Bethrina Kooperberg-Her dignity was taken away, yet she remained positive.


I could write down the history of Bethrina Kooperberg but it is more poignant to use her own words to illustrate the person she was.

The text is translated from Dutch and comes from a postcard and letter Bethrina sent from Camp Vught to her friends, the Van Beek family, dated 24 April 1943.

“The first night we were here, Aunt Fie and I laughed like madmen, despite everything. As it happened, nobody could sleep, cry or scream. Anyway, it was just horrible but it’s getting easier to sleep now, and now when the bell rings I don’t want to get up.

Last week the men could not come on the Sunday as all the women were naked in the barracks, as we had to be deloused. In the end it didn’t happen until 9 o’clock on the Monday evening so we had been naked that whole day, too.

Oh, if you could see us through the keyhole, you know that I was always optimistic and sometimes I still am but there are days when I think the whole camp is going crazy with the treatment. It’s worse than I could ever have imagined and they treat us worse than animals.

They call this place the murder compound and if you knew what it’s like here, the gates would be stormed, but we still are still in good spirits, as if that’s possible.”

She was sent to Sobibor on May 9,1943 where she arrived on the 12th. Two days later on May 14, she was gassed.

Three of her siblings and her parents survived the war.It was very rare that so many members of the same  Jewish family survived.

But as a last act of indignity her death was only recorded in 1950, retrospectively.


I can’t blame the Dutch authorities for registering her death 5 years after the war ended, because it often would take a long time to get all the relevant data. But the way Brethina’s death was registered was just sloppy, they just crossed out all outdated data and hand wrote the new most up to date data next to it.Why not just create a new page and typewrite the information in a professional manner.That’s the least that could be done. But maybe I am just a bit bias towards Dutch bureaucracy.



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