The forged identity cards that saved lives.

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Most of the Holocaust related stories are bitter tragedies,however every once in a while a positive tale of survival during the world’s darkest era pops up.

On 8 October 1941, the Jewish cattle dealer Salli Schwarz narrowly escaped a roundup on Molenstraat in the town of Winterswijk,the Nerherlands.. Sneaking through backyard after backyard, he embarked on a journey that would last the rest of the war. Salli, followed by his wife Betty and daughter Ria, went from one hiding place to another.

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Sadly Ria could not stay with them, she had to be hidden elsewhere. Salli and Bettie left their daughter behind with the Resistance. Members of the Resistance provided them with ration coupons and fake I.D. cards, which were needed whenever they changed hiding places.

The members of the resistance would put their lives at risk for doing this. Being caught with false papers was punishable by death,leave alone creating them.

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Salli was given a false identification with the name Pieter de Graaf. Salli and Bettie survived the war and found Ria safe and sound in the care of a childless minister and his wife, with whom they kept in contact for many years.

 

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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.

 

June Ravenhall- Forgotten Hero

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I often ask myself the question “Would I risk mu own life to save another?” and the honest answer is “I don’t know” I think I would but when it comes to it I don’t know.

However there are so many in History who asked themselves that same question. One of these brave souls was June Ravenhall.

Ravenhall was born Elsie June Stickley in 1901. She was a native of Kenilworth who moved to The Hague with her husband, Leslie Ravenhall, whom she married in 1925.The couple left Coventry for the Netherlands due to Les Ravenhall’s business, and started a business importing Coventry Eagle motorbikes.

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Their house and business were expropriated when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. As a British citizen, and since Britain was then in war with Germany, June’s husband was sent to a prison camp in Poland, and she relocated to Hilversum.

Mrs Ravenhall was approached by the Dutch Resistance and asked to hide a young Jewish journalist called Levi(Louis) Velleman. She agreed and he lived with the family for three years.

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When, in the summer of 1942, the first orders were issued for Jews of the Netherlands to report for “work in the East”, Levi Velleman, born in 1919 in Haarlem, was in a hospital in Hilversum (prov. North-Holland) with tuberculosis.
As not enough Jews did report, the Germans started to round up Jews. As Velleman was a well-known journalist and radio reporter in the Netherlands going by the less Jewish sounding name of Louis., he feared that he would be sought too. He thus turned to one of the physicians in the hospital who contacted the adjacent recuperation center asking if someone there could take him into hiding. June Ravenhall, who was living in the immediate vicinity of this center, came forward even though she had some initial hesitation to take in a person with a contagious disease. June had the lone responsibility for her three young teenage children after her husband Leslie had been arrested. Both originally from Britain, they had come to live in The Hague where Leslie had found a business opportunity importing motorbikes. Three days after the capitulation of the Netherlands in May 1940, Leslie was taken as a prisoner of war to a camp in Germany, where he remained until the liberation some five years later.

June gave Louis Velleman the room of her oldest daughter, where he stayed all the time. Since sunshine was considered favorable for healing, Louis sat in the garden when the weather was nice and June thought that there was no immediate danger. However, when the Germans learned that many Jews were in hiding in the town of Hilversum, many house searches were carried out, among them in the Ravenhall home. The Ravenhall children were well instructed to keep the Jew hunters delayed for awhile, so that Louis could get into his hiding area. Once he escaped by jumping out of a window at the back of the house. When the policeman found some men’s clothing and confronted June with it, she feared immediate arrest. It turned out that the policeman had only come to warn her of a pending house search.

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The winter of 1944-1945 was especially difficult in the western parts of the Netherlands, as food supplies from the rural eastern parts of the country were forcefully stopped by the occupier. Moreover, there was no electricity or gas. Many Dutch had to survive on flower bulbs and many more died of starvation. The Ravenhall family could not support an extra mouth, and thus Louis was taken to Wieger and Sijbrig Beks, living close-by, who were able to feed him. Once a week, Louis ate at the Beks: “I could eat in one day more than during the entire week with the Ravenhalls”.

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The Beks were heavily involved in a local resistance cell, among other things by delivering false identity papers to Jews in hiding in the area.
Louis Velleman survived the war thanks to June and the Beks. He stayed in touch with all until his passing in 2000.

 

April/May strike- Death Penalty

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On 29 April 1943, Wehrmachtbefehlshaber (Wehrmacht Commander) General Friedrich Christiansen announced that Dutch soldiers who had fought against the invading Germans in May 1940 would again be taken as prisoners of war and sent to Germany to work in factories and on the land.

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A wave of anger engulfed the country. A spontaneous protest strike broke out in the Stork Machinery Factory in Hengelo. This was followed by the so-called April-May Strikes that swept the rest of the country, except for some cities in the west of the Netherlands. SS and Police leader Hans Rauter tried to stop the action using violence: he instituted martial law.

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Twenty-year-old Jochum van Zwol from the village of Leens, who hadn’t even gone on strike himself, was the first to be summarily executed.

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He was shot in front of a firing squad on 1 May 1943 in Groningen and buried somewhere in an unmarked grave. When his worried father cycled to the city of Groningen a day later to look for his missing son, he encountered a group of men standing around this placard: an official announcement that his son had been executed by the German occupier.

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This massive act of resistance in the Netherlands ultimately resulted in 175 deaths.

 

Source: Stichting Oorlogs- en Verzetscentrum Groningen

Last words of Martin Zellermayer

43.-zellermayer002A planned sea crossing on 21 March 1942 of the  Austrian born Jewish Engelandvaarder (Lit. England-farer) Carl Martin Zellermayer and eight others failed because they were betrayed. In the ferry boss’ house in the Dutch harbour village of Simonshaven they awaited nightfall. Once it was dark, they could embark on their journey to England. But before that happened, the Germans surrounded the house and arrested the would-be Engelandvaarders.

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Zellermayer was executed by the Germans on 15 August 1942. A few hours before his sentence was to be carried out he wrote this letter to his fiancée Annie Koningsbrugge.

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His farewell letter begins: ‘I was just informed that my death sentence is confirmed and will be carried out this very afternoon at ½ 3. So I have just 4½ hours to live and then I must die.”

Below is a picture of the death notification of Carl Martin Zellermayer in the  Jewish weekly newspaper, which ran from the 11th of April until the 28th of September of 1943 by the Jewish council in the Netherlands but was under censorship by the German occupiers.

I don’t know what happened to the brother of Martin Zellermayer ,who placed the notification on the 19th of August 1942.

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Han en Willem Peteri WWII Canoe journey to England

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During the war around 1700 Dutch men and women who tried to reach freedom in England, over land or by sea, were given the honorary name: Engelandvaarders (Lit. England-farers). They hoped to actively take part in the Allied struggle against the Germans. Two brothers, Han and Willem Peteri, managed to escape from the occupied Netherlands in this canoe.

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On 19 September 1941, in the pitch darkness, they pushed their canoe into the North Sea near the Dutch town of Katwijk.

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It almost went wrong: in the breaking waves the canoe filled with water. But they remained calm, emptied the canoe and embarked on the crossing – with only one compass aboard. After fifty-six hours of paddling they arrived on the beach in the small village of Sizewall England. Han joined the Dutch Marines and Willem enlisted in the British Navy. Both survived the war.

 

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Of the thirty-two people who embarked on this dangerous crossing by canoe, the information available indicates that only eight made it to England. Some drowned; others were intercepted by the German patrols. Such as the Engelandvaarder Dick van Swaay who was found in May 1942 on the beach with a noose around his neck

The Dove Brigade

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As early as May 1940, the Germans issued an ordinance stating that all carrier and fancy pigeons had to be killed in the Netherlands. Free-flying pigeons might be used to get messages to the Allied Forces

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A furious protest from pigeon owners ensued – there were more than 25,000 in the Netherlands – and this seemed to help. The German occupier adjusted the measure. Pigeons were simply prohibited from flying and had to be registered. A special police unit, the so-called Duivenbrigade (Dove Brigade), was established to enforce this: free flying pigeons were shot down. But the measure proved to be untenable. So as of August 1942 all of these bird owners were still required to put an end to their prized pigeons. As proof of compliance, they had to submit the chopped off feet of their birds to the local authorities.

 

WWII ‘Selfies’ of a member of the Dutch resistance.

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After the February Strike of 1941, in Amsterdam,the sculptor and draftsman Cor van Teeseling joined a Resistance group that printed and distributed the illegal Communist newspaper De Waarheid (Lit. The Truth).

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Six months later, the Germans arrested him. On 10 November 1941, the death sentence was pronounced against him.

While awaiting execution Van Teeseling was first placed in solitary confinement in cell B-1-1 of Amsterdam’s Weteringschans Prison: the death cell.

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But he received permission to draw. Until being moved to the Wehrmacht Military Prison in Utrecht in 1942, he made more than 150 self-portraits that he signed and dated. He also included his cell number.

While imprisoned in Utrecht, he only drew now and again: primarily portraits of the prison guards. On 24 November 1942 his wife received a message that Cor van Teeseling had been executed five days earlier near the Dutch town of Soesterberg, a few days after his twenty-seventh birthday.

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Shortly after his death his drawings were seen as a reflection of the human drama in WWII. Van Teeseling self saw the drawings as a way for his wife to earn a potential income.

Corrie ten Boom- WWII Hero

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Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom (15 April 1892 – 15 April 1983) was a Dutch watchmaker and Christian who, along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. She was imprisoned for her actions. Her most famous book, The Hiding Place, describes the ordeal.

This is a drawing of the Ten Boom family home, Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem, Holland. The drawing looks very much like the house does today.  In 1837 Willem ten Boom opened a watch shop in this house.  His family lived in the rooms above the shop.  The home was later passed down to Willem’s son, Casper, and then to Casper’s daughter, Corrie

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The Ten Boom family were devoted Christians who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need. Through the decades the Ten Booms were very active in social work in Haarlem, and their faith inspired them to serve the religious community and society at large.

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During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Booms’ way of living out their Christian faith. This faith led them to hide Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement.

During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 6-7 people illegally living in this home: 4 Jews and 2 or 3 members of the Dutch underground.  Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another “safe house” could be located for them.

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Corrie became a ringleader within the network of the Haarlem underground. Corrie and “the Beje group” would search for courageous Dutch families who would take in refugees, and much of Corrie’s  time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the Ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers.

On February 28, 1944, this family was betrayed and the Gestapo (the Nazi secret police) raided their home. The Gestapo set a trap and waited throughout the day, seizing everyone who came to the house. By evening about 30 people had been taken into custody! Casper, Corrie and Betsie were all arrested. Corrie’s brother Willem, sister Nollie, and nephew Peter were at the house that day, and were also taken to prison.

Although the Gestapo systematically searched the house, they could not find what they sought most. They suspected Jews were in the house, but the Jews were safely hidden behind a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom.

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In this “hiding place” were two Jewish men, two Jewish women and two members of the Dutch underground. Although the house remained under guard, the Resistance was able to liberate the refugees 47 hours later.  The six people had managed to stay quiet in their cramped, dark hiding place for all that time, even though they had no water and very little food. The four Jews were taken to new “safe houses,” and three survived the war. One of the underground workers was killed during the war years, but the other survived.

Because underground materials and extra ration cards were found in their home, the Ten Boom family was imprisoned.

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Casper (84 years old) died after only 10 days in Scheveningen Prison.  When Casper was asked if he knew he could die for helping Jews, he replied, “It would be an honor to give my life for God’s ancient people.”  Corrie and Betsie spent 10 months in three different prisons, the last was the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp located near Berlin, Germany.   Life in the camp was almost unbearable, but Corrie and Betsie spent their time sharing Jesus’ love with their fellow prisoners.  Many women became Christians in that terrible place because of Corrie and Betsie’s witness to them.  Betsie (59) died in Ravensbruck, but Corrie survived.  Corrie’s nephew, Christiaan (24), had been sent to Bergen Belsen for his work in the underground, and never returned.  Corrie’s brother, Willem (60), was also a ring leader in the Dutch underground.  While in prison for this “crime,” he contracted spinal tuberculosis and died shortly after the war.

 Four Ten Booms gave their lives for this family’s commitment, but Corrie came home from the death camp.  She realized her life was a gift from God, and she needed to share what she and Betsie had learned in Ravensbruck:  “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.”  At age 53, Corrie began a world-wide ministry which took her into more than 60 countries in the next 33 years! She testified to God’s love and encouraged all she met with the message that “Jesus is Victor.”

 

Corrie received many tributes.  Corrie was knighted by the Queen of Holland. In 1968, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem (Yad Vashem) asked Corrie to plant a tree in the Garden of Righteousness, in honor of the many Jewish lives her family saved.  Corrie’s tree stands there today. In the early 1970’s Corrie’s book THE HIDING PLACE became a best seller and World Wide Pictures released the major motion picture “The Hiding Place.” Corrie went on to write many other inspiring books and make several evangelical videos.

Corrie was a woman who was faithful to God She died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. It is interesting that Corrie’s passing occurred on her birthday.   In the Jewish tradition, it is only very blessed people who are allowed the special privilege of dying on their birthday!

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Corrie’s story is recounted in her books THE HIDING PLACE and TRAMP FOR THE LORD

 

 

The heroic village Nieuwlande-the Netherlands

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The population of the isolated village of Nieuwlande  in Drenthe,the Netherlands,increased drastically during the dark days of World War II but the new arrivals rarely were seen in public. Not many people in the Netherlands today know about Drents Jerusalem, Nieuwlande’s nickname. In ancient Jerusalem, a continent away, the village received special acknowledgement in April 1985 as the only community which in its entirety was awarded a honourary Yad Vashem medal for harbouring strangers in its homes.

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A month earlier, a large majority of the villagers had received the Yad Vashem Award individually.

The majority of Nieuwlande’s unregistered people were Jews in hiding who had refused to report to the Nazi’s for deportation to concentration camp Westerbork, less then fifty kilometres to the north. Almost every family in the area around the village had taken in people, some as many as ten.

Resisting the Nazi’s in the former peat bog colony already started shortly after the country was occupied in May 1940. However is was not until local municipal councilor Johannes Post asked Rev. F. Slomp who had served a local church in the 1930s, to come over and speak to the villagers that real resistance began.

That meeting, held at a local church in 1942, was attended by 150 people. Slomp, never one to mince words about the dangers of Nazidom, challenged villagers to do their Christian duty to protect those in harm’s way.

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The village inhabitants resolved that every household would hide one Jewish family or at least one Jew.

Post was one of the first to give Jews a hiding place in his home. Soon he was heavily involved as a regional representative in a group which became known as the National Organization to aid those in hiding (known widely by its Dutch acronym LO). As the number of refugees increased and this type of passive resistance became more widespread, the Germans devised ways to strangle the efforts of their opponents by new and tricky rules for food coupons and rationing, for identity cards and permits. The resistance movement countered these by perfecting counterfeit documents and rubber stamps, to fudge population numbers (at civil registreries) and swapping identities (those of deceased people were swapped with those on the wanted list). One of Nieuwlande’s counterfeit experts was a Jew hiding below a kitchen. Eventually, the resistance movement saw no other option but to raid food rations distribution centres for fresh coupons, rationing documents and the like. The Nieuwlande farmer and municipal politician was elected national leader of the combat units (knokploegen, LKP). An additional activity was springing resistance people from jail. In one such scheme involving a raid on the Amsterdam Prison, Post was betrayed and caught. The Germans did not risk holding their most wanted ‘partizan’ for long, they liquidated him in nearby Overveen. He was shot in the neck the following day, on July 16, 1944. Among those with connections to Nieuwlande who did not see Liberation Day was Post’s brother Marinus, also a resistance leader, who was a farmer near  Kampen. (Another Drenthe village noted for wholesale resistance)

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Life in Nieuwlande itself was fairly safe. The linear community along a canal with numerous smaller drainage branches originally was founded as a peat bog colony but over time had turned to farming and become a homogeneous community. Situated between Hoogeveen and Emmen, Nieuwlande was on the border of several municipalities. A hard-working community, that shared the sense of hospitality and fellowship for which all of Drenthe is well-known.

Another key figure in Nieuwlande’s resistance history was Albert Nijwening, who on his heavy-duty bicycle delivered bread in a wide area which also included Nieuwlande and another strong resistance community Hollandscheveld. Nijwening who by then lived in Hoogeveen was asked by Post if he knew suitable hiding places, at first for men who refused labour conscription in Germany to replace those who were called up for the German army. Soon, Nijwening was also finding homes for a growing number of Jews. Getting people to agree to take in strangers meant they had to come to terms with their fear of getting caught, but once the decision had been made it usually was not difficult to get people to take in additional people. At some addresses as many as ten people were living out of sight. Nijwening’s bread delivery route gave him a very good cover for his resistance work.2017-03-16

In addition to building elaborate hide-outs in homes and barns – double walls, secret entrances, etc. – just in case of unwelcome inspections by Nazi collaborators and Germans, Nieuwlande took quite a few precautions to slow down surprise raids or dragnet campaigns. These would often occur at night, during curfew from dusk to dawn. Many farms  were only accessible via a private bridge across the waterways prompting the families to turn the bridge sideways at night or when danger loomed. Additionally, they removed all the house numbers, creating more confusion to unwelcome strangers. Nieuwlande’s hospitality certainly had its limits.

Remarkably, the village largely was left alone until mid 1944; only a few places had been raided and arrests made. In comparison with other places, where loose talk by otherwise supportive people put collaborators on the trail of resistance groups, Nieuwlanders guarded their secrets well. They were severely put to the test when Nazi-henchmen Pattist and Hoogendam led raids on suspected hiding places over a wide area, causing a reign of terror.

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