Albert and Ida Claessens-Pastoor Vonckenstraat 51-Geleen

Classens

One of the difficulties I have in telling or writing stories about the Holocaust is the sheer volume of victims. I believe the best way of keeping the memories alive is to personalize the stories. Rather then talk about millions ,talk about individuals and show that they were human beings like every one else.

To give an indication, if I would only focus on the 6 million Jewish victims and I would tell 5 stories a day, it would take me more then 3000 years to tell them. That’s why I am focusing on the stories that are near to me in an emotional way or in a geographical way.

The story of Albert and Ida Claessens is one I have geographical ties to. Yet another story I was blissfully unaware of ,despite the fact I would have passed by the house they lived in at least once a week. In the map below I have highlighted how, Circled in red is the Supermarket I would frequent at least once a week, Circled in yellow is the area of the apartment block I lived in. The white line is Pastoor Vonckenstraat, the Claessens lived on number 51.

Pastoor Voncken str

It would take me 5 minutes to cycle that route.

The story of Albert Claessens is also a good way of dispersing the myth that all Jews were wealthy. Albert worked as an Excavation worker in the coalmone Maurits in Geleen, anyone who has worked in a mine or knows someone who worked in a mine will know how dirty and dangerous that work is.

On April 4 1938 Albert married the Polish immigrant Ajga (Ida) Krzanowska. They got settled in -Pastoor Vonckenstraat 51-Geleen.

On May 10,1940 the Netherlands was invaded by the German army. Initially not much changed for the Dutch Jews, but gradually new laws were introduced by the Nazi regime. On April 1,1941 Albert was fired from his job in the mine.

Some Jews had already gone in hiding at that stage, but Albert did not think he needed too.He still thought that the Jews were brought to work camps in Germany.On August 25 Albert,Ida and Albert’s brother and wife were all put on transport via Maastricht to Westerbork and then from there to Auschwitz on August 28,1942.

In a Police report from the Police department in Geleen it states that all perishable goods were removed from the Claessens home on August 25,1942 , the same day they were put on transport.

Ida and her sister in law arrived in Auschwitz on August 31, 1942  were gassed immediately.

Albert and his brother were taken off the transport on the journey to work in the work camp  Kosel, abut 80 kilometers away from Auschwitz.

It is not clear where Albert died nor is the exact date known. His death was only registered in 1952 and the date of death was et on April 30,1943. Place of death was registered ad middle Europe.

1951

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Source

 

http://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/

 

 

Law abiding citizen

Louis

I don’t know what it is but the last few days I have discovered several accounts of victims of the Holocaust which are very near to me. Not so much that I was related to these people or that I knew them, but I knew the locality and the addresses where they lived. In fact I passed these places by on a daily basis and in the case of Louis van Dam , sometimes even more then 10 times a day.

At the back of my secondary school there was a square . It was really a small park with a few benches and some trees, surrounded by houses. The square was known(and still is) as the Jubileum plein (Jubilee square)

We would often use this square for physical education lessons. One of the tests we had for PE was a run around the small park, We had a certain time (I believe it was 10 minutes) to run around the park as often as we could. 10 times or more would be a pass, anything below 10 was a fail.

plein

You probably are thinking “where is he going with this” ? Well the name I mentioned earlier was Louis van Dam, Louis and his family lived in one of the houses on the square, Jubileumplein 12,Geleen from 1930 to 1939. In 1939 they moved to a village a few miles south, Doenrade. The reason why they moved was because of health reasons. Louis’s wife  Sophie Silbernberg-van Dam, had asthma and the pollution caused by the nearby coal mine was bad for her health. However Louis also wanted to live in a remote spot near the German border so he could help Jewish refugees. who crossed the border.

In that same year Louis became a bit of a ‘celebrity’ but not in a beneficial way, He had overheard a smuggling scheme in a local pub. Some smugglers had been smuggling Dutch army uniforms to Germany(the uniforms were to be used by the German army for the invasion of the Netherlands). As a law abiding citizen Louis reported this to the Police. Two men were arrested as a result.A newspaper article was published about the incident.

Artikel

Despite the fact that Louis van Dam’s name only appeared in an abbreviated from in the newspaper, it was still known that he had reported the smugglers. Louis and his family received death threats afterwards because of this they moved again, this time to Amsterdam.

A few months after they moved, the German army invaded the Netherlands. Louis’s son Guus got involved in a students resistance group and was arrested at the end of 1941 or start of 1942.

Guus

Although the intended target for the arrest was Louis himself, some neighbours had betrayed him for listening to an English radio station, which was forbidden by the Nazi authorities. But Louis was ill and Guus was arrested instead.

Guus was sent to Auschwitz on November 10th,1942 via Scheveningen, Amersfoort and  Westerbork. It is not known where he died , his formal death certificate states date of death March 31,1944 in middle Europe, aged 22.

Louis, his wife and 2 daughters, Roos en Mimi, went into hiding.

van dam

Louis van Dam had gone into hiding using the alias Christiaan Willem Zijlstra. He died while in hiding and was buried under his alias at the Algemeene Begraafplaats Crooswijk in Rotterdam on 23 April 1945.

After the war  his remains were exhumed and  reburied at the Jewish cemetery Toepad in Rotterdam. Louis van Dam’s wife and daughter survived the war.

It just goes to show you can be passing by a house every day without being aware of the historical significance of it.

12

 

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know a 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. Thanks 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

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Sources

Stichting Stolpersteine Sittard-Geleen

Joods Monument

Google Streetview