Born: Amsterdam, Netherlands
March 10, 1912
Johannes was born to Christian parents and had three brothers and three sisters. His father sold coal for heating systems. By 1933 Johannes was also a coal distributor. Like many other Dutch citizens, Johannes did not approve of Hitler's policies. He especially objected to Hitler's persecution of Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses.
1933-39: Hitler's coming to power in Germany was a threat to all of us. In 1936 I became a Jehovah's Witness. My mother was also a Witness and by 1938, one brother and one sister became Witnesses as well. Even in the Netherlands we faced adversity. In 1937 the police protected us from Catholic priests who preached hatred against us during our Bible meetings in Tilburg.
1940-44: The Germans occupied the Netherlands in May 1940. I was arrested by the Dutch police on June 15, 1941. After being detained for several months, I was deported with 50 other Witnesses to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Required to do heavy labor, we Witnesses were the only prisoners trusted by the Germans because we never tried to escape. Each morning one of us read aloud a Bible passage, which we'd discuss while working during the day. Sometimes, I'd secretly read from my own Bible that I'd managed to smuggle in.
While being force-marched from Sachsenhausen, Johannes was liberated by U.S. troops near Schwerin, Germany, on May 5, 1945. He then returned to Amsterdam.