The Star

I came across an excerpt from the book Wiswassebeesjes by author Dieta Kalk. I can’t think of a proper translation for the word, but that doesn’t really matter.

In the book the writer, recalls the removal of the Wallage family from Aprikozenweg 21 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, a day after seeing the Star of David. The wearing of the Star of David had compulsory starting at the beginning of May 1942. It is almost certain that the Wallage family was temporarily interned on the grounds of the Apeldoornsche Bosch in mid-January 1943 and sent to the transit camp Westerbork and then on to Auschwitz.

This excerpt gives a good illustration of the perception of the treatment of Jews, as seen from the vantage point of a child.

The neighbours next to us (the Wallage family) have two children.
They have beautiful dark hair and brown eyes.
“They are Jews,” says Mom.
“What are Jews?” asks Dieta.
Mom doesn’t answer. She looks very serious.
One day Dieta sees that the children are wearing a star on their jackets.
And their father and mother too.
“I want a star like that too,” says Dieta.
“Mommy, can I also have a star on my jacket?”.
“Only Jewish people should wear a star on their coat,” says Mama.
“They don’t like that at all.”
Dieta doesn’t understand it.
The next day a truck comes onto the street.
The entire Wallage family climbs into the car.
Soldiers are there.
“Where are they going?” asks Jopie.
“They are going on a
journey, but we don’t know where to.”
But no one looks happy, and Mom is crying.
“Is that because it’s war?” Dieta asks.
“Are they coming back?”
“Nobody knows,” says Mom.
The house is empty.
We never saw them again.

Levie Wallage started work as a qualified nurse at Apeldoornse Bos on 1 June 1925 to support his family. The piece mentions their two children. However, Levie Wallage and his wife Matthea Wallage-Halverstad, did have a third child. Renate Wallage was born 22 May 1943 in Westerbork.

This clearly indicates that the Nazis had no regard for the life of the Jews, born or yet to be born. They pushed a pregnant woman on a truck.

Matthea and her children were all murdered on 3 September 1943 at Auschwitz. Levie was murdered a few months later on 31 March 1944.



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Ruth Maier—Holocaust Diarist

Ruth Maier is often referred to as Norway’s Anne Frank, I don’t agree with that. I think it takes away the value of the words of both women. Their circumstances and lifestyles were completely different. Even the way they were murdered was different. The only thing they had in common was that they were both Jewish.

Ruth Maier was born on 10 December 1920, in Vienna. She and her sister Judith, who was 1½ years younger, spent the first years of their childhood in Vienna-Döbling, in the attic apartment of an apartment building on Peter-Jordan

Starting in 1930, the municipality of Vienna built a large residential complex nearby – along Gersthofer Straße – in which the family moved into a spacious apartment on the 3rd floor (staircase 1, door 14; entrance Hockegasse 2). On the floor above, the father, the chairman of the Austrian postal union and secretary of the International Trade Union Federation of Postal, Telephone and Telegraph employees PTTI, Ludwig Maier, had his office.

Ruth liked to sit and read in her father’s study, with whom she had a close relationship. She was just 13 years old when her father died of bacterial dermatitis. Mother Irma and Grandmother Anna tried to give the two girls a happy childhood.

On her 18th birthday, Ruth witnessed the violent excesses of the Nazi mobs during the November 1938 pogrom in Vienna: Ruth Maier, who had previously had no connection to Judaism, began to confront her identity in her diary. Judith managed to escape to the United Kingdom, via the Kindertransport. Ruth was able to find refuge in Norway. She was too old for the Kindertransport.

On 30 January 1939, a family from Lillestrøm took Ruth Maier into their home: the telegraph operator Arne Strøm, an acquaintance of Ruth’s father, had vouched for the Norwegian authorities that the young refugee would not be a financial burden to the state. In August 1939 Ruth Maier was admitted to the Frogner School in Oslo, she became fluent in Norwegian within a year, completed her final exams, and befriended the future poet Gunvor Hofmo at a volunteer work camp in Biri. The two became a couple, finding lodging and work in various places in Norway.

Ruth was also one of the models for the statue “Surprised”, by Gustav Vigeland. It is on permanent display in Frogner Park in Oslo. Vigeland began work on the sculpture in about 1904. The model for the face of the sculpture was Inga Syvertsen; the sculpture was completed in 1942. Ruth was surprised by another person entering the room while she was modelling for Vigeland, and she tried to cover her naked body, which shows in her posture. The statue was eventually cast in bronze in 2002.

But even during this period, Maier repeatedly found herself overcome by a sense of loneliness and of being misunderstood, feelings which became particularly strong once the German Wehrmacht occupied Norway. They eventually led to a nervous breakdown, and in early 1941, Maier had herself committed to a psychiatric ward. Gunvor Hofmo’s visits were the only ray of hope during the seven weeks she spent there. In fact, it seems that Hofmo was the only person in Norway who cared about Maier.

Below are some excerpts from Ruth Maier’s diary.

Saturday, July 20, 1940, Lillestrøm
“Lillestrøm is unbearable now. You come across German soldiers at every turn. They wink at the young girls with the same self-confidence, and the girls always smile back, bewitched by the uniform sore.”

In early January 1941, Biristrand
“I can’t tell you how warm I am with Gunvor. I love her deep eyes very much. I love her way of speaking about things subtly”

Ruth’s ast note to Gunvor Hofmo

“I believe that it is good that it has come to this. Why should we not suffer, when there is so much suffering? Do not worry about me. Perhaps I would not want to trade with you.”

Norwegian police officers entered the Engelheim boarding house for girls and young women in Oslo on November 26, 1942, and took Ruth Maier away. The arrest is said to have been violent. Maier was dragged into a car and forced to board the “Donau,” a prisoner transport ship, on the very same day.

Five days later, she was murdered in the Auschwitz extermination camp along with 187 Jewish women, 42 children, and 116 men from Norway who were unable to work.

Jan Erik Vold, the editor of her diaries writes about the last hours before her deportation:

“The raid in which she was arrested took place on November 26. 300 men, members of the police, Quisling’s stormtroopers and the Gestapo took part in the operation. Taxis that had been confiscated were used to transport the arrested persons. Nunna Moum lived in the Same boarding school as Ruth. She says that the arrest happened quietly. Two Norwegian police officers led the Austrian down the stairs into the street to a waiting car. She was told to sit in the back seat, where two tearful girls were already sitting. The girls in the boarding school woke each other up and watched the scene. Someone said, ‘We can watch your gold watch until you come back.’ Ruth replied, ‘I’ll never come back.’ “

Gunvor Hofmo kept Ruth’s diaries and much of her correspondence. She approached Gyldendal to get them published in 1953 but was turned down. After she died in 1995, Jan Erik Vold went through her papers and came upon Ruth Maier’s works. After editing them for ten years, they were published in 2007. Vold was highly impressed by the literary value of the diaries, comparing Ruth Maier’s literary talent to that of Hannah Arendt and Susan Sontag. The book was translated into English by Jamie Bulloch in 2009

Gunvor Hofmo never got over the loss of her girlfriend. This traumatic experience was probably one of the reasons for the crisis Hofmo went through in the 1950s, which caused her to become a long-term patient at the Gaustad mental hospital in Oslo for two decades. In the immediate postwar period, Hofmo had suffered from obsessions which became increasingly intrusive. She heard voices and was afraid of “radiation” in her head.

In a speech issued on 27 January 2012 on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg issued an official apology for the role played by Norwegians in the deportations. As reported on the official website of the Norwegian Government, Stoltenberg delivered his speech at the dock in the capital Oslo where 532 Jews boarded the cargo ship Donau on 26 November 1942, bound for Nazi camps. Stoltenberg said:

“The Holocaust came to Norway on Thursday 26 November 1942. Ruth Maier was one of the many who were arrested that day. On 26 November, just as the sky was beginning to lighten, the sound of heavy boots could be heard on the stairs of the boarding house “Englehjemmet” in Oslo. A few minutes later, the slight Jewish girl was seen by her friends being led out the door of Dalsbergstien 3. Ruth Maier was last seen being forced into a black truck by two big Norwegian policemen. Five days later the 22-year-old was dead. Murdered in the gas chamber at Auschwitz. Fortunately, it is part of being human that we learn from our mistakes. And it is never too late. More than 50 years after the war ended, the Storting decided to make a settlement, collectively and individually, for the economic liquidation of Jewish assets. By so doing the state accepted moral responsibility for the crimes committed against Norwegian Jews during the Second World War. What about the crimes against Ruth Maier and the other Jews? The murders were unquestionably carried out by the Nazis. But it was Norwegians who carried out the arrests. It was Norwegians who drove the trucks. And it happened in Norway.”

I don’t agree with the line of the speech “Fortunately, it is part of being human that we learn from our mistakes” The unfortunate truth is that we don’t, we should, but we don’t.


Ashes in Auschwitz

Although the title is Ashes in Auschwitz, it is more about the aftermath of the Holocaust, and I use it more as a metaphor. It is not that well-known that Auschwitz had about 40 sub-camps connected.

This piece is about those who were left behind and had to, and sometimes still do, deal with the aftermath of the horrors. Often, only the ashes of their beloved ones remained.

There was a decision to make—with only two options— “Will I remain a victim or a survivor?” Only they could make that choice. It was and always will be their entitlement, and no one else’s opinion matters. There is no wrong or right to these choices, just a mechanism of how to choose to cope.

There were other questions to answer as, “Do I forgive?” It is their prerogative, and no one should ever tell them if they should/shouldn’t because others didn’t live through it or had been subjected to this unspeakable evil.

“Should I forget?”—another choice which is only theirs. I can fully understand wanting to forget, but I can also appreciate why people choose to remember.

Some other choices they found taken from them were on their journey home. Some found upon their arrival home that it was no longer theirs. The same bureaucratic machine that had looked away when they were in the camps now stopped them from reclaiming their belongings—an entitlement robbed from them.

Today, in 2023, the few still alive have listened to ignorant reporting that spreads lies that it never happened or told it wasn’t as bad as they say it was. Even educators say, “These stories are no longer to be shared and leave the past in the past.”

They say, “Let the ashes of Auschwitz settle.”

Remembering Berthold Mendel Judenfreund

Who is Berthold Mendel Judenfreund? He was just a farm labourer, not a man of violence or a criminal, just a farm labourer.

On April 10, 1943, 25 years before I was born, the Nazis murdered him at Auschwitz.

What makes his story so sad is that he could have survived.

His nephew said the following about Berthold Mendel Judenfreund:

“My father emigrated from Nazi Germany to the United States in 1939, shortly after Kristallnacht. He grew up in a Jewish orphanage in Frankfurt with his younger brother, Berthold. My father, Georg, was five when taken to the orphanage. His brother was three. After completing Gymnasium in 1933, my father went to the only Jewish Teacher Seminary still operating in Nazi Germany. After spending a couple of years teaching in a Jewish Day School, my father came to the United States and enrolled as an undergraduate at Yeshiva University. His brother chose to remain behind in Germany, becoming a Youth Aliyah Hachsharah training-camp director in Nazi-occupied Holland. In 1943, the Gestapo closed the camp and deported Berthold to Auschwitz.”

He was 27 when he was murdered.


A Baby Shoe

A baby shoe and a date

Not a birth date,

The date she died.

Today 8 April 2023, is the day I cried.

Why? I don’t know. I did not know the baby, nor did I know the parents.

On 27 March 1944, this baby was murdered.

Today I cry.

I did not know her, so why do I feel sad?

It was a young human being, a product of love, destroyed by hate

A baby shoe and a date.

Someone who perhaps had a baby with similar shoes murdered this baby.

Today I cry, for a crime committed 79 years ago, why?

Because there were millions of baby shoes and the real crime is that people have forgotten.

Tzipporah and Dov Cohen were a young couple when the war broke out who had already experienced the loss of one child during childbirth. With the German invasion of Lithuania, they unsuccessfully tried to flee to the Soviet Union. They returned to their home in Kovno and then interned at the Kovno Ghetto. Approximately half a year later, on 18 January 1942, Tzipporah gave birth to a daughter who she named Hinda after her mother. At the end of November 1943, the couple was transferred to the Aleksotas Work Camp, whose inmates worked at the airport, where they lived in very difficult conditions, performing backbreaking forced labour.

During the day the men and women would go off to work and only the children would remain at the camp with a small cluster of adults and elderly. On 27 March, trucks arrived at the camp. The adults were taken out a different gate than the usual one so that they would not see the trucks and disrupt the deportation. When the adults returned at the end of the day they discovered the extent of the tragedy: no children remained in the camp. Dov and Tzipporah went to their daughter’s bed, where they found one of her shoes and the gloves Tzipporah had sewn for her. Dov inscribed the date upon the shoe and swore to save the shoe forever.

A baby shoe and a date—

A new date is 8 April 2023. We can never ever let this happen again.

A baby shoe and a date.

But I despair because I know it has happened again.

I cry because we seem to be incapable of learning from the past.


How Ruben Baer Saved His Mother’s Life

It is quite hard to describe this story because it is a tragedy and a miracle at the same time.

It isn’t clear when baby Ruben was born, some sources say he was born on 6 April 1943, while other sources say it was 9 April 1943. On his grave’s headstone, it says 9 April. The one thing we do know for certain is that he only lived for 4 days. However, most sources give April 9th as the date of birth.

Ruben Simon Hendrik Baer (aka Ruben Sally Hendrik Baer), was born on 9 April 1943. He did not grow old died four days later, on 13 April.

He was the son of the Jewish couple Leo Baer and Flora Baer-Salomon. They fled Germany after the rise of Hitler and settled in Roermond, the Netherlands, at the end of 1939.

Ruben’s brother Rolf Helmut Baer and his father Leo Baer were summoned to report on 9 April 1943, and then deported to Westerbork. From there Rolf and his father were deported to Auschwitz, where they were gassed on 26 October 1944.

His mother Flora Baer-Salomon was, at the time of their deportation, in the Laurentius Hospital in Roermond, to give birth to her son Ruben Sally Hendrik he died four days after birth.

His early death indicates that little Ruben may have been born too early. That seems to have saved his mother’s life.

Although Flora Baer lost her baby, she remained alive. Hospital staff kept Flora out of the hands of the Germans by taking her to a hiding place in the nearby village of Wessem. She was safe with the Van Rosendaal family until an NSB (Dutch Nazi party) member gave the address to the Germans in 1944.

On 8 August 1944, around 11 a.m., the German Sicherheitsdienst raided the house in Wessem. There was a pounding on the front door, after which Mrs Rosendaal opened the door and saw that the house was surrounded by German soldiers with rifles and machine guns at the ready. An NSB member from Roermond, named Gerrit Holla, was also involved in the robbery, he had forcefully entered through the back door and ran through the house with a gun drawn in his hand. Mother Rosendaal, her daughter Ria and Flora Baer-Salomon were present in the kitchen, among others. Mrs Rosendaal was then interrogated by Holla and a German officer in a brutal manner and at gunpoint. During this penetrating interrogation, she continued to deny that any other Jewish people in hiding were housed in the building. Flora Baer-Salomon was arrested on 17 August 1944, together with the Roermond couple Herz-Löb, who also stayed at this hiding place. She was then transferred to Westerbork and deported to Theresienstadt on 4 September 1944. Her husband and her son were there too at that time. However, she survived the hardships suffered and, after the liberation, returned nearly emaciated to her ‘Mietchen’, as she called Mrs Rosendaal.

In 1947 she moved to her mother in New York where she married Siegfried Schild on 11 December 1948, and died in March 1987. Whether Flora saw her husband and son Rolf in Theresienstadt is not known.


Music and Holocaust

One of the definitions for music is vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion, but it is so much more than that. Music brings hope in times of despair, comfort in times of grief and joy in times of sorrow. Music is like a time machine because a song or tune can bring you back to good and bad times. It can also be a tool of torture, a way of creating false hopes.

The power of music was understood, by both the victims and the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

From the time the first concentration camps like Dachau were established in 1933, camp guards routinely ordered detainees to sing while marching or exercising or during punishment actions. This was done to mock, humiliate and discipline the prisoners. As Eberhard Schmidt experienced in Sachsenhausen, inmates who disobeyed the rules or who incorrectly carried them out (‘In even steps! March! Sing!’) gave the SS an excuse for arbitrary beatings:

“Those who didn’t know the song were beaten. Those who sang too softly were beaten. Those who sang too loudly were beaten. The SS men inflicted savage beatings.”

In December 1943, a 20-year-old named Ruth Elias arrived in a cattle car at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and was assigned to Block 6 in the family camp, a barracks that housed young women and the male orchestra, an orchestra of imprisoned violinists, clarinet players, accordionists and percussionists who played their instruments not only when the prisoners marched out for daily labour details, but also during prisoner punishments.

Performances could be impromptu, ordered whenever the SS felt like it. In a postwar interview, Elias discussed how drunken SS troops would often burst into the barracks late at night.

“First, they’d tell the orchestra to play as they drank and sang. Then they would pull young girls from their bunks to rape them. Pressed against the back of her top-level bunk to avoid detection, Elias heard the terrified screams of her fellow prisoners.”

In Westerbork, Max Ehrlich, a prominent performer in the risque pre-war Berlin cabaret scene, teamed up with fellow musician Willy Rosen to create the Camp Westerbork Theatre Group.

“Suddenly, the best cabaret in Europe was to be found in a concentration camp,” said Alan Ehrlich, the performer’s nephew. “Their music became Westerbork hits, with prisoners constantly humming their tunes.”

The camp commandant sat in the front row of all of the troupe’s performances of original songs, jokes, sketches and dance routines. Entranced, he kept the performers’ names off the lists of those destined for the death camps. “They were playing for their lives,” said Ehrlich

Tango in Auschwitz, was written in Polish by a 12-year-old Polish girl named Irka Janowski. Unfortunately, there is not much known about her other than her name and age. We do know she was not Jewish and that she was murdered in one of the Auschwitz camps. The song she wrote was set to a well-known pre-war tango tune and had become popular among the prisoners of the camps in the extermination complex.

Janowski’s song and biography are a reminder to us of an aspect that is often neglected in the recollection of Auschwitz. The complex comprised several extermination camps and many labour camps, and among the prisoners were many non-Jews. Tens of thousands of Poles, Romanis and people of colour, as well as French and Russian war prisoners, were murdered at Auschwitz. Janowski’s lyrics (translated into Yiddish by survivors) speak of the Auschwitz prisoners, but, surprisingly, do not focus on Jews:

The black man soon takes up his mandolin,
and will soon start to strum his little tune here,
and the Englishman and Frenchman sing a melody,
so a trio will arise out of this sadness.

And also the Pole soon takes up his whistle
and he will emote to the world –
The song will light up the hearts
who are longing for the freedom they miss.

The song’s chorus ignites hope in the hearts of the listeners:
Our slave tango – under the whip of the beater,
Our slave tango in the Auschwitz camp…
Oh, freedom and liberty call!

The song was one of the songs recorded by Ben Stonehill after the war. In the summer of 1948, Stonehill arrived at the Hotel Marseilles in New York, a meeting point for Jewish refugees who had arrived in the United States after World War II. He brought with him heavy recording equipment and placed it in the hotel lobby. His purpose was to record the refugees singing songs they remembered from their homelands; folk songs their parents sang; holiday songs from the synagogue; songs from school and youth movements; and also – the songs they sang in the concentration and extermination camps, in the ghettos and in the hiding places, where they had spent the long years of war.
The songs that he recorded were stored in the archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research dedicated to the documentation and preservation of a rich, pre-WWII Yiddish culture. The recordings eventually made their way to the National Sound Archive at the National Library of Israel.



I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.


Remembering Rolf Dirk Ullmann

I wish I could tell you the story of Rolf Dirk Ullmann’s long life. I wish I could tell you about all his children and grandchildren, visiting him today for his 80th birthday.

But I can’t. I can’t tell you about Rolf’s first experience eating an ice cream or chocolate bar or anything about his first day in school. You see Rolf Dirk Ullmann was perceived to be a threat to the state, as were his mother and sister. Rolf Dirk Ullmann was born in captivity in Westerbork, on 31 March 1943.

He was put on a train to Theresienstadt on 18 January 1944. He was not alone on that transport 552 persons were with him. Some like him that were also born in Westerbork. Frank Werner was born on 21 October 1943, Regine Elizabeth Thekla Guthmann’s date of birth was 30 September 1943, and Marianne Pekel was born on 5 September 1943. Also on that train were Rolf Dirk Ullmann’s mother, Ellen Wilhelmina Ullmann and his older sister.

The transport to Theresienstadt wasn’t the family’s last journey. In early October 1944, a transport took them to Auschwitz. There they on 8 October 1944, they were murdered upon arrival.

It is sad that Rolf Dirk Ullmann’s life story is on a single registration card.


1.5 Million Stars

I recently read a scientific report about the revised Extinctions and Radii for 1.5 Million Stars, which was observed by APOGEE, GALAH, and RAVE surveys. I am not sure what those three terms mean. But I was intrigued by the number of 1.5 million.

1.5 million is the estimated number of children who were murdered during the Holocaust. Personally, I think that number is probably higher.

However, for this post, I will stick with the number of 1.5 million.

1.5 million futures never fulfilled.

1.5 million books never written

1.5 million voices silenced.

1.5 million innocent souls.

1.5 million products of love are murdered by hate.

1.5 million talents never explored.

1.5 million stars in heaven.

1.5 million children like Alexander Grijsaar, who was born in Amsterdam on 27 March 1940. He was murdered aged two on 16 August 1942 in Auschwitz.

This photo of Alexander was taken by Thea Citroen. In 1940 or 1941 she worked as a childcare worker in the Princess Juliana crèche in Warmoesstraat, Amsterdam. During her work, she photographed children and teachers and wrote their names on the back of the photos. The picture below was also taken by Thea.

Most of these children were also murdered.

Thea Citoen was born in Amsterdam on 10 November 1921. She was murdered in Auschwitz on 24 July 1942.

Next time when there is a clear sky I will look at those 1.5 million stars and say a prayer for all of them.


Mirjam Lewkowicz—Murdered child

Every time I see a picture of a sweet little angel like this, I feel like giving up on the research and reporting on the Holocaust I do. I get an overwhelming feeling of anguish, panic, anger and confusion, and I can feel physical pain.

It feels like someone just ripped out my heart. Then I remember I am not doing this for me but for them. If I will not tell their story, who will? What sickens me most is that I have these feelings 80 years after the murder of Mirjam. Why didn’t those responsible for her death didn’t have any of those feelings? Even if they had just one, Mirjam would still be alive today.

Mirjam Lewkowicz was born in Gouda, one of the most picturesque towns in the Netherlands, on 14 October 1940. Murdered in Auschwitz on 17 September 1943, she had reached the age of two years old.

How could anyone look into those eyes, and they must have seen them, and think that this little angel was a threat to their lives or a danger to their nations? How?

Dear Mirjam,

My fingers are getting wet because of the tears on my keyboard, tears that fell for you.

It is difficult for me to comprehend your murder. It makes no sense to me. You were born in Gouda, a place famous for its cheese, but I want to make it famous because it is where Mirjam Lewkowicz was born.

Your mother, Bettina, father, Herbert, and your six-month-old brother Hugo, who would have been celebrating his 80th birthday today, faced deportation to Auschwitz, where a gas chamber took the lives of your mother, brother and yourself.

I sincerely hope your story will ensure we never forget how evil mankind can be, or should I say man-cruel?