Bergen Belsen- A place of darkness and death.

On April 15, the 63rd Anti-tank Regiment and the 11th Armoured Division of the British army liberated about 60,000 prisoners at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

One of the soldiers, 21 year old Corporal Ian Forsyth, called it “A place of darkness and death.” What the British troops encountered was described by the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby, who accompanied them:

“…Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which… The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them … Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live … A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.”

Major Dick Williams was one of the first British soldiers to enter Bergen-Belsen. On April 15, 1945,he described his first impressions of the camp and its atmosphere of death.

“But we went further on into the camp, and seen these corpses lying everywhere. You didn’t know whether they were living or dead. Most of them were dead. Some were trying to walk, some were stumbling, some on hands and knees, but in the lagers, the barbed wire around the huts, you could see that the doors were open. The stench coming out of them was fearsome.

They were lying in the doorways – tried to get down the stairs and fallen and just died on the spot. And it was just everywhere.
Going into, more deeper, into the camp the stench got worse and the numbers of dead – they were just
impossible to know how many there were…Inside the camp itself, it was just unbelievable. You just couldn’t believe the numbers involved.

This was one of the things which struck me when I first went in, that the whole camp was so quiet and yet there were so many people there. You couldn’t hear anything, there was just no sound at all and yet there was some movement – those people who could walk or move – but just so quiet. You just couldn’t understand that all those people could be there and yet everything was so quiet… It was just this oppressive haze over the camp, the smell, the starkness of the barbed wire fences, the dullness of the bare earth, the scattered bodies and these very dull, too, striped grey uniforms – those who had it – it was just so dull. The sun, yes the sun was shining, but they were just didn’t seem to make any life at all in that camp. Everything seemed to be dead. The slowness of the movement of the people who could walk. Everything was just ghost-like and it was just
unbelievable that there were literally people living still there. There’s so much death apparent that the living, certainly, were in the minority”

Major Leonard Berney, recalled:

“I remember being completely shattered. The dead bodies lying down beside the road, the starving emaciated prisoners still mostly behind barbed wire, the open mass graves containing hundreds of corpses, the stench, the sheer horror of the place, were indescribable. None of us who entered the camp had any warning of what we were about to see or had ever experienced anything remotely like it before.”

Harry Oakes and Bill Lawrie both served with the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU).The unit was established in 1941 to produce an official record of the British Army’s role during the Second World War. Both men arrived at Bergen-Belsen to record conditions in the camp. They recall how British forces gained access to the camp.

“About that time the chaps attached to 11th Armoured Division had seen a staff car come up to Headquarters one day with a German officer, or two German officers I believe, blindfolded and when they made enquiries they were told that they were from a Political Prison Camp at Belsen. The
Germans, anticipating us capturing the camp or over-running it, wanted the British to send in an advanced party to prevent these prisoners who were supposed to be infected with typhus from escaping.

But the force we wanted to send in was too much. The Germans felt it wouldn’t have been
air so they agreed on a compromise that they would leave 1,000 Wehrmacht behind if we returned them within ten days. So we were standing by at Lüneburg, Lawrie and myself, to go into Belsen…We had this business of the staff car with the white flags telling us that there was a typhus hospital on the way ahead of us, and would we be willing to call a halt to any actual battle until this area was taken over in case of escapees into Europe and the ravage that would take place.

And as far as I know, the Brigadier believed this story, and we set sail that evening to have a look at this typhus hospital under a white flag. And there was no typhus hospital. There was barbed wire, sentry boxes, a huge garrison building for SS troopers, and Belsen concentration camp. And, as I say, we drove up in two, three jeeps, four jeeps maybe, in the evening, and we saw this concentration camp that we believed was a typhus hospital. But we knew immediately that it wasn’t a typhus hospital.”

Finishing this blog with a quote from Bergen Belsen’s mots famous victim, Anne Frank.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

sources

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/the-horrors-i-saw-still-wake-me-at-night-the-liberation-of-belsen-75-years-on

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-liberation-of-bergen-belsen

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/the-liberation-of-bergen-belsen

The forgotten tragedy of Anne and Margot Frank

I am a member of several history websites and I get daily notifications abut events that happened in history this day. Today I got the notification that on this day in 1945 Anne Frank died in Bergen Belsen

I don’t know how they got to that conclusion because the exact date Anne and Margot Frank death is not known. But this is that forgotten tragedy of their deaths their family like Otto Frank and the girls’ Aunt Leni Frank Elias did not have a date where they could remember the death of the 2 girls, and maybe light a candle for them. Nor would they have a date where they could say a specific prayer.

Luckily Leni Frank-Elias moved to Basel. in Switzerland in the 1930s together with her husband and her sons Stephan and Bernhard(Bernd)aka Buddy.

Anne Frank clearly was very fond of her cousin Bernhard

Buddy (Bernd), was born in Frankfurt in 1925 and grew up in Basel. After his international career as an ice clown and actor, he became the President of the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel.

In a letter to Alice Fran dated 13 January 1941, Anne Frank wrote:

«I’m at the rink every spare minute. (…) I’m taking skating classes regularly now, where we’re learning how to dance and jump and everything else. (…) I hope that I’ll learn to skate as well as Bernd someday. (…) Bernd, maybe we can skate as a pair together someday, but I know I’d have to train very hard to get to be as good as you are.»

On 3 June 1942, Anne writes a birthday letter to her cousin Buddy. This is the last direct contact between the two cousins. One month later, on 6 July, the Franks leave their apartment in Merwedeplein in Amsterdam and go into hiding in the secret annex, which had been ready for months.

Such a tragedy that Anne and Margot Frank’s family and friends were even denied the date of their death.

Source

https://www.thepeoplehistory.com/march12th.html

https://www.annefrank.ch/en

Happy Birthday Edith Frank

I often think that Edith Frank is a forgotten hero. Stuck with so many people in such a small space, desperately avoiding being discovered. That would be challenging to anyone’s health. But Edith could not afford to lose her sanity not even for a second.

She was born in the German city of Aachen, close to the Dutch border, on 16 January 1900. Aachen is only a 20 minutes journey from Maastricht in the Netherlands

She was the fourth child in a wealthy Jewish family. Her parents ran a family business, trading in scrap metal, machinery and parts, boilers, other appliances, and semi-finished products.

Her father, Abraham Holländer (1860–1928) was a successful businessman in who was prominent in the Aachen Jewish community together with Edith’s mother, Rosa Stern (1866–1942). 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, Holländer, is German for “Dutchman”

I wonder how excited Edith’s parents must have been in the dying days of the 19th century. Were they hoping that Edith would be born 16 days early, so that Edith would have been the 1st child born in the 20th century?

Edith had three siblings: Walter, Julius, and Bettina. Edith had a carefree childhood until her older sister Bettina died. The cause of her death is unknown. At only fourteen, Edith was harshly confronted with death. She still managed to get on with her life: she finished high school and worked in the family business for a few years.

In 1924, Edith met Otto Frank and they were married on May 12, 1925 in Aachen’s synagogue. Their first daughter, Margot, was born in 1926 whereas their second daughter, Anne, was born in 1929.

Anne has not much sympathy for her mother during their tumultuous years in the annex, and she only has a few kinds words to say about her, particularly in the earlier entries. Anne feels that her mother is cold, critical, and uncaring, that they have very little in common, and that her mother does not know how to show love to her children. I don’t think that Anne realised the anxiety her mother must have had trying to keep her family safe. Then again what teenage girl gets along with her mother?

However in Anne’s later entries of her diary, she tried attempts to look at her mother’s life as a wife and mother in a more objective manner. As Anne gets older and gains a clearer perspective, she begins to regret her quick, petty judgments of her mother. Anne has more sympathetic feelings for her mother.

According to Otto, Edith suffered more from their arguments than Anne did. ‘Of course, I was worried about my wife and Anne not having a good relationship. However, she truly was an excellent mother, who put her children above all else. She often complained that Anne would oppose everything she did, but she was comforted to know that Anne trusted in me.’

Edith Frank died on 6 January 1945, three weeks before the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and 10 days before her 45th birthday. The cause of death was malnutrition ,basically murdered by starvation.

It gives me comfort to believe that Edith is now celebrating her birthday with her family in heaven. And if the stars sparkle more brightly tonight I will know she had a good birthday. Happy birthday Edith Frank.

sources

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/19185863/edith-frank

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

https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/annefrank/character/edith-frank/

Band of Brothers

I recently bought a subscription for an application called Now TV. I basically bought it because it has some great box sets on it like ‘Sopranos’ .Howver I also saw that ‘Band of Brothers’ was on it too.

I forgot how good and powerful the show is. Last night I watched the second last episode, episode 9 titled “Why we fight” it is the episode where they come across one of the sub camps of Dachau. There is one powerful line in that episode which describes all the ‘enemies’ of the Third Reich.

“They are musicians, clerks, artists, doctors, teachers, Poles or Gypsies they are Jews, considered “undesirable” by the Germans. ” None of the men in the camp had any military connection.

There is one other scene earlier on in the episode, and I hadn’t noticed it before,. One of the men of EZ company entered a shop looking for VAT 69 whisky. Behind them there is a poster of a company called Opekta.

That is the company that Anne Frank’s father Otto managed in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank wrote in her diary on June 20, 1942: “Since we are Jews, my father went to the Netherlands in 1933. He became director of the Dutch Opekta company for jam production. “

source

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185906/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

Etty Hillesum-A young woman’s life not fulfilled.

Like Anne Frank ,Etty (Esther) Hillesum, also kept a diary during World War 2,describing her experiences of the Holocaust. She was born in the city of Middelburg in the southwest of the Netherlands, on January 15,1914. She was the daughter of Levie Hillesum and Riva Bernstein. In 1932 she moved to Amsterdam to study law and Slavic languages.

She started her diary on March 7 1941, possibly at the suggestion of her analyst Julius Spier, whom she had been attending to for a month. Although his patient, Etty also became his secretary and friend and eventually his lover. His influence on her spiritual development is apparent in her diaries; as well as teaching her how to deal with her depressive and egocentric episodes he introduced her to the Bible and St. Augustine and helped her develop a deeper understanding of the work of Rilke and Dostoyevsky.

Etty was an intensely alive and sexual young woman, yet she felt herself plagued by what she called her ‘confounded eroticism”. But what healthy woman in her 20s isn’t interested in sex?

Rather then go to deep into her life, I feel it is better to reflect on what she felt by using some excerpts from her diary.

“This is a painful and almost insuperable step for me: committing so much that has been suppressed to a blank sheet of lined paper,” The thoughts in my head are so clear and sharp and my feelings so deep, but writing about them is hard. The main difficulty, I think, is a sense of shame. So many inhibitions, so much fear of letting go and allowing things to pour out of me, yet that is what I must do if I am ever to give my life a reasonable and satisfactory purpose. It is like the final, liberating scream that always sticks bashfully in your throat when you make love.”

“Only a few months ago I still believed that politics did not touch me and wondered if that was ‘unworldliness,’ a lack of real understanding. Now I don’t ask such questions any more”

“If there were only one decent German, then he should be cherished despite that whole barbaric gang, and because of that one decent German it is wrong to pour hatred over an entire people”

“I am not easily frightened. Not because I am brave but because I know that I am dealing with human beings and that I must try as hard as I can to understand everything that anyone ever does. And that was the real import of this morning: not that a disgruntled young Gestapo officer yelled at me, but that I felt no indignation, rather a real compassion, and would have liked to ask: ‘Did you have a very unhappy childhood, has your girlfriend let you down?’”

“MONDAY MORNING, 9 O’CLOCK. Come on, my girl, get down to work or God help you. And no more excuses either, no little headache here or a bit of nausea there, or I’m not feeling very well. That is absolutely out of the question. You’ve just got to work, and that’s that. No fantasies, no grandiose ideas and no earth-shattering insights. Choosing a subject and finding the right words are much more important. And that is something I have to learn and for which I must fight to the death: all fantasies and dreams shall be ejected by force from my brain and I shall sweep myself clean from within, to make space for real studies, large and small. To tell the truth, I have never worked properly. It’s the same with sex. If someone makes an impression on me, I can revel in erotic fantasies for days and nights on end. I don’t think I ever realised how much energy that consumes”

“Last night I asked Han in bed, ‘Do you think someone like me ought to get married? Am I a real woman?’ Sex for me is not all that important, although sometimes I give the impression that it is. Isn’t it cheating to allow men to be taken in by that impression and then be unable to give them what they want? I am not really an earthy woman, at least not sexually. I am no tigress and that sometimes gives me a feeling of inferiority. My primitive physical passion has been diverted in many different ways and weakened by all sorts of intellectualisations, which I am sometimes ashamed of. What is primitive in me is my warmth; I have a sort of primitive love and primitive sympathy for people, for all people. I don’t think I am cut out for one man”

“And yesterday I lay on that bed, for the first time naked in his arms, and it was less a night of love than that time. And yet it was good. It was not exciting, there was no ecstasy. But it was so sweet and so safe”

“Those two months behind barbed wire have been the two richest and most intense months of my life, in which my highest values were so deeply confirmed. I have learnt to love Westerbork”

“Can love one person and one person only one’s whole life long strikes me as quite childish. There is something mean and impoverishing about it. Will people never learn that love brings so much more happiness and reward than sex?”

“The misery here is quite terrible; and yet, late at night when the day has slunk away into the depths behind me, I often walk with a spring in my step along the barbed wire. And then time and again, it soars straight from my heart—I can’t help it, that’s just the way it is, like some elementary force—the feeling that life is glorious and magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new world.”

“A lot of unimportant inner litter and bits and pieces have to be swept out first. Even a small head can be piled high inside with irrelevant distractions. True, there may be edifying emotions and thoughts, too, but the clutter is ever present. So let this be the aim of the meditation: to turn one’s innermost being into a vast empty plain, with none of that treacherous undergrowth the impede the view. So that something of “God” can enter you, and something of “Love,” too. Not the kind of love-de-luxe that you can revel in deliciously for half an hour, taking pride in how sublime you feel, but the love you can apply to small, everyday things.”

Her last words though were not written in her diary, but on a postcard she threw out of the train on transport to Auschwitz.

“Opening the Bible at random I find this: ‘The Lord is my high tower’. I am sitting on my rucksack in the middle of a full freight car. Father, Mother, and Mischa are a few cars away. In the end, the departure came without warning…. We left the camp singing…. Thank you for all your kindness and care.”

Etty was murdered in Auschwitz on November 30,1943, aged 29.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/136401/esther-hillesum#intro

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2019/04/04/feminize-your-canon-etty-hillesum/

https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/hillesum-etty

https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/brexit-news-life-of-dutch-author-murdered-at-auschwitz-64044/

Donation

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Anne Frank-Wise beyond her years.

Annelies Marie Frank aka Anne Frank, born 12 June 1929 – murdered February or March 1945, in Bergen Belsen. She was a German-Dutch teenager of Jewish heritage, kept a diary. One of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, she gained fame posthumously with the 1947 publication of The Diary of a Young Girl -originally Het Achterhuis in Dutch; English: The Secret Annex- in which she documented her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. It is one of the world’s best-known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.

But most of all she was a child, who was wise beyond her years. Below are just some of her pearls of wisdom.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.”

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

“I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

“We all know that a good example is more effective than advice. So set a good example, and it won’t take long for others to follow.”

“It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.”

sources

https://www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/who-was-anne-frank/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anne-Frank

https://allthatsinteresting.com/anne-frank-quotes#1

Jan Gies-Miep Gies’s Husband

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/

Donation

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Children murdered on September 6, 1944.

I was going to do a piece on Ursula Gerson, who was murdered in Auschwitz on September 6,1944 aged 8. But then I saw there were more Dutch Jewish children and Jewish refugees, who fled Germany and Austria with their parents, who were murdered that day.

Duifje Gans. murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 11

Mirjam Lisette Katz, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Heijman Karel Franken, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 10.

Jeanette Regina Schenk, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Mary Winnik, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 7.

Mietje Judith Moscou, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 11.

Samuel Groenteman, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 6.

Karel Jacobs, murdered in Auschwitz, September 6, 1944. Aged 13.

These are only a few. There were at least327 Dutch Jews whose death were registered on September 6,1944.About 30 % or so were children

I was wondering why there were so many on that specific date.Then it dawned on me. They were all on the last transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz, which left the Netherlands on September 3,1944. Anne Frank and her family were also on that transport.

I know that I will have nightmares tonight with the faces of these poor souls haunting me, but it will be worth it. There fate and names should never be forgotten.

source

Westerbork

I have written about Westerbork before, but today I want to address the paradox and the misconception of the camp.

Camp Westerbork was a Nazi transit camp in Drenthe province, northeastern Netherlands, during World War II. It was used as a staging location for sending Jews to concentration camps elsewhere, mainly Auschwitz and Sobibor.

The Dutch government established a camp at 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 St. Louis ship.

In May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied 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. Under the Dutch, conditions were fairly good.

In July 1942, the Germans took over the administration of Westerbork and transformed it into a transit camp.

The camp administration was headed by a German commandant. Westerbork had three commandants, all of whom were SS officers: Erich Deppner (July 1942–September 1942); Josef Hugo Dischner (September–October 1942); and Albert Konrad Gemmeker (October 1942–April 1945). German SS men and a rotating group of Dutch civilian and military police guarded the camp. In addition to the German and Dutch personnel, a Jewish police force ,called the Ordedienst or the OD, kept order in the camp.

Camp Westerbork also had a school, orchestra, hairdresser, and even restaurants designed by SS officials to give inmates a false sense of hope for survival and to aid in avoiding problems during transportation.

Despite this illusion people still died in the camp, often they were murdered.

Jacques Schol, a Dutchman, was an officer in the camp from July 16 1940 until January 1943. He was known for his brutality against Jewish inmates, kicking inmates to death.

SS-Obersturmbahnfuehrer Albert Konrad Gemmeker, was the last commandant of Westerbork. He became to be known as the “gentleman-commander,” because of his polite and friendly behaviour. After the war, he declared, during his trial, like many perpetrators, that he didn’t know of the massive extermination of millions of innocents. Etty Hillesum, unlike Gemmeker’s judges, was not blindsided by his behaviour and in her letters she described and criticized the commander, exposing him as one of the most important executors of the extermination system, the key player in eradicating the Jews of the Netherlands.

After the war an eyewitness gave this heartbreaking account: “Indescribable scenes followed. Penetrating screams of a dead-scared half-crazed mother, the crying of children, the dumb-struck looks of some of the men, and the lamentation of the people who stayed behind. This caused shivers to run down my spine.”

Another eyewitness said “People who were selected for transport began packing their belongings and clothed their children. They got ready for the trip, knowing very well that no reprieve was forthcoming. Those who stayed behind for at least one more week often aired their relief by crying or they would break out in dance behaving like overjoyed kids.”

Transports were a traumatic experience for Jews in Westerbork. Witness testimonies mention confusion, distress, and brutality. For example, Dutch-Jewish journalist Philip Mechanicus, who kept a diary of life in Westerbork, described a transport that took place on June 1, 1943. He wrote:

“The transports are as nauseating as ever.… Men, quiet, stone-faced; women, often in tears. The elderly: stumbling, faltering under their burden, tripping on the bad road sometimes into pools of mud…. Whoever hesitates, whoever dawdles, is being assisted; sometimes herded, sometimes shoved, sometimes beaten, sometimes punched, sometimes persuaded by a boot, quickly shoved aboard the train…. When the cars are full, the prescribed number of deportees having been loaded, the cars are sealed…. The commandant signals the departure: a wave of the hand. The whistle sounds … a heart-rending sound is heard by everyone in the camp. The grungy snake, now fully loaded, crawls away”

Albert Konrad Gemmeker lived in a luxurious villa at the entrance of the camp where he would often entertain friends. Like this Christmas party(Gemmeker is on the far right)

He may have appeared to have been an SS officer who treated prisoners humanely, it was during his reign where most of the 100,000 plus Jews were transported to Auschwitz, Sobibor and a few other camps. There was no way that he didn’t know what the fate would be for those he put on transport.

On 3 September 1944, Anne Frank and the seven others who had been living in hiding in the Secret Annex were put on a transport to Auschwitz. Along with over a thousand other Jewish prisoners. This was the last transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz.

In 1949, when the Dutch left their over 300 year occupation of Indonesia, native Indonesians were left in political unrest. Some people who had collaborated with French, Algerian, and Dutch militaries were evacuated, because they were the subject of anger by the other indigenous people who had resisted colonization and felt betrayed at the Moluccan peoples siding with their colonizers. The peoples were promised a quick return to their homeland. However, from 1951 to 1971, former indigenous Moluccan KNIL soldiers and their families were made to stay in the camp. During this time, the camp was renamed Kamp Schattenberg.

sources

http://www.holocaust-lestweforget.com/albert-konrad-gemmeker.html

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa24289

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

https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9789048550173-007/html

https://www.holland.com/global/tourism/destinations/provinces/drenthe/camp-westerbork.htm

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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 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 know 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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