Mona told him the story that she and Willem had agreed upon: Willem was fishing in Friesland and Mona wasn't certain when he would return. They asked more questions about their movements and activities, giving dates and asking her to account for their whereabouts. Mona thought things were going fairly well, and the conversation continued in this way for about an hour. Then the two Gestapo officers announced that they were taking her to the office. Confused, Mona said that Willem wasn't at his office - he was fishing in Friesland. Then came the words that caused her stomach to flip and her heart to chill. She was to accompany them to their offices in Amsterdam. They wouldn't permit her to leave the room to get a jacket or her purse and escorted her to the car outside. When the doors of Ingleside closed behind her, they marked the last time she would see Ingleside for nearly four years.
Mona was taken to the Weteringschane Prison, the skeleton of which still stands today, located in one of the lively sections of Amsterdam, famous for its street performers on the Leidseplein and the nearby Rijksmuseum, Staadgebouw Theatre, and diamond houses. After the war, the prison was closed down, and the space was rented to artists looking for painting studios or writers' garrets. After its use as an arts cooperative ended, the former prison was renovated, re-opening as the Holland Casino, one of the sites and stopping points on the canal-boat tour and water-taxi routes. Peaks of the original exterior walls are still visible, poking up from the top of the new building like fingers of imprisoned wraiths, trying to escape - reminders of the building's wartime use. Today, visitors can play chess, moving large chess pieces on a board painted on the ground in the courtyard, or they can take their chances in the casino, where the only thing they risk losing these days is their money.
At Weteringschane, Mona was subjected to repeated questioning. She tried various approaches, including feigning boredom and pretending ignorance of people whose names she knew. Initially, she believed the Gestapo were on a bit of a fishing trip of their own, asking about people and hoping that she would betray something. She was shaken to the core, however, when the Gestapo produced files with details about people she knew.
The two British flyers whom she and Willem had sheltered had been caught in Leiden. Though Richard Pape made a desperate attempt to tear up his diary and his code book and flush them down the toilet, (as he dramatically described in a book he wrote later, scooping the unflushed pieces out of the toilet and eating them as the Gestapo broke down the door) he neglected to exercise the same precaution with one damning piece of evidence against Mona. In Pape's pocket was Mona's calling card.
Mona also learned that other members of the little network had been captured. Numb with shock, she listened as she heard the names of people she knew read aloud with others she didn't recognize: Bernard Besselink, a farmer; Jan Agterkamp, a journalist; Frederik Boessenkool, a teacher; Jan Huese, a businessman; Harmen van der Leek, a professor; and Dirk Brouwer. Brouwer would face a firing squad in November.
As she listened, Mona realized that there was no way out, but she remained calm. By turns, the tactics used on her were gentle and imploring, then aggressive and threatening. She was put in solitary confinement, with nothing more than a piece of straw-filled ticking on the stone floor and a bucket in which to relieve herself. She remained resolute.
The Nazis began to realize they'd completely misjudged the tall, willowy socialite. They held Mona for nearly three months without charge. At least one friend, Lie van Oldenburg tried to intervene on her behalf to obtain her release. Her requests - to a former friend who had joined the Dutch Nazi party - were denied, but she was granted permission to visit. Lie described the visit as somewhat surreal. Mona greeted her in the visit room as though they were meeting at a restaurant, full of charm and confidence. The parcel of food, personal care items and a sewing kit had been carefully inspected and Lie was permitted to give them to Mona, who thanked her for her kindness. They chatted about generalities. Mona asked about her house and her dogs. Lie assured her that Bep was looking after everything and that Mona's cat Wimpy was also fine. He'd run away from home, but had eventually come back, looking the sleek, healthy black cat he'd always been. Mona didn't have a cat, but her heart leapt at the news. It meant that Willem - whom she called Wim - had returned home and knew of her detention. Mona also knew that he wouldn't have risked remaining at Ingleside, which was doubtless still under surveillance, but she couldn't ask Lie for more information. At the end of their visit, Mona crossed the room to thank Lie for the visit and shake her hand. Lie's heart skipped a beat when she realised that Mona had pressed something into her hand. Petrified that someone had seen the exchange, Lie didn't dare to look until she was well clear of the prison. Mona had given her a list of items that she wanted moved from Ingleside. Certain that she wouldn't soon be released and realising that Willem couldn't risk living in the house, she wanted to ensure that items of value - among them jewellery, papers, vintage wines - were removed from the house before the inevitable occupation by some high-ranking officers. With Bep's help, Lie went to Ingleside and, in the course of one night, removed as much as they could. Items were wrapped in cloth, then buried in Lie's garden and cellar to await Mona's release.
About a month after her incarceration, Mona received a note that an effort was being made to secure her release and to await further instruction. She would be contacted by someone known to her, someone she could trust. On a date now lost in time and with a plan that was not recorded, her friend and chauffeur de Boer went to Weteringschane Prison with the intention of helping Mona to escape. Lie believed it's possible de Boer was duped by a traitor into believing that, for a sum of money, Mona would be released in the middle of the night, and that all de Boer had to do was show up at the prison. Whatever his plan, it went awry. De Boer was taken into custody. Mona was distraught when, a few days later, she received a concealed message, written on tissue paper, informing her only that de Boer had been executed for his efforts.
At 8 o'clock on the morning of December 22, 1941, the doors of Mona's cell were thrown open and she was told to dress. Confused and somewhat afraid, she asked why. The guard told her that she was going to trial. The news confused her even more. No mention had been made of a trial, she'd had no consultation with a lawyer, didn't even know the charges against her. She was taken to the Carlton Hotel on the Vijzelstraat where, in a ballroom, she was taken before a military tribunal. According to Hans de Vries of RIOD (The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation): "[Mona's] case was taken very seriously by the Germans. She was tried before a military court. No woman - or hardly any women - [had] been convicted in a military court - and certainly not in 1941".
The military officer assigned to represent her spoke no English. Mona protested and a second officer, who spoke a smattering of English and Dutch, was assigned to her. She couldn't follow the proceedings but completely understood when the officer told her to stand and the word 'todesstraffe' was pronounced - a death sentence. She was to die by firing squad. They may have expected that such news would cause her to crack, to plead for her life, to tell them what they wanted to know. But she remained calm and resolute, bowing her slightly and clicking her heels together. "Guten Morgen, meine Herren," was all she said in a clear voice before she turned to be led from the room.
The chief judge of the tribunal was so impressed that he followed her from the courtroom. He told her that, although she would be transferred to Amstelveense Prison to await her execution, he would permit her to appeal her sentence. To that end, she would be permitted writing materials upon her return to Weteringschane.
She crafted her appeal to General der Flieger, Franz Christiansen - not a man known for compassion and leniency. The document has not survived, but in it, Mona recalled that she spoke about the friends they had in common and that, were it not for the insanity of war, they would likely have met one another, possibly even have liked one another. Whatever she wrote, on January 17, 1942, Christiansen commuted her sentence to life at labour - exactly one month before Mona's forty-first birthday.
On March 6, 1942 Mona was taken with several other prisoners to a train station, where she was told that she was being moved to the Anrath Prison in Germany (photo at http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinstelbrink/3088827225/).
The world had different ideas. The war clouds that had gathered over Europe for several years became more ominous. Mona wrote a postcard to her father, Norval and stepmother, Alma in Canada to register her dismay over the outbreak of war, and her shock and grief over the sinking of the S.S. Athenia. By the time that postcard arrived in Canada, Canada had also declared war on Germany. She wrote again to Norval and Alma a few days later to reassure them that, regardless of events in Europe, everyone was confident that Holland would remain neutral.
How wrong she was. In May 1940 Holland was invaded by Nazi Germany. Six days later, Holland surrendered. The country was plunged into an occupation that would drag on for five years, resulting in the transport or deaths of thousands of its citizens, and bringing the nation to the brink of starvation.Though Mona was a wealthy socialite, she believed it was necessary to find ways to resist and thwart the Nazi occupation. She and Willem joined a group of like-minded people who vowed to do whatever they could to counter the Nazis' efforts. This network would eventually become organised into what's remembered as The Resistance, but that wouldn't happen until Mona and many others had been arrested and even executed.
The network's best opportunity lay in helping downed Allied fliers evade capture to return to England. The network, comprising people from diverse walks of life - teachers, farmers, businessmen, professors - gathered false identity papers, ration cards and civilian clothing, and provided accommodation and transportation to coastal villages. There the fliers would be taken by fishing boats to the North Sea to rendezvous with British submarines that would take the flyers back to England.
At the beginning of the occupation, the Nazis showed far more restraint and patience to the Dutch than they had to the citizens of other countries they had invaded. That was due, in part, to the fact that the two countries had no history of hostilities. Their languages shared a family tree. And many of the Dutch were blonde-haired and blue-eyed - perfect "breeding stock" for the Aryan super-race of Hitler's demented fantasy.
The Nazis were also notoriously class-conscious. People like Mona and Willem weren't harassed by soldier. They were treated with respect, almost deference. The Nazis were confident that, once the upper class could be convinced that the Nazis were no real threat, everyone else would see the wisdom of the occupation and the benefits of joining what the Nazis were certain was about to become the new world order. The Leonhardts and others of the upper class and aristocracy used this to their advantage, for a time. By the summer of 1941, however, the Nazis started to realise that their plans wouldn't unfold as easily as they'd hoped. The Nazis began to infiltrate the network, detaining and arresting people with much the same impunity as the United States' Patriot Act would evoke in the aftermath of the attacks on New York's World Trade Centre in September 2001.
Members continued to work doggedly, but found moving the airmen from place to place was becoming more difficult. Instead of being able to move them around to two or three places in a few hours, they were having to keep them in hiding overnight. It was at this time, in September 1941, that Mona and Willem were to have their last guests from the Royal Air Force.
Dirk Brouwer was a rising star in the architectural firmament in Holland in the 1930s, and was a friend of the Leonhardts. His home at a fashionable address next to the Vondelpark in Amsterdam still exists, though it has been divided into flats. It was to this home at Emalaan 10 that the Leonhardts received a dinner invitation towards the end of September 1941. However, when Brouwer mentioned that Willem had left his umbrella there after his last visit, Willem recognised it as the pre-arranged code to alert him that Brouwer's home was concealing Allied flyers.
When the Leonhardts began their service in the network, they dismissed all their servants with the exception of a live-out housekeeper named Bep, not because they didn't trust their servants, but because they didn't want them implicated in the event of the Leonhardts' arrest. That left the servants' quarters on the third floor of Ingleside completely available. Moir and Pape had comfortable beds, a private bathroom, a radio, magazines and other reading material, good food (including one of Mona's favourite indulgences - chocolate!), a view of the gardens and access to the same for fresh air and exercise. And in the event of a surprise visit and search of the house by the Gestapo, a small room behind Willem's bedroom closet provided a secret hiding place.
The day after their guests had arrived, the Leonhardts were shocked by the news that the entire family of a network member, Frederik Boessenkool, a local teacher, had been taken in by the Gestapo for questioning. They realized that they could not risk moving Moir and Pape, so kept them at Ingleside for an unprecedented six days, during which time Boessenkool's family was released, re-arrested and released again. On the sixth day, a driver went to Ingleside to pick up the British flyers to take them on the last leg of their journey to Leiden, where they were to meet a fishing boat. The Leonhardts bid them goodbye and breathed a sigh of relief, but the calm was not to last long. More arrests followed. The Leonhardts decided that Willem should go into hiding. Mona would remain behind to care for their two dogs (who were like children to her) and in the hope of averting suspicion.
Returning on September 29, 1941 with her chauffeur, de Boer, from a shopping trip and a dental appointment, Mona was surprised to find Dirk Brouwer hiding in some bushes outside her house, and alarmed by the urgency in his voice. Several others had been arrested and Brouwer was certain it was only a matter of time before the Gestapo arrived at Ingleside. He urged her to leave at once. Convinced that her acting abilities would carry her through, Mona assured him that she couldn't leave her dogs and that she would be able to throw up a smoke screen that even the Gestapo wouldn't be able to penetrate. He spent a few precious minutes trying to change her mind, telling her that Bep had told him that the Gestapo had already visited the house twice earlier in the day. They might appear at any minute. If Mona had any second thoughts, she didn't budge. She told Brouwer to leave through the garden, reassuring him that she would be all right. They bid each other a hasty - and as it turned out, final - goodbye. Mona went into the house to prepare for the arrival of the Gestapo. The Gestapo arrived at Ingleside at approximately 7 p.m.. Mona played the charming society hostess, inviting them into the house and offering them drinks and cigars, which they readily accepted. They told her that they had been to Willem's office and told that he was away. They asked where he was.
While she waited, she was stunned to see Willem among other prisoners being put on another train. Without thinking of the consequences, she ran to him and embraced him. She was able to utter "Have courage, my love" in Dutch before she was wrenched away. She would later learn that Willem had been arrested the day before her own trial in December 1941.
There she was housed with other political prisoners as well as common criminals. Cells were small and overcrowded, sleeping four in a cell designed for one. Food rations were minimal. The toilet was a bucket in the middle of the floor, splashed with creosote to mask the smell. Bathing was confined to a bowl of cold water and a piece of clay soap.
Mona was transferred to Wiedenbruck, where she worked on an assembly line creating plywood wings for small craft, then on a line assembling igniters for bombs. She became ill with bronchitis several times, and when put in the infirmary, was tasked with knitting socks for German soldiers. She recalled having performed the same task for Canadian soldiers in World War Two. Although instructed not to have more than three breaks in the wool, Mona derived great satisfaction in breaking it frequently when not watched, then incorporating large knots of wool in the soles of the socks. Any act of defiance, regardless of how small, was enough to buoy her spirits, to help her survive.
On February 6, 1945, the prisoners at Wiedenbruck were herded onto a train bound for another prison in Vechta. Close by were two hospitals, an airfield and a major train junction. Mona was put to work both in the prison and on occasional details outside, taking food from the prison kitchen to wounded soldiers and other patients in the hospitals.
Upon arriving at the house, the Leonhardts were introduced to Flying Officer Jock Moir and Navigator Richard Pape. After a pleasant dinner, the Leonhardts conducted the flyers, now wearing civilian clothes, to their car and started the journey back to Laren - about a 45-minute drive away, during which they would have to pass through a military checkpoint. They told Moir and Pape to pretend that they were asleep and took their false identity cards from them to hand over at the checkpoint. After a brief but pleasant chat with the soldiers who gave only a cursory look at the cards and the apparently drunk men in the back seat, the soldiers waved them through. Confident that they had tricked the Nazis again, the Leonhardts continued on to Ingleside with their guests.Flyers who were fortunate enough to survive a crash landing and evade capture in Nazi-occupied Holland were grateful for the efforts of local people to rescue, hide and house them. For many, accommodations were in hay mows, cellars and attics. By comparison, Ingleside was a five-star luxury hotel.