A few days ago, I had the privilege to interview Lisa Liss concerning The Bandage Project, an organization she started to remember the 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust and other children.
Lisa Liss has taught her students about tolerance and how it affected millions of people, especially during the Holocaust. Many years later, blessed with a highly motivated group of fourth graders that wanted to learn more and do more! Thus began the Tolerance Kids! Through the years, they have held Tolerance Fairs, written a play with actual survivors in attendance, created Tolerance Gardens and murals and more. One part of their program is the award-winning Bandage Project! In 2008, my Tolerance Kids wanted a way to represent the 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust. e decided that bandages would honour children; they come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and most of all—heal the pain.
“Children are not the people of tomorrow but are people of today. They have a right to be taken seriously, and to be treated with tenderness and respect. They should be allowed to grow into whoever They were meant to be. ‘The unknown person’ inside of them is our hope for the future.” —Janusz Korczak
On October 30, 1944, Margot Frank and her younger sister Anne were put on a transport from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen. By November 1944, Bergen Belsen received approximately 9,000 women and young girls. Margot and Anne were murdered there in February 1945. I deliberately say murdered because they were ill and received no treatment—to me, that is murder.
On October 30, 1944, Margot Frank and her younger sister Anne were put on a transport from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen. By November 1944, Bergen Belsen received approximately 9,000 women and young girls. Margot and Anne were murdered there in February 1945. I deliberately say murdered because they were ill and received no treatment—to me, that is murder. The story of Anne is well-known through her diary. It is believed that Margot kept a diary, but it was never found. I think her diary would probably tell an even more compelling story, she was three years older than Anne, and she would therefore had a better comprehension of what was going on in the world around them.
About Margo, Miep Gies said, “I didn’t have any relationship with Margot. She was there, and that was all.” Anne says more or less the same about her sister in her diary. Describing Margot at the table, she wrote “Eats like a little mouse, doesn’t say a word.”
I often wondered if they had remained in Auschwitz instead of being moved to Belsen-Bergen, would they have survived? I realize the irony of that statement, but it could have been a possibility.
“I have often been downcast but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary, I treat all the privations as amusing.” —Anne Frank
“Times change, people change, thoughts about good and evil change, about true and false. But what always remains fast and steady is the affection that your friends feel for you, those who always have your best interest at heart.” —Margot Frank
Mara Ginic (now Kraus) was born in Zagreb, Yugoslavia in 1925. At the age of 3 or 4 she moved with her grandparents to Osijek, Slavonia(Nowadays in Croatia). When she was five years old her parents divorced and her mother moved to Belgrade, but she stayed with her father and grand parents in Osijek. When she was 8 they moved to Belgrade. After her father re-married, Mara lived with him and her step-mother.
—In April 1941, a few weeks after Hitler’s troops occupied Belgrade my father and I escaped with the help of my Catholic and ethnic German mother to the Dalmatian island Hvar. But Hvar occupied by the Croat Ustashi turned out to be a quite unsafe place. So we escaped once more under the nose of the authorities, this time to Split, occupied by the Italians. In December of the same year, the Italians deported us to a small town in Piedmont, Castellamonte, in northern Italy, where we were interned as civil prisoners of war.
In September 1943 the Germans occupied northern Italy. My father, some friends and I fled to the mountains with the intention to cross over to Switzerland. After an adventurous, dangerously unsuccessful try we were able to find a guide in Breuil (Cervinia). He descended from a line of famous mountaineers: his grandfather Jean Antoine Carrel was the first Italian to climb the Matterhorn.
Breuil lies at the foot of Matterhorn and our aim was Zermatt which lies on the other side of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Accompanied by Carrel and wearing our backpacks and low shoes, we left at dusk. On the way another mountain guide joined us. We plodded single file into the night up a path which became steeper and steeper. We were a party of five refugees, two men and three women. Carrel headed the line and carried a thick rope rolled over his shoulder, while his colleague closed the line.
After a time Carrel stopped and gave us all a small pill. A drug for endurance that pilots take before difficult assignments, he explained. My backpack suddenly became light as feather, and it seemed as though my feet barely touched the ground. For about three or four hours we went uphill on paths that weren’t too difficult. The bright night was turning cooler and I put on my mittens. Father wasn’t so well equipped, and he constantly held his city hat with one hand because the wind threatened to blow it off his head. I gave him one of my mittens since his hands were freezing, as the cold became more biting.
We wandered uphill without much effort until daybreak, but the worst still lay ahead. The path became more stony and narrow, and we now had to step carefully sideways, leaning against a steep rock face. Then our taciturn guide fastened one after the other to the rope and let us slide down several yards over the step-like cliffs. After this difficult passage was behind us, Carrel stopped and pointed straight ahead. A glacier spread out before us, and far below, meadows and houses were veiled in the morning mist. “That’s the direction”, pointed Carrel. ” Now you have to go alone. It’s the border and I can’t go any farther”.
There he was given the gold coins as it has been agreed before by my father’s friend, Hinko Salz, who was a dentist and had gold coins. Luckily for us, because my father didn’t have any.
The two men turned around and disappeared from our sight in an instant. For a few moments we stood there, helpless, then got hold of ourselves and stepped onto the glacier. Its icy breath beat against us. It was smooth and crossing it wouldn’t have been difficult if we had worn mountain shoes, and if there hadn’t been crevasses every couples of yards which we sometimes easily stepped over, but more often were forced to jump. We had been on our way for twelve hours and the pills had lost their effect. The high had passed now into a great weariness. Every step became an effort of will, not to mention jumping, when our backpacks yanked us to the ground every time.
My throat was parched, the wind blew my hair in my face and obstructed my vision. My knees buckled and the glacier never seemed to end. Every time now when I jumped I fell on the ice, until I no longer had the strength to get up. Father was bushed too, but spurred me on and helped me again and again to get up. My limbs were stiff from the cold, my fingers and tows were numb. Enough was enough! Not another inch! I am staying here!
As father tried to help me I started to scream. At 11.500 feet this was exactly the right time to have a nervous breakdown. At Dr. Salc’s sign, my father gave me a slap in the face, and I began to cry, but gradually quieted down, pulled myself together and dragged myself along like a good girl. Soon we made it over the glacier. Now before us lay a lake, and not far from there we saw a house: the border guard.
The guards had been observing us with binoculars for some time and came to meet us. We dropped exhausted on the benches in front of the small guard house. They gave us water and let us have a breather before we were politely, but resolutely informed that we couldn’t remain there in Switzerland but had to turn back. We hadn’t expected that. At that time we still didn’t know anything about the many refugees who were not only refused entry to the country, but were even immediately handed over to the Germans.
At first my father and Dr. Salc tried to persuade the border guards. My father said his sister lived in Switzerland, and since he had her address — she was interned in a camp near Lugano — he asked to be allowed to call her there. Over the telephone he inquired if she had any contacts who could help us be admitted to Switzerland. “My poor brother, I’m a refugee, how can I help you?” Since nothing could be expected from that side, the negotiations turned to imploring and begging for entry — and when even tears were of no avail the two adult women threw themselves at the feet of the officials, pulled their hair and made such a scene that I had to look away in shame.
After this terrible exhibition the top official went to the phone, spoke for a long time with distant superiors and finally informed us he couldn’t decide anything on his own and had to bring us to Zermatt. We hoped then we were saved. We believed once in the country we wouldn’t be expelled any more. We were lucky, because as I heard later, many refugees who already were inside the country have been handed over by Swiss police to the Germans.
So we started on our way, traipsing along with our remaining strength behind the border guard through this wonderful, free country where there was no war and no SS.
Even the air seemed to me particularly fragrant, like honey, or was it my imagination? Was I hallucinating smells? In my exhaustion and ecstasy I hadn’t noticed that our escort was smoking a pipe, out of which small honey-scented clouds floated over us. How we came to Zermatt, to whom our guard handed us, where we spent the night: all this went unperceived by my sleepwalking senses. The twenty-four hours of marching, climbing, jumping over crevasses, agitation, despair and ensuing deliverance had completely emptied my mind. I believe we stayed in a hotel. All I see is the staircase we went down the following morning which caused us immense strain because of our sore muscles.
In Zermatt we became famous overnight. We were treated like heroes. People felt admiration for our accomplishment and compassion for our lot. On our way to the train station from where we were to leave for a camp, men and women on the streets congratulated us and offered us fruits and chocolate. Even as we sat in our compartment, they passed us apples and cigarettes through the windows.
We remained in Switzerland until the end of the war. Meanwhile I had married Ivo Kraus and we decided not to return to Yugoslavia, but go to Italy. From Italy we emigrated to Argentina. My father did return to Yugoslavia, only to escape from the Tito regime 2 years later. Some month before he had married in Belgrade an Auschwitz survivor, Silvia Drucker. They emigrated to Venezuela where their daughter Nicole was born.
My husband and me had two children and we lived later again in Italy, and in France, in Venezuela and finally in São Paulo, Brazil, where we divorced. In São Paulo I met Joe J. Heydecker with whom I lived until his death in Vienna, Austria.—–
Daniel Falkner was born in Poland in 1912 and grew up in the city of Rzeszow. Daniel hoped to become a doctor but was unable to attend medical school because of restrictions placed on the number of Jewish students. As he neared the age of compulsory military service in Poland, he was sent to a military academy. After completing military service he moved to Warsaw and shortly before September 1939, he was called up.
Daniel’s division eventually surrendered and he became a prisoner of war. After escaping, he returned to Warsaw. In the autumn of 1940, Warsaw’s Jewish population was forced into the ghetto. Daniel and his wife escaped the ghetto and lived in hiding until discovered in 1943. Later, hiding amongst a group of non-Jewish Polish political prisoners, Daniel was taken to Sachsenhausen camp in Germany.
As Allied troops advanced in April 1945, the Germans evacuated those prisoners deemed fit for forced labour and left the rest behind to die. Daniel avoided deportation by hiding under floorboards and was liberated. After the war, Daniel joined the British Army as an interpreter and was reunited with his wife in 1946.
And of course then came the ghetto, and this was a terrible upheaval. Thousands and thousands of people had to move in and out, those Poles who lived among the Jews had to move out from this designated area and the designated area was only a small corner of Warsaw, the most dilapidated part of Warsaw and the Jews who lived throughout Warsaw had to move in. And this was a period which is imprinted on my mind, people with, with all sorts of chattel moving in and out. And of course the living conditions were impossible, every, every cellar, every corridor was full, filled with people. And many couldn’t find even this and they slept in the street. The result was that every morning the undertakers had to collect bodies from the streets. In July 1942 the German authorities announced that to ease up your loss, you can volunteer to go to the East and there you will be provided with work and food and clothing and so forth. They were not specific to say where to the East, what is the name of the place where you are going, and what sort of work you are going to, to have to perform. And many thousands of volunteers came forward to be sent to the East.
Every day about six thousand volunteers were sent off, not to be seen or heard of again. And then when these volunteers started to become thin on the ground, the Germans made traps in the, arranged traps in the street, and whoever was caught in the trap was sent off. And among those were old people, disabled people, blind people or children, and they were packed to capacity in those cattle trains and sent off. And one or two of those who were sent off came back and said ‘this is all a lie, this, we are, they are being sent only a few tens of kilometres away from, from Warsaw to a place called Treblinka and there they are being exterminated completely’. You see the human nature is such that this is a thing that is incomprehensible, no one, no one can take it in that someone is planning a complete annihilation or murder of a whole people, this is inconceivable.
Pieter Kohnstam was born in Amsterdam in 1936. His parents, Hans and Ruth Kohnstam, were forced to flee from the Nuremberg/Fuerth area in Germany to Amsterdam, The Netherlands during the early days of the Nazi regime. Coming from a well-known upper middle class family, they left behind a lucrative toy merchandising company with sales offices and warehouses in cities throughout Germany and Europe.
It was by chance that the Kohnstam’s apartment in Amsterdam was downstairs from the family of Anne Frank. Ruth became a close friend of Edith Frank, and Anne, the youngest daughter, became Pieter’s babysitter. Both children attended the local schools in the neighborhood.
“In the morning of July 6, 1942, Anne Frank came to say good-bye to us. The Franks were about to go into hiding in their secret annex. It was a sad and difficult parting for everyone. As things had deteriorated, Anne had come down every day to play with Pieter (age 6). Ruth (Pieter’s mother, age 31) and Clara (Ruth’s mother/Pieter’s grandmother) had become very fond of her. We hugged and kissed each other good-bye. Remembering that moment still brings tears to my eyes.
We watched from our living room window as the Franks left for their hiding place. It was raining outside. Margot had gone ahead earlier. Otto was dressed rather formally, as if he were going to work. He wore a dark suit and tie, an overcoat, and a hat. He was carrying a satchel under one arm and holding onto Edith with the other. Edith was also wearing a hat and carried a shopping bag. Anne had put on a scarf against the rain. She looked back one more time as we waved good-bye to them. We were crying and praying for their safety.
Two days later, the Nazis conducted a Razzia in our neighborhood. We heard their sirens and car horns blaring from far away. As the black lead motorcycle turned into our street followed by the passenger car and the large truck packed with Nazi soldiers, I was filled with foreboding. Pieter was standing on the sofa with his nose pressed against the lower part of the window, looking towards the street while holding on to Clara’s waist. Ruth and I looked at each other with apprehension.
The convoy stopped in front of our building, and soldiers poured from the back of the truck. They rushed up to our apartment and hammered their rifle butts against our front door, shouting, “Open up, or we will break down the door.”
While Clara let them in, I saw Ruth slipping a small piece of paper into Pieter’s pocket.
The soldiers burst into the room, led by a Nazi officer who waved his pistol at us and shouted, “Be still, or you will be shot.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Pieter dig for the paper in his pocket, sneak it into his mouth, and carefully chew and swallow it. I held my breath, praying that no one else had noticed. Fortunately, the soldiers were too busy putting tags with the SS insignia on our furniture and belongings, and paid no attention to us. The officer explained that, because we were being deported, they were claiming possession and ownership of everything we had. We would be committing a crime if we removed so much as a toothpick from our apartment.
When they finally left, we all heaved a sigh of relief. Ruth praised Pieter for his quick thinking in disposing of the paper slip. She smiled at him and said, “Don’t worry; it won’t harm you. It all comes out eventually.” The slip had been filled with telephone numbers, including one for Gerda Leske. (Gerda and Ad Leske were close friends of the Kohnstams, frequently coming to Sunday brunch before the German occupation. They continued to come over on Sundays following the occupation, making sure to supply food for the family and toys for Pieter, an only child. Both Christian; Gerda was originally from Berlin and Ad was Dutch. They owned stores in Amsterdam and Maastricht). Ruth had taken a big risk, figuring that the Gestapo would not think to search a small child. We had been very lucky indeed.
When we received notice for our departure date, Ruth called Gerda, who devised a brilliant, but dangerous plan.
Nothing further happened until the day when we were to report to the freight depot in the eastern section of Amsterdam for transport to Westerbork. Ruth and Clara spent the morning sewing cash — large bank notes — and jewelry into the shoulder pads of our coats. Ruth also hid some money in the shoulder pads of her blouse. We buried the rest of her jewelry in the garden behind our apartment. We never saw any of it again. The day before, I had bought two knapsacks — the kind hikers use — and we packed them with enough food for two days. We stored them in the back bedroom, so they would not be visible if somebody looked through our living room window from the street. I had also obtained strong, waterproof hiking boots with nailed rubber soles for Ruth, Pieter, and me. In addition, I had forged travel permits and identity cards for the three of us.
The hours crawled along at an interminable snail’s pace. We were too nervous to eat anything for lunch. Pieter kept asking questions of Grandma Clara: Why do we have to leave? Why can’t you come with us? Will I ever see you again? She answered every one of them patiently, reassuring him that everything would be all right. I realized, with surprise, that he was voicing the same concerns that were going round and round in my mind. I, too, was wondering if we were ever going to see Clara again, if we would ever return to Amsterdam. As my thoughts turned to the previous time when I fled from the Nazis, I wondered if I would ever set foot on German soil again, and if I would ever regain any of what my family had lost.
(Ruth and I had fled Nuremberg for the Netherlands in September 1932. My work as an artist was considered “degenerate” by the powerful, fanatic followers of Hitler in Nuremberg; and, not only our possessions, but quite possibly our lives were in danger. Though the Nazis were not yet “officially” in power, on the advice of my father, a judge, we quickly fled the country. This was one year after our marriage and I was thirty years old.)
Finally it was time to go, and it was hard to tear ourselves away. The apartment at Merwedeplein 17 had been our home for nearly eight years; and, once again, we were leaving everything behind, except for our lives, our memories, our hopes and our faith. We had agreed that I would start off alone, and Ruth would follow with Pieter. If she was stopped by a Nazi patrol, she would claim that he was sick, and that she was taking him to the hospital. I drank half a bottle of French Armagnac, put on my black beret, and, with a final goodbye to Clara, left our apartment through the back door. The gate at the rear of our garden opened onto a small passage that ran along the back of our apartment buildings. Emerging from the alley into the main street, I saw an SS patrol taking a cigarette break in the park. I prayed that Ruth and Pieter would get away without any trouble.
Fortunately, we all made it safely to Gerda’s salon. Since we did not look like shoppers, we entered through the back door, so as not to arouse suspicions. The first thing we did was to remove the Stars of David from our garments. It was a cumbersome process, but critical for our survival. We rubbed dye into the areas where the yellow patches had covered the fabric, so they would match the rest of the coat where the material looked more worn.
Gerda had come up with a clever cover story: She was taking her staff to a fashion show in Maastricht. Since Ruth was a young and beautiful woman, she would go as her fashion model. I was the artist and would act as the company’s fashion designer. And Pieter would come along as Gerda’s son. We impressed on Pieter that he would have to be absolutely quiet for the duration of the train ride, and that he would have to act as if Ruth were a stranger. Knowing what a challenge it would be for a gregarious child who liked to talk to anybody, and who was, no doubt, as scared as we were, worried me. How would he behave under these tense circumstances? Would he be able to keep silent and deny his own mother?
By the time we finished with our coats, there was not much time left. We quickly agreed on a meeting place in case we got separated. Then we headed to the Hauptbahnhof, the main railroad station, to take the train to Maastricht. We took separate trolleys. My ride went without a hitch, although there were a number of Nazi troops patrolling the streets, stopping, kicking, clubbing, and frisking people at random. When I arrived at the great hall of the railroad station, Ad Leske was waiting for me under a large round clock that was suspended from the ceiling. He greeted me formally like a business acquaintance, shook my hand and said, “Good afternoon, how are you?” In the process, he pressed a railroad ticket into my palm.
Then he accompanied me to the platform where a commuter train was waiting. We passed an Amsterdam City Council member I knew well coming from the train. He winked at me and gave me a quick nod, letting me know that Ruth, Gerda and Pieter were safe in the railroad car. Ad took me to my seat, quietly wished me luck, shook my hand again, and left. After all the years of a close friendship, it was difficult to part so abruptly, but we had no choice.
The train was filled with Dutch workers heading home for the day. Ruth was sitting two seats ahead of me on the other side of the aisle. Gerda and Pieter were several rows farther down, facing us. Pieter looked serious but content, nestled inside Gerda’s arms. We had agreed that if any one of us was stopped or apprehended, the others were not to look or give any sign of recognition. Pieter tried once to make eye contact with Ruth, who forced herself to look away. For a moment he looked stricken, and I was afraid that he would start to cry; but, Gerda had noticed the exchange and drew him closer to her, hugging him to her breast as if he were her own son. As he slowly relaxed into her body, I also felt myself calming down.
But we still had to wait. It seemed to take forever until the conductor finally walked along the train cars, slamming all the doors shut. His shrill whistle signaling departure was music to my ears. With a sudden jolt, the train lurched into motion and slowly pulled out of the station. We were finally on our way.
Throughout the ride, Nazi soldiers patrolled and spot checked the identity cards of various passengers. We tried to act unconcerned, but it made me nervous every time they walked down the aisle. Sure enough, one of them asked to see my papers. I handed him my ticket and the identity card I had forged, and held my breath. They looked them over and handed them back to me without comment. A wave of immense relief swept over me, followed by a warm feeling of pride that my handiwork had passed the test.
By the time we reached Maastricht, the sun had set and it was getting dark. We met at the end of the railroad platform, and Pieter gave Ruth a tight hug, burrowing into her as if to seek extra reassurance.
Outside the station, the managing director of Gerda’s salon in Maastricht was waiting for us, a thin man with a pinched face. His eyes kept darting all over the place. As we started to walk to his car, he asked to speak to Gerda in private. They stepped to the other side of his Peugeot, and I heard him murmur in a low, insistent voice while glancing nervously in our direction. Gerda stared at him, and her face became tight with anger. She did not raise her voice, but she must have said something to him that permitted no argument, because he looked down at the cobblestone street and then nodded in acquiescence.
He stood back as we said good-bye to Gerda. It was a long, emotional, tearful parting. How could we ever thank this extraordinary woman enough? How could we repay her for her generosity and courage? Gerda had risked her life for us. She had made arrangements with the underground in Amsterdam to take us across the Belgian border. She had accompanied us to Maastricht herself. If the Nazis had apprehended her, they would have killed her and her family. We did not want to let her go, but after yet another embrace, Gerda finally tore herself away and headed back into the railroad station, wiping her teary eyes, to wait for the next train back to Amsterdam.
As I watched her leave, I realized that our lives were never going to be the same. We had crossed a line and could no longer turn back. We were committed. Our journey to freedom had begun. It was July 14, 1942. By coincidence it was also Bastille Day in France; a good omen, I hoped.”
In 1963, Pieter immigrated to the United States where he pursued a career in the specialty chemical industry, focusing on pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. He became a U.S. citizen in 1968. He and his wife, Susan, married in 1965 and have two children and three grandchildren. Now retired in Venice, Florida, Kohnstam is active in community affairs. He is the past President of the Jewish Congregation of Venice. He is frequently invited to schools and various organizations to speak about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, his book, and matters relating to Jewish and interfaith topics.
Maria Ossowski was a Polish civilian living in Zakopane, Poland when the Second World War began. During the war, non-Jewish Poles were conscripted into forced labour in Germany and Maria’s parents sent her to live with family in Warsaw in an attempt to save her from being called up. In Warsaw, Maria and her aunt helped Jewish children by providing them with whatever food and clothing they could. She was suspected of being part of the Polish Resistance and arrested in 1943. She was deported to Auschwitz in May later that year.
“Eventually we were herded into what was to be our washing room. It was a huge barrack, with the water running, cold water I must add, from the, from the, from the, the top, there were men in already prison garb, which we never seen before. We were made to strip, we were made to go in front – each one of us – in front of that man, that man or the other one, they were all standing in the line, and we were shaven – we were shaven – our heads were shaven, our private parts were shaven and we were pushed then under that water. And after a while we were pushed out of it into another part of that big block, where the huge amount of terrible-looking – and already smelling terrible – clothes were prepared for us.
What we actually got was one dress which you had to put over your head. The dress had sleeves, but not long, like three-quarter sleeves, and when we have had this on, we were marched again to another part, where the girls this time – prisoners obviously – were sitting by the little tables, and that, and then where we were getting our numbers tattooed on our arms. It was done with simply – Biros were not invented then – so it was just implement with which you write letters in those days, and it was put into the ink and the point was made on your arm ‘til it had the shape of the number. You actually are asking me what, what made me survive, or what helped me survive. And this answer is the one which actually brings you pain all your next life, this normal life, because you never know why. So the easiest thing is to say, yes, God wanted it, that was supposed to be that way, but there were more human factors in it.
The fact that I was not, that I was young, that I was not ravaged by the long term imprisonment in prison…I told myself very quickly that I don’t want to die there, and the, this psychical attitude help you enormously. You were never to feel sorry for yourself. If you started to feel sorry for yourself you were a goner, you, you, you, you were Muselmann, as we were calling those who were physically and mentally broken. When we came, of course, we knew nothing. I, I knew nothing. I didn’t know about the extermination policy or – we knew that the ghettos were, were burning and the people were killed in the ghettos…
To see it with my own eyes was really a terrible shock and I can tell you one thing, that there is point in your life where your heart is no heart anymore, it’s a piece of ice. I had the feeling that my heart was hard, and not because I didn’t have feeling for my fellow prisoners – no, that I always had – but there was this hand, this iced hand which kept hold my heart like this. And my heart were not alive any more, it was – the sheer terror of it made my, part of my body almost turn into the ice.”
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.”
This is an article written by Eddy Boas, Eddy and his family survived Bergen Belsen. I had the privilege to interview him 2 years ago.
In the article he poses a few interesting question in relation to the investigation to who betrayed Anne Frank.
“Who really betrayed Anne Frank? The real betrayal – no investigation necessary
WHY did anyone think time and effort should be spent on an investigation to find out who betrayed Anne Frank? Were people who had read her diary asking for such an investigation? Was the Dutch government or Jewish community interested? As a Dutch-born Holocaust survivor, I am disgusted that the backers of this venture never gave a thought as to how the few hundred Dutch survivors, who are still alive, would feel. In reality, Anne and her family were no different to the 107,000 Dutch Jews deported to concentration camps. Anne was born in 1929 in Germany, her parents emigrating to the Netherlands when the Nazis started to harass and kill Jews in the street in the early 1930s. They settled in Amsterdam where her father went into business and Anne went to school. In May 1940, Germany invaded Holland and Jews there became anxious about their future. Many went into hiding, including in July 1942, the Frank family: Father Otto, mother Edith, and daughters Margot and Anne. On August 4, 1944, Dutch police and Dutch Nazis located the Franks in their hiding place and they were taken to Kamp Westerbork in north-east Holland. Four weeks later on September 3, 1944, they were transported in cattle wagons to Auschwitz. The Franks would have been discovered by pure luck, or by a neighbour hearing a strange noise, or the police going house to house checking on occupants. This was how most Dutch Jews, in hiding, were discovered. It is also a fact that the majority of Dutch bureaucrats were kept in their jobs following the occupation. They duly handed over to the Nazis a complete record of the recently held national census which contained details of every Dutch man and woman’s place of residence. It wasn’t difficult to find the Jews
BOTH my parent’s families had lived in Holland for over 200 years My parents thought they were Dutch Jews. But after the Germans invaded on May 10, 1940, they soon found out they were not Dutch – they were just Jews. On September 28, 1943, my father, mother, brother and I were forced out of our flat. I was three years old. We were also transported to Kamp Westerbork, and were held there for four months. On February 1,1944, we were transported by train to Bergen-Belsen where we were imprisoned in Star camp. Our time in Bergen-Belsen overlapped with Anne and Margot’s time there from October 1944 to March 1945. My father’s job of collecting bodies from arriving trains included Anne and Margot’s train from Auschwitz in October 1944. He always asked if there were any Dutch among the arriving prisoners, in this case Anne and Margot I can assume would have let my father know they were Dutch. My father would then go around the camp and see if he could find any family. In this case, he wouldn’t have been able to. My family were transported out of Bergen-Belsen on April 9,1945, when we were bundled into cattle wagons destined for Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, to be murdered in gas ovens. Our train became known as the Lost Train. We were on it with no food for 14 days, when on April 23, 1945, the Russian army liberated us near Trobitz in east Germany. It took nine weeks before we were able to return to Holland, on June 13, 1945. Unfortunately though, our hell was not over.
IN 1944, the Allies had turned the war around and the German army was under siege with the Americans approaching from the West and the Russians from the East, closing in to liberate Auschwitz. The Nazi commanders decided to empty the camp of its Jewish prisoners and did so in a particularly cruel way. On January 18,1945, 60,000 mainly Jewish inmates were lined up and marched out of the camp walking towards Wodzislaw 56 km to the west. They were guarded by the SS and their dogs. Nearly 15,000 were murdered. When the remainder reached Wodzislaw, they were forced into cattle wagons destined for concentration camps in the west. A few months earlier, in mid-October 1944, Jewish women in Auschwitz had been put on trains to camps in the West, among them Anne and Margot At that time in Bergen- Belsen hundreds were dying each day, starvation. Food was become scarce and eventually non-existent. With the influx of prisoners from the east, thousands were also dying from typhus. My father’s job in Bergen-Belsen was to go around the camp in a horse and cart and pick up all the dead bodies. From October, there were so many corpses that the crematorium was full so from then on they were put in open graves. Initially, Anne and Margot were forced into Tent camp, especially built to accommodate the prisoners from Auschwitz. In January, a huge storm destroyed all the tents and the women were moved into the already overcrowded barracks in the women’s camp. Like everyone else, the Frank sisters had a difficult time in Bergen-Belsen. Nothing could be done for the dying, most died a lonely death. The ones still alive were only barely alive. Margot died in February and Anne in March – just two of over 50,000 of the camp’s victims Bergen-Belsen was liberated by British troops just a few weeks later on April 15, 1945. The Frank family were no different than any other Dutch Jewish family, including my own, who endured the horrors of the Holocaust
AFTER our return to Holland, there was a lack of compassion shown by the Dutch towards surviving Jews. In our case, the stress of dealing with Dutch bureaucracy contributed to my already stressed out father, dying of heart failure in August 1948, when I was just eight years old. We were not allowed to go back to the flat where we had lived before being deported. We had nowhere to live, no money and no family. To find out about family assets or insurance became a game of wits between bureaucrats, lawyers and family. Both my parents lost all their loved ones. I never knew grandparents, uncles or aunts. I never had any cousins. We immigrated to Australia in 1954. To this day, I have never received any compensation from the Dutch government. Anne’s father Otto, meanwhile, survived and returned to Holland; Anne’s mother had been murdered in Auschwitz. After the war, Otto’s former secretary Miep Gies handed him Anne’s diary, which he published in June 1947.
IN conclusion, the real betrayal requires no investigation. Between May 1940 and May 1945, 107,000 Dutch Jews were forced out of their homes, including my family of four and Anne’s family of four. All were transported to German concentration camps. Of these 107,000, only 5000 survived – 102,000 were murdered. This was the highest number per head of population of any country in western Europe. Why? It’s simple The 107,000, including the Boas and Frank families, were betrayed by Dutch bureaucracy, the Dutch police or their Dutch neighbours. The question of ‘Who betrayed Anne Frank?’ takes away from what she really was, a young innocent girl who was murdered, as were the other 102,000 Dutch Jews, by a bunch of German Nazi fanatics. In 2016 when, with much publicity, a retired FBI agent was asked to investigate ‘Who betrayed Anne Frank?’. I wondered why anyone would be interested, 73 years after her diary was first published. What good was this going to do? How was this going to affect the few hundred Dutch Holocaust survivors still alive? My then 80-year-old brother, who was badly affected by the suffering he endured during the Shoah – especially our 14 months in Bergen-Belsen – was furious. I was annoyed and wrote to the filmmaker Thijs Bayens to try and find out what he wished to accomplish. I never received any answer. My brother died in 2017.
AFTER Anne’s diary became a bestseller, speculation began over who betrayed the Franks. The first suspects were the Dutch police who arrested the family, but this was never proven. Then there was speculation an employee called Willem van Maaren betrayed them. Otto lodged a complaint against him with the police, but no evidence was ever produced. Next it was Tony Ahlers, a Dutch Nazi, but nothing could be proven. Lena Hartog, the wife of another Frank employee, also became a suspect but again there was no evidence. Then there was Ans van Dijk, a Jewish woman who when arrested by the police gave them names of Jews she knew were in hiding, but once more there was no evidence. In short, speculation continued for many years but to this day no one has ever established that the Franks were betrayed by people they knew or by anyone else. And now we have this latest attempt, which even Bayens admits, doesn’t establish the betrayer with any certainty. Anne was no different to the tens of thousands of other Dutch Jewish children who died. But her name is being used to point the finger and sell books. She has become a marketing product. The one thing that marked Anne out is that she wrote a diary, which was found and published. That diary is outstanding and that should have been her legacy, not the conspiracy theories that surround her.
Infoline: Eddy Boas is a Dutch Holocaust survivor living in Sydney, and the author of ‘I’m not a victim – I am a survivor’.
I watched the movie “My Best Friend Anne Frank” last night, I know about the amount of criticism when it was first released, I don’t really know why though, of course, there was some fictionalisation. However in essence the main story is true. But this is not going to be a movie review.
The story is from the point of view of Hannah (Hanneli) Goslar, who like Anne had fled Germany with her family when the Nazis came to power. Anne Frank was her best friend.
What I liked about the story was it didn’t show Anne as some mythical creature, it showed Anne for who and what she was, a playful young teenage girl. Both girls had interests in fashion, parties and boys. So sad to think that both their lives were interrupted.
In June 1943, Hannah, her father, her maternal grandparents, along with Hannah’s younger sister Gabrielle (“Gabi”), were arrested and sent to the Westerbork transit camp, and then eventually to Bergen-Belsen in February 1944. Hannah was in a slightly better section of the camp because her family had Paraguayan passports with them. Sometime between January and February 1945, Hannah was briefly reunited with Anne Frank, who was on the other side of the camp. Hannah tossed Anne a package with some bread and socks in it over a hay-filled barbed wire fence dividing the two sections.
In the movie, you can hear Anne Frank being upset because someone stole the first package Hannah had thrown over the fence. How awful must that have been? TThere is very little known about the last weeks of Anne Frank’s life in Bergen-Belsen but the movie does give a small glimpse.
Hannah and Gabi survived 14 months at Bergen-Belsen. Her father and maternal grandparents died of illnesses before the liberation. She was rescued along with the other survivors of the Lost Train. Hannah and Gabi were the only members of their family to survive the war and, in 1947, they immigrated to Jerusalem.
On the morning of 4 August 1944, the Achterhuis was stormed by a group of German uniformed police (Grüne Polizei) led by SS-Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer of the Sicherheitsdienst. Anne Frank and all the others who hid in the Achterhuis (annexe) were arrested. Only Anne’s father, Otto, survived.
75 years ago today Anne Frank’s diary was published. It became one of the biggest selling books of all times.
These are just some of the entries of her diary.
October 9th 1942: “Today I have nothing but dismal and depressing news to report. Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they’re sending all the Jews. Miep told us about someone who’d managed to escape from there. It must be terrible in Westerbork. The people get almost nothing to eat, much less to drink, as water is available only one hour a day, and there’s only one toilet and sink for several thousand people. Men and women sleep in the same room, and women and children often have their heads shaved. Escape is almost impossible; many people look Jewish, and they’re branded by their shorn heads. If it’s that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilised places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they’re being gassed. Perhaps that’s the quickest way to die. I feel terrible. Miep’s accounts of these horrors are so heartrending… Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I’m actually one of them! No, that’s not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and Jews.”
October 20th 1942: “My hands still shaking, though it’s been two hours since we had the scare… The office staff stupidly forgot to warn us that the carpenter, or whatever he’s called, was coming to fill the extinguishers… After working for about fifteen minutes, he laid his hammer and some other tools on our bookcase (or so we thought!) and banged on our door. We turned white with fear. Had he heard something after all and did he now want to check out this mysterious looking bookcase? It seemed so, since he kept knocking, pulling, pushing and jerking on it. I was so scared I nearly fainted at the thought of this total stranger managing to discover our wonderful hiding place…”
March 29th 1944: “Mr Bolkestein, the Cabinet Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. Of course, everyone pounced on my diary.”
July 15th 1944: “It’s utterly impossible for me to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering and death. I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too will end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realise them.”
Today is Anne Frank’s birthday. She was born June 12,1929. We all know her story through her diary, therefor I will not really go into Anne’s story but I will look at some other children who were also born on June 12,1929 and who were also murdered during the Holocaust.
Levy Spanjer, born in Amsterdam, 12 June 1929 .Murdered in Auschwitz, 12 February 1943. Reached the age of 13 years.
Philip Trijtel, born in Rotterdam, 12 June 1929 . Murdered in Sobibor, 20 March 1943.Reached the age of 13 years. Unlike Levy, there is no picture or Philip, but there is a bit more data. Philip was transported from Westerbork to Sobibor on March 17,1943. Where he was murdered 3 days later.
Sara Kloos, born in Amsterdam, 12 June 1929. Murdered in Auschwitz, 11 December 1942.Reached the age of 13 years. Although there is only a registration card as a record of Sara. That card tells us that she arrived in Westerbork on November 26,1942 and that she was deported to Auschwitz on December 8,1942, where she was murdered 3 days later.
Salomon Seijffers, born in Gouda. 12 June 1929. Murdered in Sobibor on 28 May,1943.Reached the age of 13. A year before he was murdered he did his Bar Mitswa, on May 30,1942, although it says Bar Mitswo in the newspaper announcement.
Before being transported to Westerbork, May 24-1943, he was imprisoned in Camp Vught. On May 25,1942 he was deported to Sobibor where he was murdered 3 days later.
A stumbling block, stolper stein has been placed for Salomon Seijffers in front of Lage Gouwe 84 in Gouda, the Netherlands.
I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you.
To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.
On 11 June 1941, a second raid took place in Amsterdam as a result of the attacks on buildings occupied by the German Wehrmacht. Jewish cafes and sports clubs were ransacked. 310 young Jewish men were arrested by the Amsterdam police and Ordnungspolizei. Some came from the Jewish working village of Wieringermeer. They were taken to the SD building on Euterpestraat and then to Kamp Schoorl. Some were released for health reasons. The rest of the men were sent to Camp Mauthausen on 26 June 1941. The raid was revenge for a bomb attack by the resistance on 14 May 1941 and an attack on the Luftwaffe telephone exchange on 3 June 1941. None of the Jewish men returned from Camp Mauthausen.
One of those men was Adolph Gerson Frohmann (pictured above). He was murdered in Mauthausen on 16 January 1942.
The Nazis arrested 310 young Jewish men. Otto Frank was not arrested, but friends and neighbours from the Merwedeplein area, where he had been living for eight years, were. The raid happened a day before Anne Frank’s 12th birthday.
As a precaution, Otto Frank and other men from the square frequently spent the night at the homes of non-Jewish friends or colleagues. In all likelihood, these events prompted Otto Frank to start thinking about a proper hiding place. After attempts to emigrate to the US had failed, he started working on plans to take his family into hiding in the Secret Annex in earnest in the spring of 1942.
There was a stark contrast compared to the raids that had taken place in Amsterdam in February 1941. At that time, the population of Amsterdam and other cities across the Netherlands had gone on a massive general strike in protest against the persecution of the Jews, but in June 1941, the city stayed silent. The Nazis had violently suppressed the February strike, instilling fear in the population. The Amsterdam resistance newspaper Het Parool and other illegal newspapers expressed their abhorrence of the raids of 11 June. They called on people to not cooperate with the Germans and to sabotage them whenever they could. For the larger part, though, the Amsterdam population largely ignored this call.
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!”