Just three names if the 1.5 million.

Sometimes I feel like just giving up posting about the Holocaust, but I know I can’t.

It is not always the images that upset me, more often it is that lack of images that get to me. There are no images because the victims were just too young and were born in captivity, so there were no facilities to have a baby portrait taken. Parents could not show of there beautiful angels to friends and families.

These are just three names, with three connections and one fate.

Leo Jack Mathijse: Born in Amsterdam, 26 November 1942. Murdered in Auschwitz, 27 August 1943 Reached the age of 9 months.

Max Jack Stern: Born in The Hague, 26 November 1942. Murdered in Sobibor, 5 March 1943.Reached the age of 3 months

Roosje Gobets:Born in Amsterdam, 26 November 1942.Murdered in Sobibor, 2 April 1943 Reached the age of 4 months.

The connections; they were all born this day 80 years ago. They all were born under occupation, and they all were in Westerbork at some stage.

The one fate; they were all murdered before they were 1 year old.






Johannes van der Hoek—Born to be Murdered

This story has torn my heart open. I can’t tell you too much about Johannes van der Hoek all I can tell you is that he was born on November 6, 1942, in Westerbork. He must have been placed on a transport to Auschwitz, straight after his birth because, he was murdered there on November 9, 1942, with his mother and his 2-year-old sister, Johanna, just three days after he was born.

His father was murdered a few months later, April 30, 1943. also in Auschwitz.

The very sad irony is that on Johannes’s birthday, November 6, 1942, the Soviet POWs mutinied and escaped from Birkenau. Under cover of fog and falling darkness, they forced their way past the SS guard posts into a part of the Birkenau camp, still under construction, that was not fenced. However, the majority of them were shot or caught during the escape.

Why a 3 day old baby—why?





The Evil of False Hope

I believe that one of the most evil crimes committed by the Nazi regime was the crime of false hope. In Westerbork the illusion was created that all wasn’t that bad. Everything was arranged to give prisoners the impression that they would be sent to working camps in Eastern Europe. Life there would be heavy, hard, and monotonous, but it would be liveable. In any case, children and families would be together. That was the information provided at the time.

In the period of 1943-1944, Westerbork’s commander Gemmeker arranged a variety of recreational facilities to make life in the camp run as normally as possible. There were sports facilities, music and cabaret,which also served his own amusement. There was even a fully functional HospitalThe ‘decent’ treatment by the Nazis, the system of exemptions, the hospital, and the cabaret served only one purpose: the creation of illusions. After all, eventually, everyone had to be put on transport. The system only ended up providing false hope.

In January 1941, the German authorities required all Jews to register themselves as Jews. A total of 159,806 persons registered, including 19,561 persons born of mixed marriages. The total included some 25,000 Jewish refugees from the German Reich. A Jewish council was established in February 1941. Most of them were sent to Westerbork before they were deported to Auschwitz, Sobibor or other camps. less then 25% of the Dutch Jewry survived the Holocaust.




The Murder of Two Beautiful Children

Rita and Sandor Joachim Krammer were both murdered in Auschwitz on October 26, 1942. Rita was born on 5 January 1935 in Groningen, the Netherlands. Her little brother, Sander Joachim, was born on 15 March 1937.
Their mother, Regina Krammer-Gunsberger. was born in Deutschkreuz in Austria, and their father Jacob Krammer, in Coevorden. He was a traveling salesman selling jerseys.

An eyewitness and playmate of Rita mentioned that she often played outside in the evenings with Rita and Sandor (who was referred to as “Little Brother”).

When Rita was six years old, her father was put to work in the Kloosterhaar camp near Hardenberg in July 1942. She stands behind Groningen with her mother and her brother. Just three months later—on October 3, 1942, Rita, Sander Joachim, and their mother were deported to Westerbork. On October 26, 1942, they were killed in Auschwitz.

Their father managed to escape the labor camp and went into hiding until the end of the war. Only then he learned what happened to his wife and children. He died in Groningen on September 11, 1987.


160 Days

Elleke Trijtel was born in Amsterdam on October 24. 160-days later, they murdered you in Sobibor.

Dear Elleke, your parents loved each other, you were the fruit of their love. You were born under a regime that hated you so much, they only allowed you to live 160 days.

There was no rain the day you were born. It was a mild day, 16-degree centigrade, quite warm for the end of October.

It was a Saturday.

In Tipperary, Ireland, Frank Delaney was born on the same day as you were born. But he lived much longer than 160 days. He became a famous author and reporter for the BBC.

You could have become famous if you had been given a chance.

160 days, 3840 hours. There was no time for pictures to be taken. All that is left to prove that you existed was a card from Westerbork with your name on it. A card from an organized registration system.

On March 30, 1943 you were put on a train to Sobibor, where you were murdered two days later on April 2, 1943, the last of your 160 days.



They Thought They Were Safe

Approximately 25,000 Jews from Germany and Austria sought refuge in the Netherlands in the 1930s after the Nazis came to power. They were welcomed in the Netherlands because many Dutch were appalled by the treatment of the Jews in Germany. The picture above shows a large protest meeting in the Amsterdam R.A.I. in 1938 against the treatment of the Jews in Germany. More than 25,000 Dutch people attended this meeting.

The Dutch were always known as a multicultural and lingual, liberal nation. German and Austrian Jewish parents sent their children to the Netherlands, knowing they would be safe.

The German Jewish refugees arrived at the Burger orphanage in Naarden (1938), undergoing medical examination.

To facilitate the influx of Jewish refugees the Dutch government established a refugee camp at Westerbork (Centraal Vluchtelingenkamp 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 ship MS St. Louis.

On May 13, 1939, more than 900 Jews fled Germany aboard a luxury cruise liner, the MS St Louis. They hoped to reach Cuba and then travel to the United States, but were turned away in Havana and forced to return to Europe.

After a journey that took weeks, 907 German Jewish refugees arrived with the MS St. Louis in the port of Antwerp. Two children look with dejected faces through the porthole of the ship at the disembarkation in the harbor.

For those who ended up in Westerbork, their troubles were far from over. On May 10, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded 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. And the conditions were still relatively good.

In July 1942, the Nazis began operating Westerbork as a Jewish transit camp. The majority of Jews, Dutch and non-Dutch, were deported from Westerbork to predominantly Auschwitz and Sobibor.

Also, the Dutch Jews who had lived in the Netherlands as fully integrated Dutch citizens, for centuries, suddenly became ‘lesser’ citizens. They were persecuted by the German occupiers, but there were many Dutch, often their neighbors, who were eager to help the Nazis to identify them, and make sure that new laws introduced by the Nazi rir.

Westerbork. At the Post Office.

In this secretly taken photograph(below) on June 20, 1943, Amsterdam-South and the Transvaal neighborhood in east Amsterdam were hermetically closed. Loudspeaker cars drove through the streets. Almost all Jews had to go to certain assembly points, from where they were taken to the station by trams. Many Jews, however, turned out to be hiding. That is why, later that day, all houses were systematically searched and arrested Jews were removed with army trucks, such as here on the Krügerplein/corner Schalk Burgerstraat in the Transvaalbuurt. The Ordnungspolizei was assisted in this ‘collection action’ by the special Jewish auxiliary police from the Westerbork transit camp. These men were recognizable by a white band around their arms.

They all thought were safe, but at some stage, they couldn’t have been more wrong. They arrived in a country that had a civilian registration second to none in the world, this efficient part of the bureaucracy, made it so easy for the Nazis.




Klara Borstel-Engelsman—Murdered aged 102

I once wrote a piece about Klara Borstel-Engelsman. Today is the 78th anniversary of her murder, and I felt compelled to do another one, just to show how utterly cruel, insane and absurd the Nazi regime was. Klara was murdered at age 102. She was the oldest Dutch person to be murdered by the Nazis.

Klara Engelsman was born on April 30, 1842 in Amsterdam as daughter of Salomon (also known as Samuel) Abraham Engelsman and Saartje Hartog Cosman. Klara Engelsman married Daniel Brush on 24 May 1865. As far as is known, the couple had no children. Daniel Brush died at the age of 76 on 9 July 1918 in Amsterdam.

At the time of her 100th birthday, Mrs. Klara Brush-Engelsman lived at the home of the Morpurgo family at 18-II Jonas Daniël Meijerplein. Later she stayed in the Jewish care home. In March 1944 she arrived in camp Westerbork, where she was nursed in the camp hospital. There she still experienced her 102th birthday. She was taken on a stretcher to the train on September 4, 1944, which went to Theresienstadt, where she was murdered on October 12, 1944.

Taking away the emotions, what was the actual point of putting a 102 year old on a train to be murdered. I know many will say she wasn’t murdered, that she just died, but if you put someone that age on a cattle train, of course it is murder.

It makes no sense on a human sense, economical sense, military sense none whatsoever, it would have benefited no one, yet she was put on that train.

Rest in peace dear Klara.



Labor Camp ‘De Fledders’

Group photo of ‘Room 3’ in Kamp De Fledders near Norg in Drenthe.

When I saw this photograph I was reminded of another photograph. It was a picture of my colleagues and I in 1993/1994. It was taken at work on the day of the retirement of one of my colleagues at the time. We had a small party afterwards at the cafeteria of Philips Sittard. The picture was much dissimilar to the picture above.

However the circumstances could not be more different. The photograph is of a group of men who were all interned at the labor camp ‘de Fledder’ in Drenthe in the north east of the Netherlands.

On January 7, 1942, the Jewish Council in Amsterdam was pressured and held responsible for supplying 1,402 Jewish unemployed people. In the end, 1075 unemployed were identified and more than 900 men gathered at the Amstel station on 10 January. They were sent to the labor camps in the northern provinces, in particular to perform reclamation work for the Heidemij company
Of these men, 120 in total, were in Camp De Fledders near Norg in Drenthe. On October 3, Yom Kippur, 1942, the Jewish men we were deported by train to camp Westerbork. None of them survived the war.

When you look at the expression of the men’s faces, you can see all emotions from joy to sadness, and hope to despair. One man even has a bunch of flowers, possibly with the hope he will be able to give them to his wife.

The Heidemij company is now known as Arcadis NV , a global design, engineering and management consulting company. I don’t have any current figures but in 2019 the company had a revenue of 3.5 Billion Euro. Thier current stock price is € 33.50 per share. Their tagline is “Improving Quality of Life” it doesn’t appear to me that they improved the life of those who worked for them in 1942.

As for the men who were murdered in various camps after the labor camp closed, all that remains is this monument with these words by Jacqueline van der Waals:



I sincerely hope that Arcadis paid for the monument. Somehow I doubt it though.





September 29,1943-the last raid in Amsterdam.

On September 29, 1943, Amsterdam was declared ‘Judenrein’. (Free of Jews) This happened after a major raid, in which 5,000 people, including the board and employees of the Jewish Council, were arrested and transported via Amstel station to camp Westerbork.

Those who were able to avoid the raids ended up in hiding places. A countrywide hunt for Jews in hiding was conducted. Several additional deportation trains left in late 1943 and early 1944. The solution of the Jewish ‘problem’ in the Netherlands was almost final. Against this background, and as Germany’s overall situation deteriorated, Arthur Seyss-Inquart wrote a summarizing report of the anti-Jewish campaign in the Netherlands.

“Reich Committee for the Occupied Netherlands Territories, The Hague to Party Chancellery Chief Bormann copies to General Commissars in Netherlands and Plenipotentiary Dr. Schroeder

February 28, 1944

Dear Party Comrade Bormann,

We have cleaned up the Jewish question in the Netherlands, insofar as now we only have to carry out decisions that have already been formulated. The Jews have been eliminated from the body of the Dutch people and, insofar as they have not been transported to the East for labor, they are enclosed in a camp. We are dealing here first of all with some 1,500 persons who have not been transported to the East for special reasons such as interventions by churches or by personalities who are close to us. In the main I have warded off the interference of the churches in the whole Jewish question in that I held back the Christian Jews in a closed camp where they can be visited weekly by clergy. About 8-9,000 Jews have avoided transport by submerging [in hiding]. By and by they are being seized and sent to the East; at the moment, the rate of seizures is 5-600 a week. The Jewish property has been confiscated and is undergoing liquidation.

With the exception of a few enterprises which have not yet been Aryanized, but which have been placed under trusteeship, the liquidation is finished and the property converted into financial papers of the Reich. I count on a yield of ca. 500 million Guilders [more than $250,000,000]. At some appropriate time the future utilization of this money is to be decided on in concert with the Reich Finance Minister; however, the Reich Finance Minister agrees in principle to the use of these funds for purposes in the Netherlands.

The question of Jews in mixed marriages is still open. Here we went further than the Reich and obliged also these Jews to wear the star. I had also ordered that the Jewish partner in a childless mixed marriage should likewise be brought to the East for labor. Our Security Police processed a few hundred such cases, but then received instructions from Berlin not to go on, so that a few thousand of these Jews have remained in the country. Finally, Berlin expressed the wish that the Jews in mixed marriages be concentrated in the Jewish camp Westerbork, to be employed here in labor for the moment. Herewith we raise the problem of mixed marriages. Since this matter is basic I turn to you. The following is to be considered with respect to marriages in which there are children: if one parent is brought to a concentration camp and then probably to labor in the East, the children will always be under the impression that we took the parent away from them. As a matter of fact, the offspring of mixed marriages are more troublesome than full Jews. In political trials, for example, we can determine that it is precisely these offspring who start or carry out most of the assassination attempts or sabotage. If we now introduced a measure that is sure to release the hatred of these people, then we will have a group in our midst with which we will hardly be able to deal in any way save separation. If, in short, there is a plan which is aimed at the removal of Jewish partners from mixed marriages with children, then the children of these marriages will sooner or later have to travel the same road. Hence I believe that it may be more appropriate not to start on this course, but to decide in each instance whether to remove the whole family or—with due regard to security police precautions—to permit the Jewish member to remain in the family. In the first case, the couple, complete with children, will have to be segregated, possibly like the Jews in Theresienstadt. But in that case one must remember that the offspring will get together to have more children, so that practically the Jewish problem will not be solved lest we take some opportunity to remove this whole society from the Reich’s sphere of interest. We are [now] trying the other way in that we free the Jewish partner who is no longer to have children, or who allows himself to be sterilized, from wearing the star and permit him to stay with his family. These Jews—at the moment there must be 4-5,000 in the Netherlands—remain under a certain amount of security police control with respect to residence and employability. For example, they are not permitted to direct an enterprise which has employees or occupy a leading position in such an enterprise. There are quite a few volunteers for sterilization. I believe also that we have nothing to fear any more from these people, since their decision indicates a willingness to accept conditions as they are. The situation with the Jewish women is not so simple, since the surgical procedure is known to be difficult. All the same I believe in time this way will yield results, provided one does not decide on the radical method of removing the whole family. For the Netherlands, then, I would consider the following for a conclusion of the Jewish problem:

  1. The male Jewish partner in a mixed marriage—so far as he has not been freed from the star for reasons mentioned above—is taken for enclosed labor to Westerbork. This measure would signify no permanent separation, but action of a security police nature for the duration of exceptional conditions. These Jews will be employed accordingly and will also receive appropriate wages with which they can support their families who will remain behind. They will also receive a few days leave about once in three months. One can proceed with childless female partners in mixed marriages in the same way. We have here in the Netherlands 834 male Jews in childless mixed marriages, 2,775 [male] Jews in mixed marriages with children, and 574 Jewesses in childless mixed marriages. Under certain circumstances these Jews can return to their families, for example, if they submit to sterilization, or if the reasons for separation become less weighty in some other way, or if other precautions are taken or conditions develop which make separation no longer seem necessary.
  2. The Jewish women in mixed marriages with children—the number involved is 1,448—should be freed from the star. The following considerations apply here: it is impossible to take these Jewish women from their families—the Reich Security Main Office agrees—if there are children under 14. On the other hand the women with children over 14 would in most cases have reached an age which would entitle them to request freedom from the star because it is hardly likely that they will have more children.
  3. I am now going to carry out the Law for the Protection of Blood [prohibition of intermarriage and extramarital relations between Aryans and non-Aryans] in the Netherlands, and
  4. make possible divorce in mixed marriages by reason of race difference. These four measures together will constitute a final cleanup of the Jewish question in the Netherlands. Since this regulation could in a certain sense produce a precedent for the Reich, even while in the long run the regulation of mixed marriages in the Reich will also apply in the Netherlands, I am informing you, Mr. Party Director, of my intentions in the hope that I may have your reactions. I wrote in the same vein to the Reichsfuehrer-SS [Himmler].

With best regards,
Heil Hitler!





Johnny & Jones- They were murdered, but not their music.

The one thing that always baffled me is the vehement hate the Nazis had for Jazz music. It was considered ‘Entartete Musik’,-degenerate music a label applied in the 1930s by the Nazis to Jazz and also other forms of music.

I have done a piece on Johnny & Jones before , this is not so much a follow up but more of an enhancement to the previous blog. I feel it is important to remember those who were murdered for their art and their religious background.

In the 1930s, the Amsterdam duo Nol (Arnold Siméon) van Wesel and Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser , alias Johnny and Jones, were extremely popular – thanks in part to their first single Mister Dinges Weet Niet Wat Swing Is. They were cousins, accompanying themselves on guitar, the musicians sang their swinging Jazz songs with smooth lyrics in a semi-American accent. Their careers come to an end when the two Jewish musicians are arrested by the Germans during World War II and they are killed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

In 1934, “The Bijko Rhythm Stompers” performed in De Bijenkorf, a group consisting of Bob Beek, Max Kannewasser, Max Meents and Nol van Wesel. This is the first time that the collaboration between Max (Salomon Meijer) Kannewasser (24 September 1916/Jones) and Nol (Arnold Simeon) van Wesel (23 August 1918/Johnny) can be traced.
In 1936 Johnny and Jones started performing as a singing duo. They were discovered during a performance in café-restaurant “Van Klaveren” on the corner of Frederiksplein – Weteringschans.
Shortly afterwards they quit their job at De Bijenkorf and entered the artist profession. They soon became the first teenage idols in our country.

They could be heard regularly on VARA radio from 1938. They then performed as an interlude with “The Ramblers”. They recorded records for the record label Decca, which started in November 1938 with the song “Mister Dinges does not know what Swing is”. This song became a great success.

Initially at the start of the war, Johnny and Jones were able to perform without much problem. For example, in February 1941 they performed in Amersfoort with “The Ramblers”, but at the end of 1941 this was forbidden for Jewish artists.

With growing pressure to go into hiding, their final performance was for a wedding reception of one of Arnold’s colleagues from de Bijenkorf(Dutch department store), Wim Duveen.

He married Betty Cohen in the main Synagogue of Amsterdam in 1942. Salomon had married Suzanne Koster in 1942, a woman from the Dutch East Indies (Surabaya) and Arnold had married Gerda Lindenstaedt, also in 1942, a German refugee who had come to Holland 1939.

The young men went into hiding with their wives in the Jewish nursing home “Joodsche Invalide,” where staff would hide them in an elevator between floors during inspections. When they were not hiding, they performed for staff and patients. Disaster struck on 29 September 1943 when the home was raided and its inhabitants sent to Westerbork.

They were put to work there processing parts of crashed aircraft, including Plexiglas (source: Leo Cohen, fellow prisoner in Westerbork).Johnny and Jones found a place in the camp at the revue (consisting of excellent artists). Since only German-language performances were allowed, Johnny and Jones had to learn German. So first that language had to be well mastered, so they only performed in March 1944 during a camp revue.

In August 1944, the two singers were allowed to leave the camp, with permission of the commandant, not only for their work disassembling parts but also to record songs in Amsterdam. In the NEKOS studios they recorded 6 songs about their life in Westerbork, including ‘Westerbork Serenade’.

Below is the translated text of the song.

“Hello we feel a little out of order,
To pull myself together is quite hard,
Suddenly I’m a different person,
My heart beats like the airplane wrecking yard.

I sing my Westerbork serenade,
Along the little rail-way the tiny silver moon shines
On the heath.
I sing my Westerbork serenade
With a pretty lady walking there together,
Cheek to cheek.
And my heart burns like the boiler in the boiler house,
Oh it never hit me quite like this at Mother’s place
I sing my Westerbork serenade,
In between the barracks I threw my arms around her
Over there
This Westerbork love affair.
And so I went over to the medic,
The guy says: “there is nothing you can do;
Oh but you will feel a whole lot better
After you give her a kiss or two
(But that you must not do…)”

A fellow artist who met them at the time wondered how Jews were allowed to walk freely in Amsterdam, without a yellow star. They told him about their temporary freedom. He suggested that they go into hiding but they refused. It was a camp rule: those who escaped risked the lives of their families, who would be deported. So they returned.

In September 1944 they were deported with their wives to Theresienstadt. They did not stay long. On a transport from Theresienstadt the duo were split from their wives: Salomon and Arnold were deported from camp to camp: Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and then finally, after a 10-day train journey, they ended up in Bergen-Belsen, where they died of exhaustion shortly before liberation and the end of the war. Nol van Wesel died on 20 March 1945, aged 26; Max Kannewasser died on 15 April 1945, aged 28.

Salomon’s mother-in-law, Marie Louise Koster, recalled seeing their bodies dragged out of the sick barracks onto a van, to be cremated. She was in the so-called Stern Lager (Star camp) with her husband Willem and her daughter Sonja. Salomon’s wife Suzanne survived Mauthausen and Auschwitz and lived in the USA until 2018. Gerda was killed in Auschwitz in 1944. Neither had children. Arnold’s parents were killed in Auschwitz in 1942. Salomon’s parents had died before the war. Their cousin Barend Beek went via Westerbork to Auschwitz and was killed in a subcamp of Stutthof on 11 December 1944.

They may have been murdered but their music lives on.

Johnny & Jones, playing for the union crowd of NVV, Breda, 1938.