Originally from a small former mining town called Geleen in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands.
I moved to Limerick in Ireland in 1997 together with my wife who is a native from Limerick.We now have 3 kids
I am passionate about music ,history and movies
The Nitimei Maru, a Japanese troop ship with around 1,000 Dutch prisoners of war and 1562 Japanese soldiers aboard, departed from Singapore on 29 December 1942.
The prisoners of war were being taken to work on the Burma Railway.
The Nitimei Maru was just one of many ‘hell ships’, given this name because of the deplorable conditions on board and the frequent beatings by the guards. American planes bombed the ship on 15 January 1943.
Thirty-eight Dutch prisoners of war were killed. This Japanese life vest, a tangible reminder of that disaster, saved the life of a Mr A.B. Kresmer.
I finished reading the Librarian of Auschwitz yesterday. I will not do a book review, although it is a very good and well written book, but I will go into some aspects of the book which brought the Holocaust quite near to me in a way I did not expect.
However before I do that I have to mention Dita Kraus.
Dita served as librarian in the block set up for children in Birkenau, at the time she was still a child herself, with only a handful of books. Fredy Hirsch also ran the children’s block, creating a network of Zionist instructors who filled their young guests’ time with educational and cultural activities. One of these young educators was Otto (Ota) Kraus, Dita’s future husband.
Aside from the few physical books they also had some ‘living books’ these were the teachers who would tell the stories from books they had read, and had memorized. One of the teachers was Mrs Magda. the living book she would convey to the children was “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” The story is basically a fairy tale about a Swedish boy , Nils Holgersson, whose “chief delight was to eat and sleep, and after that he liked best to make mischief”. He takes great delight in hurting the animals in his family farm. Nils captures a goblin in a net while his family are at church and have left him home to memorize chapters from the Bible. The goblin proposes to Nils that if Nils frees him, the goblin will give him a huge gold coin. Nils rejects the offer and the goblin turns Nils into a goblin, which leaves him shrunken and able to talk with animals, who are thrilled to see the boy reduced to their size and are angry and hungry for revenge. While this is happening, wild geese are flying over the farm on one of their migrations, and Martin, the farm’s white goose attempts to join the wild ones. In an attempt to salvage something before his family returns, Nils holds on to Martin’s neck as he successfully takes off and joins the wild birds.
The book was also adapted as an animated TV Show in 1980. As a 12 year old boy, I would be hooked to the show, and glued to the TV when it was one . When I saw the name.Nils Holgerson, mentioned in the Librarian of Auschwitz it gave me goosebumps. It amazed me that those children in Block 31 in Auschwitz were in awe by the same character as I was as a child.
The author of ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’ was Selma Lagerlöf.
She was a Swedish author and teacher. She published her first novel, ‘Gösta Berling’s Saga’, at the age of 33. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which she was awarded in 1909. Additionally, she was the first woman to be granted a membership in the Swedish Academy in 1914.
Gösta Berling’s Saga was made into a 1924 silent film directed by the Finnish Jewish director Mauritz Stiller starring Greta Garbo.
The book ‘The Librarian of Auschwitz’ also makes reference to the German author Karl May. Dita had read a Karl May book once. She really liked Karl May’s stories of the Wild West about Old Shatterhand and his Apache friend Winnetou. I too, as a young boy like those stories. They were made into TV movies starring Pierre Brice and Lex Barker, who also portrayed Tarzan a few times.
What both Dita and I didn’t know , at the time we would read Karl May’s books or watch the adaptations on TV , is that Karl May was also one of the favourite authors of Adolf Hitler.
During the war Hitler reportedly admonished his generals for their lack of imagination and recommended that they all read Karl May. Albert Speer recounted in his Spandau diaries.
One other thing that touched me and brought the story into the 21st century, is a passage on page 394. I am not going to say too much about that part because I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet. But I think it will resonate with many people.
“They make sure she eats her food ration and periodically gets out of the Hospital, that she doesn’t stay with her mother for too many hours at a time and that she wears a mask”
I would recommend everyone to read the book. Although it is about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and although some parts are harrowing and very sad and gut wrenching, it does also manage to give a positive message. A message of resilience, perseverance , courage and hope.
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We watched the 2001 World War II drama “Enemy at the Gates” a few nights ago. There was one scene where the characters played by Rachel Weisz and Jude Law had sex whilst surrounded by other soldiers, in the sleeping quarters.
This made me wonder how often something would happen for real during the dark days of WWII. It also made me think about the wider concept of sex during the war.
Sex is the most primal instinct human beings, and indeed all animals, have , even though nowadays some of the woke generation may dispute that . But sex is a normal and a beautiful thing.
Clearly sex was still happening during WWII if that hadn’t been the case there would have been no births during 1939 and 1945.
In Germany, and later in other countries occupied by the Nazis young women were encouraged and…
I figured whilst most of the planet is in some sort of Covid Lockdown or restriction, rtaher then only reading heavy historical blogs(which still is very important) I thought it to be nice to lighten the load a bit with some nice guitar music, Justs a random choice of great guitarists from across the globe
A few months ago I saw a quote which said “If you remember one, you remember them all” This really stuck with me.
Today I am remembering Betsy Labzowski, she was born in Zierikzee, the Netherlands ,29 June 1920 and she was murdered in Extern kommando Raguhn, 12 March 1945, which was a subcamp of Buchenwald, aged 24
Betty’s parents were from Lithuanian descent.
Betty was only 24 when she was murdered. A beautiful young woman who still had a future in front of her. Who knows what she could have become, a Doctor, a secretary, an actress, a model, a teacher, a wife, a mother. Her possibilities were endless, but on March 12,1945 less then 2 months to the war’s end. Betty’s future was cut short by an evil regime.
I would love to see that it was only the Germans who were responsible for her death, but that…
Before I go into the history of the The Manchurian plague, I would like to say something about Dr. Wu Lien-teh. Google is honoring him today with a Google Doodle, it is his 142 birthday today.
Dr. Wu Lien-teh. was a Malayan physician renowned for his work in public health and particularly, the Manchurian plague of 1910–11. Scientific personal protective equipment is generally believed to have begun with the cloth facemasks promoted by Wu Lien-teh during the Manchurian pneumonic plague outbreak, although many Western medics doubted the efficacy of facemasks in preventing the spread of disease.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic which broke out in the city of Wuhan .wreaked havoc on the planet, it was the Great Manchurian Plague that brought life to a standstill in China.
Like the Covid virus ,which currently is still causing problems globally, the virus which caused the Manchurian plague was also caused by…
Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear. That is basically one of the few things I know about him. I probably could find out more if I would do some more research. But I decided not to because I shouldn’t have to.
This boy should have become a man, a father ,a grandfather .
Every time I do research on one of these innocent young victims, a bit of my heart breaks. I just don’t know how much my heart can still take.
Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear. Born Amsterdam, 16 July 1934. Murdered Sobibor, 9 July 1943 a week before his 9th birthday, even that was taken away from him.
Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear. Murdered because he was Jewish. But he wasn’t only murdered he was picked up by somebody, his details were processed by somebody. He was…
On August 4,1944 Anne Frank, her family and all the others hiding in the annex in the office building in Amsterdam are arrested.
Anne was 15 at the time, the same age my daughter is now. However my daughter is free to meet her friends, go to the shop, compete in rowing regattas and even free to go to school or the freedom to be embarrassed by her dad’s singing and dancing while he is cooking a dinner . Anne was denied all these freedoms that last years of her life.
Anne’s best friend was probably Kitty, not a human being ,but a diary. On August 1,1944 which was a Tuesday, 3 days before she was arrested, she wrote her last words to Kitty.
“A bundle of contradictions” was the end of my previous letter and is the beginning of this one. Can you please tell me exactly what “a bundle of contradictions” is? What does “contradiction” mean? Like so many words, it can be interpreted in two ways: a contradiction imposed from without and one imposed from within.
The former means not accepting other people’s opinions, always knowing best, having the last word; in short, all those unpleasant traits for which I’m known. The latter, for which I’m not known, is my own secret.
As I’ve told you many times, I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss, an embrace, an off-colour joke. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer. No one knows Anne’s better side, and that’s why most people can’t stand me.
Oh, I can be an amusing clown for an afternoon, but after that everyone’s had enough of me to last a month. Actually, I’m what a romantic movie is to a profound thinker – a mere diversion, a comic interlude, something that is soon forgotten: not bad, but not particularly good either.
I hate having to tell you this, but why shouldn’t I admit it when I know it’s true? My lighter, more superficial side will always steal a march on the deeper side and therefore always win. You can’t imagine how often I’ve tried to push away this Anne, which is only half of what is known as Anne-to beat her down, hide her. But it doesn’t work, and I know why.
I’m afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side. I’m afraid they’ll mock me, think I’m ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously. I’m used to not being taken seriously, but only the “light-hearted” Anne is used to it and can put up with it; the “deeper” Anne is too weak. If I force the good Anne into the spotlight for even fifteen minutes, she shuts up like a clam the moment she’s called upon to speak, and lets Anne number one do the talking. Before I realize it, she’s disappeared.
So the nice Anne is never seen in company. She’s never made a single appearance, though she almost always takes the stage when I’m alone. I know exactly how I’d like to be, how I am… on the inside. But unfortunately I’m only like that with myself. And perhaps that’s why-no, I’m sure that’s the reason why I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I’m happy on the outside. I’m guided by the pure Anne within, but on the outside I’m nothing but a frolicsome little goat tugging at its tether.
As I’ve told you, what I say is not what I feel, which is why I have a reputation for being boy-crazy as well as a flirt, a smart aleck and a reader of romances. The happy-go-lucky Anne laughs, gives a flippant reply, shrugs her shoulders and pretends she doesn’t give a darn. The quiet Anne reacts in just the opposite way. If I’m being completely honest, I’ll have to admit that it does matter to me, that I’m trying very hard to change myself, but that I I’m always up against a more powerful enemy.
A voice within me is sobbing, “You see, that’s what’s become of you. You’re surrounded by negative opinions, dismayed looks and mocking faces, people, who dislike you, and all because you don’t listen to the advice of your own better half.”
Believe me, I’d like to listen, but it doesn’t work, because if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks I’m putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I’m not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be sick, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can’t keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside g out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world.
It is easy for me to be judgmental about Stella Goldschlag, but the fact is I don’t know what I would have done. However Stella did go beyond anything I would have done. Stella was boen in Berlin on July 10,1922 as the only child to a middle class Jewish family.
Although the family did observe all the Jewish holidays, they were German citizens. Her father was a World War I veteran.
But like any other Jewish family they were treated as lesser citizens with the arrival of the Nuremberg laws, and gradually their lives would become more and more perilous. After the 1938 November pogrom the family tried to leave Germany, but could not get the required visas.
In 1941, Stella married a Jewish Jazz musician, Manfred Kübler. They had met whilst working as Jewish forced-labourers in a war plant in Berlin. In 1942, when the Berlin Jews started…
In general I do a lot of history blogs which are often hard hitting, but every once in a while I like to do something more lighthearted.
Aside from history, music is one of my great passions and especially Rock music. This blog is a compilation of an A-Z Rock music guide. I say a guide because it will contain not the most commonly known Rock bands. but bands I really like. So sit back and relax Dirk’s A-Z Rock Music guide.
All About Eve-What kind of Fool
BONFIRE – You Make Me Feel
Cinderella-Somebody Save me
Dokken-Unchain the Night
Eels – Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues (Road Trip)
FM – Just Like You
Golden Earring – Clear Nite, Moonlight
Heart – Never
Icehouse – Crazy
J. Geils Band – Freeze Frame
Krokus – Eat The Rich
Linkin Park-In the end
Magnum – Just Like An Arrow
Nazareth – Hair of the Dog
OZZY OSBOURNE – “Mama, I’m Coming Home”
Papa Roach-Last Resort
Queensryche – The Mission
Radiohead – Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Saxon – Ride Like the Wind
Tesla – Modern Day Cowboy
Uriah Heep “Stealin’
Vandenberg – Your Love Is In Vain
Witness-Do it till we drop
XTC – Senses Working Overtime
Y&T Summertime Girls
ZZ Top – Jesus Just Left Chicago—–Rest in Peace Dusty Hill