NameWillem Claas Marie Koornwinder
Birth3 Dec 1910, Maartensdijk, Utrecht, Netherlands
Death6 May 1977, Santa Barbara, California, USA
FatherArie Koornwinder (1884-1949)
Birth24 Feb 1912, Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
Death1992, Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
Marriage19 Nov 1936
FatherGerrit Regterschot (1904-1981)
MotherLuberta Boom (1910-1959)
Notes for Willem Claas Marie Koornwinder
Dientje had desperately wanted daughters, but instead she had two sons: Willem (Wim) and Johan (Joop).  Both sons were given the middle name "Marie" to remind them of their mother's desires for a girl. 

The boys grew up in modest circumstances.  From the start, the brothers did not have a close relationship.  Wim was seven years older than Joop and he often had to tend to his younger brother, much to his displeasure.  It is not clear what the education level was of either of the boys, but Wim certainly possessed certain administrative skills.  When he came of age in the late 1920's, the US stock market crash also shook the Dutch market.   Although the crisis of 1929 had severely hit the country, Wim was of opinion, that, if you wanted to work you could always find work, and he maintained this philosophy all throughout his life, and he was never unemployed.  

Still the crash of the US markets greatly affected the Dutch economy.  The Dutch government assumed a "bezuinigings" position meaning they wanted to balance the budget and maintain the strength of the Dutch guilder.  Premier Colijn at that time believed that maintaining a strong guilder was essential to the Dutch growth.

During these turbulent times, Wim started his career as a clerk in a "notaris" (notary) office but didn't stay long in this position.  In those days, clerks were not allowed to sit on a chair while working, and Wim didn't like the idea of standing at his desk all day long.  After leaving the notary office, he went to work for the Utrechtse "Waterleiding" but we don't know in what capacity.  After work at the Waterleiding he went to work for a steel company called Demka Staalfabrieken (a steel factory).  [See a photo of Demka at ] Demka had opened its doors in 1914 and quickly became one of the largest employers in Utrecht.  It was dirty work, and the company attracted mostly foreign guest workers from Hungary, Poland, Germany and eventually from Greece, Spain, and Turkey, but we can assume that Wim had one of the few "clean" jobs in the office. The company really blossomed after the second World War but by then Wim had left the company already. 

In 1936, Wim got married and started to work for a mattress company in Utrecht called DWU, "De Wijze Uil", owned by David Wijzenbeek.  (See an old avertisement for DWU at ) Mr. Wijzenbeek was a Jew married to a non-Jewish wife. From 1937 on, the threat of war was immanent and on May 15, 1940, the Dutch government officially capitulated and the country was officially occupied by the Germans.  During the war between 1940-1945 the Wijzenbeek family had to go into hiding and Wim was left to take care of the business.  However he did not have free reign, the German government had installed a German supervisor, Mr. Peters, in the factory, as they had done with every Jewish-owned company. During the war Joop was also working at DWU, as did his soon-to-be wife Ans and her sister Rie, who also met her husband at DWU, Wout Heyveld.  

What really happened at DWU during the war was never spoken of. But Wim and Joop must have been involved in, or close to the Dutch Resistance. Both Wim and Joop used the same Ausweis, one had copied the Ausweis of the other. An Ausweis was a work permit that allowed them more freedom of movement and excused them from the labor camps.  The Ausweis didn't include a picture or fingerprints, but only included a name with an official German stamp and signature of the local commandant.  One time, when Wim and Joop were riding their bikes together in Utrecht, they were both stopped by two German soldiers.  The brothers were smart enough to pull to opposite sides of the road as they each gave the same Ausweis to the soldiers.  Fortunately, the soldiers did not compare the two permits as they would have surely realized them to be identical, and the brothers were allowed to continue on their way. This was a close call!

In September 1944, "Dolle Dinsdag",  the Germans were expected to pull out of the Netherlands and the Wijzenbeek family came out of hiding. Of the 1600 registered Jews in Utrecht only 400 survived the war.  The Wijzenbeeks belonged to the lucky few.  

Wim had enjoyed a certain amount of independence during the four years when he ran the company, and the return of the Wijzenbeeks at the helm of the company did not appeal to him.  Wim decided to leave DWU and take over a company in Leiden called Kleine Matrassen with a new partner: Frits Redeker. The company was renamed Redeko. In 1945, there was a great shortage of everything including raw materials and it was essential to find way to acquire materials. This was Wim's job and he was good at it.  The market was hungry for all that could be produced, and selling was relatively easy. However, according to Wim, Redeker was a good salesman, but he could not maintain profitable prices. As a consequense the partnership between Wim and Redeker did not work out well. During the Korean crisis period, in the early fifties they broke up. The company was almost broke too. 

In February 1953 the "Watersnoodramp" (flooding catastrophe) happened. The flooding happened between Saturday night January 31 and Sunday morning, February 1st in the South of the Netherlands. In total 1800 Dutch citizens lost their lives and 72,000 were made homeless overnight.  Dikes could not hold back the water which rose up to 4 and a half meters above normal and one by one the dikes broke, covering 165,000 hectare (over 400,000 acres) of the Dutch country side under water.  The dikes had been seriously damaged during the war, but while the government had been busy rebuilding the rest of the Dutch infrastructure, the dikes had not yet received any attention.  Still, this national catastrophe turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Redeko, which by now was under the sole direction of Wim. Lots of mattresses were needed in the disaster areas and the government paid handsomely for anything it could obtain to help in the disaster.  Wim got the business out of financial trouble and renamed the company to Olga.  See the link to story about a fire at the Olga factory:

In 1949, Wim's father, Arie, died. There weren't any real assets to fight over, but the brothers Wim and Joop both wanted Arie's automobile license plate (L624).  In those days, license plates were owned by the person who bought the plate and you could use it either on your car or not.  You essentially owned the plate for life.  Both boys argued they had rights to the plate.  Wim owned a Vauxhall at the time and Joop a Volkswagon.  We are curious to find out if anyone in the family knows where the plate is today?

At Olga, Wim continued to grow the company and ultimately it became the largest mattress factory in the Netherlands with a market share of close to 30%.  Both Joop and Wout Heyveld, who had worked with Wim at DWU, joined Olga.  In 1976, Wim sold Olga to a US company, Goodyear and Wim moved his second family to the United States but he died 5 short months later leaving his young family to find their way in a strange land.
Last Modified 1 Sep 2008Created 1 Sep 2008 using Reunion for Macintosh