One of the difficulties I have in telling or writing stories about the Holocaust is the sheer volume of victims. I believe the best way of keeping the memories alive is to personalize the stories. Rather then talk about millions ,talk about individuals and show that they were human beings like every one else.
To give an indication, if I would only focus on the 6 million Jewish victims and I would tell 5 stories a day, it would take me more then 3000 years to tell them. That’s why I am focusing on the stories that are near to me in an emotional way or in a geographical way.
The story of Albert and Ida Claessens is one I have geographical ties to. Yet another story I was blissfully unaware of ,despite the fact I would have passed by the house they lived in at least once a week. In the map below I have highlighted how, Circled in red is the Supermarket I would frequent at least once a week, Circled in yellow is the area of the apartment block I lived in. The white line is Pastoor Vonckenstraat, the Claessens lived on number 51.
It would take me 5 minutes to cycle that route.
The story of Albert Claessens is also a good way of dispersing the myth that all Jews were wealthy. Albert worked as an Excavation worker in the coalmone Maurits in Geleen, anyone who has worked in a mine or knows someone who worked in a mine will know how dirty and dangerous that work is.
On April 4 1938 Albert married the Polish immigrant Ajga (Ida) Krzanowska. They got settled in -Pastoor Vonckenstraat 51-Geleen.
On May 10,1940 the Netherlands was invaded by the German army. Initially not much changed for the Dutch Jews, but gradually new laws were introduced by the Nazi regime. On April 1,1941 Albert was fired from his job in the mine.
Some Jews had already gone in hiding at that stage, but Albert did not think he needed too.He still thought that the Jews were brought to work camps in Germany.On August 25 Albert,Ida and Albert’s brother and wife were all put on transport via Maastricht to Westerbork and then from there to Auschwitz on August 28,1942.
In a Police report from the Police department in Geleen it states that all perishable goods were removed from the Claessens home on August 25,1942 , the same day they were put on transport.
Ida and her sister in law arrived in Auschwitz on August 31, 1942 were gassed immediately.
Albert and his brother were taken off the transport on the journey to work in the work camp Kosel, abut 80 kilometers away from Auschwitz.
It is not clear where Albert died nor is the exact date known. His death was only registered in 1952 and the date of death was et on April 30,1943. Place of death was registered ad middle Europe.
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