Under the Pressure of Circumstances

I was going to do a piece on the often forgotten-victims of the Holocaust, those who did want to be captured alive and decided to take their own lives. But when I looked at the list of suicides of Jews in the Netherlands during World War II, I discovered there were hundreds. Many of them decided to take their own lives between 11-16 May 1940, those were the first few days of the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany of the Netherlands.

Rather than go into the hundreds I decide to focus on one family.

The picture at the top of the post is a wedding Photo of Robert Paul Belinfante and Marianne Belinfante Lisser.

Marianne and Robert attempted suicide on 13 May 1940 in their hometown of Laag Keppel. Marianne was pregnant at that time. Robert died and Marianne survived, but she lost the baby. Marianne passed away on 10 January 1944 whilst in hiding.

Robert Paul Belinfante was born in 1905 in Amsterdam. His father was Jewish, but his mother was not. It was a secularized family. That meant it was not bound by religious ties or traditions.

Robert studied medicine in Amsterdam. He took his medical exam on May 20, 1931. In Laag-Keppel, doctor Bosch was active as a general practitioner. During his studies, Robert had already replaced Dr Bosch once. Bosch then came up with an offer. If Robert were to work for a year in the practice in Laag-Keppel for room and board and Bosch would be satisfied with him after that year, then young boarder Robert could take over the practice and the associated pharmacy. However, a year before his farewell, doctor Bosch suddenly died on January 11, 1933. Robert then got the opportunity to take over the practice in Keppel and he grabbed that opportunity with both hands.

In January 1933 Bob started his practice in the house of doctor Bosch Robert married his fiancé Marianne Lisser in Bloemendaal on 20 January 1934 and the young couple settled in Laag-Keppel.

Marianne Lisser was the daughter of Hartog Lisser and Abigaël Benjamins.

For several years the Belinfantes had a good life. However, the couple must have followed the events with anxiety on 10 May 1940. Although Marianne was pregnant, the German invasion changed the perspective of a young family with Jewish roots to an extremely black scenario. Robert and his sisters Frieda and Renée were half-Jewish, but because he was married to the Jewish Marianne, he was deemed completely Jewish according to the Nuremberg racial legislation. On the evening of May 11, Robert contacted his neighbour, engineer Harry Ernst Deleth. Ernst Deleth noticed that Bob was very pessimistic. On Sunday, 12 May 1940 the Belinfantes decided to take their own lives. Robert wrote three moving farewell letters on that Sunday: one to his mother in Amsterdam, one to the patients in his practice and one to Harry Ernst Deleth and his wife. Below is the text of the letter he wrote to his patients.:

Dear Friends

I would like to say goodbye to you all with a few words.
First of all, I thank you all for your trust and your friendship, which have made my task here a joy. I would rather continue my task here for a long time. But I know that in a few days this will no longer be allowed.
That is why my wife and I have preferred to leave this sad world.
We wish you all the strength and courage in this difficult time.

This is such a heartbreaking story but also a very important one and needs to be told. They were just a few of the thousands.







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