By Gilly Carr
Cornelie or Cornelis van Ooststroom was born in Dordrecht in Holland on 14 January 1890. He arrived in Jersey on 8 March 1929. At the start of the German occupation he was 50 years old, worked as a storeman and lived in St Helier in Jersey.
Only a little is known about van Ooststroom’s experience during the occupation. Court records show that on 25 February 1944 he was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment for ‘military larceny’. At this point in time he was working for the Organisation Todt (OT), employed by Messrs. Deutsche Asphalt Co, an OT contractor. This company was based at Five Oaks in St Saviour and they were tasked with excavating one of the tunnels in the island. It is not known what job van Ooststroom held within this company, but given his previous experience as a storeman, he may have been put in charge of materials. This position may have made it easier for him to steal materials from the contractors, possibly to sell on the black market or to trade with people known to him for food or other needed items. Paul Sanders states that van Ooststroom (who he names only as a ‘Dutch OT worker’) and a ‘British driver for the German military’ (Désiré Berezay) were sentenced with Emile Paisnel and that the three men were working together to ‘siphon off fuel [coal] from German stocks’.
Van Ooststroom was deported on 29 March 1944. Despite his short sentence, at this late stage in the war it was unlikely that he would be able to return to Jersey before liberation.
While our knowledge of van Ooststroom might have ended there, a chance reference to him occurs in the memoirs of Leslie Green, an inmate of Laufen civilian internment camp. Leslie’s father, Stanley Green, had been deported to Fort de Villeneuve-Saint-George Prison on the outskirts of Paris. Leslie received a letter from his father dated 9 June 1944, in which he told his son that his cellmate was ‘a Dutch ex-sea captain, Cornelius van Ooststroom and the two had become the closest of friends. Mum also became acquainted with Mrs van Ooststroom on the island and they built up a great bond of friendship, visiting each other several times a week.’ Later on, Stanley Green remarked, in a letter from Laufen civilian internment camp, that he had left van Ooststroom (presumably in July 1944) ‘in hospital at Villeneuve and I understand he had persuasion to go to Holland’, indicating that perhaps he was able to leave prison for his native country after his prison sentence was served.
Whether or not this was the only prison experienced by van Ooststroom is unknown. Records at Jersey Archives show that he died on 28 February 1951, back in Jersey. He survived his period in prison but as he died aged 61 it seems likely that his health was weakened by the experience.
Aliens records for Cornelis van Ooststroom, Jersey Archives ref. D/S/A/21/20 and D_S_B1_3149.
Court records relating to Cornelis van Ooststroom, Jersey Archives ref. D/Z/H6/7/45
Memoirs of Leslie Green, Société Jersiaise ref. GO2/32.
Ginns, M. 2006. The Organisation Todt and the Fortress Engineers in the Channel Islands. Jersey: CIOS Archive Book no. 8.
Sanders, P. 2004. The Ultimate Sacrifice. Jersey Heritage.