the weight of memories

Stephan Walkowiak

Survivor | Date of birth unkown | Sailor with the HAPAG line

Stephan Walkowiak is seen by many witnesses/survivors as he is the only German in the Dutch group of survivors. He is described as a young blond sailor with his wrist in a bandage.

When the Van Imhoff is evacuated, Stephan Walkowiak tries to save himself by climbing overboard from the sinking ship, hoping to join the Dutch crew and military guards who are already in the life boats. He is shot at by a guard. The bullet goes straight through his wrist. Against all instructions and captain Hoeksema shouting from his lifeboat, Stephan is helped into the boat which is occupied by the crew and guards. Stephan Walkowiak becomes the only prisoner saved by the Dutch.

He is taken with them to the Island of Simuk where they are later picked-up by the ss Van der Capellen which anchored near the island of Tanahmasa to seek cover from possible Japanese air strikes. On 27 January all survivors reach Padang in the middle of a massive bombing raid of the harbour.

The Dutch authorities force Stephan to sign a document stating that the prisoners on board of the Van Imhoff were engaged in a mutiny which had to be suppressed by violence. This story was invented to prepare for a credible defence as to why the German prisoners were abandoned at sea.

It is rumored that Stephan managed to travel to Germany and sign up as soldier at the eastern front were he was killed in action in 1944

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