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Herman Schoemaker
Dutch stay-behind operative

Herman Schoemaker (1943 - 3 March 2016) was a Dutch citizen and former entrepreneur with an electronics shop 1 in Soest (Netherlands). For more than 25 years, he was also an agent, and later instructor, for the clandestine Dutch stay-behind organisation (SBO) O&I (later: A en B). He joined the ultra secret organisation in the mid-1960s and worked for it until its dissolution in 1992 [7].

Although his work for the secret network was known to some extent by his wife, it happened completely outside the view of his children and friends. Under the cover of his entrepreneurship, he made regular trips to the UK and Germany where he was trained in the use of equipment.

After serving as an agent and radio operator for a number of years, he became a radio instructor himself and trained others in the use of the radio sets, and in coding and decoding of messages. The ultimate radio was the DZO-90 (FS-5000) of which at one time he had 55 units at his home.

When the Dutch stay-behind network was dismantled in 1992, all operatives were discharged. On 13 March 1992 they received a letter from (then) Dutch Prime Minister Lubbers [1] confirming that their services were no longer required and thanking them for their many years of dedicated service in secrecy. In the letter, it was pointed out that the original secrecy vow remained valid. This was (re)confirmed in a letter of 7 April 2005 [2], in which (then) Prime Minister Balkenende presented a report about the history of the organisation written by historian Dick Engelen [3].

After his retirement in 2004, Schoemaker wanted to do 'something useful' and started studying History at the University of Utrecht. In 2013, at the age of 69, he broke his secrecy vow when he wrote a thesis on the subject of the secret Dutch stay-behind organisation, under supervision of Professor Dr. Beatrice de Graaff at the University of Utrecht [4]. In the dissertation, he confirmed his involvement with the organisation and discussed the role of NATO and other organisations.

Shortly after finishing his thesis, in June 2013, Herman was diagnosed with cancer. Nevertheless he managed to do an interview with Bart Olmer [5] and appear on Dutch television in the talkshow De Wereld Draait door [6]. In December 2013, we had the priviledge of meeting him when he visited our exhibition Secret Communications in Duivendrecht, together with two of his former colleagues [7]. At the event, he went into great detail on some of the radio sets and even shared some anecdotes with us. Herman Schoemaker died on 3 March 2016 at the age of 72 [8].

  1. The shop was later renamed to Expert Schoemaker Soest.

Secret Communications
On 15 December 2013, Herman Schoemaker visited our exhibition Secret Communications on its final opening day. The exhibition coincided with the presentation of Schoemaker's dissertation on the Dutch SBO earlier that month. Below is a short video clip of some of the discussions that went on that day. Due to the effects of chemotherapy, Schoemaker is sitting in a wheelchair here.

 More video clips

  1. Ministerie van Algemene Zaken, Letter to members of the Dutch SBO
    Aan de medewerkers van de 'Clandestine Organisatie in Nederland'.
    Signed by Prime Minister R. Lubbers and Minister of Defense R. ter Beek.
    Den Haag (The Hague, Netherlands), 13 March 1992.

  2. Ministerie van Algemene Zaken, Letter to members of the former Dutch SBO
    Aan de medewerkers van de in 1992 opgeheven 'Clandestine Organisatie in Nederland'.
    Signed by Prime Minister mr. dr. J.P Balkenende and Minister of Defense H.G.J. Kamp.
    Den Haag (The Hague, Netherlands), 7 April 2005.

  3. Dr. D. Engelen, De Nederlandse stay behind-organisatie in de koude oorlog 1945-1992
    Ministerie van Algemene Zaken, Ministerie van Defensie & Rijksarchiefdienst/PIVOT
    The Netherlands, National Archives, Institutional Investigation (Dutch).
    The Hague, 2005. ISBN 90-5909-0489.

  4. Herman Schoemaker, Een geheime organisatie in beeld
    De Nederlandse stay-behind-organisatie, geheim, onafhankelijk en zelfstandig?
    The Dutch stay-behind organisation, secret, independent and autonomous? (Dutch).
    Thesis under supervision of Prof. Dr. B.G.J. de Graaff, Utrecht University. 7 June 2013.

  5. Bart Olmer, Ex-instructeur onthult bestaan ondergrondse verzetsgroep...
    Interview with Herman Schoemaker at the event of the presentation of his Thesis [5].
    De Telegraaf (newspaper) 9 November 2013. p. TA1.

  6. De Wereld Draait Door, Stay Behind: Herman Schoemaker en Beatrice de Graaf
    Television talkshow (Dutch). 13 November 2013.

  7. Crypto Museum, Interview with Herman Schoemaker
    Diemen (Netherlands). 15 December 2013.

  8. Historische Vereniging Soest/Soesterberg, Voorzitter HV Soest/Soesterberg overleden
    Website. 4 March 2016.  Obituary (Dutch)
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