Westerbork the Jewish refugee camp that became a concentration camp.

Westerbork

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Camp Westerbork was actually established as a refugee camp for Jews escaping the Nazi regime in Germany and Austria.and who had illegally entered the Netherlands. It was established by the Dutch government in the summer of 1939.

In July 1942, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a transition camp. Jews arrested in the Netherlands were taken to the camp and put on transport. Transport trains arrived at Westerbork every Tuesday from July 1942 to September 1944, and left with close to 100,000 jews.But also Roma and Sinti were transported from Westerbork.

The Deportations were part of  the responsibilities of Gestapo sub-Department IV-B4, which was headed by Adolf Eichmann.

train

Although the camp was relatively “humane” by  Nazi standards , it was cruel in other ways. Jewish inmates with families were housed in 200 interconnected cottages The cottages  contained two rooms, a toilet, a hot plate for cooking, and a small yard. Single inmates were put  in oblong  shaped barracks which contained a separate bathroom for each sex.

The camp also had a school, hairdresser, orchestra and even restaurants arranged by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival but also to aid avoiding problems during transportation.

school

Nearly t all of the  estimated 95,00 persons deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor in German-occupied Poland were killed upon arrival.

The camp was  liberated by Canadian forces on April 12, 1945. A total of 876 inmates were found.

liberation

The fact that the Nazis maintained that false sense of hope is probably one of the most sickening aspects of the camp. They knew what the fate was of the inmates and giving them that hope that they would survive, that they were only going to be resettled to Eastern Europe.

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Liberation Route Europe

 

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Law abiding citizen

Louis

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 benched and some trees, surrounded by houses. The square was known(and still is) as the Jubeleum 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.

plein

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 want 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.

Artikel

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.

Guus

Although the intended target for the arrest was Louis himself, some neighboyrs 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.

van dam

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

Joods Monument

Google Streetview

 

 

Football in time of Horror-The football competition in Westerbork

voetbal

This must be one of the most amazing events I came across but amidst all the killing,torture,deportations and other horrors in Camp Westerbork, they actally found time to set up a football competition.

The competition was made up of several teams of Jewish inmates and started in spring 1943, it was a welcome distraction and gave some sense of hope of survival.

It must also have been a way of taking a bit of revenge on the members of the OD(Ordnungsdeinst) or Capos some of them also played in the tournament.

Some players did survive the Holocaust but the majority of them died in the extermination camps, along with Han Hollander who had been a famous Dutch sports commentator,with the broadcaster AVRO prior to  the war. He died on July 9,1943 in Sobibor.

han

Juda de Vries, who had been a celebrated goal keeper of HFC Haarlem was send Westerbork in 1942. For a short time he entered the competition, he was transported to Sobibor in May 1943 where he was killed.

Juda

Although the competition was short lived for most it had given them that feeling of ‘normal’ life again, however short lived it was it must have felt magical.

spel

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The last single Journey: Westerbork-Auschwitz

Sign

One of the cruel jokes the Nazis played on their victims was giving them hope. Like a railway sign indicating a return journey that was never to be. Only empty trains returned ready to pick up more victims like lambs led to the slaughter.

Trein

On September 3,1944 the last transport by train from Westerbork Transit Camp to Auschwitz took place.

Westerbork

Between July 15 ,1942 and September 13,1944 a total of 99 trains had left Westerbork for either Auschwitz,Sobibor,Theresienstadt and Bergen Belsen.

On the September 3rd transport 1019 victims were transported to Auschwitz. A journey which would take 3 days. Even before they reached Auschwitz they endured hell, because they were cramped in cattle cars, quite literally like cattle. There were no toilets, barely any food or water, nowhere to sleep. Some would die even before they reached their final destination.

What makes this transport special is because of one family, A Father,mother and 2 daugthers, only the father would eventually survive. This family was the Frank Family.

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Anne and Margot Frank had one more journey to make on 28 October they were selected to be transported to Bergen-Belsen, where both girls died. Otto and Edith Frank remained in Auschwitz but Edith eventually died of starvation in January 1945.

Frank Family

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The final destination for the Cohen family from Geleen-Auschwitz

Geleen Limburg

This blog will be based on facts and some presumptions, but the presumptions are more then likely correct.

I was going over the history of the deported Jews from my birthplace Geleen, south east of the Netherlands. when I noticed the name of the Cohen family. There is not a lot I know or could find out about them except for the fact they used to have a clothing shop in Geleen and Maastricht  prior to  World War Two.

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I do know they were a family of 6. The Father Simon, the Mother Esthella Carolina Cohen-ten Brink. Daughters Josephine, age 12, Henny age 16.Frieda age 17 and 1 son Gerrit. Gerrit is the only one who survived the war. He died on September 22, 1998, age 76. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Beek, a town a few miles from Geleen.(Picture courtesy of Frank Janssen)

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On 25 August 1942, approximately 20 Jewish citizens were brought to and then deported from town hall by the Germans. The Cohen family were among them. They were then taken to Maastricht.

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On that same day they were put on transport to Westerbork on the 25th of August 1942. On the 28th of August they left Westerbork for Auschwitz where they arrived on the 30th of August.

Simon,Esthella Carolina,Josephine and Frieda all died on the 31st of August. Henny died on the 26th of September.

Gerrit Cohen had escaped on August the 25th  1942. When the Nazis had come for the family he managed to escape via a roof window and went into hiding.

When I mentioned presumptions earlier I was referring to the transport dates, for I do believe they are correct but I could not fully verify them. The transport date from Westerbork  to Auschwitz is correct though.

Treinbord_Westerbork-Auschwitz_Auschwitz_State_Museum

Such was the evilness of the Nazi regime that they even gave people on the transport hope, pretending there was a possible return journey.

One of the citizens of Geleen,Rie op den Camp, mentioned in her diary of the 25th of August 1942, when the Jews were put on transport to Maastricht, she overheard one of the German soldiers saying  “Arme Menschen, wir müssen uns schämen, dass wir zu so eines Volk gehören”, which translates from German to English is “Poor people. we should be ashamed to belong to a people like ours” This indicates that not all Germans subscribed to Adolf Hitler’s ideology but also that they were aware what fate awaited the people on those transports.

kamp westerbork.jpg

 

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De retour reis die nooit plaatsvond

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‘Westerbork-Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Westerbork’ staat op dit metalen treinbord. De terugreis die wordt vermeld wordt door niemand gemaakt. Op 15 en 16 juli 1942 vertrekken de eerste twee treinen met ruim 2000 joden van doorgangskamp Westerbork naar het vernietigingskamp Auschwitz in Polen.

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De geschiedenis van kamp Westerbork is onlosmakelijk verbonden met het lot dat de Joodse gemeenschap tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog trof. De Jodenvervolging die zich tussen 1940 en 1945 afspeelde, zorgde ervoor dat een gemeenschap die zich sinds honderden jaren in Nederland bevond, grotendeels werd uitgeroeid.

Bijna 107.000 mensen zijn met 97 transporten vanuit kamp Westerbork gedeporteerd.
Op 15 juli 1942 vertrok het eerste transport naar Auschwitz-Birkenau. Vanaf 2 maart 1943 tot 16 november 1943 was er sprake van een wekelijks ritme: iedere dinsdag vertrok een trein met duizend tot soms meer dan drieduizend personen.

westerdeparture
De deportaties werden georganiseerd vanuit Berlijn: datum, bestemming en het aantal te deporteren mensen. De SS-commandant van Westerbork was verantwoordelijk voor het opstellen van de transportlijsten. De uitvoering werd overgelaten aan de Joodse kampleiding. De bestemming was meestal Auschwitz of Sobibor. Enkele keren Bergen-Belsen en Theresienstadt en soms een ander kamp. Het laatste grote transport vertrok met 279 Joden op 13 september 1944 naar Bergen-Belsen. Slechts 5.000 gedeporteerden overleefden de oorlog.

De gevangenen in Westerbork leven tussen hoop en vrees, van transport tot transport. De avond voor het vertrek is ondraaglijk. In de barak wordt dan bekendgemaakt wie moet vertrekken. De volgende dag is er geen ontkomen aan. In iedere smerige wagon van de lange trein worden soms wel 70 mensen met bagage gepropt. De deuren worden aan de buitenkant vergrendeld. ‘Mannen wordt het te machtig, ze slikken de tranen weg. De trein gilt; de giftige slang begint te schuifelen’, schrijft Philip Mechanicus in Westerbork in zijn dagboek.

Vanuit Nederland zijn 107.000 joden en 245 Sinti en Roma grotendeels via Westerbork weggevoerd.

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The “Jewish-SS” of Westerbork

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Ironically Camp Westerbork had been set up in 1939 to house Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi Germany to the Netherlands.

Following the German invasion of the Netherlands, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a deportation camp. From this camp, 101,000 Dutch Jews and about 5,000 German Jews were deported to their deaths in Occupied Poland. In addition, there were about 400 Gypsies in the camp and, at the very end of the War, some 400 women from the resistance movement.1024px-Westerbork-monument2

The Ordenienst, or Jewish police in Westerbork, were universally detested by camp inmates for their cruelty and role in collaborating with the Nazis. Composed of Jews from Holland and other European countries, members of the OD were responsible for guarding the punishment block and generally maintaining order in the camp. The OD consisting of 20 men in mid-1942, grew to a peak of 182 men in April 1943 and stood at 67 in February 1944. Wearing the “OD” badge on the left breast was decreed in Camp Order No. 27 of 23 April 1943.

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The general supervision of the camp was in the hands of the SS and early on they were also responsible for the security in the vicinity of the camp. Daily life inside the camp was overseen by different Jewish work groups, including the Ordedienst  (Order Service). The members of this group, who wore these green coveralls, were responsible for fire safety and internal security.

 

They supervised the labour gangs, both inside and outside the camp. They also guarded the people scheduled for transport to the concentration and extermination camps. At times the Jewish Order Service was also deployed for razzias (roundups) in Amsterdam

 

And also  to retrieve the sick from their homes and for instance to empty the Jewish psychiatric hospital the Apeldoornsche Bosch in 1943.Hoofdgebouw_Apeldoornsche_Bosch_(ca._1930)

Needless to say, members of the Orderdienst were not particularly popular among Westerbork’s prisoners and often referred to as the ‘Jewish-SS’. Ultimately, most of the members of the Jewish Order Service were transported as well.

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The return journeys that never happened

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This metal train sign ‘Westerbork-Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Westerbork’ indicated a return trip that nobody would ever make.

westerbork

 

On 15 and 16 July 1942, the first two cargo trains packed with more than 2,000 Jews left the Westerbork Transit Camp headed for the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland. Most of the people aboard these transports were killed the same day they arrived. A total of 65 trains left for Auschwitz alone.

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The prisoners at Westerbork lived from transport to transport and between hope and fear. The evening before a departure was unbearable because the names of those who would be transported were announced then. The next day there was no escape. Sometimes as many as 70 people with all their bags were crammed into each filthy boxcar of the lengthy train. The doors were then bolted shut from the outside. ‘It is overwhelming for the men; they swallow their tears. The train screeches: the poisonous snake begins to inch forward,’ wrote the Dutch writer and photographer Philip Mechanicus in the diary he kept in Westerbork.

philipmechanicus

Of the 107,000 Jews and 245 Sinti and Roma who were deported from the Netherlands, for the most part via Westerbork, only a total of 5,000 people returned.

Sadly enough Westerbork was established and built by  Dutch government as a refugee camp, in 1939, financed partly by Dutch Jews, to absorb fleeing Jews from Nazi Germany. The Jewish refugees were housed after they had tried to escape Nazi terror in their homeland.

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Following the German invasion of the Netherlands, the Nazis took over the camp and turned it into a deportation camp.

The general supervision of the camp was in the hands of the SS and early on they were also responsible for the security in the vicinity of the camp. Daily life inside the camp was overseen by different Jewish work groups, including the Ordedienst  (Lit. Order Service). The members of this group, who wore these green coveralls, were responsible for fire safety and internal security.

oredediemst

 

They supervised the labour gangs, both inside and outside the camp. They also guarded the people scheduled for transport to the concentration and extermination camps. At times the Jewish Order Service was also deployed for razzias (roundups) in Amsterdam, to retrieve the sick from their homes and for instance to empty the Jewish psychiatric hospital the Apeldoornsche Bosch in 1943.

apeldoornse_bosch_personeel1937

Needless to say, members of the Orderdienst were not particularly popular among Westerbork’s prisoners and often referred to as the ‘Jewish-SS’. Eventually, most of the members of the Jewish Order Service were transported as well.

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The betrayal of Anne Frank and her Family.

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Today marks the 73rd anniversary of Anne Frank’s arrest.

I will not go to deep into Anne Frank’s story because so much is already written about her by people who know an awful lot about her then I do. I want to focus on that fateful day and the aftermath.

On a warm summer’s day on August 4 1944, four Gestapo policemen raided a canal warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam.

The eight Jewish people hiding in the annex there were arrested: Otto Frank, his wife and two children; the van Pels family of three; and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist. They were taken to Westerbork Kamp and from there herded into cattle wagons bound for Auschwitz. Of the eight, only Otto returned.

 

On the morning of 4 August 1944, following a tip from an informer who has never been identified, the Achterhuis was stormed by a group of German uniformed police (Grüne Polizei) led by SS-Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer of the Sicherheitsdienst and members of the NSB

Karl_Josef_Silberbauer,_member_of_SD,_SS_and_Gestapo

The doors to the stockroom stood open, and the first to enter was the Austrian Nazi SS Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer, followed by the Dutch NSB members (Dutch national socialists, allied to the Nazis) Gezinus Gringhuis, Willem Grootendorst and Maarten Kuiper. The hiders were taken away (and apparently their number was more than expected, as a second car had to be called for), along with two of the four helpers present that day. The remaining staff was not interfered with.

The Franks, van Pelses, and Pfeffer were taken to RSHA headquarters(Reich Main Security Office), where they were interrogated and held overnight. On 5 August they were transferred to the Huis van Bewaring (House of Detention), an overcrowded prison on the Weteringschans. Two days later they were transported to the Westerbork transit camp, through which by that time more than 100,000 Jews, mostly Dutch and German, had passed. Having been arrested in hiding, they were considered criminals and sent to the Punishment Barracks for hard labor.

During the raid, a policeman emptied Otto’s briefcase to fill it with the fugitives’ valuables. In his haste, he dropped a batch of papers and a small diary belonging to Otto’s daughter. This diary, the diary of Anne Frank, was to become the most widely read document to emerge from the Holocaust.

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Of the eight Jewish hiders, only Otto Frank returned after the war, as did the two arrested helpers Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler. The Secret Annex had been betrayed, but by who?

There are 3 main suspects.

Firstly there is Tonny Ahlers a member of the NSB the Dutch Nazi party.

Photo of Ahlers

Ahlers was a violent anti-semite. By the early 1940s he had a lengthy criminal record and had been involved in numerous brawls in Jewish-owned cafes. During the war he denounced Jews and members of the Dutch underground to the Germans. In 1945, Ahlers was tried for his wartime activities and sent to prison.

Tonny Ahlers visited Otto Frank at his office in April 1941, to confront him with a letter addressed to the NSB that mentioned a conversation between Frank and Job Jansen, a former employee. In this conversation, Otto Frank had expressed negative views about the German occupier. Ahlers said that he worked as a courier for the SD (Nazi security service) and for the NSB, and said that he had intercepted the letter by chance. Subsequent investigations showed that he was indeed a frequent visitor at the Security Service, but that his role as courier was simply made up. It is known that Frank twice gave money to Ahlers, though probably not more than 50 guilders altogether. It has not been established that Ahlers visited Frank regularly.

Ahlers was notoriously anti-Semitic, for which he was also convicted after the war, but also an inveterate liar and a braggart. This makes it difficult for researchers to distinguish fact from fiction. Can Ahlers have been the betrayer personally, or did he pass on information to the Nazi Security Service, for example? The latter is possible. Ahlers started a business in the same kind of commodities as Otto Frank’s business. This would have given him access to the stockroom of Opekta / Pectacon, later Gies & Co., when coming to collect ordered goods at Prinsengracht. In this way he may also have had contact with the stockroom manager Willem van Maaren. It is regrettable that Ahlers’ widow, Martha van Kuik, was not interrogated extensively. She was an eye-witness and may have known and seen a great deal. She is still alive today. Carol Ann Lee, biographer of Otto Frank (2002), was the first to present this theory about Tonny Ahlers. In her book she works towards identifying Ahlers as the betrayer, yet without explicitly labeling him as such. It remains a speculative theory, woven into her pages. The Dutch television program Andere tijden, aired on March 12, 2002, explores Lee’s theory.

Willem van Maaren

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Stockroom manager Willem van Maaren was suspected of the betrayal for many years, although he never sided with the Nazis. He stole goods and was generally considered dishonest. In Anne’s diary it becomes clear that the Annex occupants also did not trust him. However, inquiries conducted after the war did not turn up any evidence that he was the betrayer. On the other hand, his eager inquisitiveness was very striking. In all sorts of ways, he tried to establish whether people had entered the stockroom in the evening or during the night. From what he noticed, he must have concluded that this was indeed the case. Another very unusual moment occurred when he asked the employees whether there had previously been a Mr. Frank at the office. It is unknown how he came to that name, or why he asked that question. Van Maaren supplied goods to various customers, but it cannot be determined whether Ahlers was one of these. That Ahlers and Van Maaren knew each other, so that Van Maaren may have tried to obtain information for Ahlers, is yet another theory that sounds plausible but that cannot be proven.

 

Nelly Voskuijl

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Nelly Voskuijl, a younger sister of Bep Voskuijl (in the photo), one of the helpers of Anne Frank and her family in the secret annex in Amsterdam, possibly disclosed in 1944 the hiding place of the Frank’s to SS commander Karl Silberbauer. In 2015, Flemish journalist Jeroen de Bruyn and Joop van Wijk, Bep Voskuijl’s youngest son, wrote a biography, Bep Voskuijl, het zwijgen voorbij: een biografie van de jongste helper van het Achterhuis (Bep Voskuijl, the Silence is Over: A Biography of the Youngest Helper of the Secret Annex), in which they alleged that Bep’s younger sister Nelly (1923–2001) could have betrayed the Frank family. According to the book, Bep’s sister Diny and her fiance Bertus Hulsman recollected Nelly telephoning the Gestapo on the morning of 4 August 1944  Nelly had been critical of Bep and their father, Johannes Voskuijl, helping the Jews. (Johannes was the one who constructed the bookcase covering the entrance to the hiding place.) Nelly was a Nazi collaborator . Karl Silberbauer, the SS officer who received the phone call and made the arrest, was documented to say that the informer had “the voice of a young woman.

It could of course also have been a coincidence.As the period of hiding went on for longer, the hiders became less careful. Curtains were opened beyond just a crack, rooftop windows inadvertently stayed open, accidental noises became more frequent, and so on. All in all, the visible evidence mounted for the world outside that there were people in the building after office hours. People in the outside world may quite innocently have mentioned this in conversation, which could have been overheard by the wrong persons. In this scenario, the name of the night watchman Martin Sleegers plays a prominent role. Following the report of a burglary in the premises in April 1944, he and a police officer went to investigate. They actually fumbled with the bookcase that hid the entrance to the Secret Annex. Anne describes this burglary in her diary entry of April 11, 1944. There is no concrete evidence that Sleegers betrayed the hiders. While it is a fact Sleegers knew the NSB member Gringhuis (who was present at the arrest), this in itself does not constitute proof.

On 3 September 1944, the group was deported on what would be the last transport from Westerbork to the Auschwitz concentration camp and arrived after a three-day journey. On the same train was Bloeme Evers-Emden, an Amsterdam native who had befriended Margot and Anne in the Jewish Lyceum in 1941.

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Bloeme saw Anne, Margot, and their mother regularly in Auschwitz, and was interviewed for her remembrances of the Frank women in Auschwitz in the television documentary The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank (1988) by Dutch filmmaker Willy Lindwer and the BBC documentary Anne Frank Remembered (1995).

In early 1945, a typhus epidemic spread through Bergen-Belsen, killing 17,000 prisoners. Other diseases, including typhoid fever, were rampant.Due to these chaotic conditions, it is not possible to say what ultimately caused Anne’s death. Witnesses later testified Margot fell from her bunk in her weakened state and was killed by the shock. Anne died a few days after Margot. The exact dates of Margot and Anne’s deaths were not recorded. It was long thought that their deaths occurred only a few weeks before British soldiers liberated the camp on 15 April 1945,but new research in 2015 indicated that they may have died as early as February of that year.Among other evidence, witnesses recalled that the Franks displayed typhus symptoms by 7 February, and Dutch health authorities reported that most untreated typhus victims died within 12 days of their first symptoms.After liberation, the camp was burned in an effort to prevent further spread of disease; the sisters were buried in a mass grave at an unknown location.

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I have often been to  Amsterdam but never got the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank house, mainly due to the sheer amount of people trying to get in.

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It is good to see that so many people are still interested in her story.

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Nicolette Bruining-WW2 Hero, Theologian and Broadcaster.

Nicolette Bruining was a truly remarkable woman and her legacy still lives on to this day, although in ways not necessarily how she had envisaged.

 

Nicolette Adriana Bruining (27 August 1886 – 12 April 1963) was a Dutch theologian and founding president of the Liberal Protestant Radio Broadcasting Corporation (Dutch: Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep) (VPRO).

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She was also a teacher and humanitarian, assisting Jews during the Second World War. Her aid was acknowledged by the state of Israel, which posthumously awarded her as Righteous Among the Nations in 1990.

The VPRO is still broadcasting and has a number of controversial shows. Some of the programs are very cutting edge and often just go too far and I presume they don’t really reflect what Nicolette Bruining had envisaged. It showed the first nudity on Dutch TV in 1967.

Nicolette Adriana Bruining was born on 27 August 1886 in Stompetoren, Netherlands to Aida Helena Elisabeth (née Huygens) and Albertus Bruining.She graduated from Barlaeus Gymnasium in Amsterdam and decided to follow in her father’s footsteps, pursuing her university studies in theology. She enrolled at the University of Amsterdam, where her father was a professor, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1912. That same year, she began teaching religion at various schools, including the teacher training school of the Haagsch Genootschap (The Hague Society) In 1916, she presented her dissertation on the Dutch dogmatic Lutheran theologian Franz Hermann Reinhold von Frank (De Theologie van F.H.R. von Frank).She joined the Association of Liberal Protestants and served as chair of The Hague’s chapter. She also began preaching in various municipalities for both the liberal branch of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Netherlands Protestant Association.

In 1923, she helped establish the Vrijzinnige Geloofsgemeenschap NPB(Liberal Community of Faith NBP)to broaden the scope of the church. In particular, she proposed that the new medium of radio be used to disseminate the liberal Christian view.In 1925, Bruining and E. D. Spelberg set up a committee to investigate the possibility of broadcasting programming in support of their cause; they discovered that the government body responsible for broadcast licensing would only grant airtime to legally established organizations. As a result, the Central Committee went on in 1926 to establish the Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep (Liberal Protestant Radio Broadcasting Corporation, VPRO); Bruining was president, and Spelberg secretary.Bruining publicized their approach both in their broadcasts and in the articles frequently published in the radio magazine Vrije Geluiden (Free Sounds), advocating non-sectarianism and inviting all intellectual movements to participate.

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During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, VPRO was banned from broadcasting.

Bruining had been teaching Hebrew to upper level classes at the municipal high school in The Hague, but in 1941,

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all Jewish students were expelled and she quit teaching in protest. She transferred the course to her own home so that all her former pupils could continue studying Hebrew after school hours. After a while, Elisabeth’s former classmates stopped attending Hebrew lessons.

However, Nicolette insisted that Elisabeth should continue studying with her, on a private basis, and the two became close friends. In July 1942, when Elisabeth’s father refused to report for work in Germany, he was forced to find a hideout for himself and his family. He turned to Nicolette for assistance. For the following three years, Nicolette became the intermediary between Elisabeth, her eight-year-old sister, Anita, and the underground movement.

Nicolette found a hiding place for Anita with Hermina Heinen-Rots in Aalten, Gelderland. However, finding a hideout for Elisabeth was more complicated because she was over 16 years old and therefore required forged papers. During this time, Elisabeth was forced to relocate several times and each time Nicolette, often with her friend Jacoba van Tongeren*, was instrumental in the move. On more than one occasion, Nicolette accompanied Elisabeth to her new hideout by train.

This was especially dangerous because she was well known as the head of the Liberal Protestant Radio Organization and as a vociferous opponent to the occupation. Throughout this time, Nicolette provided Elisabeth with food coupons, the price of which was astronomical. Nicolette also delivered letters between Elisabeth, Anita, and their parents, before the latter were deported. One Sunday in April 1943, Nicolette took upon herself the task of telling Elisabeth that her parents had been betrayed and sent to Westerbork.

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Nicolette, who was not married and had no children, became very attached to Elisabeth and Anita during the war. They all remained in contact afterwards.

Like anyone else aiding or harboring Jews, Nicolette would have surely faced the Death penalty if she had been found out. The fact that she was a prominent figure in the Netherlands multiplied those risks manifold.

In 1945, VPRO was allowed to go back on the air. Bruining and Spelberg were fully reinstated in 1947. In 1951, when the Dutch Television Foundation was established, Bruining served on its board as a representative of VPRO. Throughout the 1950s, she hosted a program known as Today; owing to her preferences, the program was broadcast live.

She was very disciplined and committed to her work, this earned her the nickname of the Golda Meir of Liberal protestant movement.

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Between 1948 and 1957 she was the President of the International Union of Liberal Christian Women, which was part of the International Association of Religious Freedom

In 1945, VPRO was allowed to go back on the air. Bruining and Spelberg were fully reinstated in 1947. In 1951, when the Dutch Television Foundation was established, Bruining served on its board as a representative of VPRO. Throughout the 1950s, she hosted a program known as Today; owing to her preferences, the program was broadcast live. She retired in 1956 and was made honorary president of VPRO for life.Bruining died on 12 April 1963 in The Hague.

Posthumously, she was honored by the government of Israel on 7 March 1990 as one of the Righteous Among the Nations,an award granted to recognize non-Jews for assisting Jews in surviving the Holocaust,for her assistance to the Waisvisz family.

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