Forced laborer in Germany

Bas Benner

The Second World War has caused almost everyone in the Netherlands and far beyond immense suffering. Worldwide and from the thirties of the last century to the present day.

This war has had a huge impact on my family. But also the family that is further away from me did not escape the far-reaching consequences of the years 1940-1945.

My grandfather Jan de Vries had a full cousin, Johan Bastiaan Benner. The mother of Jan and the father of Johan Bastiaan were sister and brother. Both lived in Rotterdam but it is not sure if they knew each other. The Johan Bastiaan’s son was born in 1907 in Rotterdam and was also named Johan Bastiaan. His callsign was Bas.

There is a picture of him at the top of the page.

In this scheme you see the family relationship between Bas Benner and me.

Forced laborer for the Nazis

Transported to Germany

Johan Bastiaan Benner, call sign Bas, was born on September 14, 1907 in Rotterdam.. He married in 1935 and got a son, Hans, in 19424. A child they longed for a long time. He was educated as a furniture maker but worked as a conductor at the Rotterdam railway company (RET).

When at the end of the war the allies had already moved into the southern provinces, the German supreme command decided to boost the number of forced laborers in Germany. On November 1944, the 10th and 11th in Rotterdam, 50,000 men were arrested in a large raid and secured in the Feijenoord stadium. Hence they were put on transport to Germany. Among them was the then 37-year-old Bas Benner. He had to leave his wife and their 2-year-old son. They have not seen him again.


Bas Benner was transported to Wuppertal in the Ruhr area and was put to work There. In Wuppertal, forced laborers were relatively free to move outside working hours. Many Dutch forced laborers found help and sometimes even shelter from pastor Bückman who himself had contacts in the Netherlands.

Because Bas had a very weak health, some forced laborers reported to the pastor that this man needed extra attention. After the Pastor’s service, Bas was regularly able to eat.

In the end he was exempted from forced labour for medical reasons but was not allowed to go home. At the Pastor’s house he often talked about his wife and his little son. He eventually died on 22 February 1945 due to his illness at the Bethesda hospital in Wuppertal.

On March 1, 1945, he was buried by Pastor Brückman. In 1955 he was reburied on the Dutch-reformed cemetery there.

Home in Rotterdam

His wife, and Hans, his son, were unaware of all this for a long time. After the war, the death of Bas Benner had been administratively put through and Fien remarried. Her second husband and she ignored the memory of Bas almost entirely and Hans assumed that his father had made the wrong decisions over there.

Until a niece of the family did research some years ago to the  circumstances about Bas Benner and she found out the truth. His wife Fien died at the age of 102, and her urn with ashes was placed at the cemetery in Wuppertal besides her husband.

This story shows that the horrific forces that were free to play in the first half of the last century have caused incredible misery. Now that we, about 75 years after this war, seem to be more and more forgotten what can go wrong if some people think they can afford all kinds of things again, it is all the more necessary to keep telling stories like these.

Let us not forget that nationalism and racism can lead to great sadness.

1 Comment

  1. Rob Benner

    Beste Hans,

    Mooi dat je dit verhaal heb gepost!

    De afgelopen jaren ben ik veel te druk geweest met van alles om in te gaan op je uitnodiging om een keer langs te komen. Het staat nog steeds op mijn lijstje. Inmiddels ben ik gepensioneerd, maar weer druk met andere dingen: onze (inmiddels) 10 kleinkinderen, en allerlei diaconale acties in onze gemeente Barendrecht.

    Hartelijke groet,

    Rob Benner


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