelled and so on. That was in Hamburg." Gerard was with the army in what was then the Dutch East Indies, helping former captives of the Japanese. The family never got to bury Rud or scatter his ashes."They went to a special cemetery for resistance people".Similarly, Gerard knows why his father wound up in prison but there are details missing. His own story is remarkable but he is reluctant to have it published saying, "this should be about my father". Rud was born in the late 1800s and Gerard recalls him as a man of principle. "They were Dutch Reformed, that was the religion in Holland. Father was a teacher in a little place in the provinces. The teacher had to be a churchgoer of course."One of the farmers got one of the maids who worked on the farm pregnant and just sent her packing. Father felt he should have taken responsibility and he objected but the farmer was a high-standing figure in the church. My father never went back to church again."Rud who spoke six languages, joined the Dutch Intelligence in World War 1 and remained in the job until he was captured.By the time Germany occupied the Netherlands, in May 1940, he was using his passion for photography to gather information. "He had a Leica which in those days was a special camera, and an enormous lens on it", Gerard recalls. "When the Germans started building up their armaments and airfields and so on, he often went down south to the border and photographed them in secret."There was a functioning relationship between the occupying forces and Dutch officialdom, which allowed Rud to continue working, albeit with strict oversight. Behind the scenes he remained vehemently anti-Nazi.In 1941, a student group opportunistically stole a German briefcase. It turned out to contain invasion plans, which passed through several hands as the Resistance tried to get them to London. But the students identified a traitor and killed him. When investigators realised who he was, the network, including Rud, was discovered and rolled up.Despite the outcome his efforts had succeeded. Gerard, a final-year school student, had hidden versions of the plans in his accountancy exercise-books and Rud managed to them to London. It get microfilms of was enough to limit their use to practice invasions."The English authorities were anticipating where they were landing and they put oil on to the sea and set it alight. I have personally seen, very shortly after Father was taken prisoner, charred corpses which had blown back across the sea", Gerard recalls.The Germans were certain of Rud's involvement but could not find enough evidence to convict him. They refused to let him go, however. His family never learnt exactly what prompted his execution. Gerard's mother never forgave the Germans, and for a time he too harboured a hatred for the oppressor.Does he still? "No, everyone experiences war in a different way. I only wish those experiences made it impossible to have another war" He emigrated to New Zealand in 1950 and spent over 40 years as an engineer with what is now Transpower. After keeping quiet for decades about what his family endured, recently he has begun to write a memoir of his father and to record his own memories.