Jan Jules van Nes

Early in 1943 Jan van Nes, a student from a good family, had refused to sign the obligatory ‘loyalty declaration’. His father was Dr. Cornelis Pieter van Nes, orthopedic surgeon, who had the reputation among his colleagues as being a gifted as well as unflinching surgeon. He was head of the Anna Clinic. This orthopedic clinic was affiliated with the Academic Hospital (now LUMC) and situated behind the Vogelwijk in Leiden (where the Bosuilstraat and Groene Spechthof are now located). On 10 May 1940 and thereafter, many people were being brought in with bone fractures but a substantial number of the Dutch military men named under War Graves were also being treated there. It was well known in certain circles that Dr. Van Nes had no qualms about hiding good Dutch patriots in his clinic temporarily to keep them out of German hands. He simply said that they were seriously injured and tucked them into a hospital bed.

Jan was born in Amsterdam on 19 June 1918. The family moved house in 1935 from Groningen where Van Nes was surgeon to the Boerhaavelaan in Leiden where he had been appointed head of the Anna Clinic. Just like so many other children born into medical families, Jan had also decided to study medicine in Leiden. In 1940 he received his ‘Candidates Degree’ and being subject to national military service was given the rank Aspiring Reserve Officer of Health. His fiancée was Maria Theodora Tepe from Heemstede.

War had made it impossible for Jan to continue his studies. Leiden University had been closed temporarily following the protest speech read by Cleveringa, and it was uncertain which lectures or examinations would or would not be given. Sometimes classes were held legally, sometimes in secret, sometimes at the University but other times at the home of a lecturer.

In protest, professors quit their positions and everyone had to be wary, not knowing which instructor or member of staff might perhaps hold politically incorrect ideals. Moreover, since 1943, a student was only permitted to study if the ‘loyalty declaration’ promising loyalty to German authority had been signed. The majority (86%) of students, including Jan van Nes, refused to sign this or similar documents.

Jan Jules van Nes

Forced labour in Germany  
On 6 May 1943, it was announced that students who had not signed the loyalty document would be required to report to the commander of the ‘S.S. und Polizeisicherungsbereiche’ for ‘Arbeitseinsatz’ (forced labour) in Germany. Van Nes refused and went into hiding, at one time with his aunt and uncle in Rijsoord. However, the Germans finally managed to capture him. Because of his medical background, he was sent to work as male nurse in the barrack camp near Stockerau, Nieder-Österreich, near Vienna where mainly Russian and Polish prisoners of war were being held. There he attempted to help sick prisoners as well as was humanly possible.
Doctors from the Städtisches Krankenhaus in Stockerau also worked in this prison camp. Van Nes caught their attention due to his medical expertise, particularly in the area of setting broken bones in plaster. He was therefore asked to work in the Städtisches Krankenhaus, an offer which he accepted. In the prison camp where he ‘lived’, however, fleas and lice proliferated abundantly due to the substandard hygienic conditions. When Van Nes became ill with high fever, headache and a skin rash, he was admitted to ‘his’ hospital and diagnosed with typhoid fever which was frequently lethal without treatment using correct antibiotics, which were not available. The German authorities informed the Dutch about Jan’s illness who passed on the bad news to his parents. 

On 6 March 1944, Dr. Van Nes again sent a written request, via a German civil servant, in an attempt to entreat the German authorities to allow him to see his son. His attempt failed, and Jan Van Nes died in the early hours of that same day in the Städtisches Krankenhaus in Vienna-Stockerau. His last words were for his sister, mother, fiancée and his Creator. Sister Luitraud was the nun who gave him succor in his final hours. She wrote a poignant account of his death in the letter she sent to comfort his family, including his sister Hélène. More than 50 years later, Hélène would be buried in the plot with Jan in the Groene Kerkje cemetery where he had been re-interred in 1947.

Funeral of Jan van Nes in 1947