The final destination for the Cohen family from Geleen-Auschwitz

Geleen Limburg

This blog will be based on facts and some presumptions, but the presumptions are more then likely correct.

I was going over the history of the deported Jews from my birthplace Geleen, south east of the Netherlands. when I noticed the name of the Cohen family. There is not a lot I know or could find out about them except for the fact they used to have a clothing shop in Geleen and Maastricht  prior to  World War Two.

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I do know they were a family of 6. The Father Simon, the Mother Esthella Carolina Cohen-ten Brink. Daughters Josephine, age 12, Henny age 16.Frieda age 17 and 1 son Gerrit. Gerrit is the only one who survived the war. He died on September 22, 1998, age 76. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Beek, a town a few miles from Geleen.(Picture courtesy of Frank Janssen)

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On 25 August 1942, approximately 20 Jewish citizens were brought to and then deported from town hall by the Germans. The Cohen family were among them. They were then taken to Maastricht.

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On that same day they were put on transport to Westerbork on the 25th of August 1942. On the 28th of August they left Westerbork for Auschwitz where they arrived on the 30th of August.

Simon,Esthella Carolina,Josephine and Frieda all died on the 31st of August. Henny died on the 26th of September.

Gerrit Cohen had escaped on August the 25th  1942. When the Nazis had come for the family he managed to escape via a roof window and went into hiding.

When I mentioned presumptions earlier I was referring to the transport dates, for I do believe they are correct but I could not fully verify them. The transport date from Westerbork  to Auschwitz is correct though.

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Such was the evilness of the Nazi regime that they even gave people on the transport hope, pretending there was a possible return journey.

One of the citizens of Geleen,Rie op den Camp, mentioned in her diary of the 25th of August 1942, when the Jews were put on transport to Maastricht, she overheard one of the German soldiers saying  “Arme Menschen, wir müssen uns schämen, dass wir zu so eines Volk gehören”, which translates from German to English is “Poor people. we should be ashamed to belong to a people like ours” This indicates that not all Germans subscribed to Adolf Hitler’s ideology but also that they were aware what fate awaited the people on those transports.

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All that is left is a plaque saying”Lived here”.

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In a number of European cities they are remembering victims of the Holocaust by placing plaques in the streets where they used to live, These plaques are sometimes referred to as ‘Stumbling stones’ for the obvious reason that people might just make a small stumble, and that is the purpose to draw the attention to the plaques.They indicate the date of birth and death, and where they died

Maastricht is one of those cities, over 300 people were deported from Maastricht to various camps, below are a few of those plaques. The plaque at the start of the blog is of  Albert Drielsma born November 11 1907-Murdered in Auschwitz 30 March 1944, and Sibilia Drielsma-Goldstein Born 9 February 1906 murdered  in Auschwitz 19 November 1943, I presume Sibilia was Albert’s wife.

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Irma Hertog-Sternborn 12 September 1909 ,murdered in Auschwitz 31 August 1942.

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Herman Hertog born 18 november 1907, murdered  in Gross Rosen 7 FebruarY 1945.Herman and Irma lived on the same address, I therefor presume they were married.

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Isaac Neuburger born  19 July 1896 in Amsterdam, murdered  in Auschwitz 18 August 1942.Arrested 22 May 1942, deported 16 July 1942. Trade Textiles sales man.

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The Moszkowicz family.

Abraham Moszkowicz born in 1902 .murdered in Extern Kommando Ebensee 15 April 1945

Feiga Moszkowizc-Raab born in 1902, murdered  in Auschwitz 24 September 1942

Helga Moszkowicz born in 1930, murdered in Auschwitz 24 September 1942
Joop Moszkowicz born in 1940 ,murdered in Auschwitz 24 September 1942

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Isaac David Blitz born 25 maart 1881, murdered  in Auschwitz 1 October 1942.

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The time I nearly booked André Rieu for my Mother’s wedding.

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This is a historical blog however not  so much about a big historical event but more a personal historical tale, which I was reminded of today.

In 1991 hardly anyone had heard about Andre Rieu, I know I didn’t. My Mother was getting remarried and I had told her that I would pay for the music on her wedding day. Not knowing that this would be more difficult then I had envisaged.

I tried to call may bands, all the local bands were booked for the date. I decided to look further afield for the night’s entertainment. I opened up the Golden Pages and went to the section of musicians/entertainers. Most of the names in the section I had already contacted or they were just too far away.

I spotted one name though I hadn’t approached yet and he lived also only10 miles away from my hometown. The name was Andre Rieu, nothing else, no full page ad, no bells and whistles, just a name and telephone number, not even an indication what kind of music he did or if he even was a musician, just a name and number

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I tried ringing several times but to no avail, no answer machine, it just rang out.

This left me with no music. Luckily one of the bands I had contacted, had a cancellation and was able to book them for the wedding.

What a story it would have been though if I had booked Andre Rieu for my Mother’s wedding.

My story with Andre Rieu doesn’t stop there though.

In July 2015 I had the pleasure to see the great man live in Maastricht.

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How that came about is quite magical and it involved my other parent, my Father.

He passed away on June 27 2017, his funeral was on July the 2nd. My siblings and I had decided that the day after his funeral we would go to his birth place, Maastricht, to remember him and to celebrate his life.

We’d go by train so no one had to drive in an emotional state. The train journey was only 25 minutes anyway.The plan was to have a drink or 2, have a bite to eat and do a bit of shopping.

Not realizing that Andre Rieu was staring his first of 7 concerts that day in Maastricht.

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While we were going about fulfilling our plans for the day a thought came to my mind. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could stay for the concert”, knowing there was no chance on earth we’d get a ticket, leave alone 4. And the signs around town had said they were going to close the main square’Vrijthof’ at 6 PM that evening. This would also mean our time was limited to go for dinner.

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But we took a chance and asked at the box office if there were still tickets. The answer was “No, it had been sold out for nearly a year” We had seen some restaurants though who were advertising dinner and concert arrangements. So we asked around and all we got was the same answer as  at box office.

However been raised as people who never give up, we decided to try one last restaurant. The Azie Tapaz restaurant on the Vrijthof.

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Initially we got the same answer, but I don’t know what prompted the manager, since we did not tell him about the recent passing of our Dad, but he said “If you come around the back ally at about 6.15 PM, I’ll let you in via the back entrance and I’ll sort you out.

So we did as advised, and true to his word there he was at the back door and let us in. He set us first down in the restaurant and then prepared a table for us at the terrace on the Vrijthof square. At that stage I thanked him and told him how much this meant to us since we had just lost our Father, and we were there to celebrate his life and the concert would be the perfect end to those celebrations.

Not only did he go out of his way to accommodate us at the end of our fabulous dinner there was no bill either so the meal and concert were free, but we did leave some money behind anyway as a tip

That day we felt our Dad was looking out for us from heaven.

I know this is a very personal story but since it was such a wonderful experience I feel I had to share it.

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The Maastricht Treaty

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Signed on  7 February 1992 the Maastricht Treaty represented a significant step forward not only for Europe in general, but also for cohesion policy in particular. The treaty brought the first reform of cohesion policy, more flexibility being created for national governments. It firmly established economic and social cohesion as one of the core objectives of the European Union, alongside the single market and the Economic and Monetary Union.

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Representatives from 12 countries signed the Treaty on 7 February 1992 – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The parliaments in each country then ratified the Treaty, in some cases holding referendums. The Maastricht Treaty officially came into force on 1 November 1993 and the European Union was officially established.

Since then, a further 16 countries have joined the EU and adopted the rules set out in the Maastricht Treaty or in the treaties that followed later.

P007781033So much has happened with the EU ever since that day in 1992 and I really could fill  my whole website with only EU stories but I limiting this blog to that one day in Maastricht.

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Marlene Dietrich was here…

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This guest book belonged to the parents of sixteen-year-old Carla Hustinx from the city of Maastricht. Their home was a regular place to stay for singers, movie stars, athletes and comedians that came to entertain American soldiers after the south of the Netherlands was liberated in September 1944.

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A relaxing evening helped the soldiers forget about the war for a moment. Big celebrities were happy to perform for the troops and swapped the glamour of Hollywood for a jeep and military rations.

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Also the famous actress and singer Marlene Dietrich spent a night at Hustinx’s home in January 1945: she left an autographed five franc bill behind. Carla Hustinx glued it into this guest book.

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The artists usually returned from an appearance around midnight, dove into bed, and continued on their way the next day around noon. The nuns at Carla’s Catholic School felt this environment was decadent and immoral, hardly suitable for a girl her age. But Carla saw it for what it was: ‘They behave like ordinary people and don’t put on stuck-up airs. They’re here for the troops.’

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Hoping against all Hope- The stare of desperation.

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It is amazing and in a way disturbing but this girl was born literally minutes away from where I was born and yet I was not aware of her existence or had even heard of her until now.

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Just a few seconds… that’s how long this girl stared into the camera on 19 May 1944 in the doorway of this boxcar in Westerbork, unaware of her fate. The train was about to depart for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland. It is surmised that she was gassed there during the night of 2 August 1944. Her exact identity was unknown for decades, but as the ‘Girl with the Scarf’ she became a symbol of the persecution of the Jews.

Extensive research conducted by the Dutch journalist Aad Wagenaar revealed in 1995 that the girl was not Jewish but in fact Sinti. Her name was Anna Maria Steinbach. She was born on 23 December 1934 in the province of Limburg in the south of the Netherlands. Her parents gave her the Sinti name Settela.Around 245 Sinti and Roma were deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz. Only 30 of them survived the war. Westerbork’s Camp Commander Albert Gemmeker ordered the Jewish prisoner Rudolf Breslauer to film daily life in the transit camp.

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This still image, originally from that film, has been included in The Second World War in 100 Objects as a remembrance of this often overlooked group of Nazi victims.2.16 minutes into the film.

Setella was born in Buchten (now part of Sittard-Geleen, in southern Limburg,Netherlands) as the daughter of a trader and violinist. On May 16, 1944, a razzia against the Romanies was organized in the whole of the Netherlands. Steinbach was arrested in Eindhoven. That very same day, she arrived with another 577 people in Westerbork concentration camp. Two hundred seventy-nine people were allowed to leave again because although they lived in trailers they were not Romanies. In Westerbork, Steinbach’s head was shaved as a preventive measure against head lice. Like the other Sinti girls and women, she wore a torn sheet around her head to cover her bald head.

On May 19, Settela was put on a transport together with 244 other Romanies to Auschwitz-Birkenau on a train that also contained Jewish prisoners. Right before the doors were being closed, she apparently stared through the opening at a passing dog or the German soldiers. Rudolf Breslauer, a Jewish prisoner in Westerbork, who was shooting a movie on orders of the German camp commander,

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filmed the image of Settela’s fearful glance staring out of the wagon. Crasa Wagner was in the same wagon and heard Settela’s mother call her name and warn her to pull her head out of the opening. Wagner survived Auschwitz and was able to identify Settela in 1994.

On May 22, Setella Steinbach, arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She were registered and taken to the Romani  section. Those who were fit to work were taken to ammunition factories in Germany. The remaining three thousand  were gassed in the period from July to August 3. Steinbach, her mother, two brothers, two sisters, aunt, two nephews and niece were part of this latter group. Of the Steinbach family, only the father survived; he died in 1946 and is buried in a cemetery in Maastricht.

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After the war, the fragment of seven seconds in Breslauer’s movie was used in many documentaries. The image of the anonymous young girl staring out of the wagon full of fear and about to be transported to Auschwitz became an icon of the Holocaust.

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The Liberation of Maastricht

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Today marks the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Maastricht, the first city in the Netherlands to be liberated from the Germans.

Due to the fact that the small village of Wyck,nowadays a suburb of Maastricht) had been liberated on the 13th of September by 117 Old Hickory, the commander of the 353rd division,General Paul Mahlmann, of the Wehrmacht decided not to defend the the city and joined the the 176th division in Maasmechelen (Belgium) during the night of the 13-14th September.

In the early morning of the 14h of September the commander ,Colonel Johnson, of the 117th regiment of the Old Hickory division, accompanied by Major Giles,Private Killinworth and a radio operator, crossed the Maas (Meusse) in a small boat, watched by hundreds of Maastricht residents.

After the city was combed for potential German soldiers left behind it was declared liberated in the evening on Thursday the 14th of September 1944. It was announced on radio Oranje on the 15 of September by correspondent Robert Kiek.

Below are some pictures of the liberation and the aftermath.

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The Monuments

 

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Forgotten History-The Battle of Maastricht

Maastricht is well known for one of it’s musicians Andre Rieu and also for the treaty which was signed on 2 February 1992 which shaped the EU.However it was also a battlefield at the start of WWII

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The Battle of Maastricht was one of the first battles that took place during the German Campaign on the Western Front during World War II. Maastricht was a key city in order to capture the Belgian Fort Eben-Emael and split the allied armies in half.

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The ancient city of Maastricht – the most southern Dutch city [with its Roman roots] – would see a lot of dramatic events on the first day of the war. The main-bridges over the Maas [in the city of Maastricht itself] were some of the main targets in the German invasion plan. These three bridges were the St. Servaesbrug, Wilhelminabrug and the railway bridge to the north. It was considered imperative to take these bridges intact. The German 4th Tank Division – with its 343 tanks – was supposed to make use of these heavy river crossings.

The siege of the bridges at Maastricht was closely connected to the daring plan to raid the Belgian fortress Eben-Emael, only some clicks southwest of Maastricht. This fortress – considered a very important Belgian strong-hold – controlled a large part of the Albertcanal, Maas and adjacent four bridges. With this fortress intact the 4th Tank Division could end up in a very delicate situation.

The imperative significance of the Belgian fortress was the reason for the Germans to develop an integrated plan to take the fortress by surprise, together with the three bridges across the Albertcanal at Vroenhoven, Veldwezelt and Kanne. This task was given to a special battalion of the 7th Flieger Division [of which the main body would be dropped into the Fortress Holland]. A few dozen Fallschirmjäger would be landed in gliders right on top of the fortress. The would bring along a number of hollow charges that could upset the biggest of constructions. At the nearby bridges small task-forces, mainly formed byFallschirmjäger too, would land in gliders and be later reinforced by parachute dropped airbornes. These obviously light forces would find themselves landing in a sector occupied by forces of a Belgian division and the more than 1,000 men inside the fortress. In order to be able to reinforce these light troops as soon as possible and ensure a firm crossing base along the Albertcanal, the seizure of the [intact] Maastricht bridges was imperative.

The sluice complex at Borgharen—just north of Maastricht—was another water-works that could not be destroyed.

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A section infantry was stationed here. Close to the bridge, one casemate with a machine gun could assist. In the early morning hours, a patrol of six motorised infantry-men approached the eastern guard post. They were a reconnaissance party of the Hocke squad. They were ordered to stop and four of them were taken prisoner. The other two were able to escape. The Dutch Lieutenant was confident that more would be coming, and he ordered his men to remain prepared. Not so much longer later, more German soldiers appeared on motorcycles.

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The Dutch let them approach to within 50 m (55 yd) of their ambush and opened fire with two machine guns and every rifle available. The Germans temporarily retreated. However, when the Germans brought in reinforcements, the squad was overwhelmed. The defenders tried to draw back to the sluice. The move was difficult under the ever increasing German fire. The occupation of the sluice itself was able to resist the Germans, but the south-eastern squad—which defended the northern entrance into Maastricht—had to give in when their machine gun failed. The gap that now existed in the outer defences of the city was soon penetrated by the majority of the Germans that had agitated against the sluice.

The 4 Panzerdivision had encountered some resistance around Gulpen and this delay cost hours. A southern column—which was instructed to advance against Maastricht from the south—was able to move forward quicker.

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They appeared in front of the outer defences at Heugem. Here, the barricades had been sealed and locked as instructed. The defending unit was ordered to move back behind the Maas, because it had become clear that the outer defences had been penetrated.

It was now up to the rearguard of the outer defences to slow down the German advance. The rearguard managed to destroy two armored cars and block the road for the remaining cars. When the German infantry had almost reached its position the commanding Dutch sergeant ordered an organised retreat. The squad safely reached the westbank of the Maas a little later.

By this time, only the railway bridge remained intact. The Germans felt that it could be a very useful crossing point for tanks, and only 35 Dutch soldiers defended it. As the Germans advanced to the bridge, they were briefly held off by the Dutch defenders. A few German soldiers were killed. However, the Dutch soon fell back because of overwhelming numbers. As the Germans began to cross the bridge, the charges were planted and the bridge fell into the river. After all of the bridges over the Maas River were destroyed, the only task that remained was to hold off the Germans as long as they could.

At the destroyed bridges in Maastricht, some stray Dutch units continued piecemeal attacks on the Germans; the Dutch had spread over many strategic points, including a sniper squad in the towers of the bridge.

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When the Germans boldly placed an anti-tank gun in front of the bridge, aimed at the adjacent St. Servaasbrug, the Dutch instantly killed the crew. A new crew shared the same fate. A small number of rubber boats tried to cross the Maas but were shot to pieces. Then the Germans retreated from this location.

The beautiful, ancient St.Servaesbrug – the taking of which the BtlzbV100 and the 4th Tank Division were aiming for – was blown up at 0600 hours, when the first armoured cars appeared in sight. Fifteen minutes later the Wilhelminabrug followed. The persistent German endeavours to seize these two important objectives intact had been in vain.

At the destroyed railway bridge, the heaviest fighting would be seen. What remained of the German squad that had tried to take the bridge was soon reinforced by the German main force. Two armored cars tried to approach the east bank but were destroyed by two anti-tank rifles. Also a light tank was put out of action by the AT rifles.

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The German losses were high. However, soon after, three more German armored cars approached. The situation for the light Dutch infantry had become critical. Many defenders were killed or wounded by the German fire, and soon one of the two anti-tank rifles was destroyed by a hit. The headquarters were contacted to report the situation. From this contact, it became clear that the Dutch resistance at Maastricht had been ordered to cease.

Lieutenant-Colonel  Govers—Territorial Commander (TC) of Limburg—had called a meeting later in the day. The German battle plans had been found on a German POW in the morning. All German units were mentioned in the plans and maps with directions had been part of the catch. It was clear that all bridges had been destroyed. It was also clear than an entire German Tank Division was deployed in South-Limburg. The TC had only two companies left under his command, without anti-tank guns or artillery. The ancient city of Maastricht—with all its cultural heritage—should not suffer more than necessary. The outcome of the meeting was that all further opposition to the Germans in and around Maastricht—the last standing defences in Limburg—would cease. The TC himself went to the Wilhelminabrug under the banner of truce. Soon, contact was established. A few hours later, all Dutch troops in Maastricht and its surroundings capitulated.

The battle in South-Limburg (Sector Roosteren – Maastricht) had cost the lives of 47 Dutch soldiers (two officers, seven NCOs, 38 corporals and soldiers). The German losses are again not known in detail, although at some scenes accurate figures are available. It is estimated that between 130-190 Germans died due to the fighting in the south. After the battle, it was reported that 186 German bodies were found. It is confirmed from German material-states that nine armored cars and tanks were destroyed in Limburg. Also, 10 German aircraft—mainly Junkers Ju 52s and Ju 87s—crashed or were shot down in Zuid-Limburg.

Aside the usual horrors of war Maastricht wasn’t spared the horrors of the Holocaust.

Maastricht – the oldest Jewish community in the Netherlands

A Zionist youth organization sprouted after the Nazis took over the Netherlands in 1940. Local police and fellow citizens protected the Jewish community for some time. However, they could not prevent the deportation of large parts of the community between June 1942 and April 1943. Most of the deportees were eventually killed in Auschwitz and Sobibor. Some Jews managed to hide, especially in the countryside; others fled across the border into Belgium.

The Jewish community had severely declined by the end of World War II. Jewish life reappeared after the liberation of Maastricht in 1944, and the synagogue of Maastricht, which had been ransacked and used as a storage depot during the war, was reopened in 1952.

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Maastricht was liberated on 14 September 1944.