Jan Gies

The saying goes “Behind Every Great Man There Is A Great Woman” but of course it can also be said that behind every great woman there is a great man.

The Anne Frank foundation said about Miep Gies’s husband. “Jan was not a person to stand in the limelight, not even amid all the publicity surrounding Anne Frank. He was throughout his lifetime a man of few words, but many deeds.”

Most of us will have heard about Miep Gies. But probably not so much about her Husband Jan Gies.

He was a member of the Dutch Resistance who, with his wife, Miep, helped hide Anne Frank, her sister Margot, their parents Otto and Edith, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer from Nazi persecution during the occupation of The Netherlands by aiding them as they resided in the Secret Annex. Helping Jews brought the risk of severe punishments, even death, if you were caught.

Jan met Otto Frank and his family through his fiancée, Miep Santrouschitz. From 1936 onwards, he would frequently visit them on Saturday afternoons, when the Franks invited friends and acquaintances. When Jews were no longer allowed to own or even rub businesses, Otto Frank was grateful for Jan’s help. Together with Victor Kugler, Jan founded the company Gies & Co. to take over Otto’s company Pectacon, and Jan took on the role of supervisory director. This was a way to keep Otto’s business safe from the Nazis and to avoid it to fall under the control of the Nazis.

Miep had been living in the Netherlands since December of 1920, she had always kept her Austrian nationality. However because Austria no longer existed due to its annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, Miep tried to obtain the Dutch nationality in 1939 by writing a letter to Queen Wilhemina.

Jan and Miep married on July 16,1941. Otto Frank was a witness at their wedding and Anne accompanied him. Edith did not attend because both Margot and Grandmother Holländer were ill. The wedding celebrations took place at Otto’s business premises. On behalf of her family and the office staff, Anne presented them with a silver plate.

Jan became involved in the resistance during the war. Because of his work as a social worker , he could easily visit people and thus, for example, distribute illegal papers. His contacts also helped him to obtain distribution coupons, and securing British newspapers free from Nazi propaganda. The couple also hid a Jewish man in their own home, and Mr. Gies provided ration coupons to members of the underground resistance. All of these activities were punishable by death.

The exact nature of his work for the resistance is unclear. Jan kept quiet about it. During the war it was a matter of course that he could not talk about what he did, and after the war he did not feel compelled to discuss it in detail.

When Otto Frank arrived on Miep and Jan’s doorstep in the summer of 1945, he would continue to live with them until 1953. His wife Edith and daughters Margot and Anne had died in the camps. Miep who had found and kept Anne’s diary safe was able to give Anne’s diary to Otto , and he saw to it that they were published in 1947. Jan and Miep’s son Paul was born on 30 July 1950.

Otto Frank, Miep and Jan Gies with son Paul, January 1951, Amsterdam

They continued to live in Amsterdam until Jan passed away in 1993.Jan died on January 26,1993.

The date January 26 has a personal meaning to me and it also has a special meaning in the context of the Holocaust victims of the Netherlands. My mother passed away on January 26,1996, and the Dutch government issued a formal and official apology on January 26,2020, to the family of the Holocaust victims in the Netherlands.

Today marks the 116 the Birthday of Jan Gies, and I often wonder how many lives could have been saved if there had been more people like him and his wife.

sources

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/main-characters/jan-gies/

https://www.miepgies.nl/en/biography/jan%20gies/

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Four murdered babies.

Whoever has the youth has the future. Whoever kills the youth destroys the future.

I can never understand the mindset of murdering innocent lives. No matter what ideology, any normal human being must know that killing a little healthy, happy child is wrong, more then wrong, it is evil and despicable.

Yet there were so called sophisticated people who had no issues murdering babies. They more then likely had children themselves, because having children was one of the priorities in the Nazi doctrine. Yet they murdered infants who were not considered ‘pure’. They did not realized that every child is pure?

The picture above is of Margaretha Bertha Aussen, she was born October 4,1941 in Amsterdam and was murdered in Auschwitz, September 10,1942 aged 11 months.

Jack Vleeschdrager was also born in Amsterdam on October 4,1941 and was murdered in Sobibor on June 4,1943 aged 20 months.

Abram Winnik, another child born in Amsterdam on October 4,1941. He was murdered in Sobibor on April 23,1943 aged 17 months.

Eva Kövesi another young citizen of the Dutch capital ,Amsterdam, also born on October 4,1941. Murdered in Auschwitz September 21,1942, aged 11 months.

All these 4 kids would have been 80 today, but they didn’t even make it to age 2. I hope that by writing down their names they will be remembered for generations to come.

source

The Evil of Herman Heukels.

Not every evil act was committed by a weapon or by sending people to the gas chamber. Some evil acts were much more subtle.

Herman Heukels was a photographer and a member of the NSB, the Dutch Nazi party, Herman’s weapon was a camera. He took pictures of several raids. His most famous pictures are probably those he took in Amsterdam, on the Olympia Square on June 20,1943, of Jews awaiting deportation . His photographs were published in “Storm” the newspaper for the Dutch SS.

It was evil because he knew these people were going to be deported to camps like Westerbork and eventually so Auschwitz and Sobibor. He knew that most of these people would be murdered. He took pictures of families who would be dead on a few weeks or few months later.

The people he took pictures of were clearly distressed. Their houses or apartments were just taken away from them, all they had left were a few suitcases. They didn’t know what the future would hold for them. But they knew it wasn’t good.

Herman did not take these pictures for them to pick them up after he had developed them. Herman posted them in a vile newspaper so that its readers could gloat.

Herman Heukels passport hd expired a day after he took the pictures on the Olympia Square, it expired on June 21,1943. He then applied for a foreign passport, I can only presume a German passport.

He was arrested after the war and committed suicide on April 26,1947,while in prison.

sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/thema/Herman%20Heukels

17,000,000 + deaths.

An estimated 17.3 million people were murdered by the German Nazi regime and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945, according to data published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The estimates are based on the regime’s own reports as well as demographic studies of population loss during World War II.

The numbers are broken down in groups: Jews, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, Non-Jewish Polish civilians, Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), People with disabilities living in institutions, Roma & Sinti (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Repeat criminal offenders and so-called a-socials, German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory, Homosexuals. Then there were also some smaller groups like the Freemasons and Esperanto speakers. The number is likely to be higher because there are no determined numbers for the German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory. The numbers who died afterwards due to suicide and/or diseases contracted during the imprisonment in the camps.

However lets go with that number of 17.3 million. This number is just to big to fathom for most pictures, to put his in perspective. That number is approximately the same as the current population of the Netherlands, or Syria. It would also be about the same as the combined population of Belgium and the whole Island of Ireland. Just imagine within 12 years the Nazis wiped out a whole nation or even several nations combined. This number of 17.3 million does not include military casualties. They were mainly civilians who were murdered.

Four of those 17.3 million were the Olivier family. Mozes Olivier, born February 4, 1891 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Betje van Thijn Olivier, born May 23, 1895 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Jeannette Olivier, born September 12, 1923 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Anna Olivier, born October 30, 1921 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

They were all murdered in Auschwitz on September 21,1942.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/chart/24024/number-of-victims-nazi-regime/

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/documenting-numbers-of-victims-of-the-holocaust-and-nazi-persecution

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/187373/mozes-olivier

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KLM Flight 633-Crash into the Shannon river.

Nowadays boarding a plane is nearly as common as get on a train. Come to think of it I have been probably more on a plane then in a train.

However in 1954 flying was quite expensive and was only affordable for a few or after saving money for it for possibly year, especially for transatlantic flights.

KLM Flight 633 was a passenger flight from Amsterdam to New York City. I had stopped over in Shannon Airport, Ireland.

The KLM Super Constellation, named “Triton”, operated on the Amsterdam-New York route. A scheduled refueling stop was made at Shannon. The flight left Shannon Terminal Building at 02:30 hours at night and taxied to runway 14 (5643 feet long). The before takeoff run-up was completed in takeoff position.

Takeoff was made at 02:38.on September 5,1954. V1 speed was reached at 3500 feet and lift-off at 125 knots was made just over the V2 speed at approximately 4000 feet from threshold. The flight then passed over the remaining 1600 feet of runway in a shallow climb, retracting its landing gear. The Constellation entered a shallow descent over the River Shannon. The duration of the flight was about 31 seconds from the time it passed over the end of the runway until the aircraft first contacted the water in a tail-down slightly right-wing low attitude. It came to rest on the Middle Ground, a shallow mudbank 8170 feet from the end of the runway, after losing engines no. 3 and 4.

The Lockheed Super Constellation Triton (registration PH-LKY[1]) was piloted by Adriaan Viruly, one of the airline’s most senior pilots. After a refuelling stop at Shannon, the plane took off for the transatlantic leg of the flight at 02:38. There were 46 passengers and ten crew on board. Shortly after takeoff, the pilot reduced power from maximum to METO (Maximum Except Take Off). The pilot was unaware that the landing gear was not retracted, and as result the aircraft descended to touch down in the Shannon estuary. It turned around on impact and broke into two sections.

The aircraft was partially submerged, and at least one of the fuel tanks had ruptured during the crash. The fuel fumes rendered many passengers and crew unconscious, who then drowned in the rising tide. In the end, three crew-members (all the cabin crew) and 25 passengers perished.

Even though the crash occurred less than one minute after the plane took off from Shannon Airport, airport authorities remained unaware of the disaster until the mud-caked third pilot (navigator) of the craft, Johan Tieman, stumbled into the airport and reported, “We’ve crashed!” That was 2½ hours after the plane fell. Mr. Tieman had swum ashore and floundered painfully across the marshes to the airport, whose lights were clearly visible from the scene of the crash. It was not until 7 o’clock in the morning – 4½ hours after the crash – that the first launch reached the survivors, who were huddled on a muddy flat in the river.

The official investigation concluded that the accident was caused by an unexpected re-extension of the landing gear and the captain’s incorrect behaviour in this situation. Viruly, who had been only one year from retirement, rejected the responsibility for the crash and was bitter about his subsequent treatment by KLM. In an interview he later stated that there simply had not been enough time to react.

source

https://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19540905-0

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

After the Holocaust

The one subject I find difficult to address is how the Dutch treated the Jews during the war. It is easy for me to say they didn’t do enough to help their Jewish neighbours, because that would be true. However I did not live in that time. I did not have to face severe punishments, even death, for helping my Jewish fellow man or woman.

In retrospect it is easy to judge. This doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed properly, and it doesn’t mean we can look at it from a critical point of view.

It did take the Dutch government decades to apologize for the inaction of the Dutch government during the war.

On January 26,2020. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologised on behalf of his country’s government for its failure to protect Jews during World War Two.

Mr Rutte made the remarks at a Holocaust remembrance event in Amsterdam, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

“With the last remaining survivors among us, I apologise on behalf of the government for the actions of the government at the time. I do so, realising that no word can describe something as enormous and awful as the Holocaust.” he said.

On the other hand it is easy for me to be very critical about the Dutch, on how they treated the Jews after the Holocaust. The only word to describe it is ‘disgusting’. Unlike the other Dutch who could start to rebuild their lives after the war. The Dutch Jews often faced bureaucratic stumble blocks. Many of them were not even allowed to move back into their own houses or apartments, because they had been given to others during or shortly after the war. There was no fear of punishments then to help their Jewish neighbours. There were no threats to their lives if they would give their Jewish fellow man or woman, a helping hand.

Of the 104,000 Dutch Jews, 75% were murdered during the Holocaust. The suicides are also included in the 75% but I still refer to them as being murdered, because if it wasn’t for the Nazi regime they would not have taken their own lives.

The picture at the start of the blog is off a service in a synagogue in Amsterdam ,shortly after liberation. Each single person attending that service would have lost family and friends. Just think about that for a minute. There was no exception, each one of them lost at least one person near and dear to them.

In the defense of the Netherlands, compared to other European countries, really all other European countries, and especially the Eastern European countries, the Dutch have been confronting the historical inaccuracies since the 1980. There has been an effort to disperse the myth of some of the Dutch ‘heroics’.

source

A Yellow star-marking the enemy

As of April 29, 1942, Jews in the Netherlands were required to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothing. This was to single them out as different from the rest of society. Although the only difference between the Jews and the rest of the Dutch population was their religion. Other then that they were the same. In fact some of the Jews had been in the Netherlands for hundreds of years and were more Dutch then many Dutch themselves.

Freedom of religion was a part of the Dutch constitution but of course after May 1940, the Dutch government had gone into exile and the country was occupied by Nazis, and I deliberately say Nazis and not Germans because some of the Nazis were Dutch.

There was no difference between the Jews and the Dutch, they were all the same. They were all Dutch, some were Catholic, some were Protestant. some where were Jewish and some others were Atheists. The similarities and the common ground outweighed the differences.

The Nazi regime saw the Jews as enemies of the state. They were considered inferior to the Aryan race. The fact that the Aryan race actually originated in Asia was completely overlooked by the Nazis. Their version of the Aryan race was of their own construct and was based on old mythical Germanic characters , or in short fairy tale creatures. Yet they had so many believing that this so called Aryan race was superior to everyone else, even though it was a made up race.

But as I mentioned earlier the Nazis saw the Jews as their enemy, and not just an enemy but their biggest enemy. Of course one would suspect that this enemy was a war mongering people. A real threat to society. Below are some examples of the enemies to the Nazi state.

Jansje and Benjamin Pais from Harlingen murdered in Auschwitz on November 23, 1942. Aged 8 and 9.

Jewish musicians, their weapons; violins, clarinets and an accordion.

Nurses from the Jewish Hospital in Amsterdam.

I have heard people ask why there was a Jewish Hospital in Amsterdam, yet I have never heard anyone ask why there were several Catholic Hospitals across the country.

People should realize it was not the similarities that made the Netherlands but the tapestry of the differences that made is a prosperous nation.

source

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Every name counts-Abraham de Leeuw

On July 1st 1942 the Nazis took control of Concentration camp Westerbork. Jacques Schol, a Dutchman, was commander of the camp from July 16 1940 and until January 1943. He was known for his brutality against Jewish inmates, kicking inmates to death.

Westerbork served as a temporary collection point for Jews in the Netherlands prior to their deportation by the Germans to killing centers and concentration camps in the east.

The first deportation transport left Westerbork on July 15, 1942, for Auschwitz-Birkenau. This first transport was followed by more than 90 subsequent transports to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobibor, Theresienstadt, and Bergen-Belsen. Most of those people deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Sobibor were killed upon arrival.

Initially the deportations from Westerbork to Auschwitz consisted mainly of young men, who were deported to Eastern Europe under the appearance of “Arbeitseinsatz” or ‘Labor input’ in Germany. Later transports also contained women and children.

Abraham de Leeuw was one of those young men who were put on the early transports from Westerbork to Auschwitz

He was born on 6 August 1921 in Amsterdam his parents were Hartog de Leeuw and Cato Bloemhof, Abraham was a single man and worked as a forwarding clerk.He was still living at home with his parents, until he was picked up and sent to Westerbork, on 18 July 1942. He was registered in Westerbork on July 19th and was deported to Auschwitz on 24 July.

Upon arrival in Auschwitz on July 27, Abraham was more the likely selected as a slave laborer inside or outside the camp. The exact date of his death is not known . Because of that the Dutch Ministry of Justice ordered the city of Amsterdam, after the war, to prepare a death certificate for Abraham de Leeuw, in which it was estimated that he died on 30 September 1942 in Auschwitz. This was common practice for most Dutch Jews who arrived in Auschwitz between 15 July 1942 and 30 September 1942.

Abraham de Leeuw would have been 100 years old today. There is a Dutch tradition ,although not Jewish, that when you reach the age of 50 you will Abraham. For women it is Sarah. It is in reference to Abraham and Sarah in the bible.

Abraham de Leeuw never got to see the age of 50 he was either still 20 or 21 when he was murdered.

Abraham was not just a number, he had a name. Every name counts.

#everynamecounts is an initiative by the Arolsen Archives which aims to establish a digital memorial to the people persecuted by the Nazis.

Future generations should be able to remember the names and identities of these victims. But the initiative is important to today’s society as well – because by looking back, we can see where discrimination, racism and antisemitism lead.  

sources

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

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/209755/abraham-de-leeuw

Edith Frank ,mother of Anne and Margot.

In late morning of August 4, 1944, Dutch police entered the “Secret
Annex” and arrested the Frank family, the van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer, as well as Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, who worked at Opetka, Otto Frank was the managing director of Opetka, and had been helping to hide the residents.

On August 8.1944 After several days in police custody in Amsterdam, the eight residents of the “Secret Annex” were deported by train to Westerbork, a large transit camp in the Netherlands. There, they were placed in a
punishment barrack, because going into hiding was considered a criminal act.

I have often though how horrific that time must have been for Edith Frank. Not knowing what was going to happen next to her daughters. I can only imagine that her main concern was the wellbeing of her children.

Edith was the youngest of four children, she was born on January 16,1900 into a German Jewish family in Aachen, Germany. Her father, Abraham Holländer was a successful businessman in industrial equipment who was prominent in the Aachen Jewish community together with Edith’s mother, Rosa Stern . The ancestors of the Holländer family lived in Amsterdam at the start of the 18th century, emigrating from the Netherlands to Germany around 1800. Edith’s maiden name name, Holländer, is German for “Dutchman” Edith had two older brothers, Julius and Walter ), and an older sister, Bettina. Bettina died at the age of 16 due to appendicitis when Edith was just 14. Both Julius and Walter made it to the United States in 1938, surviving the Holocaust. The Holländer family adhered to Jewish dietary laws and was considered to be religious. Nevertheless, Edith attended the Evangelical Higher Girls’ School and passed her school-leaving exams (Abitur) in 1916. Afterwards, she worked for the family company. In her free time, she read copiously, played tennis, went swimming and had a large circle of friends.

She met Otto Frank in 1924 and they married on his 36th birthday, 12 May 1925, at Aachen’s synagogue. They had two daughters born in Frankfurt, Margot, born 16 February 1926, followed by Anne, born 12 June 1929.

In 1933 the Frank family moved to the Netherlands worried about the Nazi persecution of German Jews, Otto Frank traveled to Amsterdam.

Although she returned to the home of her ancestors, Edith found emigration to the Netherlands difficult. The family lived in confined conditions and she struggled with the new language. She remained in contact with her family and friends in Germany, but also made new friends in Amsterdam, most of them fellow German refugees. Edith was an open-minded woman who educated her daughters in a modern way. Her mother Rosa Holländer-Stern left Aachen in 1939 to join the Frank family in Amsterdam, where she died in January 1942.

Aachen is only a few kilometers away from the south eastern Dutch border.

Anne had not much little sympathy for her mother during their turbulent years in the annex, and she had few kind words to say about her, especially in the earlier entries of her diary. But then again what teenage girl has good things to say about her mother or father for that matter, teenagers always no best. Later on in her diary Anne, changes her view on her mother. As Anne gets older she gets a more objective a perspective, and has more sympathetic feelings for her mother.

On September 3,1944 Edith and those with whom she had been in hiding were transported to the Westerbork to Auschwitz, on the last train to be dispatched from Westerbork to Auschwitz.

All of the “Annex” residents survived the initial selection, but the men were separated from the women. Edith Frank never saw her husband again. This was not the last separation for Edith. On October 30,1944 another selection separated Edith from Anne and Margot. Edith was selected for the gas chambers, and her daughters were transported to Bergen-Belsen. Edith managed to escape with a friend to another section of the camp, where she remained through the winter. Edith became very ill and died of illness and starvation on January 6,1945. 3 weeks before the Red Army liberated Auschwitz and 10 days before her 45th birthday.

sources

https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/d/the-diary-of-anne-frank/character-analysis/mrs-frank

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/go-in-depth/reconstruction-arrest-people-hiding/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/annefrank/biogs/edithfrank.shtml

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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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