I don’t know what it is but the last few days I have discovered several accounts of victims of the Holocaust which are very near to me. Not so much that I was related to these people or that I knew them, but I knew the locality and the addresses where they lived. In fact I passed these places by on a daily basis and in the case of Louis van Dam , sometimes even more then 10 times a day.
At the back of my secondary school there was a square . It was really a small park with a few benches and some trees, surrounded by houses. The square was known(and still is) as the Jubileum plein (Jubilee square)
We would often use this square for physical education lessons. One of the tests we had for PE was a run around the small park, We had a certain time (I believe it was 10 minutes) to run around the park as often as we could. 10 times or more would be a pass, anything below 10 was a fail.
You probably are thinking “where is he going with this” ? Well the name I mentioned earlier was Louis van Dam, Louis and his family lived in one of the houses on the square, Jubileumplein 12,Geleen from 1930 to 1939. In 1939 they moved to a village a few miles south, Doenrade. The reason why they moved was because of health reasons. Louis’s wife Sophie Silbernberg-van Dam, had asthma and the pollution caused by the nearby coal mine was bad for her health. However Louis also wanted to live in a remote spot near the German border so he could help Jewish refugees. who crossed the border.
In that same year Louis became a bit of a ‘celebrity’ but not in a beneficial way, He had overheard a smuggling scheme in a local pub. Some smugglers had been smuggling Dutch army uniforms to Germany(the uniforms were to be used by the German army for the invasion of the Netherlands). As a law abiding citizen Louis reported this to the Police. Two men were arrested as a result.A newspaper article was published about the incident.
Despite the fact that Louis van Dam’s name only appeared in an abbreviated from in the newspaper, it was still known that he had reported the smugglers. Louis and his family received death threats afterwards because of this they moved again, this time to Amsterdam.
A few months after they moved, the German army invaded the Netherlands. Louis’s son Guus got involved in a students resistance group and was arrested at the end of 1941 or start of 1942.
Although the intended target for the arrest was Louis himself, some neighbours had betrayed him for listening to an English radio station, which was forbidden by the Nazi authorities. But Louis was ill and Guus was arrested instead.
Guus was sent to Auschwitz on November 10th,1942 via Scheveningen, Amersfoort and Westerbork. It is not known where he died , his formal death certificate states date of death March 31,1944 in middle Europe, aged 22.
Louis, his wife and 2 daughters, Roos en Mimi, went into hiding.
Louis van Dam had gone into hiding using the alias Christiaan Willem Zijlstra. He died while in hiding and was buried under his alias at the Algemeene Begraafplaats Crooswijk in Rotterdam on 23 April 1945.
After the war his remains were exhumed and reburied at the Jewish cemetery Toepad in Rotterdam. Louis van Dam’s wife and daughter survived the war.
It just goes to show you can be passing by a house every day without being aware of the historical significance of it.
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Stichting Stolpersteine Sittard-Geleen