Remembering Simon Walvisch and his family.

Simon Walvisch was born in Amsterdam, 1 on 9 March 1882.He was murdered in Auschwitz, on 1 October 1942. Reached the age of 60 years

Occupation: Tobacconist

He was a son of Jacobus Mozes Walvisch and Schoontje Zeeman. He married Rosette Abram, a daughter of Simon Abram and Judith Presser, on 29 June 1904 in Amsterdam. About four months later, on October 23, 1904, twins were born: Judith and Jacob Walvisch. However, both children died soon after birth: Judith died on November 13, 1904 and Jacob three days earlier, on November 10, 1904. After the twins, two more children followed: on April 12, 1906, Schoontje was born and on July 21, 1907 Judith. She was called Jute.

Simon’s wife Rosette Abram, however, died on December 30, 1923, and she is buried at the Jewish Cemetery in Diemen.

Less than a year later, on September 18, 1924, Simon Walvisch married Nathan Melkman’s widow, Susanna Swart, a daughter of Jeremias Swart and Saartje Leuw.

In her first marriage to Nathan Melkman, Susanna had a daughter, Flora Melkman, who was born on September 21, 1919 and who was adopted as a stepdaughter into Simon’s family after the marriage of Simon Walvisch and Susanna Swart. On October 22, 1925, another daughter was born from Simon Walvisch’s second marriage to Susanna Swart, viz. Sophia Walvis.

Flora’s father, Nathan Melkman, died on August 21, 1920, aged just 27. He is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Diemen.

Simon Walvisch was murdered on 1 October 1942 in Auschwitz together with his second wife Susanna Swart and their joint daughter Sopiha Walvisch.

Simon’s children from his first marriage to Rosette Abram also did not survive the Holocaust either ; Schoontje was married to Samuel Sluijser and had two children with him, viz. Maurice and Rosette. The entire Sluijser-Walvisch family was murdered on 9 July 1943 in Sobibor.

The youngest daughter from Simon and Rosette’s first marriage was Judith Walvisch, called Juutje. She was married to Jeremias Swart and had two children with him: Ronny and Alfred. Ronny was murdered on 11 June 1943 in Sobibor together with her mother via the Kindertransport from Vught. Her husband Jeremias eventually ended up in Bergen Belsen where he died on December 17, 1944.

Flora Melkman, the daughter of Susanna Swart and Nathan Melkman, married Dorus Abraham in 1941. Both were murdered on September 30, 1942 in Auschwitz.

Three generations of one family murdered. Why??

I could have taken any name of the 559 Dutch Jewish citizens who were murdered on October 1,1942 in Auschwitz, but the fact that Simon’s whole family was murdered just got to me.


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!



Gershon Willinger’s story

I came across Gershon Willinger’s name on the Joods Monument website. It is his 80 birthday today, When I saw his name and his birthday, I also saw that the date and the place of his death were not known. I figured this was going to be an awful tragic and depressing story.

I decided just to a bit of research, but with the thought I wasn’t gong to do a piece about him. I reckoned it was going to break my heart, and I just wasn’t able for that today. However, although his story his sad in many ways, there was another story emerging too, the story of Gershon. The reason why the place and date of death were unknown is because he is still alive.

This is his story in his words.

“My name is Gershon Israel Willinger. Born Gert Israel Willinger, Israel was given by the Nazi regime who was in Holland at the time so that became automatically my middle name or somebody’s last name, but it was my middle name, which is still carried today. I was born in September, 1942 in Amsterdam Holland, where I grew up.

So I I’m the man of many names, Gert Israel. I was born until the age of 18 I was called Fritz. My last name was called Klufter because this was the name of my foster parents/ adoptive parents a year before I left. I didn’t want to be adopted, but it got me quicker out of Holland as well, because I got a Dutch passport. Born Gert Israel Willinger became Klufter. And then, then I had my bar mitzvah Gert Gershon, Gershon is a stranger in foreign lands, he was also the son of Moses. So very apt names for me. I still was called Fritz and the day on my 18th birthday, when I left Holland, I became Gershon.

I grew up in Holland and I left Holland at 18 to immigrate to Israel. I went to the kibbutz. Then I went into the army in 1961. I served two and a half years as a paratrooper in the Israeli defense forces.

Uh, then I studied social work. I became a social worker working with only youth juvenile delinquents and street corner groups. I was in the reserve for about 10 years, uh, fought during the war of attrition in 69, 70 at the Suez canal. I was with the entering to Jerusalem in 1967. I was not in the 73 war because I was studying for a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree in the United States, uh, with my family. I came back during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, but, the trouble was that I couldn’t find my regiment. So I came with my whole family in the middle of my studies. We had to blackout our apartment, stayed for a number of weeks. And then when I couldn’t find them and things were, things were chaos. I stepped back on the plane and continued my education for the year in the United States with a wife and two small children in tow. And, um, we left Israel in 1984, uh, simply because of economic reasons for social workers is very hard also to not rely on family, but on yourself.

We have been here since in Canada, which is a, quite a good country since December of 1977 and have lived here since raised our children here, our three children who are now 50, 48 and 45 and, seven lovely grandchildren between the ages of 17 and 11. I speak for the Holocaust Center of Toronto and for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

I have a responsibility to my parents and I have responsibility to my children and, uh, the Holocaust, I have a responsibility and it is, and, um, it’s not all altruism. There’s also an element of self-therapy, which is very good as well. Um, I’m one of the youngest. So from that point of view, I had to research my life most of my life, where you come from, who are you? Because the lack of identity of who you are as a person and many children who were born in between 1935 and 1944, although there’s a vast difference because if you’re a child who grows up with a parent and a child who has got a history of family before the war, I’m still can relate to that. But then the other children who really after second world war, which they don’t realize like myself, and only some chaos, I suppose, in the background of your mind, but without any knowledge, you start starting after the war, which meant, uh, who are you? Where are you? Where are you going to be placed? What are you going to do? And what is your legacy, whether you, who were your parents and how did they die and what happened and then so on.

My father was a, in hospitality industry before the war. And he was Bad Wildungen and I felt first that he was born there, but he wasn’t born there. He worked there, he worked, it was a spa city with natural spas, with special water. He worked there in a Jewish hotel. He was a chef. He lived on the premises, it’s very picturesque between little hills. It’s like the gingerbread houses and beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. I’ve just, there’s nobody of us anymore in Holland, because we were born there. We my sister was there until 11 and left and I at 18, I left and my parents came from Germany. Both of them there. My mother came in 29. She came actually, she had relatives in Holland. I think that she went to my aunt, who I stayed within 29. And she stayed in Holland, but she never naturalized.

My father, I found out was married to a non-Jewish Jewish woman in 1935. He divorced in 35. There became a law also that Aryans were not allowed to be married to Jews that became a law. But I think the marriage couldn’t have been that great either, but they divorced. And a, he came to Holland in 1937, 37 or 38 married my mother 37 I think it was. But he, he still went back and forth to Bad Wildungen because there was a train from Amsterdam to there between 1935 and 1937. He traveled up and down and still stayed at, at the hotel and worked there. And finally, when people thought that he was spy and I found it in the archives, because why do you go back and forth to Holland, the Nazi regime was already there? He stayed away and stayed in Holland, also not naturalized. So they got together, got married and then had my sister in May, 1940.

Now what possessed a couple, unless they had didn’t have birth control to want another child in 1942. So they had me, you know, they must’ve thought that children could stay with parents or whatever happened. When they saw that things were bad, they allowed me at a very early age to be taken by the underground who knew about this baby. And my sister was already shoved underground somewhere else. And I came to this family, the righteous among the nations. The stories that my mother, my birth mother, Edith came to where I stayed and worked as a short-term as a maid at the farm across the brook so that she could have contact, not with me, but find out about me. But she went back to Amsterdam and they went for one day to Westerbork the transit camp. And I think it was the 29th of June that they came to Westerbork and then they were sent straight through to Sobibor where in July and the data I have is the 2nd of July, they were together murdered upon arrival in Sobibor, in Poland.

I was eight years old when I came to permanent foster parents. So what I do know is the time of 1945, 1950, when you are in as many children, displaced children also today in all kinds of countries, uh, you were going from pillar to post. So institutions are fringes, foster homes and not knowing even if you’re a Jewish. So because the concept being Jewish sounds very abstract. When you’re a small child, you don’t realize that at all. So, consequently, I, I was very, very, uh, curious to find out who I really was. And so from an early age, my new foster parents, after those five years have a bookcase full of authentic photographs from the Nazi time, also that they obtained with the bodies in this concentration camps and how the Americans found the camps afterwards.

So I used to leaf through them, and that is a psychologically, a very normal thing because the child looks for his parent. And so things that, the image of the parent. So, so that interests start already at that age. And, um, of course you have a disassociation with people because you have moved around so much. So I, um, very quickly wanting to develop in the beginning of superficial sense of belong to the foster parents that you live with in order to belong and to be somewhere, however, it never succeeded that much. Like many other kids, um, who were privileged, uh, like I was privileged to psychiatric treatment and psychoanalysis after the war for about five years when I came to them from eight to 13, then again from 15 to 17.

So I didn’t know what parents really meant. So, um, they told me that I did have parents, which I didn’t bemoan my fate because it’s very, normally if you don’t even remember parents that you had them, and I remember very hard to call them mom and dad, because, uh, you know, you get there at eight years of age, a very difficult child with lots of problems. And, um, but with a hunger for reading. So to save me because I was read, like a fiend. So, um, and I could read, well, uh, like many other children, my friends also that I have, who are my age, little bit older, little bit younger who, uh, belong to my group. I don’t know if you’ve heard that group of, um, I belong to a group of 50 children who in 1944 were sent from Westerbork in Holland to Bergen Belsen. And we were there a couple of months and then from Bergen Belsen we were transported to Theresienstadt in Czech Republic. We were known as a Gruppe “unbekannte Kinder”, unknown children.

And what I tell usually schools is in order so that they can grasp especially grade seven and eights really like to talk to me because I ask them who tucks you in at night, who’s responsible for your food, who’s responsible for your clothing who’s responsible to take care of you and who loves you unconditionally, well it’s your parents. So now then put yourself in the picture of this and that happening.

I had their name, but never officially. My first name was also different because children went under, we had many names we had to deal with and cope with a lot of chaos and names. So my name was Fritz. Fritz was given to me by the people, the Schonewilles, who I lived with in Northern Holland, in the province called Trenta, who were righteous among the nations. And they took me in and they took care of me. But when my name was given away at the beginning of 1943, the very beginning of 1943, I was taken away by the Dutch police. Plenty many, many, many, many collaborators with the regime. The regime in Holland. Holland has got this wonderful connotation, wooden shoes, gabled rooftops, and it’s all very nice and pretty, but about 80% are either bad or are good people who did nothing. And about 15 to 20% put themselves out. And were treated abominably after the war, didn’t get any recognition, only years, years, and years later. So that those are the kind of people that I was placed with. I was taken away from them and they put themselves really in danger because my foster father went to jail. I was taken away by the Dutch place and placed in Westerbork the transit camp.

We knew it about each other. We never spoke about it. We were getting ready to go to Israel, we were Zionists and even not going to stay in Europe. And I stuck to that. I never went back. I never stayed in Europe. And I left Israel. I said, leave Israel, but not back to Holland or to Germany because actually I’m, uh, I’m Dutch because I was born there and I was raised there. My sister was there until she was 11 years old. My sister’s name is Rita. She was born in May of 1940.

Gershon and Rita in 1947

You are with no nationality and again, no identity. So the memory of that is not that great. I lived with my foster parents and we went to Belgium or France or Italy because they were quite well to do Dutch Jews. Um, I had to also have special dispensation from the courts and I had a different, I remember a passport was pink instead of blue or a solid color … I was on refugee status, although I was born in the country. And there was no adoption. So finally, when I was 17, my foster parents adopted me to give me a name and give me a citizenship.

I am Jewish by religion, by birth first by birth, by religion and by tradition. And by way of life, I would actually put religion and the, and the traditional out of, out of context here and talk about I’m a Jew by birth and way of life. It’s culture, it’s everything. It encompasses everything for me. It’s just, that’s how I live. It is to me, it’s, it’s a way of life and the way of life is in the mind as well. It’s a way of life. It’s very hard to interpret it a little bit is religion, a little bit of this, a little bit as that in your general behavior, uh, your reactions. If you’re not exposed to Judaism at all, there may be a spark somewhere that still has to be developed. It isn’t developed yet, but I do believe there is some, um, you can be a Jew by choice and be really Jewish if you do buy. But if it’s from birth on and of, or even even a little bit later, it’s a way of life and a tradition that you accept with all its positives and negatives.

I think I have a duty as a Jew to tell my story to the world because every story of every Holocaust survivor is unique because they’re different people and different within themselves. Perception. You need to listen to as many stories. And I, a Jew is a normal person like any other person, the soul, two legs, wants to make it in life. We have certain attributes. We live our religion a bit differently, like everybody else does as well. A fight against bigotry, hatred of Jews is the oldest hatred that exists. And that’s why I find it very important, because we need to always have hope. It’s not my little story that I’m going to tell you here is not going to change people, their attitudes, but I want to have an understanding that they can choose what they think. That’s very important for me that people understand what the Holocaust is about. And other reason that I do it, I owe it to my dead parents so that they’re not just ash. So that they, and they don’t have a proper grave. So they don’t just becoming a number. So during my lifetime that I at least bringing them to life through photos, through pictures. There, there is a story attached to me in my background, people who were murdered because they were good people and didn’t do anything. And it’s also very good. And it’s good for my own psyche to talk about it because it gives me a sense of belonging. It gives me a sense of self and validation that I exist.

What happened is somebody in Germany he contacted the Holocaust Center of Toronto, a number of years ago. And says we have this name, we have got this, this, I don’t know how he knew I was in Toronto that I was here. He found out and he contacted the Holocaust Center, said there in Bad Wildungen, where my father worked, there was a Stolpersteine, five Stolpersteine up, uh, at, at a little Stiebel which was once a synagogue. But below there, because didn’t know exactly know where those people lived. And my father lived in the hotel. So what Jane and I did, we made a special trip to Germany for the first time, because I never had a gravestone of my parents. And it was only the gravestone of my father you know, the Stolperstein you know, how they look and what they are.

And I remember we saw it and, uh, we went to see that, and these men took us there. The Bürgermeister the, the mayor of the town came, he brought a little thing and we polished the stone and it was of five other people. And I didn’t cry. It was not even emotional because I, I think I’d cried enough all my life. And had been through all the emotions of first labeled, not a survivor, and being asked by other Holocaust survivors, you call yourself. So, you know, the survivor, you don’t know anything. You don’t remember anything, another slap in the face, you don’t belong anywhere. So anyway, that gives you somewhere to belong. And I cleaned it up very nicely. We stayed a week. We went to the place where my father worked, which doesn’t exist anymore, but it became a spa for people who are sick with asthma breathing. What is unique about it is that it is for me personally unique, it’s the only gravestone I have of my parents. It’s really ridiculous even to think about it, that only, the only gravestone is in Germany, but it’s there. And, uh, that I felt so at home, in Germany with the Stolperstein maybe it’s my culture where I come from. And I say, Hey, I don’t like nasty people, but these people are good people. And, um, I felt this is something that I can touch, it tangible it’s something of my parents. And it was very important to me. And it was a gravestone to me. It was a great, but, and also that the place that you walk, that you did, you walk over, it doesn’t bother me at all, because if it would be on the wall, I would have to turn my head.

What I also felt that if it is on the ground, so they have to put themselves out for half a second, too. I’m certainly not insulted, some people have got this mishagas you walk on. I have no problem. If you walk over it, it means many people go pass it because, uh, it will be more polished. The second time when I went, I said, you know, something that he said, the stone of your father is going to be taken away from here and placed now where he worked and lived on the main street. I said, that’s wonderful. I said, now I have a request. My parents were murdered on the same day in the same concentration camp. My mother is originally from Germany. Although she is not from this town because Stolpersteine are more of a, you worked or where you lived. I pay for it. Please put my parents, they were married, put them together as a Stolpersteine. They say, not only will we do it, it’s not your business to pay for it, we should. So I went again, said Kaddish again with all my Christian Germans around me and for my, and that’s what the Stolperstein does for me. It gives me historically a feeling that I belong and that people still care. Whether it’s out of guilt or not, I don’t care. It’s still it’s there. And my parents were Germans. They were transplants to Holland out of necessity, but they have still were entrenched in the German culture, German society when they lived there, especially the ones that live in small towns.

Reclaiming in a sense that that’s, it’s part of me, it’s part of my history. It’s part of who I represent and it is fine. And I don’t need to make excuses if people don’t like me because of it what can I do. People understand, people do understand, uh, especially Holocaust survivors who I speak with, they understand, uh, especially now that I have a Stolperstein there it’s a Stolpersteine is the, it’s the plural. Yeah. There’s an attachment. It had an impact on me as I … it’s very hard, but you try to visualize that he actually walked there and he lived there in that. And it’s the town. Yes it had spread out, it is modernized a little bit, but it’s still the core. The old city is, it’s all still the same. And, and, and so you like to, you like to transport you back in the past yourself, back in the past and your hunger actually to know and experience, but you can’t experience because you’re in a different day and time, but what he experienced through would have liked to experience.

Yes. And that is the feeling that I had. So yes, it had an impact, but not in a sentimental way. Uh, just, uh, Hey, this is me, this is again, part of the puzzle that needs another little piece of the puzzle that goes in that I. And there’s still pieces of puzzles that I, I, uh, I I’m looking for in my mind, uh, uh, about family, about the security that the history really is the history as it is about myself, because many children who live today who are wartorn deal with search. The search and the always need to develop themselves and be proud of themselves because their identity is so weak because of the displacement and because of where they have had to go to and how their life went. So I’m very, always very interested today in the downtrodden really.

You always were in search of who am I? What am I? So there’s the big difference that the horrors of the concentration camp, you don’t remember, you don’t know anything about, but you also don’t have the memory of who are you as a family. It could equate that to kids from Syria and from wartorn areas from the Rohingyas and Yazidi’s and people get murdered left right and center today. And so it’s really a very similar stories only that this was a very planned because you have to really define what is genocide and what is Holocaust. There are very different things the Holocaust is a planned annihilation of a people over a long period of time. Not necessarily in one geographical area, which happens. Genocide is usually a spontaneous annihilation people, bad.

Everything is bad ,often in one geographical area and a shorter period of time, not planned necessarily spontaneous, more spontaneous annihilation. So that’s that’s really the difference with the Holocaust. The difference is also, of course, that we spoke different languages. We adhered to different laws. We were members of different societies in different countries, who we were involved with in government and in arts and army in whatever way we were involved with. So, so it’s, it’s unique. Yeah, it’s unique because what do we have to do in 2021 almost, with the Holocaust of all those years ago. You have to make it also that it can be understood by children. And as long as we have are alive still, we it’s our duty to to speak. Well, life is very different, but, but what parallel can I draw? Children are children. They’re spontaneous, they ask questions and there are no inhibitions.

And they ask and if some misconceptions, and they know what parents’ tell the right thing or not the right thing, but they are inquisitive. They want to know, but it’s how you transcribe your knowledge, how you, how you get, how you put it in front of the children. Um, children are children. They are the hope of the whole, the future. So the more, if child is indoctrinated to hate somebody at a very early age it’s very hard to get it out of the child’s system. If a child gets indoctrinated at a very early age with goodness and equality, it’s very hard to get out of their system. So that’s what we have to do. So that’s where I see the parallel. It’s all up to the adults to, to guide the children. And then I see a parallel that children can be. Uh, I see also little children, teenagers in Nazi Germany can be also because of society be, um, although there are many Germans who knew the difference between right and wrong. But if you are allowed to go to a sports school and you go to the mountains to have a nice vacation and you belong to the Hitler youth, you’re damn sure you’re going to belong to the Hitler youth otherwise, you’ll get ostracized and you have no good. You haven’t got a good time. So you do that.

So it’s really up to the children to learn, and I, and I think nothing has changed. The child should know the difference between right and wrong and what it means to, to be a bully, what it means to be all-inclusive, but the child has to have it in them as well. But it has to also, uh, it has to be nurtured by parents, by educators and if you got the stuff nurtured the proper way. And then, then, uh, it’s usually the fright with children also of not knowing of what is strange like with adults., oh no we get to know each other suddenly, and yeah, it’s actually quite nice to find out that you have a different, different traditions, different way of life than I have.”

I met my wife, Jane (née Levy), in England, and we were married in Israel in January 1970. We have three children and, to date, seven grandchildren. In December 1977, we immigrated to Canada. For the first number of years I was employed as a youth and camp director for the Hamilton Jewish community. In 1984, I joined the Children’s Aid Society as a social worker, specializing in working with abused and neglected children. I retired in 2003.
I am active in the Jewish community and spend much time lecturing about my past experiences. In June 2006, we moved to Thornhill to be closer to our children and grandchildren.”

Dear Mr. Willinger I wish you a happy 80th birthday and I hope your story will be an inspiration for many.


A murdered family.

The baby in the picture is Jonas David Kloot, he would have celebrated his 80th birthday today. He would have been blowing out 80 birthday candles on his birthday cake. But he didn’t even get to blow out his first birthday candle. Jonas was born on September 15,1942 in Amsterdam. Less then 9 months later, June 11,1943 he was murdered in Sobibor.

The other people in the photograph are Jonas’s dad, Hijman Kloot. Born in Amsterdam, on 5 June 1904. Murdered in Sobibor, 9 July 1943.Reached the age of 39 years. Occupation: Merchant

Jonas’s Mother, Femmina Kloot-Engelsman. Born in Amsterdam, 19 March 1908 . Murdered in Sobibor, 11 June 1943.

Jonas’s oldest sister, Clara Kloot. Born in Amsterdam, 7 March 1931.Murdered in Sobibor, 11 June 1943. Reached the age of 12

Jonas’s youngest sister, Annie Kloot. Born in Amsterdam, 7 August 1935.Murdered in Sobibor, 11 June 1943. Reached the age of 7.

Femmina and her 3 children were all murdered on the same day. They were all deported from Westerbork to Sobibor on June 8,1943 and were murdered on arrival on June 11,1943.

The Kloot family were not the only ones on that Transport. There were in total 3015 on that train, the majority were murdered on arrival in Sobibor on June 11,1943. Just think about that, about 2900 were murdered on one day.

The ages of those on the transport were:

Hijman Kloot and Femmina Engelsman married in 1929 in Amsterdam.

All members of the extended Kloot members were murdered in Sobibor, with the exception of Samuel Kloot and Isaac Kloot, 2 brothers of Hijman Koot, they were murdered in Auschwitz.

Samuel’s wife and 2 year old son were also murdered in Auschwitz. As were the 9 year old daughter, and wife of Isaac Kloot.


Trying to bring joy in a dark time.

They say that music soothes the savage beast, But it can also bring joy and transport you back to a better time in your life. Benny Behr must have known this because he tried to keep up the spirits, by playing music.

Benny was Jewish Jewish and was married to a non-Jewish woman, Wien Bouwina Sijtina Havinga. Mixed-married Jewish people were exempt from deportation to concentration camps or death camps,initially. This meant that Benny Behr’s identity card not only had a stamp with the letter J, but also a Sperr stamp. He was one of the first mixed-married Jewish men to be forced to work in March 1944 at Fliegerhorst Havelte, a location in Drenthe that had been chosen by the German occupier for the construction of an airport.[Benny Behr was housed in the barracks camp at De Doeze on the Hunebedweg, which was also called the Jewish camp.

He became a room guard and was therefore able to access the leave passes. On leave without permission, however, the punishment for the Jewish men was immediate transport to camp Westerbork, a transit camp in Drenthe. When Benny Behr and a few other camp mates went home on July 28, 1944 with leave cards written out by himself, they were betrayed. As punishment, Benny Behr was transferred to Westerbork on August 1, 1944.

Benny started playing musical instruments when he was nine. He played violin, flute, saxophone and piano. Jazz in particular fascinated him immensely and it was obvious that he, like his two other brothers, became a musician. In 1920 he became involved in the musical life of Groningen and in 1937 he left for Amsterdam. He was taught there by the concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. In Amsterdam Benny established his name in various orchestras. He used his talents to keep the spirits up in Westerbork.

Camp Westerbork could best be characterized with terms such as defeat but also hopeful expectation. You could see from the faces of the people that they were on the list to go on transport.

Education was compulsory in Westerbork for children aged 6 to 14. truants were severely punished by order of camp commander Gemmeker. Classes were regularly canceled because teachers were deported. At the end of a class period, a report in German was distributed to the children. From July 1942 to September 1944, a total of 17,500 children were deported from Westerbork to the extermination camps.

This is Benny’s story of his time in Westerbork.

“I played in the penal barracks for the children and also for the older people. Of course I played happy school songs for the children. The elderly also wanted to hear something classic. I have played pieces by Kreisler, among other things. And so I tried to amuse people. I was there in the penal barracks with Jews in hiding who, in the eyes of the Germans, had committed a criminal offense: they had tried to save their lives. They immediately put me to work. I got to the batteries. We were all sitting at long tables where we had to split these batteries, a terribly dirty job. After an hour you were pitch black from that powder that was in those batteries.

We all were terribly afraid, especially for the transports that went on Tuesday evenings. Then someone from the Ordedienst came to read the list of people who had to get ready for transport the next morning, or already that night. When the ‘B’ of my name was over, I must confess, I heaved a sigh of relief. So I wasn’t there this week. The next week you might have been there. But thank goodness I survived. And so the penal barracks slowly emptied.

At one point there was a court hearing. There were the so-called judges: Aus der Fünten, Gemmeker and Fischer. When that court hearing was held and I entered, the gentlemen were seated behind a table. I heard one say to the other: “Wieder ein Jude”. Within a minute the trial was over for me. So everyone was brought before the penal barracks. One or two days later, the news came that 59 persons were exempted from transport ‘bis auf weiteres’.(until further notice) And there I was at the top. The list started with the ‘B’. And so I stayed behind with 58 other people, the others all went on transport. This was at the beginning of September 1944. The 59 were discharged from the penal barracks and were allowed to join the so-called ‘free camp’.

After that I had several jobs. That’s how I started in the field. I also worked in the sawmill where I had to supply planks. In between the acts I also played the violin regularly. I also played there for the German Jews, some of whom lived in separate houses. Then I sometimes got cigarettes and some extra food. I also played in a trio with others.

Perhaps the best was my performance on the day of the liberation. Then that same evening I played for the Canadian commander and for the officers in the great hall. It was incredible. I then played for an hour in a row. Afterwards I got a lot of boxes of Sweet Caporal cigarettes, I can still remember that. I didn’t smoke myself and handed them out to the boys when I got back to the barracks. And those guys said, “Are you going to play again tomorrow night?” I said, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t been invited to that yet.” But I did play again the next night. That was my liberation.'”

After the war, Benny continued with his music career. In 1949 he started a weekly radio performance with a radio quartet, where he plays together with Sem Nijveen, whom he played with prior to the war and with whom he also had been with in Westerbork.

Benny formed a jazz orchestra: Benny’s Big Five, which became a success. Sem Nijveen and Benny Behr’s breakthrough internationally came in 1959 and gave many performances, including for the BBC in England. In 1963 Benny starred in a movie with Dutch comedian Tom Manders aka Dorus.
In 1967 he started playing in the Metropole Orkest in Amsterdam.In 1981 he played a violinist in a Dutch TV production of Mata Hari.

Benny Behr died on August 16, 1995 in Hilversum.

Benny’s family, like many other Jewish families, did not survive the war. His father, Hartog Behr died in Blechhammer , on March 31, 1944. His mother, Trijntje Behr was murdered in Auschwitz on October 26, 1942.


Joseph Charles Rosenberg Polak-Just one of 6 million

Joseph is just one of the 6 million Jews who was murdered during the Holocaust. He was murdered today 80 years ago in Auschwitz.

He was born in Amsterdam, 20 February 1921.

Joseph Charles Rosenberg Polak (Jop) lived with his parents at 163 Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat in Amsterdam. He wanted to study medicine, following in his father’s footsteps. Due to the measures taken by the Germans against the Jewish population, this became impossible for him. At the beginning of May 1941, Jop came to work with his father in the Central Israelite Nursing Service (C.I.Z.), Jacob Obrechtstraat 92 in Amsterdam.

In August 1942 he was arrested at the Belgian-French border while trying to escape to Switzerland. Jop ends up in the transit camp for Belgian Jews in the specially equipped Kazerne Dossin de Saint-Georges in Mechelen, which is centrally located between Antwerp and Brussels. In Mechelen,

The camp has a service track that connects the Dossin barracks directly with the Belgian railway network. From October, the German camp security is supplemented with Flemish SS men, who guard the outside of the barracks. The Jewish inmates initially know no better than that they will be put to work in the German war industry. For example, it is known that on June 13, already 2,252 mostly Jewish workers were sent to northern France to work on the Atlantik Wall, the German defenses on the coast. They also receive a list of the “equipment” they needed to take with them with their “employment call”. Before long, however, many begin to suspect the true nature of the “evacuation” and go into hiding. On July 27, 1942, the first Jews arrived at the Dossin barracks and on August 4, 1942, the first transport departed for Auschwitz. This also brings about 140 children along, further fueling suspicion and leading thousands to ignore their call. In response, the Germans carry out nightly raids.
On September 1, 1942, Jop was transported to Auschwitz (convoy VII/124).

On September 4,1942 he is murdered in Auschwitz.


Anne Frank in Auschwitz

On September 3,1944 ,Anne Frank and her family were put on transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz. It would be the last train to leave Westerbork.The train arrived 3 days later in Auschwitz. The women selected from this transport, including Anne, Edith, and Margot, were marked with numbers between A-25060 and A-25271

Anne Frank’s final diary entry dates from 1 August 1944, three days before her arrest. Therefore the only information we have about what happened to Anne Frank in the six months between the arrest and her death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp comes from the testimonies of others.

Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper was one of those others.She had also been on that same transport and was in Auschwitz when Anne was there, but also in Bergen Belsen. Janny was the last person to see Anne alive.

She said about the arrival in Auschwitz.

”We were stripped in an icy room with the wind billowing through it. Five women under one trickle of water. No towels. Tattooed, shaved . . . we were totally confused and unable to understand anything,”

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the SS forcibly split the men from the women and children, and Otto Frank was separated from his family. Those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labour were immediately killed. Of the 1,019 passengers, 549—including all children younger than 15—were sent directly to the gas chambers. Anne Frank, who had turned 15 three months earlier, was one of the youngest people spared from her transport. She was soon made aware that most people were gassed upon arrival and never learned that the entire group from the Achterhuis had survived this selection. She reasoned that her father, in his mid-fifties and not particularly robust, had been killed immediately after they were separated.

Janny worked as a nurse in the Nazi camps where she provided clothing, medicine, and food to fellow prisoners. She saw Anne Frank, two or three days before she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

“During the final days, I saw Anne standing there, wrapped in a blanket, with no tears left to cry. Well, we hadn’t had tears for some time. And then, a few days later I went to look for the Frank girls and learned that Margot had fallen from her bunk. Just like that, onto the stone floor, dead. The next day, Anne died as well.”

Janny had been in the Jewish resistance, in Amsterdam during the war, forging identification papers to help other Jews escape the Nazis, before she and Anne were deported from Amsterdam.

She died of heart failure in Amsterdam on 15 August, 2003 at the age of 86.

Mariette Huisjes of the Anne Frank House said this about Janny.

“Anne was sick and hallucinating and had thrown away her clothes, because she was afraid of lice. Ms. Brandes-Brilleslijper gave her clothes and some food. She mostly helped young people in the camps in those difficult times.”


Mijn gesprek met Joosje Asser-Dochter van Eli Asser

Joosje Asser is de dochter van Eli Asser, tekstschrijver en journalist en meer. Joosje’s moeder was Eefje Croiset.

Met series als ‘Het schaep met de vijf pooten’ en ‘Citroentje met suiker’ hield Eli Asser jarenlang miljoenen Nederlanders aan de televisie gekluisterd. Ook was hij bekend van liedjes zoals,£Het zal je kind maar wezen£ op muziek gezet door Harry Bannink.

Half april 1942 kreeg Asser een oproep om geïnterneerd te worden in een van de Nederlandse werkkampen. Aan deze Arbeitseinsatz wist hij te ontsnappen door legaal te gaan werken als leerling-verpleger in de Joodse psychiatrische inrichting Het Apeldoornsche Bosch,waar alle niet-Joodse medewerkers op last van de Duitse bezetter ontslagen waren. Enkele maanden later kreeg ook zijn vriendin Eefje Croiset er een baan, als schoonmaakster. Op 20 januari 1943, op de avond vóór patiënten en personeelsleden door de bezetter werden gedeporteerd, vluchtte Asser samen met Croiset terug naar Amsterdam. Beiden zaten de rest van de oorlog op verschillende plekken ondergedoken.

In het gesprek verteld Joosje het verhaal van haar ouders en andere familie leden.

Remembering Esther Brilleslijper

It is nearly impossible to quantify the number of people being killed during the Holocaust, I personally think the estimated number of 1.5 million children is too low.

The one thing that can be quantified accurately is the value put on life. For a family of 5 it would be 37.50 guilders ,or the 2022 equivalent of $250. That is the price that was paid to the Column Henneicke, for the betrayal of Esther Brilleslijper and her family.

Esther Brilleslijper was born in Amsterdam, on 13 August 1942 . She was murdered in Sobibor, on 11 June 1943. She reached the age of 9 months.

In those 9 months she was arrested , yes a 9 month old baby arrested, and sent to Vught concentration camp.

On 6 June 1943 Esther Brilleslijper was transported from Camp Vught to Camp Westerbork.In addition to Esther Brilleslijper, 2,277 other people are known to have been transported that day.

From June 8, 1943, Esther Brilleslijper was transported from Camp Westerbork to Sobibor. Where she was murdered together with her father Levie Brilleslijper, 3 year old brother Wolf Brilleslijper, and mother Judith Brilleslijper-van der Woude.

I am remembering Esther Brilleslijper today on her birthday. It happens to coincide with my daughter’s birthday.

Esther Brilleslijper would have been 80 today.


The destruction of education and the murder of Students

It is strange how things can turn sometimes. I was going to do some research on Eva Braun.

When I typed in the name, another name first came up, The name of Eva Brandon. When I looked into her details, I discovered that Eva Brandon was born in Amsterdam, on 26 July 1929. She was murdered Auschwitz, on 9 August 1942, 80 years ago today. She reached the age of 13 years.

But Eva Brandon’s story is part of a much bigger one

She was a student at the “Joodsche 5-jarige HBS” which was a college in Amsterdam. Eddy Mannnheim was another student at the college, eh survived the war and wrote down a summary of the school after the war. The majority of the students were murdered

“As of the 1941/42 school year, Jewish children were prohibited from attending regular schools. The Jewish Council had to establish all kinds of schools for Jewish children and to appoint Jewish teachers for them.

The ‘Jewish HBS with Five-Year Course’ was opened in October 1941 at Mauritskade 24 in Amsterdam. (This name was still above the entrance decades after the war). Director was E. Frenkel and deputy director M. Belinfante. The appointed teachers, all of whom had lost their previous jobs due to the anti-Jewish measures, were happy to return to work.

As a starting HBS student, the undersigned, like his later wife Rosalie Vlessing, entered class 1C. This class mainly consisted of students from Amsterdam-East, a minority came from South. In addition, there were two other first classes: 1A exclusively for girls and class 1B with mainly students from South. There were also the higher classes from 2 to 5, but we had little contact with them.

In the first school year, 1941/1942, despite the difficult conditions outside the school, the situation at school was fairly normal; education was no different from other similar schools. Most teachers were able to keep order, with a few exceptions. In general, there was decent teaching. The students behaved just like other first-class students, sometimes some of them turned things upside down. For example, during one of Mrs. Caro’s lessons, a mouse was once released into the classroom, resulting in a lot of noise. But in general it worked quite well.

The students, who lived further away from the school, could use the bicycle or public transport. This came to an end when, in May 1942, public transport for Jews was banned and the bicycles of Jews had to be handed in. From then on, teachers and students had to walk from home to school. Given the great distance, this was extra difficult for the students from South and we always had to take a bag with school books with us. That bag, if geography was on the schedule, was even heavier because of the large Bosatlas that had to be carried along as well.

After we were in class 2A from the 1942/1943 school year, the situation changed drastically, because the deportations had started on July 15, 1942. There were regular roundups in the city and fewer students showed up at school. There were many empty places for students at school, the majority of whom had been deported and a small number went into hiding. Originally I walked to school with a group of six students, but in the end I was the only one. At one point the number of students had shrunk so drastically that in December 1942 the teachers and remaining students were transferred to the Joodsche Lyceum in the Stadstimmertuinen.

From January 1943, teachers were also deported and the empty places at school kept getting bigger. In February 1943 I also ended up in Westerbork. In May 1943, the remaining students of the Joodsche HBS and the Joodsch Lyceum were merged with the Orthodox Jewish HBS, which had existed since 1928, across the street in the Stadstimmertuinen. There were already so few students and teachers left that teaching was no longer an issue. Time was spent playing ping pong and other recreation, including with the teachers still present.

On June 20, 1943, a large raid took place in Amsterdam-South and East. Almost all Jews still present were arrested and sent to Westerbork. My wife and her family were able to flee and go into hiding just before the roundup.

This de facto brought an end to the Jewish HBS and the other Jewish schools. The school continued to exist until September 1943, when the last Jews still living in Amsterdam were rounded up and sent to Westerbork. Below were the few teachers still in office and the students still present.

That was the definitive end of school.

Class 1C originally contained 29 students, of which the following 21 were murdered by the Nazis:
Aldewereld, Salomon; Agsteribbe, Selma; Blog, Jannie;
Bouwman, Bernard; Brandon, Eve; Brandon, Lion; Citroen, Roelof; Courant, William; Gobes, Maurice; Garnet, Maurice; Levy, Paul G; Polak, Louis; Polak, Pete; Schenkkan, Mary; Schuit, Robert; Swaab, Samuel; Uijenkruiser, Jacob G; Fish Scraper, Samuel; Vries, Bernard A. de; Vries, Coenraad L. de; Winnik, Alex.

Class 2A originally contained 21 students, of which 11 were killed:
Attention, Gretha; Guttmann, Eva Hermine Carla; Joosten, Joseph; Koster, Stefan; Ledermann, Susanne; Loewenthal, Willy; Meents, Louise Kea; Oppenheimer, Rudolf; Stuiver, Henriette; Wijnberg, Ina; Wolf, Ruby.

To my knowledge there is no photo of classes 1C and 2A, so unfortunately no faces can be given to the names mentioned.”

Who knows just how much knowledge was destroyed. Just imagine all the potential scientists .