Dutch Christmas is slightly different from other Christmas celebrations. On the 5th of December, the Dutch celebrate “Sinterklaas” Saint Nicholas, although it is the same figure as Santa Claus or Father Christmas. There are subtle differences in the “configuration”
Sinterklaas doesn’t come from Lapland but from Spain and arrives on a steamboat and a white horse rather than a sleigh and reindeer. His helpers aren’t elves but are moors called ‘Zwarte Piet’ Black Pete, and he comes in the traditional dress of a Bishop. Although it is a Christian tradition generally it is celebrated across most religions.
Leo Meijer was a small Jewish boy in September 1942 when he was aged 7 he was taken from his home together with his family and was deported to Camp Westerbork.
In December 1943 he wrote the following note to Sinterklaas
“Dear Sint en Piet, I really like the role of mints I got and I now give you the last piece of my Rye Bread for your horse. my father is very ill and I don’t like it in Westerbork, it’s a nasty place. Do you remember from before when I lived in Zwijndrecht you gave me a trainset? I know you will be coming to Barrack 66, I’ll be there too.”
Leo Meijer attended the Onderdijkschool in Zwijndrecht. When Jewish children had to leave school, he enrolled at the Jewish school in Dordrecht. Leo Meijer excelled in drawing.
In 1943 he got drawing paper from Sinterklaas. Leo used this paper to draw on his experiences in Westerbork and his memories of the time he lived in his hometown Zwijmdrecht, like the time he went to the Circus and he had seen an elephant.
Leo and his family were deported from Westerbork to Theresienstadt on 5 September 1944 and subsequently to Auschwitz on 4 October 1944. Where Leo and his mother are sent to the gas chambers upon arrival.
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