One of the most disturbing aspects of the Holocaust was the randomness of its victims. There were targeted groups like the Jews, Roma , Sinti, Homosexuals, Disabled people and Jehovah witnesses and a few more groups deemed to be undesirable and ‘untermensch-sub human’, The Nuremberg laws dictated who was or was not fit to live in the Nazi occupied countries.
However it was often also left at the discretion of local Nazis to determine who was considered to be Jewish or Sinti or otherwise.
The picture at the top of this blog is of Anna Maria (Settela) Steinbach. The haunting picture is often used in Holocaust documentaries, but ever since I found out about the origin of the picture it has haunted me more then I ever could have expected. Anna Maria (Settela) Steinbach was Sinti and was born 23 December 1934 in the village of Buchten, in the southeastern province Limburg of the Netherlands. She died in Auschwitz-Birkenaus on July 31 1944. Buchten is only a few miles away from my birthplace Geleen, in fact it is so near that in 2001 it merged into the bigger municipality of Sittard-Geleen. There is actually a chance that Setella may have been related to the husband of one of my cousins.
Although I am not Sinti or Jewish or otherwise, being 6.2ft tall, blonde(ish) and blue eyed, the Nazis would have loved me. However my father who was born in 1936, could have easily been mistaken for Sinti or Roma he had a sallow complexion, dark hair and brown eyes. Even his surname could have been a reason for the Nazis to assume he was Jewish, our name is ‘de Klein’ but all too often people leave out the ‘de’ bit turning the name ‘Klein’ from a Dutch name to a Jewish name, although it is also a German and French name.
There is a 1976 French movie “Mr. Klein” which is about a French art dealer who gets mistaken for a Jewish man with the same name. He then frantically tries to proof there was a case of mistaken identity.Although the movie is not based on a true story I have heard of instances where people were pursued because of mistaken identities, often mistaken on purpose by Nazi sympathizers who wanted to get rid of people they just didn’t like and who had Jewish sounding names.
My father was never arrested or picked up or anything like that, My Grandfather though was executed by the Nazis, unfortunately the circumstances why are still not clear to me and I may never find out why.
Something that has played in my mind for a while now is the fact my family name is “de Klein” rather then “Klein” might just be the reason why my family survived. Those 2 letters just could have saved their lives
It could have so easily been my family who would have been put on that train to Westerbork. Auscwhitz or any other of the concentration camps.
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