Kurt Hanneman and Joachim Simon, "Shushu": Members of the Pioneer Underground in the Netherlands


Kurt Hanneman and Joachim Simon, known as "Shushu", were born in 1919 in Berlin and met in 1937 at the "Hechalutz" movement's  Zionist Hachshara (pioneer training) farm, Elgut in Silesia, Germany, which was attended by 90 students.

During the Kristallnacht pogrom, members of the Hachshara, including Hanneman and Shushu, were caught and sent to Buchenwald. Following their period of imprisonment, efforts were made to get them out of Germany and bring them to a safe haven, even temporarily.  Due to the restrictions the Nazis placed on Hachshara programs in Germany, Hachshara groups were established outside of Germany, in Scandinavia, the Netherlands and other countries.  These groups became the main Hachshara conduit in preparation for immigration to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine). As the Dutch government agreed to take in farmers on a temporary basis, many of the Elgut students moved to the Netherlands and were scattered amongst local farmers as part of a program of "Individual Hachshara".

Hanneman and Shushu reached the Netherlands in January 1939.  In January 1940 Shushu moved to the large Hachshara farm Werkdorp (literally "work village') in Wieringermeer, where some 300 students  had relocated from Germany, and there met up with his friend Hanneman.  The two taught Hebrew and arranged cultural activities.

In May 1940, the Germans invaded the Netherlands.  Shushu joined the leadership of "Hechalutz" in Amsterdam and in July of the same year, was sent to the Youth Aliyah lodgings in Loosdrecht to teach and counsel.  Hanneman also joined the leadership of "Hechalutz" and moved to the Individual Hachshara center in Deventer. 

Following the first deportation of Dutch Jews from the Westerbork transit camp to the East in July 1942, a meeting was held at "Hechalutz" headquarters in Deventer at which it was decided that Hachshara students need to be taken underground and ways found to leave the Netherlands.  Hanneman and Shushu were both present at the meeting.

In July 1942, the counsellors at Loosdrecht were notified that 15 students were to be arrested and sent to Westerbork.  One of the counsellors, Menachem Pinkhof, told his neighbor  Mirjam Waterman about this.  Mirjam, a teacher, approached her Dutch colleague Joop Westerweel for help.  Thanks to the assistance of Joop and his friends, hiding places were organized for 51 Loosdrecht students and the counsellors.  In October 1942, a group of 13 Loosdrecht students started to make their escape to Switzerland.  Tragically, the group was caught en route and handed over to the Gestapo.

Searching for an escape path, Shushu and his wife Adina, also an underground activist, crossed the border into Belgium in October 1942. He managed to reach France, and spent several months planning a route via which it would be possible to smuggle friends and students out of the Netherlands, via Belgium and France, to Switzerland and Spain.  Adina reached Switzerland, while Shushu returned to the Netherlands to continue helping Jews escape.

Shushu was caught on 25 December 1942, while making his way from Belgium to the Netherlands with money and forged papers.  He was sent to prison, but managed to convey a message regarding his arrest: "I was caught.  Tell Adina gently." He died about two days later, and is presumed to have committed suicide.  He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Breda.  After the war, his friends placed a headstone on his grave, with the inscription: "Gave his life to save his friends and his people in the days of the resistance".

After Shushu's death, Hanneman went underground and hid in the home of Dutch friends where he continued his resistance activities.  In October 1943, Hanneman and some of his fellow resistance workers were arrested in their hiding place in Rotterdam.  Hanneman was sent to the Vucht camp, and from there to Westerbork.  Jewish resistance members in  Westerbork were notified of his impending arrival, and had planned his escape before he even reached the camp.  To their horror, Hanneman and another five comrades were taken off the punishment wagon handcuffed in pairs under heavy police guard, and were incarcerated in a special room, rendering Hanneman's escape impossible.  They were barely able to visit him and say their farewells.  Hanneman was deported from Westerbork to Auschwitz, where he was murdered on 31 March 1944.  Gideon Drach, a fellow underground activist said of him:

He (Kurt Hanneman) never thought about himself; he tried to save the lives of his friends […] He kept cool under pressure to the very end, when he was forced to abandon his activities and hide.  The knowledge that the lives of others depended on him gave him the courage to continue despite the danger.

Shushu and Hanneman, who together with others saved dozens of Jews, were not able to save themselves.  In 1995, Adina Kochba, activist in the Dutch underground and Shushu's widow, submitted Pages of Testimony in memory of Shushu and Hanneman.

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