My letter to Santa

Joseph

This piece is probably my most personal piece to date..It is not based on historical facts although the Holocaust victim was a real victim. It is based on my own personal life as a young child, combined with a thought I had about that time.

I came across some pictures of me as a child with St Nicholas(the Dutch Santa).

me 2

At the time time I did not realize that the man dressed as St Nicholas was actually my Father.

When I was 9 my parents divorced which lead to me losing contact with my Father for 18 years. It was only after I got married we reconnected again, due to a few tragedies in the Family. But I don’t want to bore you with those stories, suffice to say we did establish a good relationship from that time onward.

However I do remember writing a letter to Santa when I was 9. All I asked then was for my Father to return. The irony was that the man I asked for my Dad to return was actually my Father.

But here is the thought I had over the last few weeks. How many children must have written letters to Santa asking for nothing but for the friends or classmates to return. Classmates,friends or neighbours who had been deported and murdered in the death camps.

Although the St Nicholas celebration is a Christian tradition, some Jewish children did and still do participate in it.

I still remember what I wrote to Santa when I was aged 9 so I thought I’d use that letter as template but replace the references of my Father with the name Joseph Elias Cohen, the boy whose picture is at the top of this blog, he was born on 8 February 1934 in Amsterdam and killed on 4 June 1943, in Sobibor.

 

“Dear Santa my Friend Joseph Elias Cohen is gone. I don’t know where. All I know that he just vanished without saying goodbye to me.

I am not angry, all I want to know is if he is alright. I miss him.

So Santa this year for Christmas I don’t want any gifts or treats. All I want is when I wake up on Christmas day and walk down to the living room that my Friend is standing next to the Christmas tree, with his arms open wide , ready to give me a hug.

So if you have already wrapped my presents, that is okay , you can give those presenst to other children, all I want is my Friend to come home.

Do you think you can do that?”

As I said except for my own life story and the details of Joseph Elias Cohen, this blog has no historical facts, but I do believe it does make it personal and brings a bit of life into a story of an innocent 9 year old boy who was killed simply for being Jewish.

 

 

 

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I will NOT be silenced.

alex

I will not be silenced , no matter how often people try to silence me.

I will not be silenced despite the threats.

I will not be silence although a small voice in my head sometimes says”just give up”, but there is a louder voice screaming “No you fool, you have to keep going. You have a purpose so serve it. God gave you a talent so use it”

I will not be silenced because there are 1.5 million voices of Children pleading with me to tell their untold stories, To implant their names in people’s minds.

Children like Alex Weijel born 24 November 1939 in Enschede ,the Netherlands. Killed a few weeks before his 3rd birthday on 12 October 1942 in Auschwitz.

Alex eyes look at me and in my head I hear him say “Do not forget me”

How could I forget him if I had been born that time it could have been me who was killed.

I will not be silent because of the screams of those who never even saw the light of day, because they were carried in a womb of a mother who was seen as an inconvenience and were shot,stabbed,gassed or worked to death.

I will not be silenced; I will not be silenced.

We will never see you smile again

Rita

We will never see you smile again

Your life ended before my life began

We will never hear you sing again.

Your were 7 when you took your last breath.

Not because you were ill. No the opposite was true you were full of life and energy. It was evil men and women who wanted you dead and they succeeded.

It was evil that interrupted your life but is was good that stood by and let it happen. The good said they had no choice, but there is always a choice. It is up to each individual to determine what the good choice is.

However you did not have a choice, you were taken away from your friends and family and put on a train, not for a holiday but to a place where they would end your life.

They did not only want to destroy your life but also erase your existence any trace that you ever existed.

Your life I can not return to you but your memory I will keep in tact.

You are Rita Krammer born January 5th 1937,Groningen, he Netherlands. You were killed in Auschwitz, 26 October 1942.

We will never see you smile again . But your smile will never be forgotten

Geleen Capital of Rock.

Flag Geleen

The name Geleen will mean little to most, but it is where I was born and raised.A small industrial city in the province of Limburg, the south east of the Netherlands. Just because I don’t live there anymore doesn’t mean I am not proud to be from there or that I don’t love it anymore, because I do love it and I am still proud to be a Gelener..

This doesn’t mean I can’t be critical. Many mistakes have been made in the past which resulted in professional football.motor racing  to disappear from the town. Where there used to be a vibrant city centre there are only a few shops left at the moment, all because a mayotr had some grandiose plans for the city, grandiose but not well thought through.

The biggest loss howver was the loss of Pinkpop , one of Europe’s biggest Rock festivals. I I am not going to dwell on the reasons ,but I will recapture some of my home town’s great Rock legacy.

However the very first edition wasn’t held in Geleen but in the nearby village of Gulpen. The festival was called PinkNick at the time , the date May 26 1969.

pnk

But from 1970 the festival was renamed to PinkPop(pink taken from the word Pinksteren, meaning Pentecost). and the new venue  was Burgemeester Damen Sportpark in Geleen, where it remained until 1986. In 1987 it moved to Baarlo , the year after Landgraaf was to become the new venue where the festival is still being held to date.

Below are just some impression of  artists who played in Geleen.

David Lee Roth of Van Halen with a broken nose at the Pinkpop Festival in Geleen . May 26, 1980.

dlr

1979 Poster

1979

U2 in 1981

U2

The Cure 1986

Cure

Fleetwood Mac 1971

2019-10-25

Thin Lizzy 1978

Thin Lizzy

ZZ Top 1982

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a 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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Sources

You Tube

Pinkpop.nl

Your smiley face makes me cry.

11 months

Your smiley face makes me cry.

It makes me cry because I know you were born on June 13,1942 in The Hague , the Netherlands and you were killed June 11,1943 in Sobibor. You were not even given the opportunity to blow one candle on your first birthday cake.

I cry but I no longer have tears because they have dried up due to crying for the 1.5 million childer that were killed.

There is one question that occupies my mind constantly. Why?

I know why, but I just can’t comprehend.

Ywo days before your birthday you were murdered.

You are Joseph Blok, you could have been an  inspirational musician or a motivation speaker, or  just simply the father of my best friend.

The biggest fear of your parents  should have been to keep you safe from the measles,chicken pox ,mumps and rubella, but it was men who probably had children themselves, perhaps even babies like you.

Men, who did not see you as human being they though of you as vermin, but it was these men who were the real vermin.

Men who felt heroic for killing babies who could not defend themselves.

Rest in peace young Joseph Blok.

 

 

Rachel de Groot- A teenage girl, murdered.

Rachel

I wish I could write about how Rachel de Groot survived the war and grew up to fulfill her potential, But I can’t, in fact I can’t even say that much about her. Not because there is not much known about her, because there is.

The reason why I can’t say too much about Rachel is because I am the Father of a teenage girl, the thought that something could happen to her lives with me 24/7 ,but that is normal for any Father or Mother for that matter.

Seeing a picture of Rachel makes me realize how fragile life is and how quick situations can change. One day you are living without a care in the world then suddenly you find yourself in hiding, hiding for people who hate you so much even though they have never met you.

Rachel, her parents and her younger brother al went into hiding in November 1942, the Dutch police, instructed by the Nazi occupiers were rounding up Jews.

Rachel liked to make handcrafts and she used these blac,gold and white beads for that purpose, I do not know for certain but I reckon she used them to make jewelry.

Just cheap disposable beads but they must have been extremely valuable to Rachel because they keep her mind occupied, an escape from the horrors and anxiety she faced.

beadz

Despite everything she still must have had hope because she even made a calendar when she was in hiding, indicating she was still planning her days. People who have no hope do not plan.

calendar

As I stated earlier, I have a teenage daughter and it could have easily been her and I ciuld have been that father with her in hiding, something I just can’t fathom.

Rachel was born on August 15, 1927. My daughter was also born in August. Rachel was murdered in Auschwitz on May 22,1944 together with her mother.Her Father arrived a few months later and was murdered on September 30,1944.Her brother survived the war

Now I know there will be some people who read this and will say that this blog is mainly based on presumptions, and that is true because I never met Rachel how could I have she was murdered before I was even born.But the only way for us to remotely understand the Holocaust(because for those who did not live through it can never understand) is by making it personal.

For some reason Rachel’s story touche me more then other stories, maybe it because of my paternal instincts.

Sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/artifact/beads-used-by-a-dutch-jewish-girl-in-hiding

https://www.joodsmonumentzaanstreek.nl/groot-de-rachel-chelly/

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/541363/about-rachel-de-groot

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn513933

 

41 Months and 6 Days

alida

41 Months and 6 Days was all I was allowed to live.

After 41 Months and 6 Days I was given a death sentence.

No, I was not a criminal.

No, I harmed no one.

In fact I wasn’t even of a school going age as of yet.

What did I do in those 41 Months and 6 Days that warranted my death.

NOTHING

And I mean absolutely NOTHING.

My address was Bilderdijkstraat 138 II, Amsterdam but I died in Sobibor

My name was Alida Roeg , I was killed because I was Jewish.

 

Sources

Joods Monument

Find a Grave

Look into my eyes!!

John

Look into my eyes and will see mischievousness m you see the eyes of a boy who is playful.

Look into my eyes and you will see no sorrows.

Look into my eyes and you will see pure innocence.

Look into my eyes and you will see no hate.

Look into me eyes and you will see love.

Look into my eyes and you will see amazement and wonder.

Look into my eyes and you will see curiosity.

Look into my eyes and you will see a human being.

You did look into my eyes and saw an enemy

You did look into my eyes and you hated me.

You looked into me eyes and did not recognize my future and potentially your future.

You looked into me eyes and you killed me.

John Liepman Agstteribbe born in Amsterdam ,November 4,1939 .Killed in Auschwitz 11 December 1942.

 

Source

Joods Monument

 

 

 

Diet Eman- WWII Hero.

Diet

Only the good die young, all the evil seem to live forever is a line from an Iron Maiden song, and there have been times where I thought this to be true, because I saw so many evil people living a long and prosperous lives.

But thankfully ever now and then that theory is proven wrong when you hear stories about people who personify the word good and you see they lived a long good life.

As was the case with Berendina Roelofina Hendrika  Eman aka Diet Eman. A genuine hero who lived to the age of 99, she died 2 weeks ago. What is amazing I had never heard of her until 2 friends, Norman Stone and Andy Ludwig( I am sure they won’t mind me giving them an honorable mention) pointed the story of Diet out to me.

She was born on April 20, 1920 in the Hague, the Netherlands and died on September 3, 2019 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A

She grew up in a religious Christian family she had 3 siblings and she was the 2nd youngest.

Om May 10,1940 when the Germans invaded the Netherlands her brother in law was killed.Shortly afterwards, Diet and her fiancé Hein Sietsma decided to join the resistance.The pair together with some friends established a resistance group with the code name “HEIN” which was in reference to Hein Sietsma but was also an abbreviation for “Help Elkander In Nood”which translates in Help each other in Need.

Diet and Hein

Initially the group listened to the BBC and translated the text of the broadcast in Dutch and distributed the transcripts in Dutch resistance magazines.They also smuggled  downed Allied pilots to England.

Soon they began to help Jewish friend find hiding places. Diet recalled after the war.

“There came a day,when my Jewish friend Herman, who worked with me in the bank in The Hague, began to understand that, for him, as a Jew, life could not go on in the same way anymore. He thus became the first Jewish person that we helped during the Occupation.”

Their resistance group began  to focus on stealing food and gas ration cards, forging identity papers and sheltering hundreds of fugitive Jews.

forged

At one stage Diet delivered supplies and moral support to an apartment in The Hague which housed 27 Jews in hiding, in late 1942. The walls were paper thin. Crying babies and even toilet flushing risked raising the suspicions of neighbors, who know that the apartment was owned by a single woman,Mies Walbelm.

Diet warned Mies, she told her “You’re living on top of a volcano that’s ready to erupt” but Mies did not heed the warning and housed more people, which was immensely brave but also extremely dangerous and could jeopardize the woman’s life but also those she hid. Despite that Diet kept visiting the apartment ,bringing supplies, sometimes 5 times a week Eventually the Gestapo did raid the apartment. A diary that contained Diet’s code name was discovered.One day Diet’s parents called her to warn her the Gestapo had turned up and told her not to return home. 

Diet and Hein Sietsma had plans to marry in September 1944, but in April Sietsma was arrested carrying false papers. In May Diet Eman, also, was caught on a train carrying a false ID. Luckily she managed to dispose of the incriminating papers she was carrying at a busy station while the Germans’ backs were turned, distracted by one of the men’s new plastic raincoat, a novelty at the time.

Diet was taken to Scheveningen prison and was later send to Vught concentration camp for  a few  months. However she kept insisting stubbornly that she was not Diet Eman but a simple housemaid. she managed to convince the Germans and she was released. She immediately rejoined the resistance and remained with it until May 1945. It was in June 1945 she found out that fiancé Hein Sietsma had died in Dachau in January 1945.

By some miracle, a letter he had written on a single sheet of toilet paper and tossed from a train as he was being transported to the camp found its way to her.“Darling, don’t count on seeing each other again soon,Even if we won’t see each other on earth again, we will never be sorry for what we did, and that we took this stand.”

He signed off with the Latin phrase that was engraved on the gold engagement ring that he had given her: “Omnia vincit amor.” Love conquers all.

A brother of Diet died later in a Japanese prison camp.

After the war she moved to the US, She became a nurse, learned Spanish, worked for Shell Oil in Venezuela, married an American engineer named Egon Erlich, divorced and moved to Michigan, where she also worked as a nurse and later for an export company. She raised a son and daughter.She kept quiet k about her resistance work until 1978. That year, she spoke at a “Suffering and Survival” convention. Here she met Dr. James Schaap who worked with Eman to write her memoir, “Things We Couldn’t Say”, which was published in 1994.

Things

On August 23, 1998, Yad Vashem recognized Berendina Roelofina Hendrika Eman as Righteous Among the Nations.

An amazing woman who risked her life to safe others, the world needs heroes like her today. Rust zacht Diet, ik zal U niet vergeten.

Persoon

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I am passionate about my site and I know a 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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Sources

Holocausteducatie.nl

The New York Times

Smithsonian

Telegraph UK

Yad Vashem

 

Bethrina Kooperberg-Her dignity was taken away, yet she remained positive.

BETHRINA

I could write down the history of Bethrina Kooperberg but it is more poignant to use her own words to illustrate the person she was.

The text is translated from Dutch and comes from a postcard and letter Bethrina sent from Camp Vught to her friends, the Van Beek family, dated 24 April 1943.

“The first night we were here, Aunt Fie and I laughed like madmen, despite everything. As it happened, nobody could sleep, cry or scream. Anyway, it was just horrible but it’s getting easier to sleep now, and now when the bell rings I don’t want to get up.

Last week the men could not come on the Sunday as all the women were naked in the barracks, as we had to be deloused. In the end it didn’t happen until 9 o’clock on the Monday evening so we had been naked that whole day, too.

Oh, if you could see us through the keyhole, you know that I was always optimistic and sometimes I still am but there are days when I think the whole camp is going crazy with the treatment. It’s worse than I could ever have imagined and they treat us worse than animals.

They call this place the murder compound and if you knew what it’s like here, the gates would be stormed, but we still are still in good spirits, as if that’s possible.”

She was sent to Sobibor on May 9,1943 where she arrived on the 12th. Two days later on May 14, she was gassed.

Three of her siblings and her parents survived the war.It was very rare that so many members of the same  Jewish family survived.

But as a last act of indignity her death was only recorded in 1950, retrospectively.

register

I can’t blame the Dutch authorities for registering her death 5 years after the war ended, because it often would take a long time to get all the relevant data. But the way Brethina’s death was registered was just sloppy, they just crossed out all outdated data and hand wrote the new most up to date data next to it.Why not just create a new page and typewrite the information in a professional manner.That’s the least that could be done. But maybe I am just a bit bias towards Dutch bureaucracy.

 

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a 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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Sources

brabantremembers.com/persecution/lachen-als-gekken-in-de-moordcentrale

openarch.nl

Joods Monument

Traces if War