Herman van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer- The other 2 fathers in Anne Frank’s annex

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We all know the story of Anne Frank but we don’t really know that much of the others who hid in the secret annex.

On Father’s day lets have a look at the other 2 Fathers who stayed with Anne Frank and her family.

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Hermann van Pels, (31 March 1898 – October 1944), known as Hermann (Hans in the first manuscript) van Daan in Anne’s diary, died in Auschwitz, being the first of the eight to die. He was the only member of the group to be gassed. However, according to eyewitness testimony, this did not happen on the day he arrived there. Sal de Liema, an inmate at Auschwitz who knew both Otto Frank and Hermann van Pels, said that after two or three days in the camp, van Pels mentally “gave up”, which was generally the beginning of the end for any concentration camp inmate. He later injured his thumb on a work detail and requested to be sent to the sick barracks. Soon after that, during a sweep of the sick barracks for selection, he was sent to the gas chambers. This occurred about three weeks after his arrival at Auschwitz, most likely in very early October of 1944, and his selection was witnessed by both his son Peter and by Otto Frank.

Hermann van Pels begins working with Otto Frank in 1938. Miep Gies remembers him as “tall, large man” and “quite an agreeable sort, [who] had no trouble fitting into the routine” in the company.

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Hermann acquired his knowledge of the butcher’s trade by working in the business of his father, Aron van Pels (who was originally Dutch). After his marriage to Lina Vorsänger, Aron settled down in Gehrde, Germany. He worked there for his German father-in-law, a wholesaler in butchers’ equipment. Aron and Lina had six children: Max, Henny, Ida, Hermann, Klara and Meta. Hermann was born on March 31, 1898. He became the representative of his father’s business in Osnabrück, Germany.

On December 5, 1925 he married the German Auguste (Gusti) Röttgen. She then became Dutch, since according to German law women automatically assumed the nationality of their husbands.

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Gusti was born on September 29, 1900 in Buer, near Osnabrück, and her father was a merchant. Hermann and Gusti lived in Osnabrück, near the Dutch border, where Peter was born on November 8, 1926.

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Fritz Pfeffer (30 April 1889 – 20 December 1944) was a German dentist and Jewish refugee who hid with Anne Frank during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands, and who perished in the Neuengamme concentration camp in Northern Germany.

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Pfeffer was given the pseudonym Albert Dussel in Anne’s diary, and remains known as such in many editions and adaptations of the publication.

His cause of death was listed in the camp records as “enterocolitis”, a catch-all term that covered, among other things, dysentery and cholera.

Fritz Pfeffer was born in Gießen, Germany, one of the five children of Ignatz Pfeffer and Jeannette Hirsch-Pfeffer, who lived above their clothing and textiles shop at 6 Marktplatz in Giessen. After completing his education, Fritz trained as a dentist and jaw surgeon, obtained a license to practice in 1911 and opened a surgery the following year in Berlin.

He served in the German Army during the First World War.

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In 1926 married Vera Bythiner (31 March 1904 – 30 September 1942), who was born in Posen in Imperial Germany (now Poznań, Poland). The marriage produced a son, Werner Peter Pfeffer (3 April 1927 – 14 February 1995), then the couple divorced in 1932. Fritz was granted custody of the boy and raised him alone until November 1938,

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when the rising tide of Nazi activity in Germany persuaded him to send him into the care of his brother Ernst in England. Werner emigrated to California in 1945 after his uncle’s death and changed his name to Peter Pepper, later establishing a successful office supplies company under that name.

The tide of antisemitism in Germany, which increased from the election of Adolf Hitler in 1933, forced most of Fritz’s relatives to flee the country. His mother had died in 1925; his father remarried and remained in Germany, only to be arrested; he died in Theresienstadt in October 1942. His elder brother Julius Pfeffer had died in 1928, Emil Pfeffer emigrated to South Africa in 1937, Ernst Pfeffer moved to England and died in 1944, and Hans left for New Jersey. Their sister Minna remained with their father in Germany and died in Nazi custody. Vera escaped to the Netherlands but was arrested in 1942 and died in Auschwitz.

In 1936 Fritz met a young woman, Charlotte Kaletta (1910–1985), born in Ilmenau, Thuringia in central Germany, who shared his history of a broken marriage. She was estranged from her first husband, Ludwig Lowenstein, and their son Gustaf. The couple moved in together but were prohibited from marrying under the 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws which forbade marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

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Kristallnacht cemented their decision to leave Berlin and they fled to Amsterdam in December 1938.

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They were there for two years before the German invasion, and subsequent anti-Jewish laws which did not permit the co-habitation of Jews and non-Jews forced them to officially separate and register under different addresses. After establishing a dental practice in Amsterdam’s Rivierenbuurt he became acquainted with the Van Pels and Frank families. Miep Gies met Pfeffer at one of the Franks’ house parties and became a patient in his dental practice.

n the autumn of 1942, he decided to go into hiding and asked Miep Gies about some suitable addresses. She consulted Otto Frank, who, with his and the van Pels family, was being hidden by her in secret rooms in the Franks’ office building. Frank agreed to accommodate Pfeffer, and he was taken into their hiding place on 16 November, where his medical degree came in handy as they could not contact a doctor while in hiding.

Margot Frank moved into a room with her parents, to allow Pfeffer to share a small room with Anne, beginning what would become a torturous relationship for both.

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It has been suggested by at least one biographer that Anne’s extreme discomfort at sharing her room with a middle-aged man while she was going through puberty may have been at the root of her problems with Pfeffer, but the pressures of being in hiding and the generational differences of their forty-year age gap undoubtedly exacerbated the differences in their natures. Pfeffer felt his age gave him seniority over Anne and wrote off her writing activities as unimportant compared to his own studies. His observance of orthodox Judaism clashed with her liberal views. Her energy and capriciousness grated on his nerves, while his pedantry and rigidity frustrated her. Anne’s irritations and growing dislike of Pfeffer led to complaints and derisory descriptions of him in her diary, against which his son Werner and wife Charlotte defended him once the book was published.The relationship of Anne and Fritz was the toughest of all.

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Pfeffer left a farewell note to Charlotte and they stayed in touch through Miep, who met her on a weekly basis to exchange their letters and take provisions from her.

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His letters never disclosed the location of his hiding place and Miep never revealed it, but on 4 August 1944 Pfeffer and the seven other occupants of the hiding place were arrested for deportation to Nazi concentration camps.

With the rest of the group and two of their protectors, Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, Pfeffer was taken to the Nazi headquarters in Amsterdam-South, then to a prison for three days before being transported to Westerbork on 8 August. Pfeffer was taken to the Punishment Barracks with the others, where he undertook hard labour, until he was selected for deportation to Auschwitz on 3 September. He was separated from the others on arrival on 6 September and sent to the men’s barracks, where he was reunited with Otto Frank. On 29 October he was transferred with 59 other medics to Sachsenhausen and from there to Neuengamme on an unknown date. There, he died at age 55 in the sick barracks, of enterocolitis on 20 December 1944, according to the camp’s records.800px-Neuengamme_(Dove_Elv_Schild)

 

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Ernst Cahn- the Koco affair.

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Ernst Cahn, a German-Jewish refugee,son of Salomon Cahn and Rosa Katzenstein. He married in 1914 and had two children who survived the war.

He lived with his family from 1924-1928 in Amsterdam. In 1936 he returned to the Netherlands, to Huizen, from Germany because of the persecution of the Jews.

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Ernst Cahn co-owned ice-cream parlour Koco in the Van Woustraat in Amsterdam with business partner Alfred Kohn.They  were well liked by both Jews and gentiles of Amsterdam. After the Germans occupied the city, several customers purchased weapons for the owners and installed a 20-inch ammonia flask to the parlor wall to ward off unwanted visitors. When a German police patrol was sprayed with ammonia, a riot ensued. The event became known as the Koco affair.

On Wednesday, 19 February 1941, a patrol of the Nazi Ordnungspolizei carried out a raid on the ice-cream parlour. Inside, a bunch of heavies were waiting for them, as they had expected an attack by pro-Nazi Dutchmen. Ammonia was squirted from the ice-cream parlour. Ernst Cahn and Alfred Kohn were arrested and condemned by a Nazi court after they endured serious physical abuse in Amsterdam and in the penal barrack in Scheveningen’s prison.

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Despite being tortured ,Ernst Cahn did not divulge the name of the technician who had designed and installed the ammonia flask. Ernst Cahn was condemned to death. He was executed on 3 March 1941. Ernst Cahn was the first person in the Netherlands to die in front of a firing squad.Alfred Kohn died in Auschwitz in April 1945.

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The “Koco Affair” in Amsterdam instigated the Nazis’ first roundup of Dutch Jews. German troops entered the Jonas Daniel Meyer Square in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam on February 22, 1941.

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They arrested and physically abused approximately 400 Jews, most of whom were then deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

 

The last German atrocity in Amsterdam.

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On 7 May 1945, three days after German capitulation, thousands of Dutch people were waiting for Canadian troops to arrive on the Dam square in Amsterdam. In the Grote Club, on the corner of the Kalverstraat and the Paleisstraat, members of the Kriegsmarine watched as the crowd below their balcony grew and people danced and cheered.

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The Germans then placed a machine gun on the balcony and started shooting into the crowds. The motives behind the shooting have remained unclear; the Germans were drunk and possibly angered because contrary to previous agreement Dutch police had arrested members of the German military.

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The shooting finally came to an end after a member of the resistance climbed into the tower of the royal palace and started shooting onto the balcony and into the club. At that moment, a German officer together with a Resistance commander found their way into the club and convinced the men to surrender. At the brink of peace, 120 people were badly injured and 22 pronounced dead.

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In 2013, evidence was brought to light that suggested the number may have been higher: possibly 33 people died, and there were 10 more unconfirmed possible victims.

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On May 9th1945 the German soldiers were rounded up by the Canadians from the Grote Club and transported to Germany. The motive behind the shooting was never been investigated and the perpetrators were never been prosecuted.

 

Karl Silberbauer-the man who arrested Anne Frank and her family.

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Karl Josef Silberbauer (21 June 1911 – 2 September 1972) was an Austrian police officer, SS-Oberscharführer (staff sergeant), and undercover investigator for the West German Federal Intelligence Service. Silberbauer is best known, however, for his activities in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during World War II. In 1963, Silberbauer, by then an Inspector in the Vienna police, was exposed as the commander of the 1944 Gestapo raid on the Secret Annex and the arrests of Anne Frank, her fellow fugitives, and their protectors

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Born in Vienna, Silberbauer served in the Austrian military before following his father into the police force in 1935. Four years later, he joined the Gestapo, moved to the Netherlands, and in 1943 transferred to the Sicherheitsdienst in The Hague. He was then assigned to Amsterdam and attached to “Sektion IV B 4”, a unit recruited from Austrian and German police departments and which handled arrests of hidden Jews throughout the occupied Netherlands.

Silberbauer was employed directly by Eichmann and answered to him at Berlin’s infamous department IVB4, the headquarters of the programme to exterminate the Jews.

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His job was to transfer non-Jews who helped Jews, those who sheltered English pilots and those who listened to the English radio to concentration camps.

Silberbauer was the officer in charge of the Gestapo squad which arrested the Frank family on 4 August, 1944. After the War, the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal tracked down Silberbauer, who was working as police inspector in Vienna.

On 4 August 1944, Silberbauer was ordered by his superior, SS-Obersturmführer (lieutenant) Julius Dettmann, to investigate a tip-off that Jews were being hidden in the upstairs rooms at Prinsengracht 263.

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He took a few Dutch policemen with him and interrogated Victor Kugler about the entrance to the hiding place. Miep Gies and Johannes Kleiman were also questioned, and while Kugler and Kleimann were arrested, Gies was allowed to stay on the premises. Both Otto Frank and Karl Silberbauer were interviewed after the war about the circumstances of the raid, with both describing Silberbauer’s surprise that those in hiding had been there more than two years. Frank recalled Silberbauer confiscating their valuables and money, taking these spoils away in Otto Frank’s briefcase, which he had emptied onto the floor scattering out the papers and notebooks which made up the diary of Anne Frank.

Soon after, Gentile protectors Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, together with Otto Frank, Edith Frank-Holländer, Margot Frank, Anne Frank, Hermann van Pels, Auguste van Pels, Peter van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer, were arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam.(below is the red cross card of Johannes Kleiman after his arrest)

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From there, the eight who had been in hiding were sent to the Westerbork transit camp and then to Auschwitz concentration camp. Soon after, Margo Frank and Anne Frank were sent to Bergen-Belsen, where they would die of typhus, three weeks before the camp was liberated by British forces. Victor Kugler and Jo Kleiman were sent to work camps. Of the ten, only Otto Frank, Kugler, and Kleiman survived.

Silberbauer returned to Vienna in April 1945 and served a fourteen-month prison sentence for using excessive force against members of the Communist Party of Austria.After his release, Silberbauer was recruited by the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), and spent ten years as an undercover operative. According to Der Spiegel reporter Peter-Ferdinand Koch, who learned of his postwar activities while researching BND employment of former Nazis, Silberbauer infiltrated neo-Nazi and Pro-Soviet organizations in West Germany and Austria. His BND handlers believed, correctly, that Silberbauer’s past membership in the SS would blind neo-Nazis to his true loyalties.

Possibly due to BND pressure, Silberbauer was reinstated by the Viennese Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) in 1954, four years after the German publication of Anne Frank’s diary and was promoted to the rank of Inspektor.

He is quoted as saying of Anne Frank’s diary: “I bought the little book last week to see if I am in it. But I am not. Maybe I should have picked it up off the floor.”

Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal began searching for Silberbauer in 1958, upon being challenged by Austrian Holocaust deniers to prove that Anne Frank actually existed. One Holocaust denier stated that, if Anne Frank’s arresting officer were found and admitted it, he would change his mind.

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During the 1948 Dutch police investigation into the raid on the Secret Annex, Silberbauer’s name had been disclosed as “Silvernagel”. The Dutch police detectives who had assisted with the raid were identified by Miep Gies, who recalled their commander as having a working-class Vienna accent.

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The Dutch policemen claimed to remember nothing except an erroneous form of their superior’s surname.

Wiesenthal considered contacting Anne’s father, Otto Frank, but learned that he was speaking out in favor of forgiveness and reconciliation. Otto Frank also believed that the person responsible for the denunciation to the Gestapo, not the arresting officers, bore the greatest responsibility. Wiesenthal, however, was determined to discredit the growing Holocaust denial movement and continued his search for “Silvernagel”. In late spring 1963, after ruling out numerous Austrians with similar names, Wiesenthal was loaned a wartime Gestapo telephone book by Dutch investigators. During a two-hour flight from Amsterdam to Vienna, Wiesenthal found the name “Silberbauer” listed as attached to “Sektion IV B 4” and could not wait for his plane to land.

Upon his arrival in Vienna, Wiesenthal immediately telephoned Dr. Josef Wiesinger, who investigated Nazi crimes for the Austrian Ministry of the Interior. Upon being told that Silberbauer might still be a policeman, Wiesinger insisted that there were “at least six men on the Vienna police force” with the same surname and demanded a written request. On 2 June 1963, Wiesenthal submitted a detailed request but was told for months that the Vienna police were not yet ready to release their findings.

In reality, the Vienna police identified Inspektor Silberbauer almost immediately.

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When he had admitted his role in arresting Anne Frank, the department had been terrified of the bad press that would result from disclosing his past. Therefore, the Vienna police suspended Silberbauer from the Kripo without pay, ordered him to “keep his mouth shut”, about the reasons for his suspension. Instead, Silberbauer lamented his suspension and disclosed the reasons for it to a colleague. His fellow officer, a member of the Communist Party of Austria, immediately leaked the story to the Party’s official newspaper, who published it on 11 November 1963. After Izvestia praised “the detective work of the Austrian comrades”, an infuriated Wiesenthal leaked Silberbauer’s address to the Dutch media. When reporters descended upon Silberbauer’s Vienna home, the policeman freely admitted that he had arrested Anne Frank.

Silberbauer’s memories of the arrest were notably vivid – he in particular recalled Otto and Anne Frank. When he asked Otto Frank how long they had been in hiding, Frank answered, “Two years and one month.” Silberbauer was incredulous, until Otto stood Anne against the marks made on the wall to measure her height since they had arrived in the annex, showing that she had grown even since the last mark had been made. Silberbauer said that Anne “looked like the pictures in the books, but a little older, and prettier. ‘You have a lovely daughter’, I said to Mr. Frank”.

Although he disclosed what he knew, Silberbauer was unable to provide any information that could help further the Dutch police’s investigation into the Dutch collaborator who provided the tip. He explained that the call was taken by his commanding officer, SS Lieutenant Julius Dettmann, who said only that the information came from “a reliable source”. As Dettmann had committed suicide in a POW camp after the end of the war, the second investigation also hit a dead end.

 

Although the Austrian government stated that the arrest of Anne Frank “did not warrant Silberbauer’s arrest or prosecution as a war criminal”, the Vienna Police convened a disciplinary hearing. Among the witnesses was Otto Frank, who testified that Silberbauer had “only done his duty and behaved correctly” during the arrest. Otto Frank added, however, “The only thing I ask is not to have to see the man again.”

As a result, the police review board exonerated Silberbauer of any official guilt. His unpaid suspension was lifted and the Vienna police assigned him to a desk job in the “Identification Office”, or Erkennungsamt.

However ,Silberbauer,was not only responsible for ruining the lives of Anne Frank and her family but of hundreds of other Dutch people.

Inspektor Karl Joseph Silberbauer died in Vienna in 1972.

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https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/08/04/the-betrayal-of-anne-frank-and-her-family/

The February Strike-25 February 1941

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The Netherlands surrendered to Nazi Germany in May 1940, and the first anti-Jewish measures (the barring of Jews from the air-raid defence services) began in June 1940. These culminated in November 1940 in the removal of all Jews from public positions, including universities, which led directly to student protests in Leiden and elsewhere. At the same time, there was an increasing feeling of unrest amongst workers in Amsterdam, especially the workers at the shipyards in Amsterdam-Noord, who were threatened with forced labour in Germany.

As tensions rose, the Dutch pro-Nazi movement NSB and its streetfighting arm, the WA (“Weerbaarheidsafdeling” – defence section), were involved in a series of provocations in Jewish neighbourhoods in Amsterdam.

This eventually led to a series of street battles between the WA and Jewish self-defence groups and their supporters, culminating in a pitched battle on 11 February 1941 on the Waterlooplein in which WA member  Hendrik Koot was badly wounded. He died of his injuries on 14 February 1941.

On 12 February 1941, German soldiers, assisted by Dutch police, encircled the old Jewish neighbourhood and cordoned it off from the rest of the city by putting up barbed wire, opening bridges and putting in police checkpoints. This neighbourhood was now forbidden for non-Jews.

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On 19 February, the German Grüne Polizei(Ordnungspolizie) stormed into the Koco ice-cream salon in the Van Woustraat.

In the fight that ensued, several police officers were wounded. Revenge for this and other fights came in the weekend of 22–23 February, when a large scale pogrom was undertaken by the Germans. 425 Jewish men, age 20-35 were taken hostage and imprisoned in Kamp Schoorl.

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And eventually they were sent to the Buchenwald and Mauthausen concentration camps, where most of them died within the year. Out of 425, only two survived.

Following this pogrom, on 24 February, an open air meeting was held on the Noordermarkt to organise a strike to protest against the pogrom as well as the forced labour in Germany.

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The Communist Party of the Netherlands, made illegal by the Germans, printed and spread a call to strike throughout the city the next morning. The first to strike were the city’s tram drivers, followed by other city services as well as companies like De Bijenkorf and schools.

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Eventually 300,000 people joined in the strike, bringing much of the city to a halt and catching the Germans by surprise.Though the Germans immediately took measures to suppress the strike, which had grown spontaneously as other workers followed the example of the tram drivers.

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it still spread to other areas, including Zaanstad, Kennemerland in the west, Bussum, Hilversum and Utrecht in the east and the south.The strike did not last long. By 27 February, much of it had been suppressed by the German police. Although ultimately unsuccessful, it was significant in that it was the first and only direct action against the Nazis’ treatment of Jews in Europe.

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The statue De Dokwerker in Amsterdam remembering the February strike

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Eddy Hamel- Player of AFC AJAX,killed in Auschwitz.

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AFC Ajax is one of the most well known football clubs in Europe if not the world.Aside from dozens of national trophies it also won 12 international trophies, a feat repeated by only a few other clubs.

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Historically, Ajax was popularly seen as having “Jewish roots”. Although not an official Jewish club like the city’s WV-HEDW, Ajax has had a Jewish image since the 1930s when the home stadium was located next to a Jewish neighbourhood of Amsterdam-Oost and opponents saw many supporters walking through the Nieuwmarkt/Waterloopleinbuurt (de Jodenhoek—the “Jews’ corner”) to get to the stadium.

Die-hard Ajax supporters call themselves “Joden” — Dutch for “Jews” — a nickname that reflects both the team’s and the city’s Jewish heritage. This nickname for Ajax fans dates back to before World War II, when Amsterdam was home to most of the Netherlands’ 140,000 Jews.

The club  has an academy where it draws most of its players from but it has also always attracted foreign players. Eddy Hamel was no exception.

Hamel was the first Jewish player for Ajax. Born in New York City, New York, he moved to Amsterdam in his teenage years. As a right winger, Hamel became a first team regular for Ajax. He was the first player with a Jewish background who made it to the first team, and to date only three others have followed in his footsteps – Johnny Roeg, Bennie Muller and Daniël de Ridder. Hamel was a fan favourite and was cited by pre-World War II club legend Wim Anderiesen as part of the strongest line-up he ever played with.He was Ajax’ right winger from 1922 to 1930.  He scored eight goals in 125 league games.

After his retirement as a player, he managed RKV Volendam, in 1935 they became champion and he also managed  Alcmaria Victrix for three years and continued to play in an Ajax veteran squad.

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Hamel was also to become the club’s only war victim who played for the first team of Ajax. In 1941 all Jewish players were dishonorably discharged from their clubs as decreed by the Nazi’s.He possessed a United States passport, which he could not produce when Nazi Germany invaded.

In October 1942 Eddy Hamel and his family were arrested and deported to Westerbork to the “English Baracks” where he meets and befriends Leon Greenman.

He was murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp on 30 April 1943. In the TV document Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence, fellow inmate and friend  Leon Greenman said he was in front of Eddy when he told him he had an abscess in his mouth, while in a regular medical selection queue, while Leon passed that selection Eddy was sent to the gas chambers because of his abscess.

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El Al Flight 1862:Bijlmer-The forgotten Disaster

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It is strange how something can be forgotten and yet be vividly remembered. This disaster had slipped my mind but yet when I was reminded of it the images became very clear again.

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the Bijlmer disaster in Amsterdam.

At Sunday evening October 4, 1992, a Boeing 747 freight carrier of El Al, crashed on the flats Groeneveen en Klein Kruitberg in the Bijlmermeer, a district in the south east of Amsterdam with the official name of Amsterdam Zuidoost.

El Al flight 1862 caused the dead of 43 people. The three crew of the airplane also died as well as a passenger, which was a local El Al employee on het way to her marriage in Tel Aviv. Since there were most probably also illegal people occupying the apartments in the flats the exact number of deaths is never exactly known.

The plane came from New York and was on the way to Tel Aviv via Schiphol. Upon arrival of the plane the ‘spotters’ noticed that one of the engines was not hanging properly on the plane. During the flight three major failures were noticed by the crew.

However, makeshift repairs were done while tanking the plane. Also there was an unkown cargo was loaded in the plane which was approved by the customs, but what was later discovered was not physically checked.

Flight 1862 got airborne at 6.22 pm. Almost immediately the plane was in trouble and a couple of minutes later lost two engines on one side. At 6.35 pm the plane finally crashed into the two flats.

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At 6:35:42 pm local time, the aircraft nose-dived from the sky and slammed into two high-rise apartment complexes in the Bijlmermeer neighbourhood, at the corner of a building where the Groeneveen complex met the Klein-Kruitberg complex. It exploded in a fireball, which caused the building to partially collapse inward, destroying dozens of apartments. The cockpit came to rest east of the flats, between the building and the viaduct of Amsterdam Metro Line 53; the tail broke off and was blown back by the force of the explosion.

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During the last moments of the flight, the arrival traffic controllers made several desperate attempts to contact the aircraft. The Schiphol arrival controllers work from a closed building at Schiphol-East, not from the control tower. At 6:35:45 pm, however, the control tower reported to the arrival controllers: “Het is gebeurd” (lit., “It has happened”, but often meaning “It is over”). At that moment a large smoke plume emitting from the crash scene was visible from the control tower. The aircraft had disappeared from arrival control radar. The arrival controllers reported that the aircraft had last been located 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) west of Weesp and emergency personnel were sent immediately.

At the time of the crash, two police officers were in Bijlmermeer checking on a burglary report. They saw the aircraft plummet and immediately sounded an alarm. The first fire trucks and rescue services arrived within a few minutes of the crash. Nearby hospitals were advised to prepare for hundreds of casualties. The flats were partly inhabited by illegal immigrants, and the death toll would be difficult to estimate in the hours after the crash.

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The crash was also witnessed by a nearby fire station on Flierbosdreef street. First responders came upon a rapidly spreading fire of “gigantic proportions” that consumed all 10 floors of the buildings and was 120 meters wide, the length of a football field. There were no survivors from the crash point; only those who managed to escape from the remainder of the building.Witnesses reported seeing people jumping out of the building to escape the fire.

Hundreds of people were left homeless by the crash; the city’s municipal buses were used to transport survivors to emergency shelters. Firefighters and police also were forced to deal with reports of looting in the area.

Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and Queen Beatrix visited the scene of the disaster the following afternoon. The prime minister said, “This is a disaster that has shaken the whole country.”

In the days immediately following the disaster, bodies of victims and the remains of the aircraft were recovered from the crash site. The two fallen engines were recovered from the Gooimeer, as were pieces composing of a 30-foot section of the right wing’s leading edge. The aircraft wreckage was transported to Schiphol for analysis.

The aircraft’s flight data recorder was recovered from the crash site and was heavily damaged, with the tape broken in four places. The section containing the data from last two and a half minutes of the flight was particularly damaged. The recorder was sent to the United States for recovery and the data was successfully extracted.Despite intensive search activities to recover the cockpit voice recorder from the wreckage area, it was never found, although El Al employees stated that it had been installed in the aircraft.

43 people died in the accident: the four occupants of the aircraft (three crew and one non-revenue passenger) and 39 people on the ground. This was considerably lower than expected: the police had originally estimated a death toll of over 200,and Amsterdam Mayor Ed van Thijn had said that 240 people were missing.At the time of the crash many potential victims were not at home, possibly because of the pleasant weather on the evening of the crash.Twenty-six people sustained non-fatal injuries; 11 of these were injured seriously enough to require hospital treatment.

Soon after the disaster it was announced that the El Al Boeing 747 had contained fruit, perfumes, and computer components. Dutch Minister Hanja Maij-Weggen asserted that she was certain that it contained no military cargo.

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The survivors’ health complaints following the crash increased the number of questions about the cargo. In 1998 it was publicly revealed by El-Al spokesman Nachman Klieman that 190 litres of dimethyl methylphosphonate, a CWC schedule 2 chemical which, among many other uses, can be used for the synthesis of Sarin nerve gas, had been included in the cargo. Israel stated that the material was non-toxic, was to have been used to test filters that protect against chemical weapons, and that it had been clearly listed on the cargo manifest in accordance with international regulations. The Dutch foreign ministry confirmed that it had already known about the presence of chemicals on the aircraft. The shipment was from a US chemical plant to the Israel Institute for Biological Research under a US Department of Commerce license. According to the Chemical weapons site CW Info the quantity involved was “too small for the preparation of a militarily useful quantity of Sarin, but would be consistent with making small quantities for testing detection methods and protective clothing.

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