cell door blokhuispoort

During the Second World War, on 8 December 1944, the Huis van Bewaring, a prison in Leeuwarden, was raided by the Knokploegen (KP, Strong-arm Boys), the armed resistance in Friesland. Important members of the resistance were incarcerated in the Huis van Bewaring, and there was an imminent danger they would yield under extreme interrogation and surrender the names of their fellow fighters, endangering the lives of many resistance fighters in the province. 

Since October 1944, the leaders of the KP in Friesland had been devising a plan to attack the Huis van Bewaring. They decided to strike early December 1944, and the difficult decision was made about which prisoners would be freed and who left behind. 

Using fake IDs, the first group of KP fighters, including the leader of the raid, Piet Oberman, succeeded in entering the Huis van Bewaring. The guards were overpowered and the resistance fighters entered the prison. Within a matter of minutes, the prisoners were freed from their cells. An unexpected confrontation occurred when, during the raid, three new prisoners were brought into the building by German soldiers. The quick-witted KP fighters managed to lock up these guards too, and release the prisoners. In total, fifty prisoners were released from the Huis van Bewaring without a single shot being fired. The Germans responded with wide-scale harsh searches of civilians and homes on 9 December. Their efforts were in vain: no one was arrested, and surprisingly, there were no other reprisals.

After the war, this episode became the defining act of heroism by the Frisian resistance. A number of books about the raid have been published, and the 1962 film De Overval about the raid, viewed by about a million-and-a-half people, made it famous in the Netherlands. In 2012, preparations for the open-air performance De Oerfal began before it was staged in 2013. This performance placed the story of the raid in a modern context.

The Fries Verzetsmuseum (Frisian Resistance Museum) has always focused on presenting stories in ways that trigger the imagination, so when the Fries Verzetsmuseum was asked if it wanted to purchase a cell door from the Huis van Bewaring for its collection, the museum seized this opportunity. The cell door has been part of the museum’s permanent exhibition ever since.

In our new museum, we have also devoted an area to the raid of 8 December 1944. Although the presentation centres on the event of the raid, we also view it from the perspectives of bystanders, guards, the occupying forces, and the prisoners who were left behind. The cell door fulfils a pivotal role in the new ‘Overvalzaal’ (‘Overval Hall’).