NKI Staff Victims of German Terror

Jaarverslag Veldman 1944.bmp 

An extract from the 1944 Annual Report of the biochemical department in the Netherlands Cancer Institute, published shortly after the German surrender on 5 May 1945.  H. Westenbrink, head of the department, announced the names of two colleagues who did not survive the German occupation. 

In the 1945 annual report of the clinic, Dr. W.F. Wassink writes:"We commemorate our two colleagues of the biochemical department, Veldman and Van den Broek, both who died as a consequence of the war. […] Colleagues and staff had high expectations for their futures"   

The extent of the German repression during the occupation of the Netherlands meant that for the duration of the war  it was impossible to document any of the German reprisals against staff in the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) resisting the occupation. In the hectic period of the reconstruction following the war there was also little time or attention for those that had disappeared. It was not until 2013/14 that Dr Philip Rümke (retired internist NKI) and Mrs Mieke de Mots (central library, NKI) decided to research the fate of two colleagues in the archives. This is their story. 

Who were these two colleagues employed in our biochemical laboratory?

van den Broek portret.jpg

 Willy van den Broek (7 Feb. 1922 - 26 Jan. 1945)

He died as a result of a random shooting by an Amsterdam policeman who was aiming at a group pilfering firewood from the destroyed German Sicherheitsdienst (SD) headquarters, then located in the Euterpestreet in southern Amsterdam. Following the war the street was renamed for the resistance fighter Gerrit van  der  Veen who was executed by the Germans. 

We know very little about Willy van der Broek beyond the fact that he is commemorated with a plaque by his former school, the Amsterdams Lyceum, as one of the 93 pupils that did not survive the war. According to a pamphlet released by the school in 1946, he worked for the resistance and was arrested briefly in 1943. In 1945 it seems he tried in vain to reach the by then liberated South of the country from Tiel. We have not discovered anything further on his role as a resistance fighter, neither from family nor can he be found in the NIOD records (the Dutch Institute for war, holocaust and genocide studies). 

When an assistant in the biochemical lab he was co‐author of a paper on iron metabolism. 

Sources:[89], [90], [94]


Veldkamp portret.jpg


Harm Veldman (12 Oct.1917 - 16 Apr. 1945)

1945 saw the commemoration of Veldman with a photo and full page article in the Chemical Weekly magazine (Chemisch Weekblad). This was down to his friend and former boss of the biochemical department of the research laboratory of the Netherlands Cancer institute, H.G.K. Westenbrink*. Veldman was a man of ideals, those of socialism and of science. He was born into a working class family and with the help of scholarships funded his own way into higher education studying medicine at the University of Amsterdam and, on graduation, he continued with chemistry of medicine at the Free University of Amsterdam. He then interrupted his studies to dedicate his time solely to experimental work with the appointment as an assistant at the Physiological Chemistry Laboratory in 1943. When Westenbrink was appointed head of the biochemistry division at the NKI, Veldman followed.  Veldman is co‐author on 13 publications, most with Westenbrink, on topics ranging from vitamins, the citric acid cycle, and iron metabolism in relation to cancer. With public speaking appearances, he was an active researcher and scientist. 

His activity was not limited to science, but applied with similar verve to the resistance. He was arrested in 1943 and detained in the notorious Oranje  Hotel in Scheveningen but released following a visit from his charming, German speaking wife. The arrest came about by coincidence when his name appeared in the diary of one of his students who was detained. Unfortunately on his arrest a jewish biochemist, friend of Veldman, was discovered hiding in the house. He was deported via the transit camp Westerbork never to return. 

On august 1st 1944, Harm Veldman was finally betrayed and arrested in Café Oosterling on the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam. He was deported via the agonizing routes of the headquarters of the SD, to the prison in Arnhem (Koepelgevangenis) to the concentration camps of Vught,  Sachenhausen, Gross‐Rosen and finally to Mittelbau‐Dora where he died of exhaustion and illness 5 days after being freed by the Americans. All was described in a letter sent to his widow by a survivor and compatriot who followed his path. Many died on the transports between camps and Veldman, a sufferer of tuberculosis, requests his travelling companion to "….should he not survive the transports, to contact you [Mrs Veldman] and the Cancer Institute in Amsterdam to let them know all that has passed". We do not know if the 7 page testimonial ever arrived at the NKI, for those interested a copy can be obtained directly from the authors of this piece (see below). 

He left behind some letters written to his wife from the transition camp of Vught in which he salutes his friends and colleagues Wassink, Westenbrink and Prof. Jansen, who knew of his underground activities. We know from letters to the Foundation '40‐'45 dated 1948 that both Westenbrink and the overall head of the NKI laboratory, Korteweg, were aware of the nature of his work and in trust permitted him to pursue his  illegal activities over his research. These activities were varied ranging from forgery and distribution of coupons and identity‐cards to making firebombs for sabotage. He was also co‐editor of the leftwing underground paper De Vrije Katheder. After his arrest his  colleagues found a gun, rifle and a suitcase with a secret compartment in the laboratory. 

The name of Harm Veldman is recorded on the memorial stone of the fallen of the Free University (VU) of Amsterdam. He is mentioned in the book "De Vrije Universiteit in oorlogstijd" ("The Free University during the war") and he was honored by the government by name. His name is on the Netherlands national list of victims of the war "Erelijst van Gevallenen 1940‐1945 "

He was never to see his daughter, Ilja, who was born 6 weeks after his arrest. She recently visited the mass grave where her father was buried with so many other victims of the Nazis in the concentration camp Mittelbau-Dora. 

*H.G.K Westenbrink was professor of physiological chemistry in Utrecht from 1946 until his death in 1964. 

With many thanks to Denise Citroen and Ester Wouthuysen for tracing daughter Ilja Veldman.

Sources: [91], [92], [93], [94].

Please address correspondence to: or

Bronnen & Publicaties

  • [89] Stadsarchief Amsterdam (Municipial archives Amsterdam) ,
  • [90] Memorial Book 1940-1945 Amsterdams Lyceum (grammar school "Amsterdam") ,
  • [91] Westenbrink, H.G.K, "In memoriam Harm Veldman" Chemisch Weekblad (Chemical Weekly) 1945; 41: 56-57 ,
  • [92] Private archives Ilja Veldman ,
  • [93] NIOD (Netherlands Institute for War-, Holocaust- and Genocide studies) ,
  • [94] NKI-AVL -Central Library of the NKI - annual reports , NKI annual report 1944