One-tenth of American liberators in World War II were black. Yet these heroes are not often seen in the world of cinema. Even when commemorating the soldiers who died in World War II, only white faces get frequently portrayed. Countless Surinamese, Caribbean people and African Americans helped liberate the Netherlands. Many Surinamese wanted to join the fight, but the Council of Ministers thought there was no room for them in the Dutch army.
Black soldiers' skin colour was frequently used against them, and they worked extra hard because of it, but their hard work didn't get the recognition it deserves. It is important to reflect on these forgotten heroes.
Black people also played an important role in the resistance. Here are the stories of three Black resistance heroes who should never be forgotten.
Leo Lashley was active in the V.O.S department in Rotterdam and was born in Nieuw Nickerie, Suriname, in 1903. He moved to the Netherlands to study Medicine in Utrecht and obtained his doctorate in ophthalmology in 1930. Shortly after he got married and settled with his family in Rotterdam as an ophthalmologist.
When the Second World War started, Lashley was chairman of the Rotterdam Doctors' Association and in 1942 he protested against the establishment of the Nazi Doctors' Chamber. He also participated in the resistance by helping people find hiding places. Lashley was a strict believer and visited the church on Breeplein in Rotterdam every Sunday. Here three Jewish families were hidden in the two organ lofts. In 1944 Rebecca, one of the Jewish people in hiding became pregnant. Lashley was the only doctor to offer his help. He read books on midwifery in the evenings to help Rebecca get the help she needed. Behind the organ, the baby was born.
After those events, Lashley was arrested several times, and he went into hiding until the end of the war. After the war, Leo remained active in the Surinamese association in Rotterdam. He played an important role in the development of the municipal government. A classified Homeland Security report contained a passage explaining that he would be removed from his position as a “coloured person.” This information was deeply offensive to him. Because of racism and discrimination, he nevertheless decided to leave the Netherlands.
After this, Leo Lashley became editor of the magazine “Nieuw Suriname” and in 1947 he served as a board member of the Federation of Surinamese Associations on behalf of V.O.S. A year later, he left for Curaçao, where he was active as an editor for the magazine El Dorado. Leo Lashley passed away in 1980. In Rotterdam, a street near the former Zuiderziekenhuis is named after him.
Elizabeth Margaretha Jorissen-Bergen, known as Bouten-Bergen, was born in Paramaribo on May 29, 1905. She was the daughter of a Jewish plantation owner and his black housekeeper. She lost her parents at a young age and came to the Netherlands in 1920 to complete her training as a nurse. Her husband dies five months after the start of the war.
She sheltered eight Jewish people in hiding in her home at Harmoniehof 59 in Amsterdam. Three of the people in hiding were children. One of the people in hiding turns out to be pregnant. To protect the people in hiding, Elizabeth decides to pretend to be pregnant. Her "pregnancy" was seen as scandalous because she was a widow. She had to explain that the father was white, to explain the baby's appearance and that he had left her.
The people in hiding could escape to a hiding place through a bookcase if necessary. After being betrayed in 1944, they were nevertheless arrested and Bergen was sent to Camp Vught, after which she eventually ended up in Ravensbrück. The five people in hiding did not survive the war; the youngest was nine months old. Elizabeth was liberated in 1945 and she returns to Amsterdam severely traumatized. After the war, Betty remarried Wim Jorissen. She died in Amsterdam in 1983.
Segundo Ecury, also called Boy, was born on April 23, 1922, in Oranjestad on Aruba. He was the seventh child in a family of thirteen children. His parents were Catholic, and his father was a wealthy businessman. His father sent him to a boarding school in Brabant, where he had a hard time because of his skin colour. In 1937 he graduated from business school in Tilburg.
Together with his fellow student Luís de Lannoy, Boy joined the resistance. Later Delfinico Navrro also joined the boys. In order not to be discovered by the Germans, they wrote in Papiamentu, a language the Germans did not know. They joined the Knokploeg in The Hague and carried out various sabotage actions. They committed incendiary attacks on German trucks, derailed trains and helped people in hiding and Allied pilots.
In 1942 he had to leave Tilburg because it became too dangerous. He went into hiding at various addresses in Rotterdam, Delft and Oisterwijk where he again joined a resistance group. When his friend Luís was arrested on February 10, 1944, Ecury tried to free him but failed.
On November 5, 1944, Ecury attended high mass in the Elisabeth parish in Rotterdam-West. After the mass, he was arrested, and betrayed by fellow resistance fighter Kees Bitter. After his arrest, Bitter was given the choice by the Sicherheitsdienst to cooperate and commit treason or be shot.
After Boy was arrested, he was held in the prison in Scheveningen, also known as the 'Oranjehotel'. He was sentenced to death on his arrival and shot the next day on Waalsdorpervlakte near Wassenaar, together with other resistance fighters. The boy was only 22 years old at the time. In 1947 his body was returned to Aruba for reburial, where he was buried with military honours. In Curaçao, the 'Boy Ecuryweg' is named after him and in November 1949 a statue of him was unveiled in Oranjestad.