Louwers, Jan Petrus Cornelis, born on 15-07-1921 in Meerveldhoven, Netherlands, an uncle of my brother in law, Jan Willem Louwers. The date of birth on this prayer card is therefore not correct, that is the date on which he was baptized. He lived at Casperlaan 15 in Meerveldhoven. The Casperlaan changed its name later and then became Van Vroonhovenlaan. Jan was a cigar maker and probably employed by his father. His father was a cigar manufacturer on the Heuvelstraat in Zeelst, the Louwers factory and the Groot with the Wilhelm Tell brand. On 28-01-1941, the German Reichskommissar in Holland, Arthur Seyss-Inquart,
proclaimed an ordinance concerning the “duty for the performance of services.” This ordinance provided for the forced employment of Dutch citizens in Nazi-Germany and its occupied territories. The recruitment took place initially through regional Dutch government employment offices who possessed the means for enforcement, specifically in the case of unemployed persons. The national-socialist Ausländer-Einsatz (deployment of foreigners) between 1939 and 1945 represents the largest mass utilization of forced labor in history since the end of slavery during the 19th century. More than 10 million forced laborers were deported to Germany and occupied territories between 1939 and 1945. All young men between the ages of eighteen to thirty-five received a call to register for the Labor Deployment. An important consequence of the Arbeitseinsatz was that many Dutch families were disrupted. Many men went into hiding or disappeared to Germany, which of course constituted a burden for the families concerned. Furthermore, many Fremdarbeiter have died in Germany. Weapons and ammunition factories in particular were popular targets of the Allies and suffered a relatively large number of bombings. This has cost the lives of thousands of forced laborers working in Germany.
The results for the Nazis were poor. Many Dutch men went into hiding or tried to arrange an exemption through a medical examiner or politically influential person. Among these were more than 500,000 Dutch citizens of which, based on Red Cross estimates, 30,000 perished in Germany. An unknown number returned with permanent physical en psychological scars.
That Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt Ernst.Kaltenbrunner meant what he said in his infamous statement of May 1944, is abundantly clear from stories of former AEL inmates and post-war declarations and confessions by former camp guards and other witnesses. Not more than two months were needed to reduce a man to skin over bone. It was not unusual for a prisoner to lose 20 kg. during such period . Typical daily rations consisted of two meager sandwiches, half a liter of thin cabbage soup, and on occasion a mug of coffee. Medical help was non-existent or so minimal that it was of no value. If the man is too sick to work, he is also too sick to eat, was the motto. Sick people died on the spot without having received any medical care. Severe beatings with wooden or rubber truncheons were a daily happening, even for the most insignificant “offences”. One Dutch boy who underwent such beating still had visible scars months after his release and was told by a doctor that he had better not return to an AEL for he would not survive a second time. Executions took place in a similar manner, that is to say, prisoners were literally beaten to death. Hanging and shooting were other methods of execution. And always the other prisoners had to witness the event. It is therefore not surprising that, despite the relatively short sentences, in most camps 10-25% of all prisoners perished.
A letter Jan wrote at Christmas 1943 shows that he had been in Germany for 14 months at the time, which he always referred to as “abroad”. He was therefore employed in Kassel in October 1942 and would eventually die there, without ever having been home, on 23-02-1945.
Kassel, located in the middle of Germany in the current state of Hessen. This city was an important target and was repeatedly attacked from the air during the war. But the city was also a dangerous target for the Allied bombers. For example, the attack on the night of 27 to 28-08-1942 was accompanied by heavy losses. More than ten percent of the attack force, 31 aircraft, were lost. The causes of Jan’s death that are indicated are a weak heart and pulmonary tuberculosis,. (in the appendix a German statement about his death and the cause). We are talking about a young man of 23 !! In that same letter of Christmas 1943, Jan writes that he hopes to be allowed to go home. He also writes that at that moment twenty people still have to return from leave and if they do not return, his chance of leave has been temporarily reduced. Later he will get the chance to leave, but he sacrifices himself for another Veldhoven citizen who needs more urgent leave. He has never had another chance on leave. In the meantime, nothing is known about his fate in Meerveldhoven, which of course was tragic and nerve-racking for the family and especially for his mother. Only in June 1945, the Netherlands had been free for some time, did the information desk of Het Nederlandsche Red Cross in Eindhoven send a short letter to the pastor of Veldhoven with the request to inform the family about Jan’s death. Incidentally, there is a wrong age in that letter. The grief is great and especially mother suffers. Especially in the beginning. Later, as was often the case with war grief, it is hardly ever talked about. Jan Louwers was initially buried in Kassel. The municipality made a bill of 99, = Reichsmark for the funeral. In 1955, Jan is reburied at the Dutch Field of Honor at the Waldfriedhof in Frankfurt.