Stien Spier-Pullen

28.11.1918 Amsterdam – 05.06.2012 Ravensbrück: 09. September 1944, Reichenbach – 7. April 1945

member of the Nederlandse Vrouwenbeweging (NVB)

She was knighted in the Order of Orange Nassau. She was also given a German award: Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

Stien Spier-Pullen 1998, Foto: MGR, Broschüre 50 Jahre IRK
Stien Spier-Pullen 1998, Foto: MGR, Broschüre 50 Jahre IRK

Gesine Christina Pullen was born on the 28th of November 1918 in Amsterdam. Her parents were practising christian. Her father died during the First World War. Her mother then married Jan van der Woude, who was active in the trade union movement. Stien always saw him as her real father. She was given a socialist upbringing. In the 1930s the family was involved in helping political refugees from Germany.

When she was 17 years old Stien became a member of the youth department of the Dutch Communist party (CPN). Here she met here future husband Jan Glas. They married in 1938.

The members of the CPN were very well prepared when the Netherlands were occupied by the Nazis. Jan Glas immediately took part in the resistance. Stien – allthough pregnant – did the same: on an old typewriter she produced articles for an illegal paper.

On December 23, 1940, Stien gave birth to her first child: a son called Johnny.

On February 25th 1941 there was a mass strike in Amsterdam and other cities: a historic protest against the deportation of Jewish fellow citizens. Jan Glas was involved in organizing this strike. In September 1941 he was arrested by the Germans.

Soon the Sicherheitsdienst came to Stiens adress to search the whole place. Together with a roommate (Tineke Langerhorst) Stien had thrown away all the incriminating material. But the SD found the typewriter and asked whose typewriter it was. Stien wanted to answer that it was hers, but Tineke said those words instead. She took the blame because – as she said later – Stien was a mother. By this action Tineke saved Stien’s life. The SD took the typing machine with them. Stien and Tineke decided to leave the house before the police would be back. Stien was already outside together with her son when the police returned and took Tineke to prison. Stien never saw her again. Tineke Langerhorst died in the womens concentration camp Ravensbrück.

Stien managed to visit her husband Jan Glas in prison and to show him their daughter Tineke, who was born on June 9, 1942. Soon after Jan Glas was condemned to death. The execution took place on November 19, 1942 at Soesterberg. 33 members of the resistance were then executed. Among them 18 citizens of Amsterdam who were responsible for the February strike. In his goodby letter, that was received by Stien on her birthday, the 28th of November, Jan Glas wrote how much he loved Stien and that he hoped she would be happy again with another comrade.

Stien – now a widow – continued her work in the resistance, giving shelter to party members and Jewish citizens that had to go into hiding. In March 1944 Stien was betrayed and arrested. Her mother took care of her two children.

On June 6, 1944 (D-Day), Stien was transported to amp Vught where she had to work in the so-called Philips Commando. In September 1944 when the allied forces were approaching the Netherlands the prisoners of Camp Vught were sent to Germany.

As a member of a group of 800 Dutch women Stien arrived on September 9, 1944, in Ravensbrück concentration camp. Life in Ravensbrück was ghastly. Prisoners (women, men and children) suffered from cold and hunger, were humiliated and treated like animals. After a few weeks Stien was selected to perform forced labour at Telefunken, and transported to Reichenbach.

In January 1945 Russian troops were approaching. The prisoners in Reichenbach were forced to leave the camp, marching through the snow from one camp to another. Women who were to weak to keep up were shot. In February the group reached Salzwedel, in the middle of Germany. There the horrible journey came to an end. On April 7, 1945 this camp was liberated by Canadian soldiers.

On June 6, 1945, Stien was back in Amsterdam at her mother’s house. At the top of the stairs was her 4 year old son, who asked his mother “Dear mommie, will you please never go away again?” She answered that she would do anything possible to prevent this from happening.

That was exactly what Stien did: fighting against racism and fascism her whole life, always committed to a lasting peace. The first years after the war were devoted to her children. She married Jan Druijf in 1948 and gave birth to another daughter, named Joke on 24-7-1950.

She became a member of the Nederlandse Vrouwenbeweging (NVB), a feminist organisation that was linked to the Dutch Communist Party (CPN). Stien did not always agree with the CPN and left the party at the end of the 1960s.

In the 1970s she took part together with her third husband Jo Spier in protests against the nuclear ams race (Stop de Neutronenbom). In 1980 Stien became a member of the Comité Vrouwen van Ravensbrück. Stien started to organise bustours to Ravensbrück for survivors of the camp, their family and others. From 1997-2009 Stien also organised together with her husband Jo Spier tours to Ravensbrück meant for high school students of their hometown Heerhugowaard. Stien showed the kids around and talked to them about her own experiences in the camp. Each time the children were deeply moved by their visit to Ravensbrück and the stories told by Stien and Jo. Apart from these trips there were also tours organised for students of Teachers’ College for Primary Education.

In 2000 the Dutch government decided to honour Stien for her CVR-work and anti-fascist struggle in general. She was knighted in the Order of Orange Nassau. Five years later she was also given a German award: Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland

Stien died at the age of 92, on June 5, 2011.

On May 5, 2012 a bridge in Heerhugowaard was named in her honour: the Stien Spier bridge.

See: C. Leijten; “Stien Spier-Pullen”, 2010