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During the Second World War, Truus van Lier escorted Jews to safehouses. She also worked as a courier, delivering messages and weapons, and she infiltrated the NSB and the Wehrmacht in Amersfoort. She soon assumed an active role in the armed resistance, with dramatic consequences.

And, remarkably, she grew up as ‘the girl next door’ to Truus Schröder in the famous Rietveld Schröder House.

Truus Schröder referred to her neighbour Truus van Lier as ‘the girl with the forget-me-not eyes’. 

She described her as ‘a clever sister, just like her mother’. 

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The Van Lier family lived at Prins Hendriklaan 48, in the dwelling that now houses the ticket office of the Rietveld Schröder House.

It’s where you now purchase your ticket and/or meet your guide. A large red ticket desk occupies the spot where the Van Lier family used to have dinner.

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Truus van Lier’s parents, Willem and Derkje, married in 1917.

They moved into the dwelling at Prins Hendriklaan 48 in September 1921. Truus was just 5 months old at the time, while her elder sister Wilhelmina was 3.5 years.

Photo: private archive

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Truus’s mother worked as a chemist at Utrecht University; a progressive position for a woman at that time.

Truus’s father was a lawyer and came from an affluent Jewish family.

 Grandfather Lambertus van Lier was one of the founders of the Utrechtsche Hypotheekbank, located at Drift 17.

Photo: Het Utrechts Archief

Truus attended primary school at Koningin Wilhelminaschool, on Mecklenburglaan.
She played hockey and sang in the church choir.

On this photograph Truus is on the right, with her elder sister Wilhelmina on the left.

Photo: private archive

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Truus obtained her high school diploma at the Christelijk Lyceum in Zeist. The Second World War had just begun.

This photo was probably taken at that school, with the wall of the school building in the background.

Photo: Het Utrechts Archief

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German forces invaded the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. Rotterdam was bombarded on 14 May, and when the Germans threatened to destroy Utrecht as well, the Netherlands surrendered to the enemy.

During the first months of the war, Truus van Lier enrolled as a law student at Utrecht University. And not without reason.

Image: Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad 10 May 1940

The Van Lier family was well aware of the perilous position of Jews in Germany. As Truus’s older cousin Trui van Lier said:

“I knew how badly the Jews were treated by the Germans, even before the war broke out. And all those people who just stood by…. People thought that the Germans were very respectable people.” 

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Cousin Trui van Lier (1914 – 2002) established a kindergarten called Kindjeshaven at Prins Hendriklaan 4, near to Truus’s home.

By taking in Jewish children, Trui van Lier and Jet Berdenis van Berlekom were able to save approximately 150 Jewish children.

Photo: Het Utrechts Archief. Trui (on the left) and Jet (on the right) with a number of children at Kindjeshaven. 

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Truus van Lier also chose to resist the German occupation, but unlike her niece she joined the armed resistance.

Truus was a member of a literary underground magazine called Lichting. She worked as a courier of illegal newspapers, messages and weapons, and also escorted Jews to safehouses. Truus even infiltrated the NSB and the Wehrmacht in Amersfoort.

Source: Koninklijke Bibliotheek 

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Truus van Lier became involved with the Amsterdam-based resistance group CS-6. The members of CS-6 engaged in espionage, sabotage and assassinations.

Truus was prepared to go to extremes to resist the German occupation. She even hosted meetings of the CS-6 group in her family home at Prins Hendriklaan 48.

Photo: Rietveld Schröder Archief

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On 3 September 1943, near Willemsplantsoen in Utrecht, Truus van Lier shot and killed police superintendent G.J. Kerlen.

Kerlen was a member of the NSB and was about to order the arrest of a group of Jews and resistance fighters.

Photo: Nationaal Archief/Collectie Spaarnestad/A.Ph. de Keijzer 

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Directly after the assault, Truus fled to Haarlem where she went into hiding.

SS-Sturmbannführer Willy Lages offered a 10,000 guilder reward to whoever could help identify the assassin, described as ‘an approximately 20-year-old female on a bicycle’ wearing a ‘grey-checkered cape’.

Source: Utrechts Nieuwsblad van 9 September 1943 

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A few days later, Truus van Lier was betrayed by a woman who had previously been part of the CS-6 resistance group but had been forced by the Germans to work as a spy.

Truus was arrested on 14 September 1943 and jailed in the prison at Amstelveenseweg in Amsterdam.

Photo: Nationaal Archief 

Did you hear what happened to our neighbour’s daughter?, wrote Truus Schröder in a letter after the end of the Second World War.

 

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Truus’s father went looking for his daughter after the war.

He did not know what had happened to her and placed this notice in several newspapers.

Notice in Het Parool, 11 July 1945.

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It was only in July 1946 that Truus’s father received formal confirmation that his daughter had been killed by firing squad in concentration camp Sachsenhausen.

Source: Het Utrechts Archief

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Truus had been executed on 27 October 1943, together with two other women, Reina Prinsen Geerligs and Nel Hissink.

According to witnesses, the three women walked before the firing squad with their heads held high and singing.

Photo: Entrance gate Sachsenhausen, by János Balázs via Wikimedia Commons 

Just a handful of women were actively involved in the armed resistance, which makes Truus van Lier’s story all the more remarkable.

Many people have heard about Hannie Schaft, thanks to the 1956 book by Theun de Vries and the film adaptation from 1981. But Truus van Lier shot Kerlen before Hannie Schaft chose to take up arms. So the ‘red-headed girl’ in fact had a predecessor in ‘the girl with the forget-me-not eyes’.

Photo: Het Utrechts Archief

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Truus van Lier has been commemorated by means of a daffodil monument since 2004.

In around April of every year, her name emerges in yellow letters along the slope of the Singel canal, near Willemsplantsoen where Truus shot and killed the NSB police superintendent Gerard Kerlen.

Photo: Renger de Bruin 

Centraal Museum also wishes to commemorate Truus van Lier. That is why, on 21 April 2021, on the one hundredth anniversary of her birth, a plaque was unveiled in front of the house now housing the ticket office for the Rietveld Schröder House.

This way, visitors to the world heritage house built by Gerrit Rietveld and Truus Schröder can see that another extraordinary life took place in the house next door.

This visual story was written by Jessica van Geel.
Photo: Wessel Spoelder

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