The Barneveld Jews

While most concentration camps were built or configured to facilitate mass murder on an industrial scale, there were some exceptions.

Plan-Frederiks was a plan made up by the Dutch politicians K.J. Frederiks and J. van Dam that was meant to protect Jewish people in name of the German people during World War II.

The occupying German forces did not want the Jews to hide away, so they gave certain Jews places in special reservation camps in the Netherlands. Only Jews that had been important to Germany, for such reasons as fighting in World War I or being a famous painter, or in the case of Jo Spier—special treatment. Frederiks and Van Dam wanted other Jews to show up for this plan and try to get a place in one of these camps, instead of hiding away. It would be easy to catch these people.

The reservation camps that were used for this plan were Villa Bouchina, De Schaffelaar, and De Biezen. They were all opened in February 1943 and closed in April of the same year. In all, about 700 people were incarcerated in these camps, after which they were transported to Theresienstadt, where many of them died.

De Schaffelaar was a neo-gothic castle dating from the 1850s, near Barneveld. It was in a derelict state, without heating and sanitary ware. It was surrounded by a large lawn and woods. There was no fence. There were no German guards. The first arrivals brought their own furniture, turning the many empty rooms into small living rooms. Barracks were placed in the gardens in around March 1943 to house the ever-expanding group.

This group of individuals was specially selected to live through the Holocaust since they were regarded as beneficial to their nation. Conversely, an estimated 102,000 Jews living in the Netherlands were expelled from the country and murdered by the Nazis. After a high-ranking Hague bureaucrat chose to intercede in order to assist a confidant, he was able to obtain a pact of sorts, which assured the safety of a pair of notable Jews and their households. When news of the deal became public, the Jewish population throughout the Netherlands wrote letters urging them to be added to the exclusive list. It was ultimately expanded to include hundreds of Jews. The group included renowned educators, artists, doctors and scientists. They came to be identified as the Barneveld group.

Frederiks finally got permission from the Nazi authorities to compose a list of deserving Dutch Jews. These, together with their families, were to be exempted from deportation to concentration or work camps. Or rather, it was believed these were concentration or work camps. These aforementioned prominent Dutch Jews included for the most part scientists, artists, physicians and industrialists, but also others were added to the list of the prominent. Hundreds of others, however, who sought inclusion in this much sought-after list were rejected.

In September 1943, the Barneveld clique was relocated to Westerbork, a Nazi labour camp located in the Netherlands. The jolt was tremendous, from living in a mansion to residing in camp quarters. They were compelled by the Germans to take part in the expulsion of their neighbours at the camp. The Barnevelder group observed relatives and acquaintances being transferred from Westerbork to Auschwitz. However, the Barnevelders continued to be untouched. While the environment they lived in constantly worsened, the protection of their lives continued. Ultimately, the Barnevelders were moved to Theresienstadt, where they were forced to witness the death of relatives and friends members, yet their own destinies were secure.

Nearly every Barnevelder survived the Holocaust. Nevertheless, the emotional pain lingered on, and for many, the feeling of sorrow due to living through the war the survivors’ guilt remained. At every point, the chosen group was rescued from murder, although some see their continued existence as a blessing and a burden.

While fellow Jews were systematically and unceremoniously hauled from their homes and deported via Westerbork to the death camps, these Jews, known as the Barneveld Jews, found refuge in castle De Schaffelaar. With the exception of a few elderly people, all Barnevelders would survive the war. Albeit, in the end, they too were deported via Westerbork to Theresienstadt. In Theresienstadt, most received the status of prominence once again and a few even were released into the hands of the Red Cross to be transferred to Switzerland. After the war, some, not all, surviving Barnevelders understandably felt constrained and remained silent about their time spent in the castle.

The Saved is a Dutch documentary released in 1998. It was directed by Paul Cohen and Oeke Hoogendijk, about the Barneveld Jews. The title is “Een gelukkige tijd – het verhaal van de Barneveldjoden” the English title is “the Saved”

In my opinion, these people had nothing to feel guilty about, They survived, that is not a crime, but a blessing.

Steven Frank is one of the survivors. He was born in 1935 into a secular Jewish family in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His father was a well-known Dutch lawyer who was born in Zwolle, the son of a doctor. His mother was the daughter of professional musicians who emigrated to Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. He has an elder and a younger brother.

In March 1943 the family were taken to Barneveld and in September 1943 the group were sent from there to Westerbork, a transit camp. In September 1944 they were sent to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia where the whole family survived and was liberated by the Red Army on 9th May 1945. Because of an epidemic of typhus, no one left the camp for nearly a month. At the beginning of June 1945, the Dutch survivors were sent by train to the Netherlands. Steven’s mother, fearing that there would be no survivors in the Netherlands, protested and wished to go to Britain.