"I Never Walked Alone": The Story of Hans Poley, Hero of the WWII Dutch Resistance


   Hans Poley was an eighteen-year-old student at Delft Technological University in the Netherlands in early 1943 when an announcement came that all who wanted to continue their studies must sign a declaration of loyalty to the Nazi regime. Those who didn’t sign were to report for deportation to a labor camp in Germany. 

   A spirit of resistance against their Nazi persecutors was strong among the Dutch students. Their land was occupied by foreign invaders. “Voor Joden Verboden” (“Jews Forbidden”) signs guarded public places like the Nazi soldiers who seemed to be everywhere. Jews and dissenting voices mysteriously vanished. Rumors--which turned out to be true--had it that they were sent to death camps. 

   The razzia was an ever-looming threat for the young men of Holland. At anytime, the Nazis could burst in, seize them, and force them to work for Germany. And raids were carried out on universities. These were mass deportations of dissenting professors and students to labor--slave, really--in Germany. Life in the Netherlands now consisted of rations and shortages and blackouts and curfews. 

   And now this order to declare allegiance to the Nazi regime. 

   Yes, the spirit of resistance was strong among the young people of Holland. Only fifteen percent of the students signed the declaration. 

   Hans had already been on the move for a few months when the announcement came because of how the Gestapo had been harassing students. 

   While staying with relatives, Hans had met and fallen in love with a girl named Mies. They were convinced they were meant to be together and the threat of Hans’ arrest made no difference. For Hans had been reading and thinking and had made his decision. In his words, 

   “...the war against national socialism was not just a battle with arms; it was an ideological, a religious battle, and I could not sign the declaration.”

   May 1943, at eighteen years old, Hans was an outlaw.

   His parents supported his decision and looked for a place for him to hide. Mrs. Poley soon found the perfect answer. Hans could stay with her friends the ten Booms at their home in Haarlem.

   Hans was not quite as enthusiastic at first about living with an old man and two middle-aged spinsters. But as he said, beggars can’t be choosers, and he was grateful for a place to hide. 

   Hans was the first of many to be sheltered by the ten Boom family, in their house, the Beje. He soon grew to love and respect “Opa” (Grandfather) and his two daughters, Betsie and Corrie, whom Hans called “Tante (Aunt) Bep” and “Tante Kees.” 

   Several more “guests” came to the house, and Hans became good friends with many of them, especially a Jewish man whom they dubbed “Eusi.” When Eusi’s wife gave birth, Eusi asked Hans to go and see her and their baby son, since he could not. Hans wasn’t enthusiastic, but Tante Bep and a Jewish woman staying at the Beje convinced him. So Hans, laden with flowers, was admitted into a large room with about a dozen young mothers, and fulfilled his duty to Eusi. 

   A secret room was built, an alarm system installed, and Hans and the other guests practiced disappearing as quickly as possible, in case of a Gestapo raid.  

Hans (in the middle) and other guests at the ten Boom home

   As time passed, the ten Booms became more involved in underground work--and so did Hans. At first, he simply delivered messages, ran errands, and the like for Tante Kees. But soon he became more and more involved in armed Resistance work. Owning a gun was punished with immediate death in Nazi-occupied Holland. When he wasn’t using his, Hans kept it hidden behind the books on a bookshelf at his room in his parents’ house. 

   Other members of the ten Boom family were also involved in the Resistance including Kik ten Boom, Peter van Woerden, and Peter’s sister Aty’s fiancée, Piet Hartog. 

The ten Booms and their guests

   Going out was dangerous, and once Hans dressed like a girl to avoid seizure. Eventually he obtained false identity papers which identified him as a 24-year-old assistant minister in the Dutch Reformed church. This made him less liable to being deported. He grew a small moustache to match his pretended age better. 

   One morning in February 1944, Hans was woken early by Tante Kees with the news that he had an important errand to go on. The Gestapo were looking for a Mr. Van Rijn and would arrest him--unless Hans could warn him first. They prayed for safety, and Hans boarded a train first to Amsterdam and then to Soest. 

    He asked for directions at the station from two men in light raincoats and headed to the house, where he hastily explained the danger to Van Rijn and his wife. Mrs. Van Rijn cried and protested, but thankfully Mr. Van Rijn believed Hans and the two quickly agreed on a cover story. Then Hans left. 

    Mission accomplished, he thought. Now I need to get away. But as he started down the drive, he saw the two men in light raincoats, and his heart sank. 

   “Hold it right there! Gestapo!” 

    They didn’t believe Hans’ cover story and in a few moments, Hans and Mr. Van Rijn were searched and handcuffed. To make matters worse, Mrs. Van Rijn told the Gestapo that Hans had come to warn them. 

    Hans was dragged to a train and questioned on the journey back to Haarlem. He told them nothing. 

    By the time he was locked in a cell at the Haarlem police station, he was desperate. What should he tell the Gestapo? He couldn’t involve the ten Booms. But how was he to keep them from searching his house and finding his gun?

    Later that afternoon, Hans was taken to a spacious room in the Gestapo headquarters and handcuffed to the central heating. They would have checked his identity papers, but it was Saturday, and that couldn’t be done until Monday. 

   A bit later, he was cuffed to a chair, and the interrogation began. At first, Hans said nothing. He had a story ready, but he wanted to wait as long as possible.

   Then they switched on a strong light and adjusted it so that it shone directly in his face. The barrage of questions and threats continued, harsher now. Hans was tired and hungry, and now he was terrified. The urge to yield was strong. 

   After a few hours, Hans finally made a show of breaking down and begged them to stop. Bit by bit, he related the story he had concocted. He even had a name to give them: Evert van Leyenhorst. Evert had been killed last December. 

   At last, they switched off the light.

   “You do know that we’re now going to your home to verify your story?” one of the interrogators asked. 

   Hans nodded. He was again handcuffed to the central heating. And so began what he would later call “the darkest hours of my life.” He was certain his home would be ransacked and his story proven false. They would find his gun which meant immediate death by firing squad. 

   His family, his friends, his fiancée were all gone. All that remained was his faith. 

   He prayed hard while he waited for the Gestapo to return. Hours passed in which Hans fluctuated between peace and panic. 

    Late in the evening, the Gestapo returned and so did Hans’ fear. What had happened? Were his parents already in prison? 

   “You probably already know what we found,” one said. “And you also know what that means for you.” 

   This is it, Hans thought and prayed desperately for courage. 

   The Nazi opened his briefcase and threw some items on the table between them. A few underground papers and a boy scout knife. 

   Hans could hardly believe it. Yes, he’d be going to prison or concentration camp. But they hadn’t found his gun! 

   Later Hans learned that out of the twenty-four shelves on his bookcase, the Gestapo threw the books off twenty-one of them. One of the only three untouched shelves held his gun.  

   After a few days of agonizing solitary confinement, Hans was taken outside and ordered into a truck. That road would lead him to concentration camp. Decades later, Hans wrote, 

   “I would be beaten, kicked, and abused, but I would never walk alone. God never left me.”

   Meanwhile, the ten Booms had been betrayed, and the Gestapo raided the Beje. Opa, Tante Bep, and Tante Kees, along with some of their friends and family members were arrested. 

   But the Nazis didn’t find the secret room. Two underground workers and several Jews, including Eusi, huddled inside while the Gestapo beat and banged on the floors and walls. Then all became silent. They remained in the cramped little space for three days while the house was kept under guard until it was miraculously arranged for two friendly policemen to be put on guard who helped them get out and get to safety. 

   Opa soon died in prison. Tante Bep and Tante Kees were eventually taken to a notorious women’s extermination camp. Betsie (Tante Bep) died there. After months of suffering, Corrie (Tante Kees) was providentially released through a “clerical error.” (For more about Corrie read this blog post and this one.) 

   Hans was interrogated again and spent some time in another prison before being transferred to Amersfoort concentration camp. He endured six months of cruelty, hunger, sickness, and humiliation at that camp. 

   Among the never-ending suffering, Hans would later remember one particularly bright spot. As he and the other prisoners stood motionless during roll call, suddenly the sweet song of a caroling lark swept over them. To the weary prisoners, it was a symbol of liberation and light. 

   Hans was promoted to barracks administrator and later deputy camp administrator and he sought to use his position to help the other prisoners. 

   One day while at the administration office, Hans saw a paper with a list of prisoners to be deported to Germany. Among the list of names and numbers was: Poley, number 9238. 

   Hans hurried to tell one of the camp doctors who was a friend. “Report to sick-parade for doctor’s check tomorrow morning,” the doctor said with a smile. 

   The next morning, the doctor gave him the diagnosis of tuberculosis. He wouldn’t be welcome in Germany with that disease. 

   A few weeks later, on August 15th, Hans received another list of prisoners, this time ones to be released. Through clouded eyes, Hans stared at his name: Poley, number 9238. The next day, he walked out of the gates of the concentration camp, free. Later, he would learn that many of his camp friends were deported to Germany only to die of deprivation. 

    Hans had a jubilant reunion with his parents and Mies and later with Tante Kees. He was home, but the war wasn’t over yet. Resistance work continued. Many friends were killed, including Piet Hartog. Before being shot by firing squad without even a trial, Piet sent a letter to his friends testifying of his faith in Christ and how he was grateful for the opportunity to share the hope of Jesus with his fellow prisoners. 

   Once, the Gestapo searched Hans’ home. Hans hid under the living room floor through a hidden hatch. The Nazis beat and questioned his father, but his performance of a weak and frightened old man was convincing, and they left. Hans’ father was really a leader in the Resistance. 

  Then finally came what Hans called “the sweetest May in our history.” Liberation. The war came to an end. 

   For those who had suffered under the Nazi occupation in Holland, it was a struggle to adjust to normal life. The lying and stealing they had done to survive and save others had to stop. 

   Other Christians told Hans he needed to forgive the Germans collectively, something Hans termed “well-meant nonsense.” He said the Bible taught that forgiveness was from individual to individual and only after repentance. Hans did feel hatred for Germans as a whole, but he knew that hate doesn’t heal, and he slowly learned to walk the path of reconciliation with Christ’s help. It wasn’t easy, and decades later, Hans still cringed at the color combination of black and red. But he was healing. 

   Hans and Mies were married and had two sons and a daughter. Hans finished his degree in physics at Delft Technological Institute and later received his Ph. D. He worked as a physicist until his retirement and was awarded the Dutch Memorial Cross for his role in the Resistance. 

    Hans and Eusi remained friends and returned to visit the hiding place with Corrie in 1974. 

   After a full life of serving the Lord, Hans Poley died in 2003.

Source: Return to the Hiding Place by Hans Poley

P. S. I also highly recommend the movie Return to the Hiding Place about Hans Poley, the ten Booms, Piet Hartog, and other members of the Dutch Resistance. It’s amazing! I plan to write a review of it soon, but for now, you can read the Dove Review here and the MovieGuide review here


  1. I work as a guide in the Corry ten Boom house in Haarlem, where you can still visit the hiding place and hear the story of the Ten Booms and what happened in their house during World War II.
    Ever since I read Hans Poley’s book I have been intrigued by this wonderful character and I often share parts of his story with the visitors.
    So many things happened in the house, called the Beje, and the lives of its inhabitants. I am now learning many new facts about the story by reading a recently published book written by Larry Loftis called The watchmaker’s daughter. The story goes on…. Facts may be added and sometimes need to be revised, but the main focus of the story will never change and will always be on the Person and work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He worked mightily in the lives of the Ten Booms and Hans Poley, and, praise Him, in my life too.

  2. 🙏🙏✝️👏❤️🇮🇳🌻⭐️

  3. Corrie was a wonderful person!


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