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

The Hippocratic Oath at the Umschlagplatz: The Jewish Doctors of the Warsaw Ghetto – 18.09.22

Last Sunday I had the honor and privilege to be invited to a zoom presentation by the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum titled “The Hippocratic Oath at the Umschlagplatz: The Jewish Doctors of the Warsaw Ghetto”

Three words from that presentation stuck with me “Just like me”. The sum up perfectly what the Nazis should have thought off before they decided to conduct mass murder “Just like me” because there really was no difference. When the sun shone, they’d feel the heat. When it rained, they’d get wet. When it was freezing, they’d feel the cold. When they were thirsty’ they’d drink. When they were hungry, they’d eat. Just like me.

The three words are used in a different context in the presentation , but that is the thought it provoked in me. Three simple yet powerful words.

The presentation

The topic of the program was: The Hippocratic Oath at the Umschlagplatz: The Jewish Doctors of the Warsaw Ghetto. This was the third in a four-part series on Grossaktion Warsaw: Remembering 80 Years Later. Opening remarks were given by Dr. Hadas Shasha-Lavksy and the host for this program was Tali Nates, Founding Director of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Center.

Guest speakers were Dr. Maria Ciesielska, Luc Albinksi and Dr. Michael Katz.

As rumors about deportation from the Warsaw ghetto spread, everyone began to sense that the end was near. The pressure on every person in the ghetto was extreme, with life and death hanging in the balance. To medical personnel, the issue was both professional and personal. What does a doctor do with his or her family? Will they be exempt? What does a physician do with his or her patients? Can we save lives at the Umschlagplatz? Medical ethics were even more challenged from this point. Doctors had to choose who would live and who would die. Based on years of archival research, Dr. Maria Ciesielska presented her findings from the most detailed study ever undertaken into the fate of more than 800 Jewish doctors who devoted themselves, in many cases until the day they died, to the care of the sick and the dying in the Ghetto.

Luc Albins­ki is a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Holo­caust sur­vivor whose moth­er escaped the War­saw Ghet­to in 1942 and was hid­den in an orphan­age out­side War­saw for the remain­der of the war. She mar­ried a Catholic and Luc was brought up as a Catholic, only learn­ing about his Jew­ish ori­gins in his ear­ly twen­ties. Since then, he has spent much time research­ing the fate of his Pol­ish-Jew­ish grand­moth­er, Dr. Hali­na Rot­stein, a doc­tor in the War­saw Ghet­to, who decid­ed to accom­pa­ny her patients to the Tre­blin­ka death camp. He shared with the audience his personal story and how his journey led to the making of the film “Nobody Told Me ” about his mother, Wanda Albińska, and his grandmother, Dr. Rotstein.

Dr. Michael Katz, was born in Poland in 1928. Experienced German occupation in Warsaw, Lwow, Krakow. He lost his whole family in 1942 in Lwow and then Belzec. Was imprisoned in the Janowska Camp, but escaped from it and obtained a birth certificate of a Roman Catholic and lived as such in Warsaw under that alias. Became a member of the Resistance. Fought in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Evacuated from Warsaw to Krakow and liberated there in January 1945 by the Soviet Army. Dr. Katz, who is a retired pediatrician, shared his insights as a Holocaust survivor and as a medical doctor.

This program is in partnership with Classrooms Without Borders, Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Center, the Rabin Chair Forum at George Washington University, Moreshet Holocaust & Research Center, the Institute for the History of Polish Jewry at the University of Tel Aviv, the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv, and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

Lia Konijn- A girl I never knew.

I never met Lia, in fact today is the first time I came across her picture. It would have been her 90th birthday today. She was born in Amsterdam, 20 September 1932 . And murdered in Sobibor, 2 July 1943. Reached the age of 10 years.

When I was born she would have been 35. She could have been the midwife who delivered me.

When I was 10, she was 45. She could have been my teacher.

When I was 20, she was 55. She could have been my manager at Philips components.

When I was 30, she was 65. She could have visited me in Ireland for her first trip abroad, celebrating her retirement.

But none of that ever happened. She was murdered on July 2,1943 in Sobibor. Murdered for one reason and one reason only, she was Jewish.

Lia Konijn was the daughter of Mijer Konijn and Betje van Beezem. After her mother had passed away she, and her siblings Marcus, Betty and Mary were housed at the Jewish orphanage at Leiden.

Jewish Orphanage, Machseh Lajesoumim. A place with a tragic history, but also a place where many children, despite the circumstances, had a happy childhood. A place where you could have fun, where you got a little pocket money to spend yourself, where you could be a member of a youth club, where you learned to experience the beautiful aspects of your faith, and for many children it felt like one big family.

During the war, being Jewish, which until then most children had experienced as something joyful, gradually began to take on dark and sad sides. The stories, wisdom, customs and celebrations that had given life in the orphanage rhythm, structure and meaning, were suddenly reason for the outside world to impose all kinds of restrictions. It seemed as if Jews were not allowed to exist. On March 17, 1943, the Orphanage was evacuated by the Leiden police by order of the occupying forces. All history narrowed to that one, fatal moment.

March 17,1943 the same day my Father in Law was born.

Lia Konijn, a girl I never knew. Yet her story touches me on more then one level.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/174606/lia-konijn

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

The execution of Amon Göth. September 13-1946

Anyone who has seen ‘Schindler’s List’ will know about Amon Göth, who was played by Ralph Fiennes in the movie.

Göth was the son of a prosperous publisher in Vienna. In 1931 he became a member of the Austrian Nazi Party at the age of 23.He was granted full party membership on 31 May 1931. His decision to join the party at this early stage meant that he was considered an Alter Kämpfer (Old Fighter), i.e., one who had joined the party before Adolf Hitler’s rise to the position of Chancellor of Germany.

Göth rose steadily through the SS ranks, earning a promotion to untersturmführer (equivalent to second lieutenant) in 1941 and joining Operation Reinhard, the Nazi campaign to kill the Jews of occupied Poland, in 1942. He was made commandant of Plaszow in February 1943 but remained active elsewhere, supervising the violent closings of the Kraków ghetto (March 1943), the Tarnów ghetto, and the Szebnie concentration camp (both in September 1943). His performance so pleased his superiors that he was promoted two ranks to hauptsturmführer (equivalent to army captain) in summer 1943.

In Plaszow, Göth had many prisoners killed as punishment for infractions, but he also killed randomly and capriciously. From the balcony of his villa, he took target practice with his rifle on prisoners as they moved about the camp.

Joseph Bau, a Polish-born Israeli artist, philosopher, inventor, animator, comedian, commercial creator, copy-writer, poet, and survivor of the Płaszów concentration camp, said about Göth.

“A hideous and terrible monster who reached the height of more than two meters. He set the fear of death in people, terrified masses, and accounted for much chattering of teeth.

He ran the camp through extremes of cruelty that are beyond the comprehension of a compassionate mind – employing tortures which dispatched his victims to hell.

For even the slightest infraction of the rules, he would rain blow after blow upon the face of the helpless offender and would observe with satisfaction born of sadism, how the cheek of his victim would swell and turn blue, how the teeth would fall out and the eyes would fill with tears.

Anyone who was being whipped by him was forced to count in a loud voice, each stroke of the whip and if he made a mistake was forced to start counting over again.

During interrogations, which were conducted in his office, he would set his dog on the accused, who was strung by his legs from a specially placed hook in the ceiling.

In the event of an escape from the camp, he would order the entire group from which the escapee had come, to form a row, would give the order to count ten, and would, personally kill every tenth person.

At one morning parade, in the presence of all the prisoners he shot a Jew, because, as he complained, the man was too tall. Then as the man lay dying he urinated on him.

Once he caught a boy who was sick with diarrhea and was unable to restrain himself. Goeth forced him to eat all the excrement and then shot him”.

He was even to evil for Nazi standards. On 13 September 1944, Göth was relieved of his position and charged by the SS with theft of Jewish property (which belonged to the state, according to Nazi regulations), failure to provide adequate food to the prisoners under his charge, violation of concentration camp regulations regarding the treatment and punishment of prisoners, and allowing unauthorised access to camp personnel records by prisoners and non-commissioned officers. Administration of the camp at Płaszów was turned over to SS-Obersturmführer Arnold Büscher. The camp was closed on 15 January 1945.Göth was scheduled for an appearance before SS Judge Georg Konrad Morgen, but due to the progress of World War II and Germany’s looming defeat, the charges against him were dropped in early 1945.

All those charges against him may appear that the Nazis actually cared for the wellbeing of prisoners, but that wasn’t the case. It only meant that Göth’s crimes were against the ‘greater good’ of the third reich. He enriched himself and used prisoners for his own benefit.

After being diagnosed with diabetes, he was sent to an SS sanitarium in Bad Tölz, Germany, where he was arrested by U.S. troops in early 1945. The Americans turned him over to the restored Polish government, which then tried him for war crimes, most notably the killing of more than 10,000 people in the Plaszow and Szebnie camps and in the Kraków and Tarnów ghettos. Göth’s defense was that he was only following orders. After the brief trial, he was convicted on September 5, 1946, and hanged eight days later. He was sentenced to death and was hanged on 13 September 1946 at the Montelupich Prison in Kraków, not far from the site of the Płaszów camp. His remains were cremated and the ashes thrown in the Vistula River. Allegedly his last words were ‘Heil Hitler’.

In addition to his two marriages, Göth had a two-year relationship with Ruth Irene Kalder, a beautician and aspiring actress originally from Breslau (or Gleiwitz; sources vary). Kalder first met Göth in 1942 or early 1943 when she worked as a secretary at Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory in Kraków. She met Göth when Schindler brought her to dinner at the villa at Płaszów; she said it was love at first sight. She soon moved in with Göth and the two had an affair, but she stated that she never visited the camp itself. Göth’s second wife Anna, still living in Vienna with their two children, filed for divorce upon learning of Göth’s affair with Kalder. Kalder left for Bad Tölz to be with her mother for the birth of her daughter, Monika Hertwig , on 7 November 1945. She was Göth’s last child. Kalder was devastated by Göth’s execution in 1946, and she took Göth’s name shortly after his death.

In 2002, Hertwig published her memoirs under the title Ich muß doch meinen Vater lieben, oder? (“I do have to love my father, don’t I?”). Hertwig described her mother as unconditionally glorifying Göth until confronted with his role in the Holocaust. Kalder suffered from emphysema and committed suicide in 1983 shortly after giving an interview in Jon Blair’s documentary Schindler. Hertwig’s experiences in dealing with her father’s crimes are detailed in Inheritance, a 2006 documentary directed by James Moll. Appearing in the documentary is Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, one of Göth’s Jewish former housemaids. The documentary details the meeting of the two women at the Płaszów memorial site in Poland. Hertwig had requested the meeting, but Jonas-Rosenzweig was hesitant because her memories of Göth and the concentration camp were so traumatic. She eventually agreed after Hertwig wrote to her, “We have to do it for the murdered people.” Jonas felt touched by this sentiment and agreed to meet her.

Monika Hertwig in front of her father’s villa in Plaszow.

Monika’s daughter Jennifer Teege is a German writer. Her grandfather was Amon Göth. Her 2015 book ‘My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past’ was a New York Times bestseller. I don’t agree with that because if it was up to her Grandfather she wouldn’t even have been born, because of her Father’s Nigerian background.

sources

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Amon-Goth

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24347798

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24347798

Inheritance: Beyond the Film With James, Monika and Helen


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

The Dutch Queen did offer some resistance to the Nazis, but very little.

Queen Wilhelmina was Queen of the Netherlands from 1890 until her abdication in 1948. She reigned for nearly 58 years, longer than any other Dutch monarch. Her reign saw both World War I, although the Netherlands was neutral during WW1, and World War II, as well as the Dutch economic crisis of 1933.

It is during World War 2 where ,in my opinion and that of others, she didn’t as much as she should or could have done.

On May 4, 2020, King Willem-Alexander gave a speech where he too criticised the role of his great grandmother.

Speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, National Remembrance Day, 4 May 2020
Speech | 04-05-2020

“It feels strange to be standing in an almost empty Dam Square. But I know that you all feel part of this National Remembrance Day, and that we are standing here together.

During these exceptional months, we have all had to give up some of our freedom. This country hasn’t experienced anything like this since the Second World War. Now, we are choosing our own path. For our lives and our health.

Back then, the choice was made for us. By an occupier with a merciless ideology that caused the deaths of millions of people. How did that total lack of freedom feel?

There is one testimony I shall never forget. It was given here in Amsterdam, in the Westerkerk, almost six years ago. A short, clear-eyed man – standing proud at 93 years old – recounted his journey to Sobibor, in June 1943.

His name was Jules Schelvis. There he stood, fragile but unbroken, in a full but utterly silent church. He spoke about the transportation of 62 people in a single railway wagon. About the barrel on the bare floor. About the rain that spattered in through the gaps. About the hunger, the exhaustion, the filth.

‘You began to look like a pauper,’ he said. And you could hear the heartbreak in his voice. He recalled the soldiers ripping the watches off prisoners’ wrists on arrival. And how he lost his wife Rachel in the ensuing chaos. He never saw her again.

‘What normal human being could have imagined this? How could the world allow us, honest citizens of the Netherlands, to be treated like vermin?’ His question lingered among the pillars of the church. I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t.

What I also remember is his account of what happened before his journey. Following a Nazi raid, he and his wife and many hundreds of others were taken to Muiderpoort station. I can still hear him saying: ‘Hundreds of onlookers watched as the overcrowded trams went by under heavy guard, and they didn’t once protest.’

Straight through this city. Straight through this country. Right before the eyes of their fellow countrymen. It all seemed so gradual. And with each new step it went further.
No longer being allowed to go swimming in public pools.
Being excluded as member of an orchestra.
No longer being allowed to ride your bike.
No longer being allowed to go to college.
Being put out on the street.
Then arrested and taken away.

Sobibor began in the Vondelpark. With a sign saying: ‘No Jews Allowed’. Certainly, there were many people who protested. Men and women who took action, bravely going against the tide and risking their own safety for the sake of others.

I also think of all the civilians and military personnel who fought for our freedom.
Of all the young soldiers who lost their lives on the Grebbelinie in those days of May.
The military personnel who served our Kingdom in the Dutch Indies and paid for it with their lives.
The resistance fighters who were executed by firing squad on the Waalsdorpervlakte or suffered inhuman treatment in labour and concentration camps.
The military personnel killed or severely wounded in peacekeeping operations.
True heroes who were prepared to die for our freedom and our values.

But there is also another reality. Fellow human beings, fellow citizens in need, who felt abandoned unheard. Who felt they should have received more support, if only by words. Also from London, and from my great-grandmother, despite her unwavering and fierce opposition. This is something that will always stay with me.

The impact of war lingers on for many generations. Even now, 75 years after our liberation, it remains with us. The least we can do is: not look away. Not justify it. Not erase it. Not brush it aside. Not normalise something that is anything but normal. And nurture and defend our democracy and the rule of law. Because only that can protect us from tyranny and chaos.

Jules Schelvis went through hell and yet managed to make something of his life as a free person. Much more than that. ‘I kept my faith in humanity,’ he said. If he could do that, then so can we. We can do it, and we will do it together. In freedom.”

However there were little acts of resistance or rather attempts, by the exiled Queen, to boost the morale of the Dutch civilians, from her residence in London.

Two (orange) packs of cigarettes, with the V-sign on the cover and the text ‘The Netherlands will rise again’. In the night of 30 to 31 August 1941, tens of thousands of orange packages are dropped over the Netherlands. Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday was on August 31. At the other side of the pack the letter W of Wilhelmina.

I know this was meant well, the goal was to boost morale. But on the other hand it also could have caused harm, anyone caught with these by the Nazis, would be severely punished, They could even face the death panalty.

Portrait of Queen Wilhelmina, published in the illegal press on her 61st birthday, August 31, 1941. The original portrait in pencil was made by Cor Visser. Dutch ‘war artist’ living in England.

The King mentioned Jules Schelvis.

He was a Dutch Jewish historian, writer, printer, and Holocaust survivor. Schelvis was the sole survivor among the 3,005 people on the 14th transport from Westerbork to Sobibor extermination camp, having been selected to work at nearby Dorohucza labour camp. He is known for his memoirs and historical research about Sobibor, for which he earned an honorary doctorate from the University of Amsterdam, Officier in the Order of Orange-Nassau, and Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.

Below is one of his testimonies.

“The Jews of the Bahnhofskommando were very heavy-handed getting us of the train onto the platform. They let on they were Jewish by speaking Yiddish, the language of the Eastern European Jews. The SS men standing behind them were shouting ‘schneller, schneller’ (faster, faster) and lashed out at people once they were lined up on the platform. Yet the first impression of the camp itself aroused no suspicion, because the barracks looked rather like little Tyrolean cottages, with their curtains and geraniums on the window sills.

But this was no time to dawdle. We made our way outside as quickly as possible. Rachel and I, and the rest of our family, fortunately had no difficulty in swiftly making our way onto the platform, which had been built up of sand and earth. Behind us we could hear the agonised cries of those who could not get up quickly enough, as their legs had stiffened as a result of sitting in an awkward position for too long, severely affecting their circulation. But no one cared. One of the first things that occurred to me was how lucky we were to be all together and that the secret of our destination would now finally be revealed. The events so far did not hold out much promise though, and we understood this was only the beginning.

It was obvious we had arrived at our final destination : a place to work, as they had told us in the Netherlands. A place where the many who had gone before us should now also be working. Our presence must be of quite some importance, why else would the Germans have bothered to bring us all the way here, traveling for three days and nights, covering a distance of two thousand kilometres?

Yet the Germans were using whips, lashing out at us and driving us on from behind. My father -in-law, walking beside me, was struck for no reason. He shrank back in pain only for a moment , not wanting anyone to see. Rachel and I firmly gripped each other’s hand, desperate not to get separated in this hellish situation. We were driven along a path lined with barbed wire towards some large barracks and dared not look round to see what was happening behind us.

We wondered what had happened to the baby in our wagon , and to the people unable to walk; and what about the sick and the handicapped ? But we were given no time to dwell on these things and, besides, we were too preoccupied with ourselves. ‘What shall I do with my gold watch?’ Rachel said. ‘They will take it from me in a minute.’ I replied, ‘Bury it, because it could be worth a lot of money later.’ As she was walking, she noticed a little hole in the sand and quickly threw the watch down, using her foot to cover it up. ‘Remember,’ she said, ‘where I’ve buried it. We can try digging it up later when we have a little more time.’

Like cattle, we were herded through a shed that had doors on either side, both wide open. We were ordered to throw down all our luggage and keep moving. Our bread and backpacks, with our name, date of birth and the word ‘Holland’ written on them, ended up on top of the huge piles, as did my guitar, which I had naively brought and carefully guarded all the way. Quickly glancing around, I saw how it ended up underneath more luggage. It dawned on me then that there was worse to come. Robbed of everything we had once spent so much care and time in acquiring, we left the shed through the door opposite.

I was so taken aback and distracted by having had all our possessions taken from us, that although I had seen an SS man at some point, I never noticed, until it was too late, that the women had been sent in a different direction. Suddenly Rachel was no longer walking beside me. It happened so quickly that I had not been able to kiss her or call out to her. Trying to look around to see if I could spot her somewhere, an SS man snapped at me to look straight ahead and keep my ‘Maul (gob) shut.’

Along with the men around me, I was driven on at a slightly slower pace to a point just past an opening in a fence, where yet another SS man was posted. He looked the younger men up and down fleetingly, seeming to have no interest in the older ones. With a quick nudge of his whip, he motioned some of them to line-up separately by the edge of the field. Directly in front of me, my brother -in-law Ab was directed to join this growing group. My father-in-law, David, and Herman, my thirteen -year old brother-in-law, were completely ignored. My father-in-law was too old, Herman too young. Glancing at me for just a moment, he let me pass as well. He needed to select only eighty healthy-looking men.

Those who had not been selected had to move along into the field and sit down. That Friday 4 June 1943, the Sobibor sun beat down on our heads. It was midday and very hot already. There we were, defenceless, powerless, exhausted, at the mercy of the Germans, and completely isolated from the rest of the world. No one could help us out here. The SS held us captive and were free to do as they pleased.

The rows of men out on the field were getting bigger as those from the other wagons joined us. While we were waiting, I had a little time to collect my thoughts. Our harsh treatment seemed to be in conflict with the image of the Tyrolean cottage-like barracks with their bright little curtains and geraniums on the windowsills. They had had such a friendly and calming effect on me after all the tensions of the preceding days. The camp had seemed devoid of any other people, apart from the Germans and the Jews who had ‘welcomed’ us on the platform.

As I sat there, I noticed a few Dutch prisoners had approached from the other side of the barbed wire fence and were trying to make contact with us. I recognised Moos van Kleef, the owner of the fish shop on the corner of the Weesperstraat. My arms gestured a question: how are things here, what can we expect? To assuage us, he yelled out to us that it was all right here, no reason to be concerned. I heard him say: ‘We have a job here, everything is new or has to be built.’ My mind was ticking over faster. I thought: this must be the new camp for which they will require some sort of order service (police). That must be why they need those young men. My intuition told me I would want to be a part of that group. Not so much for the order service, but to be with my brother-in-law whom I could still see in the distance.

The field had become quite crowded and I had already come to terms with the idea of working in the camp when I saw the same SS man approaching. With his hands behind his back he ambled past the rows of men quite smugly, seeming quite pleased with himself. As he came closer, I suddenly remembered the order service. He had almost passed when I jumped up and put up my hand. I asked permission to ask him a question. Glancing back at me quite affably, he hesitated briefly and then nodded his approval. I requested in my best German, to join the other group. He stared into the distance, tapping his whip against his boot a few times. He turned around and asked: ‘How old are you?’ I replied: ‘Twenty-two, Herr Officer.’ Healthy? ‘Jawohl, Herr Officer.’ I had no idea what his rank was. ‘Can you speak German?’ Jawohl, Herr Officer.’

Not altogether disinterested, he searched me with his eyes for a moment, apparently lost in thought. Then nodding his head in the direction of the group, he said: ‘Na Los.’ I quickly ran towards it. The young men, relieved at finally being able to release some of the tension built up over the past few days, were chatting to an almost amiable SS man there. To my joy, my best friend Leo de Vries was also among them. The German looked surprised when I joined them, because he believed the eighty-strong group to be complete. A little incredulously he asked: ‘They sent you as well? So now we have eighty-one; one too many, because to my knowledge there should only be eighty.’

After standing around and exchanging thoughts for a while, we were cut off abruptly by the SS man, who, suddenly in quite a different tone of voice, told us to shut up. He continued: ‘My colleague has selected you to work at another camp not far from here. You will return to Sobibor every evening so you can meet and enjoy yourselves with your family and friends.’ Pointing towards the field , he carried on: ‘They are going to have a bath now. This is why the men have been separated from the women, because they obviously cannot bathe together. All the others who arrived today will stay here.

As he spoke, I also saw the SS man addressing the men out on the field, though I could not hear his exact words . Obviously they were being told to undress, because I saw them starting to take off their clothes. By the time ‘our’ SS man had lined us up in rows of five, all those out on the field had already removed their shoes and vests. Urged on by his loud Eins-Zwei-drei-vier cadence, he tried to get us to march smartly and in step towards the camp exit. He could not imagine how miserable we were after being scrunched up for days inside the cattle wagons. On our way to the train I must have passed the spot where Rachel had buried her watch. I could not remember it. But I thought I might remember again in a few hours’ time, when, on my return, I would be headed in the same direction as when we arrived.

Two wagons and an engine stood ready for departure. All traces of turmoil had been erased from the platform, as though it had never happened. The train arrived in Trawniki on the very same day, 4 June 1943. The group had to walk the remaining five kilometres from there to Dorohucza. Unlike other people, I never did see the narrow gauge railway at Sobibor, and neither did I see any people being thrown into rail carts. A possible explanation could lie in the fact that we were the first to enter the camp, so the sick and elderly would not have made their way onto the platform by then, and the tipper trucks were not yet required. They must have been there, ready for use, but without people screaming inside them I probably did not notice.”

sources

https://www.holocausthistoricalsociety.org.uk/contents/sobibor/julesschelvis.html

https://www.sobibor.org/en/postmortem-jules-schelvis/

https://www.royal-house.nl/documents/speeches/2020/05/04/speech-by-king-willem-alexander-national-remembrance-day-4-may-2020

https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-king-admits-jews-felt-abandoned-by-great-grandmother-during-holocaust/

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

Iwan Illfelder-Murdered this day 80 years ago.

He is just one of the 6 million. But I believe that remembering all those Jewish fellow citizens, is best done one at a time. They were all human beings like everybody else. The same ambitions, the same emotions.

Iwan was born in Iserlohn, Germany, on 31 March 1903.

He came from Cologne to The Netherlands and was registered on 4 July 1933 in the Peoples Registry of Amsterdam. He resided since then at various addresses in the city. On 15 August 1934 he married Hilde Rosendahl, a daughter of Max Rosendahl and Emma Henriette Kussel, who passed away already 12 May 1917 in Odenkirchen (Germany).

Iwan’s wife Hilde, had already been living for four years in Amsterdam, when her family in 1938 (her father Max and his 2nd wife Julie Stern and brother Erich) also came to Amsterdam were they were registered at the address Onbekendegracht 9 II.

On 29 July 1938, Iwan and his wife Hilde also moved to live there. Hilde’s younger brother Erich, child from the 2nd marriage of her father, was housed in February 1940 in the so called Lloyds Hotel at Oostelijke Handelskade 12 in Amsterdam, a reception centre for German refugee children but he was transferred from there to refugee camp Westerbork in July 1940.Iwan was arrested in France on 15 May 1940 and was put in prison in camp St. Cyprien and later in Drancy, from where he has been deported to Auschwitz on 17 August 1942, where he was murdered upon arrival on 20 August 1942, while his wife Hilde, was murdered in Auschwitz just over a year later, on 30 November 1943.

source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/153360/iwan-illfelder