A GREAT Dutchman fought with us in Bangladesh’s liberation war in 1971. He is WAS Ouderland, born on December 6, 1917 in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
He started work with the Bata shoe company. He was called up to serve as a sergeant in the Dutch Royal Signals Corps on the eve of Nazi invasion in 1940. He was taken prisoner by the Nazis but soon escaped from the prisoner of war camp and joined the Dutch resistance. He spoke fluent German which helped him keep the resistance as well as the Allied Forces abreast of German movements.
After the end of World War II, he returned to work for Bata. He was posted as the chief executive officer of Bata Cperation in the then East Pakistan on the eve of the war of liberation. Brutal repression and occupation of unarmed Bangladeshis by the Pakistani occupation army reminded him of the similar brutalities perpetrated by the Nazis in Europe. He appreciated legitimacy of Bangladeshi resistance against the brute forces of occupation.
He felt the acute need to make the world aware of the extent of genocide. As he was able to move freely as a foreigner, he took photographs of the atrocities committed by Pakistan and their agents. He then passed these photographs to the world press.
As the chief executive officer of a major multinational company, he had access to the higher echelon of the occupation forces. He had close personal relationship with Genera; Tikka Khan. He then passed the information on to the Mukti Bahini. As the war progressed, he secretly began training and assisting local young men in the Tongi area in the art of guerilla resistance. He sent his family away from the occupied Bangladesh so the he could turn his residence into a haven for freedom fighters. He was awarded gallantry award Bir Pratik for his contribution to the war of liberation.
Ouderland remained in Bangladesh until 1978 and was then transferred to Australia. He later settled in Australia and died after a prolonged ailment at the age of 84 in a hospital in the Western Australian city of Perth on May 18, 2001. His love and concern for Bangladesh was unflinching until his last days. Rest in peace Ouderland!
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