On 10 May 1940, the Netherlands was attacked by Germany. After a four-day battle and the bombardment of Rotterdam, the capitulation was signed on 15 May. The short but fierce battle cost many lives and caused a lot of damage.
It triggered a wave of suicides during and after the German invasion.During the first month of the war, hundreds of mainly Jewish people decided not to wait for the future under German rule and took their own lives. Some did so alone, others with their partner or family. The number of suicides in the first month of the war was five times higher than the May average in other years. Even afterwards, Jews who saw no way out of deportation took their own lives.
New data was published in 2001 about the size of the group of Dutch Jews who took their own lives. According to newly recovered data from the Central Bureau of Statistics for the period 1940–1943, this concerned approximately 257 (1940), 36 (1941), 248 (1942) and 169 (1943) persons. It was the highest percentage recorded in May 1940.
Here is the story of one family who committed that irreversible desperate act. What makes it so poignant is that it wasn’t an act of evil or hate but an act of love.
Ben Stranders, a friend of the Judels family, wrote a letter in memory of the family, who decided to take their lives on 15 May 1940.
“At seven o’clock, I said goodbye to David, Louis, Mientje and the children Mia and Bert. A few minutes later, on my return home, I heard that the Netherlands capitulated! We now have nothing more to decide, or at least not to face the question that occupied us only an hour ago. However, Louis and Mientje had other decisions in mind. They believed they owed this to their children.
In the morning, Annie, my father’s sister, saw from the house you once occupied—four stretchers carried down by the G.G.D. (public health service). As it turned out—only a very small chance of salvation. The following Friday, Leo, Bram Monnikendam, Gerrit, and I think also Catharine and Saar went to Westerveld. And we saw four coffins sink into the cellars of the Crematorium.
I will never forget the small box in white with Bert in it. He preceded many little children, fortunately without feeling the suffering to which they would first be subjected.”
Amsterdam, 10 March 1902 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. He reached the age of 38 years. Occupation: Office Clerk.
Amsterdam, 2 May 1903 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. She reached the age of 37 years.
Amsterdam, 19 July 1926 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. She reached the age of 13 years.
Amsterdam, 29 April 1936 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. He reached the age of 4 years.
Such an incredibly sad story.