The 'SILBERTANNE' murders and Sonderkommando Feldmeijer

In 1943 Dutch resistance fighters committed a series of attacks on several collaborators, killing a number of leading Dutch 'national-socialists'. General Seyffardt, the commander of the Dutch Volunteer Legion, was among the victims and the German occupiers as well as the Dutch collaborating movement had no choice but to react. Rauter and the Germanic SS in the Netherlands, led by Henk Feldmeijer, all shouted for revenge. They got it in the so-called 'Silbertanne' Aktion. Rauter and Feldmeijer had been looking for a fitting reply to the increasing illegal Dutch activities. Both gentlemen had expressed their preference for the execution of anti-German Dutchmen early on. Mussert did not approve of executions despite the high frequency with which NSB men were the victim of such liquidations in 1943. He did concur with so-called reprisal-deportations of anti-German Dutchmen to the prison camps, however.

On 5 September 1943 the Generalkommissare Rauter, Wimmer, and Ritterbusch decided in secret to commit 'assassinations' as a reprisal to resistance attacks. In practice, this meant that for every attack on a 'national-socialist individual' three (initially ten) people from the region in question who were known to be 'anti-German' would be killed by Dutch SS men. The Sicherheitsdienst (SD), which was represented by Brigadeführer Erich Naumann (former commander of Einsatzgruppe B) in the Netherlands, would assist in these actions by supplying the assassins with cars, false license plates, false Ids, etc. Because of the secretive nature of the operation it was decided to give it a code name. After the name 'Blutbuche' (bloody bash) had been disapproved because it was too transparent the name 'Silbertanne' (silver pine) was chosen.

What remained was the actual formation of the assassin squads, a task which was given to Feldmeijer. He secretly recruited a number of men (three to six) from the five regional Standaarden of the Germanic SS in the Netherlands who were to form the regional assassin squads. Lists of potential victims, to which the NSB and the Germanic SS in the Netherlands made a large contribution, were compiled. The final decision on who was to be killed was with the chiefs of the Aussenstellen of the SD, who were officially informed about 'Silbertanne' on 13 September 1943.

In the night of 28 September 1943 the first 'Silbertanne' assassinations were committed. The murders were a reaction to three attacks committed by the resistance in Southeast Drenthe. Under command of the regional SS-Standaard leader T.J.S. van Efferen a garage keeper, a surgeon from Meppel, and a teacher from Staphorst were killed in silence. The next day the papers reported the murders and wrote about the possible cause, running headlines like: 'the police are at a loss'. The 'Silbertanne' murders continued for eleven months (late September 1943 to early September 1944), claiming the well-known writer A.M. de Jong as one of the victims of these ruthless reprisals.

Historian Lou de Jong distinguished two phases in 'Silbertanne'. In the first phase (until April 1944) the murders (33 in number) were committed by the Standaarden themselves, who each had a squad of about five assassins at their disposal. In the second phase (until September 1944) the murders (at least 21) were committed by a single commando, namely Sonderkommando Feldmeijer. Why had the procedure been changed?

As it turned out the Germanic SS-Standaarden in the Netherlands were not all capable of performing the assassinations in a manner that was to the satisfaction of their commanders. According to Feldmeijer and Rauter, the composition of the assassin squads (who were all volunteers for the Eastern front) was changed too often. Only the most fanatic, complemented by several new men to make a total of fifteen, remained in the end. This group was placed directly under Feldmeijer's control in the Sonderkommando Feldmeijer. The disgraceful performance of this group was much better appreciated by Rauter and after only a few months the first military honours were awarded.

Other prominent nazis in the Netherlands were less happy with Aktion 'Silbertanne'. Naumann's replacement, SS-Brigadeführer Eberhard Schöngarth, ended this campaign of murder as soon as he learnt of its existence. He was concerned the murders would give the SD an even worse reputation and expose the fact that they were unable to find the resistance fighters and therefore lowered themselves to committing assassinations. The immediate execution of resistance fighters (Niedermachungsbefehl) had by this time been allowed as well, making a campaign of terror such as 'Silbertanne' unnecessary. The Germanic SS men from Sonderkommando Feldmeijer were given a new task from early September 1944: guarding Feldmeijer himself. Not all the names from the assassination squads are known. After the war Feldmeijer's chief of staff Jansonius gave the following names: J.T.S. Van Efferen, C.F. Mink, Smid and Lantinck. It is furthermore known that the Germanic SS men L.Th. van Gog and D. Bernhard killed the writer A.M. de Jong. Even though the operation was officially a Sicherheitspolizei operation, it was performed by Dutch veterans from the Eastern front who were members of the Germanic SS. Those involved, as far as they were arrested, were condemned to very harsh sentences after the war. Rauter, for example, was condemned to death partly for his role in 'Silbertanne'.

Sources: (zie literature for title specifications) Havenaar, Anton Mussert; Van der Zee, Voor Führer, volk en vaderland; De Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, De Jonge, Het Nationaal-Socialisme in Nederland; In 't Veld, De SS en Nederland; Storm SS



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