Happy Birthday Aron Polak

Aron would have been 80 today, but he didn’t even get to the age of 2. He was born in Amsterdam on September 8, 1941. He was murdered in Sobibor March 26,1943.

The fact that he was murdered at such a young age is not even the saddest part of his story. There was actually a change he could have survived.

Aron’s Father, Joseph, was sent to Westerbork, I am not sure on what date, bur sometime after November 1941. After that Aron’s Mother, Lena, went into hiding with Aron. She moved several times. Eventually she stayed with Family but due to tensions Lena decided to voluntarily report herself and Aron to Westerbork.

Lena actually believed that her Husband had a job in Westerbork, sorting out gold and silver. She probably thought that he could provide for his family, even in Westerbork.

Lena and her son Aron eventually reported themselves voluntarily in Westerbork on 27 February 1943. They stayed in barrack 72 and on the 1st of March, Joseph was also in that barrack. On March 23,1943, , the Polak family was deported to Sobibor and on arrival there on 26 March 1943 immediately sent to the gas chambers, and were murdered.

What is so disturbing about this, is that the Nazis somehow created the illusion that even when you were sent to Westerbork, there was a chance of a reasonable normal life.

As for young Aron, I will be looking up to the sky tonight, imagining he is one of the stars I will see. Happy Birthday little man, you were a star to your parents, and you are a star for all of us. A beacon to remind us of what you went through.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/649374/het-lot-van-lena-barend-haar-man-joseph-polak-en-hun-zoontje-aron.

https://geheugenvanoost.amsterdam/page/26420/geen-afscheid

Children murdered on September 6, 1944.

I was going to do a piece on Ursula Gerson, who was murdered in Auschwitz on September 6,1944 aged 8. But then I saw there were more Dutch Jewish children and Jewish refugees, who fled Germany and Austria with their parents, who were murdered that day.

Duifje Gans. murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 11

Mirjam Lisette Katz, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Heijman Karel Franken, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 10.

Jeanette Regina Schenk, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Mary Winnik, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Mietje Judith Moscou, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 11.

Samuel Groenteman, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 6.

Karel Jacobs, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 13.

These are only a few. There were at least327 Dutch Jews whose death were registered on September 6,1944.About 30 % or so were children

I was wondering why there were so many on that specific date.Then it dawned on me. They were all on the last transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz, which left the Netherlands on September 3,1944. Anne Frank and her family were also on that transport.

I know that I will have nightmares tonight with the faces of these poor souls haunting me, but it will be worth it. There fate and names should never be forgotten.

source

Remembering Isaias(Sjakie) Degen

I wish I could say I am remembering Sjakie Degen for his breakthrough work in science.

I wish I could say I am remembering Sjakie Degen for a great book he wrote.

I wish I could say I am remembering Sjakie Degen for a great painting he painted.

I wish I could say that Sjakie Degen was the Sjakie mentioned in the Dutch song “Sjakie van de hoek” Sjakie from the corner, the mischievous boy who broke a window by kicking a ball through it.

But none of that would be true, Sjakie Degen was just a boy.

He was born on December 13.1939 the first born son of Loutje and Beppie Degen and was nearly 3 1/2 years old, when he and his parents were registered in Camp Westerbork on 23 March 1943. He stayed with his parents for a few days in barrack 60. They were all deported on the 6th April to Sobibor. Upon arrival there on 9 April 1943, Sjakie and his parents were murdered in the gas chambers the very same day.

So all I can say about Sjakie is that he was murdered 25 years and 1 day before I was born.

He had brother who survived.

source

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/562959/about-isaias-sjakie-degen

Westerbork

I have written about Westerbork before, but today I want to address the paradox and the misconception of the camp.

Camp Westerbork was a Nazi transit camp in Drenthe province, northeastern Netherlands, during World War II. It was used as a staging location for sending Jews to concentration camps elsewhere, mainly Auschwitz and Sobibor.

The Dutch government established a camp at Westerbork in 1939 to intern Jewish refugees, mostly from Germany. The first refugees arrived in Westerbork in October of that year. In April 1940, there were approximately 750 Jewish refugees housed in the camp. Some of them were German Jews who had been passengers on the St. Louis ship.

In May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the Netherlands. In the first two years after the invasion, Westerbork continued to function as a refugee camp. From May 1940 to July 1942, the camp remained under Dutch administration. Under the Dutch, conditions were fairly good.

In July 1942, the Germans took over the administration of Westerbork and transformed it into a transit camp.

The camp administration was headed by a German commandant. Westerbork had three commandants, all of whom were SS officers: Erich Deppner (July 1942–September 1942); Josef Hugo Dischner (September–October 1942); and Albert Konrad Gemmeker (October 1942–April 1945). German SS men and a rotating group of Dutch civilian and military police guarded the camp. In addition to the German and Dutch personnel, a Jewish police force ,called the Ordedienst or the OD, kept order in the camp.

Camp Westerbork also had a school, orchestra, hairdresser, and even restaurants designed by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival and to aid in avoiding problems during transportation.

Despite this illusion people still died in the camp, often they were murdered.

Jacques Schol, a Dutchman, was an officer in the camp from July 16 1940 until January 1943. He was known for his brutality against Jewish inmates, kicking inmates to death.

SS-Obersturmbahnfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker, was the last commandant of Westerbork. He became to be known as the “gentleman-commander,” because of his polite and friendly behaviour. After the war, he declared, during his trial, like many perpetrators, that he didn’t know of the massive extermination of millions of innocents. Etty Hillesum, unlike Gemmeker’s judges, was not blindsided by his behaviour and in her letters she described and criticized the commander, exposing him as one of the most important executors of the extermination system, the key player in eradicating the Jews of the Netherlands.

After the war an eyewitness gave this heartbreaking account: “Indescribable scenes followed. Penetrating screams of a dead-scared half-crazed mother, the crying of children, the dumb-struck looks of some of the men, and the lamentation of the people who stayed behind. This caused shivers to run down my spine.”

Another eyewitness said “People who were selected for transport began packing their belongings and clothed their children. They got ready for the trip, knowing very well that no reprieve was forthcoming. Those who stayed behind for at least one more week often aired their relief by crying or they would break out in dance behaving like overjoyed kids.”

Transports were a traumatic experience for Jews in Westerbork. Witness testimonies mention confusion, distress, and brutality. For example, Dutch-Jewish journalist Philip Mechanicus, who kept a diary of life in Westerbork, described a transport that took place on June 1, 1943. He wrote:

“The transports are as nauseating as ever.… Men, quiet, stone-faced; women, often in tears. The elderly: stumbling, faltering under their burden, tripping on the bad road sometimes into pools of mud…. Whoever hesitates, whoever dawdles, is being assisted; sometimes herded, sometimes shoved, sometimes beaten, sometimes punched, sometimes persuaded by a boot, quickly shoved aboard the train…. When the cars are full, the prescribed number of deportees having been loaded, the cars are sealed…. The commandant signals the departure: a wave of the hand. The whistle sounds … a heart-rending sound is heard by everyone in the camp. The grungy snake, now fully loaded, crawls away”

Albert Konrad Gemmeker lived in a luxurious villa at the entrance of the camp where he would often entertain friends. Like this Christmas party(Gemmeker is on the far right)

He may have appeared to have been an SS officer who treated prisoners humanely, it was during his reign where most of the 100,000 plus Jews were transported to Auschwitz, Sobibor and a few other camps. There was no way that he didn’t know what the fate would be for those he put on transport.

On 3 September 1944, Anne Frank and the seven others who had been living in hiding in the Secret Annex were put on a transport to Auschwitz. Along with over a thousand other Jewish prisoners. This was the last transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz.

In 1949, when the Dutch left their over 300 year occupation of Indonesia, native Indonesians were left in political unrest. Some people who had collaborated with French, Algerian, and Dutch militaries were evacuated, because they were the subject of anger by the other indigenous people who had resisted colonization and felt betrayed at the Moluccan peoples siding with their colonizers. The peoples were promised a quick return to their homeland. However, from 1951 to 1971, former indigenous Moluccan KNIL soldiers and their families were made to stay in the camp. During this time, the camp was renamed Kamp Schattenberg.

sources

http://www.holocaust-lestweforget.com/albert-konrad-gemmeker.html

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa24289

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/westerbork

https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9789048550173-007/html

https://www.holland.com/global/tourism/destinations/provinces/drenthe/camp-westerbork.htm

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This is how close the Holocaust still is to me.

The picture is of a vacant building in the town center of Geleen in the Netherlands. The building wasn’t always empty. It used to be a clothes shop called “Modehuis” or Fashion House. It was really a shop which catered more for the older ladies, my mother liked to shop there A few doors next to it, there used to be a hairdresser, where I got my haircut several times.

Across from it there used to be a video store where I would rent my favourite movies. The address of the shop was Raadhuisstraat 16.

All of this will mean absolutely nothing to you, and even until today the historical reference of the place was not known to me.

The shop was known as “Kousenhuis” (Stockingshouse) in the 1930s, the owner was Paul Siegfried Willner and his wife Charlotte Sophia Walter. Paul was Jewish but Charlotte was Roman Catholic . They were married on April 17,1934 in Geleen, the maximum temperature that day was 21 degrees centigrade, so it was a warm spring day. Aside from the shop they also ran a wholesale business in cleaning products.

The shop was initially situated somewhere else, but due to subsidence caused by mining they moved to the Raadhuisstraat. On January 11,1939 Paul sold the shop to Julius Jacob Wolff.

Paul and his wife moved to Molenstraat 27 in Geleen. Below is a recent picture of that address.

As a young kid in secondary school, I actually had a friend living in Molenstraat 25, which is next door. The house is also near my favourite restaurant, swimming pool, and a few other places I would have visited several times a week.

Paul Siegfried Willner was born in Aachen in Germany, near to the Dutch border, on June 5,1902. He had moved in February 1934 from Aachen to Geleen. On November 25,1941 Paul lost his German citizenship as per new Reichs citizens law. As a Jew he was no longer considered to be a German.

On February 5,1942 Paul and Charlotte divorced, I don’t know why but I can only imagine that this was to safe Charlotte. If she was no longer married to a Jew, she would more then likely be safe.

On August 25, 1942 ,Paul had to register for labour in Germany, A day later on August 26, he ended up in Westerbork transit camp. Two days later he was deported to Auschwitz. But shortly before arriving there he was taken of the train at the labour camp in Kosel. It is not clear where he was murdered. His date of death was registered as April 30 1943, but that was a generic date used for many whose death date wasn’t known.

On October 5,1942 the RAF mistakenly bombed Geleen, assuming it was Aachen, Paul’s house was destroyed as was the house of his ex wife.

Julius Jacob Wolff who was also Jewish, survived the war, His shop was still thriving when I left Geleen in 1997.

When I said at the start ‘how close the Holocaust still is to me, I meant it in a physical way as in buildings I have been in or have been close to, but also in a emotional way, because I never knew this bit of history. I had to emigrate to find out the significance of the actual buildings, which is a pity.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/137523/paul-siegfried-willner

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/Paul-Siegfried-Willner

https://www.openarch.nl/rhl:54839896-93a6-84fb-e6c6-a4540cb3b0a6

Donation

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Happy Birthday Wolf Blits

In my opinion the best way to remember the victims of the Holocaust is to personalize their stories. Rather then a number, show the human side. Because that is what they were ,all those millions were all individual human beings, just like everyone else.

I wish I could show you a picture of Wolf Blits. I could perhaps include a picture of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, but he is not the same person.

Perhaps Wolf Blits also could have been a reporter, journalist or news anchor. But he was never given that opportunity. He was murdered when he was 4.

Wolf was born in Amsterdam on August 24,1938. He was murdered on June 11,1943 in Sobibor.

In those 4 years he travelled more then many 40 year old. In 1943 he traveled from Amsterdam to Camp Vught near Den Bosch in the Netherlands, where he arrived on June 6,1943.

From Vught he traveled to Westerbork near Amersfoort, in the Netherlands where he arrived on June 8,1943.

From Westerbork he traveled to Sobibor in Poland, where he arrived on or just before June 11,1943. There he was murdered on June 11,1943.

At the start of this blog is a picture of a card from Vught. On the card 4 year old Wolf was registered as a prisoner, as if he was a hardened criminal. Of course he wasn’t a criminal, nor were his parents or anyone else of those millions who were murdered. The criminals were those who murdered them, The disturbing fact though is that these criminals followed the letter of the law.

A law made up up by sick individuals who followed a warped ideology, an ideology based on hate.

Poor Wolf traveled quite a bit. I remember moving when I was a kid, it was only a few blocks away from where I lived, but to me it was like moving to the other side of the world. I thought they spoke a different language. I was very anxious. But I moved to a nice place. Poor Wolf traveled to be murdered.

It is his birthday today. Dear Wolf whatever star you are up in the skies, I wish you a happy birthday.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/184678/wolf-blits

https://www.oorlogslevens.nl/tijdlijn/Wolf-Blits/02/13216

Margot Frank-Cohen-Full life interrupted

I could have picked any name out of millions of victims to write about today. So why did I pick Margot Frank-Cohen? No particular reason other then that she would have been 100 years old today.

A few decades ago it would have been utter nonsense to talk about someone’s 100th birthday. Hardly anyone would reach that age. However nowadays there are more centenarians then there have ever been. So it could have been well possible for Margot to still be alive today, but as you can see on her wedding picture, the people around all have a star on their clothes. We all know the color of that star was yellow. We also know that those stars were given to Jews so that they could be identified as such.

The word on their stars reads “Jood” the Dutch word for Jew. Margot wasn’t Dutch but she was born in Bocholt.

Bocholt is a city in the north-west of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, part of the district Borken. It is situated 4 km (2½ miles) south of the border with the Netherlands.

When she moved to the Netherlands I don’t know. I presume it was in 1939 the same time as her parents moved to Amsterdam.

Or it could be the case that her parents moved here because Margot already lived in the Netherlands. Because in 1939 Margot married Hein Lindeman, she was 18 at the time. The marriage didn’t last too long but the couple did have a daughter together, Sophia Juliana Senta Lindeman, born on February 10, 1940.

When you look at the dates 1939 and February 1940, things were still normal for the Jews living in the Netherlands. It was only in May 1940, after the German occupation, things started to change gradually for the Jews.

As stated earlier the marriage between Margot and Hein didn’t last long they divorced in 1941.

This is the astonishing bit, neither of them gave up on love. Despite the fact that so many of their friends and families were already deported, both Margot and Hein re-married. Hein married Alida (Ali) Druyf in May 1942. Just over 4 months later Alida was murdered in Auschwitz on September 28,1942. Hein was murdered in Sobibor on April 23,1943.

Margot married Siegfried Frank in 1942 in Camp Westerbork. The picture at the start of the blog is from their wedding day.Margot was Murdered in Auschwitz together with her 4 year old daughter on October 6,1944. They were put on transport Transport XXIV/7, no. 194 on September 6, 1944,Westerbork the Netherlands to Terezín Then from Terezin via transport En, no. 47 on October. 10. 1944, Terezín to Auschwitz

The irony is that her husband died on the 2nd anniversary of her ex husband. He was murdered in Buchenwald on April 23 1945, just a few days after it was liberated.

Despite Margot’s young age, she had already lived a fuller life then most people. A full life only to be interrupted by an evil ideology

Sources

https://www.holocaust.cz/en/database-of-victims/victim/149922-margot-frank-cohen/

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/195704/margot-frank-cohen

https://www.geni.com/people/Margot-Frank/6000000164906549161

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/195703/sophia-juliana-senta-lindeman

https://www.geni.com/people/Siegfried-Frank/6000000065602842922

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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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Happy Birthday Anne Frank

Dear Anne, today you would have turned 92, but we all know the history why that didn’t happen.

Some of that history is written in the diary you received on your 13th birthday, June 12 1942.So many people have read that diary, your private thoughts laid bare for the world to see. But I am sure you would not have minded that because aside it being a diary, it is also a historical record. You made sure of that because you could see and hear what was happening around you, You also heeded the call of the exiled Dutch government for people to record as much as they could.

What some people don’t realize if the Nazis would not have got to power, your diary would have looked so much different, it wouldn’t even have been written in Dutch but German, Because if the Nazis had not got to power your parents would not have had to move. Your German diary would have told a different story. The story about a different kind of anxiety. The anxiety of a regular teenage girl. Her first dance, her first kiss and perhaps even of the first time having sex with a boyfriend. The anxiety of seeing each other naked for the first time, and maybe how you blushed the first time he touched your breasts and you touched his penis. Who knows, what would be in that diary? I am not saying this to be disrespectful, far from it, like any other girl you deserved that level of intimacy but you were denied it. But your German diary would have been just that, a diary, only for you to read.

People call you an author. But you weren’t you were just a girl who had the endure something no girl should have to endure.

And like any other girl you had friends.

Lucia “Lucie” van Dijk , a Christian friend from the Montessori school. Lucie’s mother was an adamant member of the NSB,the Dutch Nazi party, until the end of the war, but Lucie’s disillusioned father left the party in 1942. You were shocked when the van Dijks became party members, but your dad ,Otto, patiently explained to her that they could still be good people even if they had distasteful politics.

Rie “Ietje” Swillens was another good friend of yours all the way through Montessori school.

Nanette Blitz Konig who was born on April 6, 1929 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. just a few months older then you. A friend and a class mate . You were in the same class at the Jewish Lyceum.

Like your family ,the Blitz family was arrested and taken to the Westerbork transit camp and from there were deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It was Nannette that reunited you with your sister Margot, in Bergen Belsen. However Nanette survived the war and the Holocaust. She now lives in Brazil.

Then there was another Nanette ; Nanette van Praag Sigaar.

You were also in the same class at the Jewish Lyceum, in Amsterdam. You even wrote about her in your diary. You said “Nannie is a funny, tiny, clever girl. I like her. She is smart.” What you didn’t know is that Nannie was murdered in Auschwitz on November 5,1942, just a few months after you received your diary as a birthday gift.

Your 13th birthday gift is now a gift to us all. Not just a gift but also a stark reminder of what humans are capable of doing to other humans.

You would have been 92 today. Nowadays you may have been famous as one of the first people being vaccinated against the Covid 19 virus. But you were killed by a much worse virus, hate.

Happy Birthday Anne, or rather Van Harte Gefeliciteerd.

sources

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/569313/uit-het-dagboek-van-anne-frank

https://www.geni.com/people/Nanette-van-Praag-Sigaar/6000000047467779849

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5235152/bio

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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