Remembering Simon Walvisch and his family.

Simon Walvisch was born in Amsterdam, 1 on 9 March 1882.He was murdered in Auschwitz, on 1 October 1942. Reached the age of 60 years

Occupation: Tobacconist

He was a son of Jacobus Mozes Walvisch and Schoontje Zeeman. He married Rosette Abram, a daughter of Simon Abram and Judith Presser, on 29 June 1904 in Amsterdam. About four months later, on October 23, 1904, twins were born: Judith and Jacob Walvisch. However, both children died soon after birth: Judith died on November 13, 1904 and Jacob three days earlier, on November 10, 1904. After the twins, two more children followed: on April 12, 1906, Schoontje was born and on July 21, 1907 Judith. She was called Jute.

Simon’s wife Rosette Abram, however, died on December 30, 1923, and she is buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Diemen.

Less than a year later, on September 18, 1924, Simon Walvisch married Nathan Melkman’s widow, Susanna Swart, a daughter of Jeremias Swart and Saartje Leuw.

In her first marriage to Nathan Melkman, Susanna had a daughter, Flora Melkman, who was born on September 21, 1919 and who was adopted as a stepdaughter into Simon’s family after the marriage of Simon Walvisch and Susanna Swart. On October 22, 1925, another daughter was born from Simon Walvisch’s second marriage to Susanna Swart, viz. Sophia Walvis.

Flora’s father, Nathan Melkman, died on August 21, 1920, aged just 27. He is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Diemen.

Simon Walvisch was murdered on 1 October 1942 in Auschwitz together with his second wife Susanna Swart and their joint daughter Sopiha Walvisch.

Simon’s children from his first marriage to Rosette Abram also did not survive the Holocaust either ; Schoontje was married to Samuel Sluijser and had two children with him, viz. Maurice and Rosette. The entire Sluijser-Walvisch family was murdered on 9 July 1943 in Sobibor.

The youngest daughter from Simon and Rosette’s first marriage was Judith Walvisch, called Juutje. She was married to Jeremias Swart and had two children with him: Ronny and Alfred. Ronny was murdered on 11 June 1943 in Sobibor together with her mother via the Kindertransport from Vught. Her husband Jeremias eventually ended up in Bergen Belsen where he died on December 17, 1944.

Flora Melkman, the daughter of Susanna Swart and Nathan Melkman, married Dorus Abraham in 1941. Both were murdered on September 30, 1942 in Auschwitz.

Three generations of one family murdered. Why??

I could have taken any name of the 559 Dutch Jewish citizens who were murdered on October 1,1942 in Auschwitz, but the fact that Simon’s whole family was murdered just got to me.

source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/179764/simon-walvisch

If anyone would have told us in 1945, that certain battles we would have to fight again, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I don’t think I have to tell anyone who Elie Wiesel is. But for those who don’t know him, I’ll give a brief overview who he is.

He was born in Sighet (in Transylvania, now a part of Romania, but part of Hungary between 1940 and 1945) on 30 September 1928 and grew up in a Chassidic – and thus Orthodox Jewish – family.

After the Nazis had moved occupied Hungary in 1944, the Wiesel family was deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp . Elie Wiesel’s mother and younger sister were murdered in the gas chamber there. In 1945 Elie and his father were sent on to Buchenwald, where his father died of starvation and dysentery. Seventeen-year-old Elie was still alive when American soldiers opened the camp.

Elie is the 7th on the 2 row of bunkbeds, I believe

After World War II, Wiesel became a journalist, prolific author, professor, and human rights activist. He was Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies at the City University of New York (1972–1976). In 1976, he became the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, where he also held the title of University Professor. During the 1982–83 academic year, Wiesel was the first Henry Luce Visiting Scholar in the Humanities and Social Thought at Yale University.

For any further information on Elie Wiesel I am giving you some homework to do. We live in an era where nearly any information you want to get , is at the reach of your fingertips. Do some research on Elie Wiesel on the internet or go in to a library and find one of his books.

The title of this post is a quote from Elie Wiesel of an interview he had with Georg Klein, a fellow Holocaust survivor, in 1986. The clip below is appropriately titled “The world is not learning anything”

It shames me to admit that Elie was so right, the world isn’t learning from its mistakes and history.

On this day his birthday I hope we all pause for a moment and contemplate what world we want to live in. Do we want hate to rule once more? Or do we want love to conquer? I know what I want.

Leaving you with some of Elie’s quotes:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

SOURCES

https://www.buchenwald.de/en/919/

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/elie-wiesel

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1986/wiesel/facts/

Holocaust Testimonies

Mara Ginic and mother Johanna Ctvrtnik on the island of Hvar, Croatia, May 1941.

Mara Ginic (now Kraus) was born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1925. At the age of 3 or 4 she moved with her grandparents to Osijek, Slavonia(Nowadays in Croatia). When she was five years old her parents divorced and her mother moved to Belgrade, but she stayed with her father and grand parents in Osijek. When she was 8 they moved to Belgrade. After her father re-married, Mara lived with him and her step-mother.

—In April 1941, a few weeks after Hitler’s troops occupied Belgrade my father and I escaped with the help of my Catholic and ethnic German mother to the Dalmatian island Hvar. But Hvar occupied by the Croat Ustashi turned out to be a quite unsafe place. So we escaped once more under the nose of the authorities, this time to Split, occupied by the Italians. In December of the same year, the Italians deported us to a small town in Piedmont, Castellamonte, in northern Italy, where we were interned as civil prisoners of war.

Mara and father Alexander Ginic, Castellamont, Italy, 1943.

In September 1943 the Germans occupied northern Italy. My father, some friends and I fled to the mountains with the intention to cross over to Switzerland. After an adventurous, dangerously unsuccessful try we were able to find a guide in Breuil (Cervinia). He descended from a line of famous mountaineers: his grandfather Jean Antoine Carrel was the first Italian to climb the Matterhorn.

Breuil lies at the foot of Matterhorn and our aim was Zermatt which lies on the other side of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Accompanied by Carrel and wearing our backpacks and low shoes, we left at dusk. On the way another mountain guide joined us. We plodded single file into the night up a path which became steeper and steeper. We were a party of five refugees, two men and three women. Carrel headed the line and carried a thick rope rolled over his shoulder, while his colleague closed the line.

After a time Carrel stopped and gave us all a small pill. A drug for endurance that pilots take before difficult assignments, he explained. My backpack suddenly became light as feather, and it seemed as though my feet barely touched the ground. For about three or four hours we went uphill on paths that weren’t too difficult. The bright night was turning cooler and I put on my mittens. Father wasn’t so well equipped, and he constantly held his city hat with one hand because the wind threatened to blow it off his head. I gave him one of my mittens since his hands were freezing, as the cold became more biting.

We wandered uphill without much effort until daybreak, but the worst still lay ahead. The path became more stony and narrow, and we now had to step carefully sideways, leaning against a steep rock face. Then our taciturn guide fastened one after the other to the rope and let us slide down several yards over the step-like cliffs. After this difficult passage was behind us, Carrel stopped and pointed straight ahead. A glacier spread out before us, and far below, meadows and houses were veiled in the morning mist. “That’s the direction”, pointed Carrel. ” Now you have to go alone. It’s the border and I can’t go any farther”.

There he was given the gold coins as it has been agreed before by my father’s friend, Hinko Salz, who was a dentist and had gold coins. Luckily for us, because my father didn’t have any.

The two men turned around and disappeared from our sight in an instant. For a few moments we stood there, helpless, then got hold of ourselves and stepped onto the glacier. Its icy breath beat against us. It was smooth and crossing it wouldn’t have been difficult if we had worn mountain shoes, and if there hadn’t been crevasses every couples of yards which we sometimes easily stepped over, but more often were forced to jump. We had been on our way for twelve hours and the pills had lost their effect. The high had passed now into a great weariness. Every step became an effort of will, not to mention jumping, when our backpacks yanked us to the ground every time.

My throat was parched, the wind blew my hair in my face and obstructed my vision. My knees buckled and the glacier never seemed to end. Every time now when I jumped I fell on the ice, until I no longer had the strength to get up. Father was bushed too, but spurred me on and helped me again and again to get up. My limbs were stiff from the cold, my fingers and tows were numb. Enough was enough! Not another inch! I am staying here!

As father tried to help me I started to scream. At 11.500 feet this was exactly the right time to have a nervous breakdown. At Dr. Salc’s sign, my father gave me a slap in the face, and I began to cry, but gradually quieted down, pulled myself together and dragged myself along like a good girl. Soon we made it over the glacier. Now before us lay a lake, and not far from there we saw a house: the border guard.

The guards had been observing us with binoculars for some time and came to meet us. We dropped exhausted on the benches in front of the small guard house. They gave us water and let us have a breather before we were politely, but resolutely informed that we couldn’t remain there in Switzerland but had to turn back. We hadn’t expected that. At that time we still didn’t know anything about the many refugees who were not only refused entry to the country, but were even immediately handed over to the Germans.

At first my father and Dr. Salc tried to persuade the border guards. My father said his sister lived in Switzerland, and since he had her address — she was interned in a camp near Lugano — he asked to be allowed to call her there. Over the telephone he inquired if she had any contacts who could help us be admitted to Switzerland. “My poor brother, I’m a refugee, how can I help you?” Since nothing could be expected from that side, the negotiations turned to imploring and begging for entry — and when even tears were of no avail the two adult women threw themselves at the feet of the officials, pulled their hair and made such a scene that I had to look away in shame.

After this terrible exhibition the top official went to the phone, spoke for a long time with distant superiors and finally informed us he couldn’t decide anything on his own and had to bring us to Zermatt. We hoped then we were saved. We believed once in the country we wouldn’t be expelled any more. We were lucky, because as I heard later, many refugees who already were inside the country have been handed over by Swiss police to the Germans.

So we started on our way, traipsing along with our remaining strength behind the border guard through this wonderful, free country where there was no war and no SS.

Even the air seemed to me particularly fragrant, like honey, or was it my imagination? Was I hallucinating smells? In my exhaustion and ecstasy I hadn’t noticed that our escort was smoking a pipe, out of which small honey-scented clouds floated over us. How we came to Zermatt, to whom our guard handed us, where we spent the night: all this went unperceived by my sleepwalking senses. The twenty-four hours of marching, climbing, jumping over crevasses, agitation, despair and ensuing deliverance had completely emptied my mind. I believe we stayed in a hotel. All I see is the staircase we went down the following morning which caused us immense strain because of our sore muscles.

In Zermatt we became famous overnight. We were treated like heroes. People felt admiration for our accomplishment and compassion for our lot. On our way to the train station from where we were to leave for a camp, men and women on the streets congratulated us and offered us fruits and chocolate. Even as we sat in our compartment, they passed us apples and cigarettes through the windows.

We remained in Switzerland until the end of the war. Meanwhile I had married Ivo Kraus and we decided not to return to Yugoslavia, but go to Italy. From Italy we emigrated to Argentina. My father did return to Yugoslavia, only to escape from the Tito regime 2 years later. Some month before he had married in Belgrade an Auschwitz survivor, Silvia Drucker. They emigrated to Venezuela where their daughter Nicole was born.

My husband and me had two children and we lived later again in Italy, and in France, in Venezuela and finally in São Paulo, Brazil, where we divorced. In São Paulo I met Joe J. Heydecker with whom I lived until his death in Vienna, Austria.—–

Daniel Falkner

Daniel Falkner was born in Poland in 1912 and grew up in the city of Rzeszow. Daniel hoped to become a doctor but was unable to attend medical school because of restrictions placed on the number of Jewish students. As he neared the age of compulsory military service in Poland, he was sent to a military academy. After completing military service he moved to Warsaw and shortly before September 1939, he was called up.

Daniel’s division eventually surrendered and he became a prisoner of war. After escaping, he returned to Warsaw. In the autumn of 1940, Warsaw’s Jewish population was forced into the ghetto. Daniel and his wife escaped the ghetto and lived in hiding until discovered in 1943. Later, hiding amongst a group of non-Jewish Polish political prisoners, Daniel was taken to Sachsenhausen camp in Germany.

As Allied troops advanced in April 1945, the Germans evacuated those prisoners deemed fit for forced labour and left the rest behind to die. Daniel avoided deportation by hiding under floorboards and was liberated. After the war, Daniel joined the British Army as an interpreter and was reunited with his wife in 1946.

And of course then came the ghetto, and this was a terrible upheaval. Thousands and thousands of
people had to move in and out, those Poles who lived among the Jews had to move out from this
designated area and the designated area was only a small corner of Warsaw, the most dilapidated part of Warsaw and the Jews who lived throughout Warsaw had to move in. And this was a period which is
imprinted on my mind, people with, with all sorts of chattel moving in and out.
And of course the living conditions were impossible, every, every cellar, every corridor was full, filled
with people. And many couldn’t find even this and they slept in the street. The result was that every
morning the undertakers had to collect bodies from the streets.
In July 1942 the German authorities announced that to ease up your loss, you can volunteer to go to
the East and there you will be provided with work and food and clothing and so forth. They were not specific to say where to the East, what is the name of the place where you are going, and what sort of work you are going to, to have to perform. And many thousands of volunteers came forward to be sent to the East.

Every day about six thousand volunteers were sent off, not to be seen or heard of again.
And then when these volunteers started to become thin on the ground, the Germans made traps in the, arranged traps in the street, and whoever was caught in the trap was sent off. And among those were old people, disabled people, blind people or children, and they were packed to capacity in those cattle trains and sent off. And one or two of those who were sent off came back and said ‘this is all a lie, this, we are, they are being sent only a few tens of kilometres away from, from Warsaw to a place called Treblinka and there they are being exterminated completely’.
You see the human nature is such that this is a thing that is incomprehensible, no one, no one can take it in that someone is planning a complete annihilation or murder of a whole people, this is inconceivable.

Pieter Kohnstam with his mother and grandmother.

Pieter Kohnstam was born in Amsterdam in 1936. His parents, Hans and Ruth Kohnstam, were forced to flee from the Nuremberg/Fuerth area in Germany to Amsterdam, The Netherlands during the early days of the Nazi regime. Coming from a well-known upper middle class family, they left behind a lucrative toy merchandising company with sales offices and warehouses in cities throughout Germany and Europe.

It was by chance that the Kohnstam’s apartment in Amsterdam was downstairs from the family of Anne Frank. Ruth became a close friend of Edith Frank, and Anne, the youngest daughter, became Pieter’s babysitter. Both children attended the local schools in the neighborhood.

“In the morning of July 6, 1942, Anne Frank came to say good-bye to us. The Franks were about to go into hiding in their secret annex. It was a sad and difficult parting for everyone. As things had deteriorated, Anne had come down every day to play with Pieter (age 6). Ruth (Pieter’s mother, age 31) and Clara (Ruth’s mother/Pieter’s grandmother) had become very fond of her. We hugged and kissed each other good-bye. Remembering that moment still brings tears to my eyes.

We watched from our living room window as the Franks left for their hiding place. It was raining outside. Margot had gone ahead earlier. Otto was dressed rather formally, as if he were going to work. He wore a dark suit and tie, an overcoat, and a hat. He was carrying a satchel under one arm and holding onto Edith with the other. Edith was also wearing a hat and carried a shopping bag. Anne had put on a scarf against the rain. She looked back one more time as we waved good-bye to them. We were crying and praying for their safety.

Two days later, the Nazis conducted a Razzia in our neighborhood. We heard their sirens and car horns blaring from far away. As the black lead motorcycle turned into our street followed by the passenger car and the large truck packed with Nazi soldiers, I was filled with foreboding. Pieter was standing on the sofa with his nose pressed against the lower part of the window, looking towards the street while holding on to Clara’s waist. Ruth and I looked at each other with apprehension.

The convoy stopped in front of our building, and soldiers poured from the back of the truck. They rushed up to our apartment and hammered their rifle butts against our front door, shouting, “Open up, or we will break down the door.”

While Clara let them in, I saw Ruth slipping a small piece of paper into Pieter’s pocket.

The soldiers burst into the room, led by a Nazi officer who waved his pistol at us and shouted, “Be still, or you will be shot.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Pieter dig for the paper in his pocket, sneak it into his mouth, and carefully chew and swallow it. I held my breath, praying that no one else had noticed. Fortunately, the soldiers were too busy putting tags with the SS insignia on our furniture and belongings, and paid no attention to us. The officer explained that, because we were being deported, they were claiming possession and ownership of everything we had. We would be committing a crime if we removed so much as a toothpick from our apartment.

When they finally left, we all heaved a sigh of relief. Ruth praised Pieter for his quick thinking in disposing of the paper slip. She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry; it won’t harm you. It all comes out eventually.” The slip had been filled with telephone numbers, including one for Gerda Leske. (Gerda and Ad Leske were close friends of the Kohnstams, frequently coming to Sunday brunch before the German occupation. They continued to come over on Sundays following the occupation, making sure to supply food for the family and toys for Pieter, an only child. Both Christian; Gerda was originally from Berlin and Ad was Dutch. They owned stores in Amsterdam and Maastricht). Ruth had taken a big risk, figuring that the Gestapo would not think to search a small child. We had been very lucky indeed.

When we received notice for our departure date, Ruth called Gerda, who devised a brilliant, but dangerous plan.

Nothing further happened until the day when we were to report to the freight depot in the eastern section of Amsterdam for transport to Westerbork. Ruth and Clara spent the morning sewing cash — large bank notes — and jewelry into the shoulder pads of our coats. Ruth also hid some money in the shoulder pads of her blouse. We buried the rest of her jewelry in the garden behind our apartment. We never saw any of it again. The day before, I had bought two knapsacks — the kind hikers use — and we packed them with enough food for two days. We stored them in the back bedroom, so they would not be visible if somebody looked through our living room window from the street. I had also obtained strong, waterproof hiking boots with nailed rubber soles for Ruth, Pieter, and me. In addition, I had forged travel permits and identity cards for the three of us.

The hours crawled along at an interminable snail’s pace. We were too nervous to eat anything for lunch. Pieter kept asking questions of Grandma Clara: Why do we have to leave? Why can’t you come with us? Will I ever see you again? She answered every one of them patiently, reassuring him that everything would be all right. I realized, with surprise, that he was voicing the same concerns that were going round and round in my mind. I, too, was wondering if we were ever going to see Clara again, if we would ever return to Amsterdam. As my thoughts turned to the previous time when I fled from the Nazis, I wondered if I would ever set foot on German soil again, and if I would ever regain any of what my family had lost.

(Ruth and I had fled Nuremberg for the Netherlands in September 1932. My work as an artist was considered “degenerate” by the powerful, fanatic followers of Hitler in Nuremberg; and, not only our possessions, but quite possibly our lives were in danger. Though the Nazis were not yet “officially” in power, on the advice of my father, a judge, we quickly fled the country. This was one year after our marriage and I was thirty years old.)

Finally it was time to go, and it was hard to tear ourselves away. The apartment at Merwedeplein 17 had been our home for nearly eight years; and, once again, we were leaving everything behind, except for our lives, our memories, our hopes and our faith. We had agreed that I would start off alone, and Ruth would follow with Pieter. If she was stopped by a Nazi patrol, she would claim that he was sick, and that she was taking him to the hospital. I drank half a bottle of French Armagnac, put on my black beret, and, with a final goodbye to Clara, left our apartment through the back door. The gate at the rear of our garden opened onto a small passage that ran along the back of our apartment buildings. Emerging from the alley into the main street, I saw an SS patrol taking a cigarette break in the park. I prayed that Ruth and Pieter would get away without any trouble.

Fortunately, we all made it safely to Gerda’s salon. Since we did not look like shoppers, we entered through the back door, so as not to arouse suspicions. The first thing we did was to remove the Stars of David from our garments. It was a cumbersome process, but critical for our survival. We rubbed dye into the areas where the yellow patches had covered the fabric, so they would match the rest of the coat where the material looked more worn.

Gerda had come up with a clever cover story: She was taking her staff to a fashion show in Maastricht. Since Ruth was a young and beautiful woman, she would go as her fashion model. I was the artist and would act as the company’s fashion designer. And Pieter would come along as Gerda’s son. We impressed on Pieter that he would have to be absolutely quiet for the duration of the train ride, and that he would have to act as if Ruth were a stranger. Knowing what a challenge it would be for a gregarious child who liked to talk to anybody, and who was, no doubt, as scared as we were, worried me. How would he behave under these tense circumstances? Would he be able to keep silent and deny his own mother?

By the time we finished with our coats, there was not much time left. We quickly agreed on a meeting place in case we got separated. Then we headed to the Hauptbahnhof, the main railroad station, to take the train to Maastricht. We took separate trolleys. My ride went without a hitch, although there were a number of Nazi troops patrolling the streets, stopping, kicking, clubbing, and frisking people at random. When I arrived at the great hall of the railroad station, Ad Leske was waiting for me under a large round clock that was suspended from the ceiling. He greeted me formally like a business acquaintance, shook my hand and said, “Good afternoon, how are you?” In the process, he pressed a railroad ticket into my palm.

Then he accompanied me to the platform where a commuter train was waiting. We passed an Amsterdam City Council member I knew well coming from the train. He winked at me and gave me a quick nod, letting me know that Ruth, Gerda and Pieter were safe in the railroad car. Ad took me to my seat, quietly wished me luck, shook my hand again, and left. After all the years of a close friendship, it was difficult to part so abruptly, but we had no choice.

The train was filled with Dutch workers heading home for the day. Ruth was sitting two seats ahead of me on the other side of the aisle. Gerda and Pieter were several rows farther down, facing us. Pieter looked serious but content, nestled inside Gerda’s arms. We had agreed that if any one of us was stopped or apprehended, the others were not to look or give any sign of recognition. Pieter tried once to make eye contact with Ruth, who forced herself to look away. For a moment he looked stricken, and I was afraid that he would start to cry; but, Gerda had noticed the exchange and drew him closer to her, hugging him to her breast as if he were her own son. As he slowly relaxed into her body, I also felt myself calming down.

But we still had to wait. It seemed to take forever until the conductor finally walked along the train cars, slamming all the doors shut. His shrill whistle signaling departure was music to my ears. With a sudden jolt, the train lurched into motion and slowly pulled out of the station. We were finally on our way.

Throughout the ride, Nazi soldiers patrolled and spot checked the identity cards of various passengers. We tried to act unconcerned, but it made me nervous every time they walked down the aisle. Sure enough, one of them asked to see my papers. I handed him my ticket and the identity card I had forged, and held my breath. They looked them over and handed them back to me without comment. A wave of immense relief swept over me, followed by a warm feeling of pride that my handiwork had passed the test.

By the time we reached Maastricht, the sun had set and it was getting dark. We met at the end of the railroad platform, and Pieter gave Ruth a tight hug, burrowing into her as if to seek extra reassurance.

Outside the station, the managing director of Gerda’s salon in Maastricht was waiting for us, a thin man with a pinched face. His eyes kept darting all over the place. As we started to walk to his car, he asked to speak to Gerda in private. They stepped to the other side of his Peugeot, and I heard him murmur in a low, insistent voice while glancing nervously in our direction. Gerda stared at him, and her face became tight with anger. She did not raise her voice, but she must have said something to him that permitted no argument, because he looked down at the cobblestone street and then nodded in acquiescence.

He stood back as we said good-bye to Gerda. It was a long, emotional, tearful parting. How could we ever thank this extraordinary woman enough? How could we repay her for her generosity and courage? Gerda had risked her life for us. She had made arrangements with the underground in Amsterdam to take us across the Belgian border. She had accompanied us to Maastricht herself. If the Nazis had apprehended her, they would have killed her and her family. We did not want to let her go, but after yet another embrace, Gerda finally tore herself away and headed back into the railroad station, wiping her teary eyes, to wait for the next train back to Amsterdam.

As I watched her leave, I realized that our lives were never going to be the same. We had crossed a line and could no longer turn back. We were committed. Our journey to freedom had begun. It was July 14, 1942. By coincidence it was also Bastille Day in France; a good omen, I hoped.”

In 1963, Pieter immigrated to the United States where he pursued a career in the specialty chemical industry, focusing on pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. He became a U.S. citizen in 1968. He and his wife, Susan, married in 1965 and have two children and three grandchildren. Now retired in Venice, Florida, Kohnstam is active in community affairs. He is the past President of the Jewish Congregation of Venice. He is frequently invited to schools and various organizations to speak about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, his book, and matters relating to Jewish and interfaith topics.

Maria Ossowski

Maria Ossowski was a Polish civilian living in Zakopane, Poland when the Second World War began. During the war, non-Jewish Poles were conscripted into forced labour in Germany and Maria’s parents sent her to live with family in Warsaw in an attempt to save her from being called up. In Warsaw, Maria and her aunt helped Jewish children by providing them with whatever food and clothing they could. She was suspected of being part of the Polish Resistance and arrested in 1943. She was deported to Auschwitz in May later that year.

“Eventually we were herded into what was to be our washing room. It was a huge barrack, with the water running, cold water I must add, from the, from the, from the, the top, there were men in already prison garb, which we never seen before. We were made to strip, we were made to go in front – each one of us – in front of that man, that man or the other one, they were all standing in the line, and we were shaven – we were shaven – our heads were shaven, our private parts were shaven and we were pushed then under that water. And after a while we were pushed out of it into another part of that big block, where the huge amount of terrible-looking – and already smelling terrible – clothes were prepared for us.

What we actually got was one dress which you had to put over your head. The dress had sleeves, but not long, like three-quarter sleeves, and when we have had this on, we were marched again to another part, where the girls this time – prisoners obviously – were sitting by the little tables,
and that, and then where we were getting our numbers tattooed on our arms. It was done with simply –
Biros were not invented then – so it was just implement with which you write letters in those days, and it was put into the ink and the point was made on your arm ‘til it had the shape of the number.
You actually are asking me what, what made me survive, or what helped me survive. And this answer is the one which actually brings you pain all your next life, this normal life, because you never know why.
So the easiest thing is to say, yes, God wanted it, that was supposed to be that way, but there were more human factors in it.

The fact that I was not, that I was young, that I was not ravaged by the long term imprisonment in prison…I told myself very quickly that I don’t want to die there, and the, this psychical attitude help you enormously. You were never to feel sorry for yourself. If you started to feel sorry for yourself you were a goner, you, you, you, you were Muselmann, as we were calling those who were physically and mentally broken.
When we came, of course, we knew nothing. I, I knew nothing. I didn’t know about the extermination policy or – we knew that the ghettos were, were burning and the people were killed in the ghettos…

To see it with my own eyes was really a terrible shock and I can tell you one thing, that there is point in your life where your heart is no heart anymore, it’s a piece of ice. I had the feeling that my heart was hard, and not because I didn’t have feeling for my fellow prisoners – no, that I always had – but there was this hand, this iced hand which kept hold my heart like this. And my heart were not alive any more, it was – the sheer terror of it made my, part of my body almost turn into the ice.”

Sources

http://www.pieterkohnstam.com/about-pieter-kohnstam.html

https://www.ushmm.org/remember/holocaust-reflections-testimonies/behind-every-name-a-story

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/concentration-camp-survivors-share-their-stories

A murdered family.

The baby in the picture is Jonas David Kloot, he would have celebrated his 80th birthday today. He would have been blowing out 80 birthday candles on his birthday cake. But he didn’t even get to blow out his first birthday candle. Jonas was born on September 15,1942 in Amsterdam. Less then 9 months later, June 11,1943 he was murdered in Sobibor.

The other people in the photograph are Jonas’s dad, Hijman Kloot. Born in Amsterdam, on 5 June 1904. Murdered in Sobibor, 9 July 1943.Reached the age of 39 years. Occupation: Merchant

Jonas’s Mother, Femmina Kloot-Engelsman. Born in Amsterdam, 19 March 1908 . Murdered in Sobibor, 11 June 1943.

Jonas’s oldest sister, Clara Kloot. Born in Amsterdam, 7 March 1931.Murdered in Sobibor, 11 June 1943. Reached the age of 12

Jonas’s youngest sister, Annie Kloot. Born in Amsterdam, 7 August 1935.Murdered in Sobibor, 11 June 1943. Reached the age of 7.

Femmina and her 3 children were all murdered on the same day. They were all deported from Westerbork to Sobibor on June 8,1943 and were murdered on arrival on June 11,1943.

The Kloot family were not the only ones on that Transport. There were in total 3015 on that train, the majority were murdered on arrival in Sobibor on June 11,1943. Just think about that, about 2900 were murdered on one day.

The ages of those on the transport were:

Hijman Kloot and Femmina Engelsman married in 1929 in Amsterdam.

All members of the extended Kloot members were murdered in Sobibor, with the exception of Samuel Kloot and Isaac Kloot, 2 brothers of Hijman Koot, they were murdered in Auschwitz.

Samuel’s wife and 2 year old son were also murdered in Auschwitz. As were the 9 year old daughter, and wife of Isaac Kloot.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/mensen?transport_from=https://data.niod.nl/WO2_Thesaurus/kampen/4869&transport_to=https://data.niod.nl/WO2_Thesaurus/kampen/4855&transport_date=1943-6-8

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/177108/hijman-kloot

Nurses who killed.

SS officers and German nurses gather during the dedication ceremony of the new SS hospital in Auschwitz.
Among those pictured are Karl Hoecker, Josef Kramer and SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Heinrich Schwarz. Among the nurses probably are Martha Mzyk and Lotte Nitschke.

Anyone who ever had to go through a medical procedure will know how important the job of a nurse is. When you arrive at the medical facility it is usually a Nurse who sees you first, A nurse will care for you set you mind at ease, often they get to do the mots horrible tasks after or during a surgery. I remember well how some nurses went beyond their duty when I was in hospital.

It is therefore so surprising that so many nurses in the third reich, were willing participants in the mass murder of the disables and also others.

Christian nurses’ associations dominated German nursing when the Nazis rose to power in 1933. At the time, nursing was widely considered to be more of a spiritual calling or a public service than a professional career. The Nazi regime reorganized Germany’s professional nursing associations. It barred Jewish nurses and restricted membership to politically reliable “Aryans.” Nazi propaganda promoted the idea that nursing was a patriotic service to the state. Nazi nurses’ associations encouraged values of militaristic duty and obedience. Nursing schools began indoctrinating students with Nazi ideology through classes on race and eugenics.

Many nurses who did not necessarily support the Nazi regime still implemented its discriminatory and murderous policies through the course of their regular, daily work. Engaging with patients more frequently and directly than doctors, nurses were often the ones who actually applied the regime’s medical policies. Nurses played a central role in the regime’s so-called “euthanasia” program. Under the program, roughly 250,000 children and adults with mental and physical disabilities were murdered. They were killed by starvation, lethal injection, or gassing.

Although some of these nurses reported that they struggled with a guilty conscience, others did not see anything wrong with their actions, and they believed that they were releasing these patients from their suffering.

Staff at the T4 “killing centres”, where the euthanasia programme was carried out, swore an oath of silence and nurses accompanied patients on special buses with windows blacked out to the gas chambers. at one such “killing centre” at Hadamar near Frankfurt in Germany in 1941, nurses and staff drank beer to celebrate the killing of their 10,000th patient in a special ceremony right outside the door of the gas chamber.

Factors influencing the nurses’ willingness to kill are described and include the socialization of the German people toward euthanasia as well as ideological commitment, economic factors, and putative duress.

Although the Nazis actually carried out the mass murder of the disabled, There were sentiments globally towards euthanasia, for example: A 1937 Gallup poll showed that 45% of the American population was in favor of euthanasia for “defective” infants.

Nurses in Nazi Germany were under the illusion that they were remaining true to their professional ethics, unaffected by the social change around them. Nurses weren’t only working in the T4 centres but also in the concentration camps like Auschwitz and Ravensbrück.

During the Ravensbrück Trials several nurses were sentenced to death.

The first Ravensbrück trial was held from December 5, 1946 until February 3, 1947, against sixteen Ravensbrück concentration camp staff and officials. All of them were found guilty. Twelve were sentenced to death. One died during trial and two committed suicide. The death sentences ,except for one, were carried out on May 2—3, 1947, in Hamelin prison.

Elisabeth Marschall was the Head Nurse at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Her duties included selecting prisoners for execution, overseeing medical experiments, and selecting which prisoners would be shipped to Auschwitz. At the Hamburg Ravensbrück Trials, she was found guilty and sentenced to death. On 3 May 1947 she was hanged by British executioner Albert Pierrepoint on the gallows in Hameln prison. Aged 60, she was the oldest female Nazi to be executed.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/the-role-of-doctors-and-nurses

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7227577/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1455849/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12735075/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/nazi-nurses-toasted-10-000th-victim-with-beer-conference-told-1.1144955

https://military-history.fandom.com/wiki/Elisabeth_Marschall

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/01939459922043749

Joseph Charles Rosenberg Polak-Just one of 6 million

Joseph is just one of the 6 million Jews who was murdered during the Holocaust. He was murdered today 80 years ago in Auschwitz.

He was born in Amsterdam, 20 February 1921.

Joseph Charles Rosenberg Polak (Jop) lived with his parents at 163 Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat in Amsterdam. He wanted to study medicine, following in his father’s footsteps. Due to the measures taken by the Germans against the Jewish population, this became impossible for him. At the beginning of May 1941, Jop came to work with his father in the Central Israelite Nursing Service (C.I.Z.), Jacob Obrechtstraat 92 in Amsterdam.

In August 1942 he was arrested at the Belgian-French border while trying to escape to Switzerland. Jop ends up in the transit camp for Belgian Jews in the specially equipped Kazerne Dossin de Saint-Georges in Mechelen, which is centrally located between Antwerp and Brussels. In Mechelen,

The camp has a service track that connects the Dossin barracks directly with the Belgian railway network. From October, the German camp security is supplemented with Flemish SS men, who guard the outside of the barracks. The Jewish inmates initially know no better than that they will be put to work in the German war industry. For example, it is known that on June 13, already 2,252 mostly Jewish workers were sent to northern France to work on the Atlantik Wall, the German defenses on the coast. They also receive a list of the “equipment” they needed to take with them with their “employment call”. Before long, however, many begin to suspect the true nature of the “evacuation” and go into hiding. On July 27, 1942, the first Jews arrived at the Dossin barracks and on August 4, 1942, the first transport departed for Auschwitz. This also brings about 140 children along, further fueling suspicion and leading thousands to ignore their call. In response, the Germans carry out nightly raids.
On September 1, 1942, Jop was transported to Auschwitz (convoy VII/124).

On September 4,1942 he is murdered in Auschwitz.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/85259/joseph-charles-rosenberg-polak

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Joseph-Charles-Rosenberg-Polak/01/1325

https://www.openarch.nl/kbd:e78042cd-73be-d585-eddb-351e4f4e833f/en

https://oorlogsgravenstichting.nl/personen/130448/joseph-charles-rosenberg-polak

Anne Frank in Auschwitz

On September 3,1944 ,Anne Frank and her family were put on transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz. It would be the last train to leave Westerbork.The train arrived 3 days later in Auschwitz. The women selected from this transport, including Anne, Edith, and Margot, were marked with numbers between A-25060 and A-25271

Anne Frank’s final diary entry dates from 1 August 1944, three days before her arrest. Therefore the only information we have about what happened to Anne Frank in the six months between the arrest and her death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp comes from the testimonies of others.

Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper was one of those others.She had also been on that same transport and was in Auschwitz when Anne was there, but also in Bergen Belsen. Janny was the last person to see Anne alive.

She said about the arrival in Auschwitz.

”We were stripped in an icy room with the wind billowing through it. Five women under one trickle of water. No towels. Tattooed, shaved . . . we were totally confused and unable to understand anything,”

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the SS forcibly split the men from the women and children, and Otto Frank was separated from his family. Those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labour were immediately killed. Of the 1,019 passengers, 549—including all children younger than 15—were sent directly to the gas chambers. Anne Frank, who had turned 15 three months earlier, was one of the youngest people spared from her transport. She was soon made aware that most people were gassed upon arrival and never learned that the entire group from the Achterhuis had survived this selection. She reasoned that her father, in his mid-fifties and not particularly robust, had been killed immediately after they were separated.

Janny worked as a nurse in the Nazi camps where she provided clothing, medicine, and food to fellow prisoners. She saw Anne Frank, two or three days before she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

“During the final days, I saw Anne standing there, wrapped in a blanket, with no tears left to cry. Well, we hadn’t had tears for some time. And then, a few days later I went to look for the Frank girls and learned that Margot had fallen from her bunk. Just like that, onto the stone floor, dead. The next day, Anne died as well.”

Janny had been in the Jewish resistance, in Amsterdam during the war, forging identification papers to help other Jews escape the Nazis, before she and Anne were deported from Amsterdam.

She died of heart failure in Amsterdam on 15 August, 2003 at the age of 86.

Mariette Huisjes of the Anne Frank House said this about Janny.

“Anne was sick and hallucinating and had thrown away her clothes, because she was afraid of lice. Ms. Brandes-Brilleslijper gave her clothes and some food. She mostly helped young people in the camps in those difficult times.”

sources

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-10-23-ca-196-story.html

https://www.annefrank.org/en/timeline/158/the-deportations-to-auschwitz-have-begun/

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12534087.jannie-brandes-brilleslijper/

https://tolerance.tavaana.org/en/content/anne-frank-1

Happy Birthday Ina Winnik

In a way I hate saying Happy Birthday ,because is supposed to be Ina’s 80yj birthday today. But she didn’t even get to celebrate her 2nd. She was born in Amsterdam on August 30,1942. She was murdered on October 22nd,in Auschwitz.

The reason why I do say Happy Birthday is because she deserves to be remembered, all of her previous 79 birthdays also need to be remembered. She was just a baby when she was murdered, not an ounce of evil in her, just pure love.

Ina was also the nickname I had for one of my sisters, when I was a kid.

Ina and her mother were caught on 29 September 1943 during a raid in The Hague. And then transported via Westerbork to Auschwitz where they were immediately gassed.

Ina’s half brother was Stanley, but he never met his older sister.

“And then it goes wrong…. My father Ies Winnik is arrested. ‘Mitkommen’, the Nazi screams. They take him to the headquarters of the Security Service.

There he is harshly interrogated. Where did you put the fur coats, Jew?’, asks the Security Service at the head office. He stands firm and is dragged to his cell. At the last interrogation he stands alone in his underpants in front of the interrogator’s desk.

It is warm and the balcony doors are open. The secretary signals with her eyes to my father and the balcony. This is my last chance,’ he thinks and jumps over the balcony and flees….

Stanley, in the film clip below, talks about the places his half-sister Ina went before she was murdered by the Nazis.

The video is in Dutch but you can select English Subtitles in the CC(Close Caption)section at the bottom right hand corner.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/198629/ina-winnik

Murdered on August 28,1942 in Auschwitz.

In August 1942, a group of refugees from the Netherlands was arrested in Belgium.
The men were placed in Breendonk, and the women and children were placed in the Jewish orphanage.

They were all very young children.

In the end they were all deported to Auschwitz and murdered there on August 28,1942.

Below are the names of the women and their children, who were placed in the Jewish orphanage.

  • Edith Essinger-Morpurgo and her daughter Eveline Franziska-Aged 2
  • Hanni Couzijn-Hoffman and her daughter Mirjam-Aged 1
  • Cato Chelem-Goudeket and her daughter son Iwan-Aged 1
  • Anna Poons-Hamburg and her son Hijman-Aged 5
  • Alice Essinger-Rosengarten and her son Robert (no further details)
  • Golda Barber-Lewinson and her son Alfred-Aged 7 months
  • Frederika van Amerongen-Veffer with her daughter Sonja-Aged 9 months, pictured above.

Source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/690017/op-de-vlucht-opgepakt-in-belgi%C3%AB

The Dutch in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz

Before I go into the main story, I just want to point out the most disturbing aspect of the picture above. At the very front is a lady carrying a baby. We know now what her fate would have been. It is a disturbing sight on an old photograph, so just imagine how disturbing this most have been for those who were forced to help the Nazis in their crimes. These men would have also know what fate awaited the lady and her baby, and they could nothing about it, to safeguard their own survival and perhaps of their family. Or at least the notion that they perhaps would survive.

Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed of prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. The death-camp Sonderkommandos, who were always prisoners and victims themselves, were unrelated to the SS-Sonderkommandos, which were ad hoc units formed from members of various SS offices between 1938 and 1945.

This blog is not to judge those were forced into the Sonderkommandos, none of us can judge because we were never put in that situation. This blog is about a few of the Dutch Jews who were forced into the Sonderkommandos in Auschwitz.

With the arrival of a deportation train in Auschwitz, the work of the Sonderkommandos began. They had to escort the victims to the gas chamber, reassure them and collect their belongings. After the victims were gassed, the members of the Sonderkommandos moved the corpses from the gas chamber and took them to the incineration pits or crematoria. For this arduous work, Jewish men are selected on the platform, including one hundred to one hundred and fifty Dutch. They were forced to become part of the Nazi killing machine at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

During the invasion of the German army of the Netherlands in May 1940, Josef van Rijk fought with the reserve company De Jagers in The Hague against the Germans. During that time Josef shot d a German paratrooper, and killed him. Maurice Schellekes is a tailor and didn’t notice much of the German invasion. But both Jewish men soon had to deal with the persecution of the Jews in the occupied Netherlands. Josef is fired from De Bijenkorf in The Hague and Maurice was sent the Jewish labor camp Kremboong on March 31, 1942.

Josef tries to flee to Switzerland, but is arrested during a check at Amsterdam Central Station. He is imprisoned in the prison on the Amstelveenseweg and is soon transferred to Camp Westerbork. Maurice also flees after rumors that Kremboong will be evicted. He goes into hiding in Amsterdam. On August 6, 1942, Maurice goes outside to get razors and is arrested. He also ends up in Camp Westerbork.

Josef and Maurice both only spent a brief time in Camp Westerbork. Because they were arrested after an attempt to flee and trying to go into hiding, the men are considered ‘criminal cases’. They were deported on 10 August 1942 from Camp Westerbork to Auschwitz.

The following day they arrive at the extermination camp and are selected to work in the Sonderkommando. Maurice works at the mass graves in the open Sonderkommando of Bunker II. Josef buries the corpses after they are taken from Bunker II to the mass graves via a narrow gauge railway with a small wagon.

Working in the Sonderkommando was physically very demanding. In the scorching August sun, the men barely get a drink. The SS and Kapos guarding them constantly mistreated the men. But then suddenly there was a way out. All Dutchmen were called upon to participate. The men of the Sonderkommando were not allowed to leave at all.

This saved Josef and Maurice’s lives. The group of 1200 Dutch people had to undress and were inspected. The healthy men, including Josef and Maurice, were given clean camp clothes, leave Birkenau and walk to Auschwitz. The other Dutch were gassed. Josef and Maurice end up in the Kanada-Kommando.

–When the selection process was complete, a work group of prisoners called the ‘Kanada Kommando’ collected the belongings of victims and took them to the ‘Kanada’ warehouse facility for sorting and transporting back to Germany.

To prisoners Canada was a country that symbolised wealth. They, therefore, gave the ironic name Kanada (the German spelling of Canada) to the warehouse area as it was full of possessions, clothing and jewellery.–

Both Josef and Maurice survived the war.

“An intertwined mass of people – tangle of people – who could only be separated by moistening them. They were sprayed wet. (..) By just pulling you took the bodies out, like a bunch of animals. We have been horrified done that for a few days but by then we were already used to it.”: Josef van Rijk

“I realized that this mound was loose earth, shoveled from the ground where there was now a mass grave filled with rows of women’s bodies covered with quicklime. It was such a terrible sight that words on paper simply cannot describe it. There was the work that was waiting for me.”: Maurice Schellekes

At the end of 1943 a new group of Dutchmen ended up in the Sonderkommando. Including Samuel Zoute who arrived on 21 October 1943. Before the war, he sold fruit and vegetables on the Albert Cuyp market. On 19 October 1943, Samuel is deported from Camp Westerbork to Auschwitz, together with his wife Doortje and four children. Doortje, Rachel, Abraham and Simon are gassed immediately. Eldest son Maurits is selected for labour, until he too is gassed. Samuel found his son Maurits among the gassed people and had to burn him.

On August 17, 1943, Abraham Beesemer, Joseph Peperroot, Salomon van Sijs and Louis Elzas arrived in Auschwitz. The men were first in the quarantine block and at the beginning of January 1944 they ended up together in the Sonderkommando. Jacob Beesemer, Abraham’s brother, was later also selected for the Sonderkommando.

These Dutchmen were also looking for a way out of the Sonderkommando. The number of incoming transports decreased and the Sonderkommandos were slowly reduced. The threat of the complete liquidation of the Sonderkommandos hung in the air. On October 7, 1944, a prisoner knocked down an SS man with a hammer and started the uprising. Several Sonderkommandos revolt. One of the crematoria is blown up and hundreds of Sonderkommando prisoners flee the camp. Three SS men and about 450 Sonderkommando prisoners were killed. The brothers Abraham and Jacob, Salomon, Joseph and Louis were murdered by the SS. Samuel Zoute and Hagenaar Henry Bronkhorst worked at other crematoria in other Sonderkommandos and managed to survive the uprising.

After the uprising, Henry Bronkhorst, Samuel Zoute, Maurice Schellekes and Josef van Rijk are still alive. As the Russians approach, the death marches begin to clear the camp. Henry Bronkhorst is the only one who manages to mix with the other prisoners and thus remain in Auschwitz until its liberation by the Russians on January 27, 1945. The rest are forced to join the death marches: Samuel, Maurice and Josef leave Auschwitz. Samuel ends up in Mauthausen, he is murdered on March 7, 1945. Maurice ends up in Ebensee, a satellite camp of Mauthausen, and is liberated by the Americans on May 6, 1945. Josef ends up in Leitmeritz, a subcamp of Flossenbürg and is liberated by the Russians on 9 May 1945.

sources

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/album_auschwitz/kanada.asp

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/artikel/nederlanders-het-sonderkommando-van-auschwitz

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