I never met Lia, in fact today is the first time I came across her picture. It would have been her 90th birthday today. She was born in Amsterdam, 20 September 1932 . And murdered in Sobibor, 2 July 1943. Reached the age of 10 years.
When I was born she would have been 35. She could have been the midwife who delivered me.
When I was 10, she was 45. She could have been my teacher.
When I was 20, she was 55. She could have been my manager at Philips components.
When I was 30, she was 65. She could have visited me in Ireland for her first trip abroad, celebrating her retirement.
But none of that ever happened. She was murdered on July 2,1943 in Sobibor. Murdered for one reason and one reason only, she was Jewish.
Lia Konijn was the daughter of Mijer Konijn and Betje van Beezem. After her mother had passed away she, and her siblings Marcus, Betty and Mary were housed at the Jewish orphanage at Leiden.
Jewish Orphanage, Machseh Lajesoumim. A place with a tragic history, but also a place where many children, despite the circumstances, had a happy childhood. A place where you could have fun, where you got a little pocket money to spend yourself, where you could be a member of a youth club, where you learned to experience the beautiful aspects of your faith, and for many children it felt like one big family.
During the war, being Jewish, which until then most children had experienced as something joyful, gradually began to take on dark and sad sides. The stories, wisdom, customs and celebrations that had given life in the orphanage rhythm, structure and meaning, were suddenly reason for the outside world to impose all kinds of restrictions. It seemed as if Jews were not allowed to exist. On March 17, 1943, the Orphanage was evacuated by the Leiden police by order of the occupying forces. All history narrowed to that one, fatal moment.
March 17,1943 the same day my Father in Law was born.
Lia Konijn, a girl I never knew. Yet her story touches me on more then one level.