The Librarian of Auschwitz

I finished reading the Librarian of Auschwitz yesterday. I will not do a book review, although it is a very good and well written book, but I will go into some aspects of the book which brought the Holocaust quite near to me in a way I did not expect.

However before I do that I have to mention Dita Kraus.

Dita served as librarian in the block set up for children in Birkenau, at the time she was still a child herself, with only a handful of books. Fredy Hirsch also ran the children’s block, creating a network of Zionist instructors who filled their young guests’ time with educational and cultural activities. One of these young educators was Otto (Ota) Kraus, Dita’s future husband.

Aside from the few physical books they also had some ‘living books’ these were the teachers who would tell the stories from books they had read, and had memorized. One of the teachers was Mrs Magda. the living book she would convey to the children was “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” The story is basically a fairy tale about a Swedish boy , Nils Holgersson, whose “chief delight was to eat and sleep, and after that he liked best to make mischief”. He takes great delight in hurting the animals in his family farm. Nils captures a goblin in a net while his family are at church and have left him home to memorize chapters from the Bible. The goblin proposes to Nils that if Nils frees him, the goblin will give him a huge gold coin. Nils rejects the offer and the goblin turns Nils into a goblin, which leaves him shrunken and able to talk with animals, who are thrilled to see the boy reduced to their size and are angry and hungry for revenge. While this is happening, wild geese are flying over the farm on one of their migrations, and Martin, the farm’s white goose attempts to join the wild ones. In an attempt to salvage something before his family returns, Nils holds on to Martin’s neck as he successfully takes off and joins the wild birds.

The book was also adapted as an animated TV Show in 1980. As a 12 year old boy, I would be hooked to the show, and glued to the TV when it was one . When I saw the name.Nils Holgerson, mentioned in the Librarian of Auschwitz it gave me goosebumps. It amazed me that those children in Block 31 in Auschwitz were in awe by the same character as I was as a child.

The author of ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Nils’ was Selma Lagerlöf.

She was a Swedish author and teacher. She published her first novel, ‘Gösta Berling’s Saga’, at the age of 33. She was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, which she was awarded in 1909. Additionally, she was the first woman to be granted a membership in the Swedish Academy in 1914.

Gösta Berling’s Saga was made into a 1924 silent film directed by the Finnish Jewish director Mauritz Stiller starring Greta Garbo.

The book ‘The Librarian of Auschwitz’ also makes reference to the German author Karl May. Dita had read a Karl May book once. She really liked Karl May’s stories of the Wild West about Old Shatterhand and his Apache friend Winnetou. I too, as a young boy like those stories. They were made into TV movies starring Pierre Brice and Lex Barker, who also portrayed Tarzan a few times.

What both Dita and I didn’t know , at the time we would read Karl May’s books or watch the adaptations on TV , is that Karl May was also one of the favourite authors of Adolf Hitler.

During the war Hitler reportedly admonished his generals for their lack of imagination and recommended that they all read Karl May. Albert Speer recounted in his Spandau diaries.

One other thing that touched me and brought the story into the 21st century, is a passage on page 394. I am not going to say too much about that part because I don’t want to ruin the book for those who haven’t read it yet. But I think it will resonate with many people.

“They make sure she eats her food ration and periodically gets out of the Hospital, that she doesn’t stay with her mother for too many hours at a time and that she wears a mask”

I would recommend everyone to read the book. Although it is about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and although some parts are harrowing and very sad and gut wrenching, it does also manage to give a positive message. A message of resilience, perseverance , courage and hope.

sources

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057380/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_51

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/05/hitlers-forgotten-library/302727/

https://www.yadvashem.org/remembrance/archive/torchlighters/kraus.html

Donation

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Gesina Groen-Murdered on her first Birthday.

Gesina Groen would have been 80 today. But she was murdered on her 1st birthday.

She was born on July 26,1941 in Amsterdam and murdered in Auschwitz July 26,1942, together with her mother.

There are no pictures of Gesina, just a picture of the house she lived in. The address is Nieuwe Keizersgracht 70, Amsterdam, which is a prime location in Amsterdam nowadays. The house would be too expensive to afford for most people now.

All I know though is that when Gesina lived there, there were in total 12 people living in that building. None of them survived.

The oldest resident was Sophia Cohen-Rosenberg, she was murdered April 9, 1943 in Sobibor, aged 78.

There may have been another child on the address, Abraham de Vries he was the foster son of Marcus Rooselaar. Abraham de Vries was murdered in Sobibor ,July 16, 1943, aged 11. However it is not certain that he lived on the address.

Sources

http://nieuw.schaduwkade.nl/app/fsm.php?vwr=lijst&mid=103

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/186652/gesina-groen

Marijke Godschalk -Murdered one week before her 2nd birthday.

Marijke Godschalk was born in Assen, the Netherlands, on June 18 1941. Less then 2 years later she would be dead.

Not because she was ill or had been involved in an accident. She died because of someone’s idea of her. Although she looked like any other Dutch or even German girl, I would even say she looked Aryan, she was deemed not worthy of life because she was Jewish.

Marijke Godschalk was deported to Sobibor in June 1943 from Vught via Westerbork on the so-called children’s transport. She was 1 year, 51 weeks old when she was murdered.

The train left on June 6,1943. It was not a German train she was on, but a Dutch train. According to a representative of the NS(Nederlandse Spoorwegen), Dutch Railways, the NS had “complied with the German order to make trains available. The Germans paid for it and said the NS had to come up with a timetable. And the company went and did it without a word of objection.”

I am struggling with this. Who was more guilty? The person who murdered Marijke, or the person who put her on the train, knowing that the likelihood of her survival were slim to none?

Marijke wasn’t the only child who was murdered. She was one of 1.5 million.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/151453/marijke-godschalk

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49233817

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Minutn Fun Bitokhn-Moments of certainty

Music is not just a few notes strung together to create a tune, often accompanied by lyrics. Music is much more then that. It is therapy. It gives hope where there is despair. It gives joy where there is grief. It can transport you back to the days of yore, when time was complicated. It gives you an outlet to voice an opinion in a creative way. It gives meaning to your soul.

Mordechai Gebirtig must have realized the power of music.

Mordechai Gebirtig , was an influential Yiddish poet and songwriter of the interwar period. He was shot by Germans in the Kraków Ghetto, Poland, during the Holocaust.

He had three daughters, for whom he wrote and performed his poems. The words were set to improvised melodies, and most of his songs resemble entries in a diary.

He was self-taught in music, played the shepherd’s pipe, and tapped out tunes on the piano with one finger. He earned his livelihood as a furniture maker. However music and theatre were his hobbies.

During the first years of the war, most Jews were expelled from the city of Kraków. In November 1940, along with his wife and daughters, Gebirtig settled in a nearby village, where – without a real income, adequate shelter, food or health services. Gebirtig gave many of his papers to his friend Hoffmann, who managed to preserve them throughout the war.

On October 2, 1940. Mordecai Gebirtig wrote the song ” Minutn Fun Bitokhn-Moments of certainty” to raise the spirits of the persecuted Jewish community in Krakow. The poet’s reference to “Haman” alludes to the ancient Persian enemy of the Jewish people.

But when daily deportations of Jews to the death camps began in January 1942, his songs became increasingly pessimistic and dark.

Es brent “It’s burning”, also known as undzer shtetl brent “our town is burning”, in Hebrew translation) is a Yiddish poem–song which was written in 1936 by Gebirtig. Although the poem is generally said to have been written in response to the Przytyk Pogrom of 1936, after the Holocaust the song was often used in Holocaust commemoration or in programmes of World War II Ghetto music, both in the original Yiddish and in Hebrew translation.This is probably Gebirtig’s best-known composition.

By 1939, with the changing political situation in Europe, he had changed the final line of the poem from “if the town is dear to you” to “if life is dear to you.”[4] Rising antisemitic censorship in Poland also made it so that Gebirtig was occasionally forbidden to perform the song in public.

During the war, the song was adopted by Jewish Partisans against the Nazi regime, particularly in Krakow. According to some recollections, whistling its melody was used as a code by imprisoned resistance fighters in the Montelupich Prison.

On 4 June 1942, Nazis surrounded the ghetto and began marching Jews to waiting cattle cars. The screams of the soldiers were accompanied by gunshots; all those too slow to keep up, or too ill or weak to stay on their feet, were shot. Among the first Jews to die on the way to the cars was Gebirtig. Although both the poet and his wife were murdered, his daughters managed to survive in hiding.

Sources

http://aha.org.pl/en/projects-en/15-the-mordechai-gebirtig-project

https://holocaustmusic.ort.org/fr/places/ghettos/krakow/gebirtigmordechai/

https://archives.cjh.org//repositories/7/resources/3533

Born in Westerbork

I have 3 children and I witnessed the birth of all 3 of them. The birth of a child must be the greatest miracle, Sure the sex beforehand is wonderful, but just imagine it, a sperm cell from a fertile man swims up through the vagina and into the uterus of a woman and joins with the woman’s egg cell as it travels down one of the fallopian tubes from the ovary to the uterus.

This is when the baby is conceived. There is no better moment in a parent’s live to see that first glimpse of the tiny human being, a product of a sexual act and love of 2 people. Seeing their baby for the first time and the feeling that goes with is something which is impossible to describe. The only word that gets close is a miracle.

But what if that baby is born in captivity and you are not sure how long the child will live, or indeed how long you will live, how does that feel? It is something no one wants to experience, yet it was a reality for many people.

The picture above is of Marie Majerowicz she was born in Camp Westerbork.

Camp Westerbork was a concentration and transit camp in Drenthe province, north east of the Netherlands.Established by the Dutch government in the summer of 1939, Camp Westerbork was meant to serve as a refugee camp for Germans and Austrians (German and Austrian Jews in particular), who had fled to the Netherlands to escape Nazi persecution.

But after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands ,the camp was repurposed and was utilized as a staging ground for the deportation of Jews, from 1942 to 1945. Only one-half square kilometer (119 acres) in area, the camp was not built for the purpose of industrial murder as were Nazi extermination camps. Westerbork was considered by Nazi standards as “humane”. Jewish inmates with families were housed in 200 interconnected cottages that contained two rooms, a toilet, a hot plate for cooking, and a small yard. Single inmates were placed in oblong barracks which contained a bathroom for each sex.

Marie Majerowicz was born in camp Westerbork on December 30,1942. In September 1944 she was deported to Theresienstadt from where, on 6 October 1944, she was deported to Auschwitz. She was murdered in a gas chamber after selection. She was not even 2 yet.

Marie wasn’t the only child born in Westerbork. Most of the children died or were murdered when they were still babies. Some only lived for a few days.

Abraham Moritz Benjamins, born February 21,1943. Murdered in Auschwitz October 8,1943.

Tine Bloemendaal, born April 30 1943. Died in Westerbork June 5,1943.

Emanuel Snatager. born May 9,1942. Died in Westerbork May 26,1943.

Karin Walg,born June 19, 1943. Died in Westerbork, June 23,1943.

Bernard Gosschalk, born December 21,1942. Murdered in Auschwitz October 26,1943.

Benjamin Vleeschhouwer, born August 10,1943. Died in Westerbork October 26,1943.

These were just a few. There are so many and to be honest I don’t think I can go through all of their details, my heart just can’t take it.

Aside from the human cost and the sheer evil and horror of it. So much potential talent has been lost. Who know, the scientist who discovered a cure for all cancers could be one of these children. We will never know just because of the warped ideology of Nazism.

sources

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1066255

Donation

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

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Happy Birthday Willem Belinfante.

Happy Birthday Willem Belinfante. You would have been 87 today. You were born on May 30 1934. in Amsterdam.

Your parents were Esther Pais Belinfante, your mother, and Wolf Belinfante, your Father. Both born in Amsterdam. Your Father was a butcher, nowadays in this Covid 19 era he would have been considered an essential worker. But he must have always been an essential worker. He made sure that people had meat for their dinners. And don’t we all need to eat?

The picture is a wedding picture of your parents. It looks like a normal wedding party. However most of the people on this picture would have been murdered just a few years later. You parents were murdered in Sobibor on July 2,1943.

Dear Willem you had 2 brothers, one whose name I don’t know, and a younger brother called Herman Isaac Emanuel Belinfante, such a cool name.

It would have been your 87th birthday today dear Willem. But you died aged 9. You were murdered in Sobibor on July 2,1943, the same day as your parents and your younger brother ,Herman Isaac Emanuel Belinfante, he was aged 6.

There is another brother but I don’t know his name. All I know is that he survived.

Your last name.Belinfante, is quite a famous name in the Netherlands. Joost Belinfante, is a musician and a composer who was linked to Dutch ska band called’ Doe Maar’. His sister Judith Belinfante was an elected member of parliament and the director of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, She was born 13 days before you were murdered.

I wonder if you were related?

You too could have become a musician and composer, or a director of a museum but an evil regime did not think you were fit for life, they decided your fate for you.

I hope your surviving brother found a nice family after the war. But I could never begin to imaging how he must feel, the pain and the uncertainty he had to endure.

Happy Birthday Willem Belinfante. I hope you are having a beautiful cake in heaven with your family.

Source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/176736/willem-belinfante

Martin Sealtiel, born May 19-1935. Murdered September 3-1943

It is strange sometimes how little you can find out of a person, yet you can still tell a story about him.

Martin Sealtiel was born on May 19,1935. There are no pictures of him. The only indication that he was born was a newspaper announcement in a local newspaper, placed on May 20-1935 by his parents. The announcement was of the birth of their son Martin. Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In neighbouring Germany, the first section of the Reichsautobahn, connecting Frankfurt and Heidelberg, was opened by Hitler in Darmstadt.

Weather wise May 19,1935 was not a pleasant day. The temperature that day was between 3.9 °C and 13.0 °C and averaged 8.0 °C. There was 1.9 mm of rain during 2.0 hours. There was 8.6 hours of sunshine (54%). The average windspeed was 3 Bft (moderate breeze) and was prevailing from the west. T

Martin’s parents, Esther Sealtiel-Waterman and David Sealtiel, got married on January 31,1934.

The family lived in the Cronjéstraat 17 in Amsterdam. Martin’s dad was a sales rep for a Metal company. Martin’s mom sold lamp shades which she made herself.

On May 10,1940 Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. Although the lives of Jews didn’t change too much initially, gradually laws were introduced with the aim to eradicate every Jew in the Netherlands. The Nazis nearly succeeded.

On July 17,1943, the Sealtiel family is deported to Westerbork transit camp. On August 31,1943 Martin and his Mother are both transported to Auschwitz in Poland. They arrive on September 3,1943, they are both murdered on arrival. Martin was aged 8 at the time.

Martin’s dad ,David, is sent to a labour camp Warsaw,Poland. Here he has to clear rubble and debris from the ghetto. He died on June 30,1944 off pneumonia(at least that is what is death cert says) just over 9 months after his wife and son were murdered.

The whole Sealtiel of the Cronjéstraat 17, wiped away because of the warped ideology of Nazism.

I wish I could say that this was the only family, but that would be a lie. Millions were murdered and not only Jews. Homosexual, people with a disability, people with a different political point of view, Jehovah Witnesses and others were subject to the evil of the Nazis.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/207967/martin-sealtiel

https://westerborkportretten.nl/westerborkportretten/martin-sealtiel

Donation

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

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Happy Birthday Leonard Samuel van Esso

Dr. Maria Montessori once said “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”

The picture above is of a Montessori school in Amsterdam, it was taken in 1937.

Leonard Samuel van Esso was one if that school’s pupils. He was born 20 March 1936 in Amsterdam. He would have been 85 today, but he didn’t even get to celebrate his 7th birthday because he was murdered 15 days short of that day. He was murdered in Sobibor on March 5 1943, alongside his parents and older sister.

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.”

The regime that sent him to Sobibor did not see him as a human being, nor did they gave him the respect he was due by reason of his innocence and greater possibility of his future.

It would be easy for me to say it was the Germans who murdered him, and I wouldn’t be wrong, but as in many other crimes there were accomplices and enablers. They made not have been in uniform, they could have been behind a desk, getting the paper work ready.

No respect was shown to any of 1.5 million children who were brutally murdered. Leonard’s ‘crime’ is that he was Jewish. According to the Nazi ideology the blood of the Jews was impure, yet they didn’t mind using the blood taken from Jews in Auschwitz and I presume other camps , for blood transfusions for the wounded soldiers .

Another quote by Maria Montessori is “The child is endowed with unknown powers, which can guide us to a radiant future. If what we really want is a new world, then education must take as its aim the development of these hidden possibilities.”

Whoever got the paperwork ready for Leonard, whoever put him on the train, the drivers who transported him to Sobibor, whoever murdered him , did not only deny Leonard his future , they also denied themselves of a world of hidden possibilities.

There is no pictures I could find of Leonard. The artist Willem Volkersz, created a series of suitcases in memory of holocaust victims. This is Leonard’s suit case.

Dear Leonard wherever you are I hope you have a happy birthday. This article is my present to you. It is there to ensure your name will not be forgotten.

Some of my fellow country men may have forsaken you. I will not.

Source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/169231/leonard-samuel-van-esso

Hans Jack Tannenberg-Just a boy and a teddy bear.

Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear. That is basically one of the few things I know about him. I probably could find out more if I would do some more research. But I decided not to because I shouldn’t have to.

This boy should have become a man, a father ,a grandfather .

Every time I do research on one of these innocent young victims, a bit of my heart breaks. I just don’t know how much my heart can still take.

Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear. Born Amsterdam, 16 July 1934. Murdered Sobibor, 9 July 1943 a week before his 9th birthday, even that was taken away from him.

Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear. Murdered because he was Jewish. But he wasn’t only murdered he was picked up by somebody, his details were processed by somebody. He was put on the train by somebody, and who knows how many were involved to get a 8 year old from Amsterdam to Sobibor just to be murdered.

Hans Jack Tannenberg, a boy with a teddy bear.

Happy Birthday Joseph Lierens

Born in Amsterdam, 24 February 1936 – Murdered in Auschwitz, 12 August 1942, aged 6.

Why kill a 6 year old boy?

All he wanted was to play with a toy

Why kill a 6 year old boy?

Did that give you joy?

Why kill a 6 year old boy?

Or why would you kill any boy?

Why kill a 6 year old boy?

Why kill a 6 year old boy?

Why kill a 6 year old boy?

I will never be able to fathom why any one would want to Why kill a 6 year old boy?

Dear Joseph, where ever you are in that firmament among the stars. I wish you a happy birthday.

Source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/192317/joseph-lierens