Antonius Nieuwenhuis – typically called Toon – was born on December 17, 1894. His parents live at the Verlorenkost in Gouda. Father is a painter by profession. They live on the center side of the water of the Verlorenkost. That is life and living in the immediate vicinity of pottery factories. Unlike his older brother, who also became a painter, Toon trained as a blacksmith and entered the bicycle repair profession.
When the Catholic football club DONK was founded in 1920, he was one of the first members and part of the first football team that played for DONK.
In the mid-twenties, Annie van den Eng comes his way, and they get married in the summer of 1927. That also means moving to Raam 5, near the Verlorenkost 1 building which houses his workshop. He is self-employed, which suits his entrepreneurial spirit, independence and outspoken opinions. When the house above the workshop becomes available, they move in.
In addition to the workshop on the Verlorenkost, he uses a storage space on the Rotterdamsche Veer (the Light Factory side of the Nonnenwater). In addition to bicycle sales and repair, Nieuwenhuisen does bodywork and cargo bike rental.
Toon has close relationships with DONK football club, was elected board member in the summer of 1930, and was then chairman for two years. His drive was also evident at that time when the board wanted to build a changing room and a canteen on the recently allocated site on the Bodegraafsestraatweg.
In January 1937, a fire broke out in the workshop at Verlorenkost due to an industrial accident, resulting in the loss of the house above. This did not stop his ambitions, because just about six weeks later the official opening of a new branch of his business takes place, now at Hoge Gouwe 143. In the meantime, he advertises not only as a bicycle repairman, but also as a tool sharpener. Toon and Annie – who have no children – find shelter in the house above a warehouse at Verlorenkost 3.
After the Dutch capitulation to Germany, Toon is looking for opportunities to resist the occupier. In the 1920s he was part of the “Bijzondere Vrijwilge Landstorm” (a kind of “National Reserve” between the two World Wars) and was a declared opponent of “the broken gun”, the pacifism of that time. Through his network, dominated by fellow Catholics, he already found men with a like-minded resistance attitude by the second half of 1940. In this group, he forms a triumvirate with a former marine and a police officer – both in their late twenties – who are at the heart of the fledgling resistance. The effort to join a national organization did not succeed until the spring of 1941. At that time, the activities gradually expanded; and, in addition to being the technical man who deals with weapons and ammunition, Toon was also the main contact for a nationally operating Intelligence Service, which focused, among other things, on espionage. His workshop on the Hoge Gouwe became the headquarters and meeting point for the local resistance, and the contact address for the Intelligence Service. Furthermore, it turns out to be the perfect place for cleaning and maintaining weapons and ammunition.
Arrest and trials
In the early morning of Friday 13 March, 1942, Nieuwenhuisen was arrested after betrayal by the The Hague-based “Sicherheitsdienst”. Another four residents of Gouda are arrested with him, who are all transferred to the House of Detention in Scheveningen (the “Oranjehotel”). Investigations and interrogations take place in the months that follow. Due to the betrayal by and talkative behavior of other arrested persons, so many facts have become known that denying them is pointless.
The investigations are completed at the beginning of November, after which Nieuwenhuisen is transferred to Camp Amersfoort. He is moved to Vught after about four months, because new construction is taking place in Amersfoort. During the two and a half months in Vught, he works with fellow prisoners in a Philips workshop, which is a stroke of luck: the work is not that hard and they get extra food there. The “2e Ordedienstproces” (Roëll trial) is also held at the same time. Some of Nieuwenhuisen’s resistance activities are proven, but this does not lead to an immediate conviction. In mid-May 1943 he was transferred to the prison on Gansstraat in Utrecht. This is followed by the “Inlichtingendienst-proces” (Van Hattem trial). Although he is not one of the main suspects here either, his activities for the intelligence service and contacts with couriers are proven.
Nieuwenhuisen becomes “abgetrennt” on the basis of both processes: for the remainder of the war he must disappear as if into “Nacht und Nebel” (night and fog). He goes to a concentration camp and is not allowed to have contact with his family, who are also not allowed to know where he is. In September 1943, Annie Nieuwenhuisen-van den Eng received her last sign of life from Utrecht.
He goes to Camp Amersfoort again, but now for a single day, from there to be taken by train to Natzweiler concentration camp in the French Alsace – not far from Strasbourg.
Life there is physically very challenging, the nutrition is far from sufficient and the regime is barbaric. Many fellow prisoners die from physical abuse, exhaustion or illness. Toon too has a very difficult time and is frequently too ill to perform any work, and is admitted to the camp hospital, which is telling in the context of a German concentration camp.
From June 1944 there is a glimmer of hope when the Allied invasion of Normandy begins. This news also reaches the prisoners with some delay. After the successes of the approaching Allies, the prisoners are evacuated from Natzweiler to Germany. Toon Nieuwenhuisen will take a patient transport to Dachau, not far from Munich, at the beginning of September. There follows a quarantine of about three weeks, after which he is transferred to the Dautmergen outer command, about ten kilometers above the Swiss border. That is a horror even for the prisoners who are used to a lot: freezing cold conditions, mud everywhere, living in tents, with hardly anything to eat.
Dying in Dachau
For unknown reasons, Toon is the only one from his group who is sent back to Dachau from Dautmergen. He will arrive there again on October 23.
His health has deteriorated further and conditions in Dachau are appalling. Typhus breaks his last resistance.
On December 10, 1944 he went to the camp’s hospital. Prisoners at Dachau know that if you go to the hospital, it is often to die.
In the early morning of Monday, December 11, during the morning round, the death of Toon Nieuwenhuisen was declared. Six days before his 50th birthday.
This reconstruction was achieved on the basis of research in, among others:
Arolsen Archives, ITS, Bad Arolsen, Germany
Archief SV Donk, Gouda
Collectie Libertum, Gouda
Nationaal Archief, The Hague
Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie, The Hague
NIOD, Instituut voor oorlogs-, holocaust- en genocïdestudies, Amsterdam
Streekarchief Midden-Holland, Gouda