17,000,000 + deaths.

An estimated 17.3 million people were murdered by the German Nazi regime and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945, according to data published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The estimates are based on the regime’s own reports as well as demographic studies of population loss during World War II.

The numbers are broken down in groups: Jews, Soviet civilians, Soviet prisoners of war, Non-Jewish Polish civilians, Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina), People with disabilities living in institutions, Roma & Sinti (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Repeat criminal offenders and so-called a-socials, German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory, Homosexuals. Then there were also some smaller groups like the Freemasons and Esperanto speakers. The number is likely to be higher because there are no determined numbers for the German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory. The numbers who died afterwards due to suicide and/or diseases contracted during the imprisonment in the camps.

However lets go with that number of 17.3 million. This number is just to big to fathom for most pictures, to put his in perspective. That number is approximately the same as the current population of the Netherlands, or Syria. It would also be about the same as the combined population of Belgium and the whole Island of Ireland. Just imagine within 12 years the Nazis wiped out a whole nation or even several nations combined. This number of 17.3 million does not include military casualties. They were mainly civilians who were murdered.

Four of those 17.3 million were the Olivier family. Mozes Olivier, born February 4, 1891 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Betje van Thijn Olivier, born May 23, 1895 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Jeannette Olivier, born September 12, 1923 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

Anna Olivier, born October 30, 1921 in Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.

They were all murdered in Auschwitz on September 21,1942.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/chart/24024/number-of-victims-nazi-regime/

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/documenting-numbers-of-victims-of-the-holocaust-and-nazi-persecution

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/187373/mozes-olivier

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Happy Birthday Catharina Vrouwtje de Groot

Dear Catharina Vrouwtje de Groot, today there should have been 80 candles on a birthday cake. 80 candles for you to blow out and make a wish on your 80th birthday. But you never had any candles on any of your birthday cakes.

You were born on September 20,1941 in Arnhem, in the Netherlands , just over a year later you were murdered in Auschwitz, on October 19,1942. There are no pictures of you blowing out any candles, in fact there are no pictures of you to be found. The only picture we have to associate you with , is a picture of that horrific place where you were murdered.

We don’t know much about you but we do know you had a life insurance policy. your parents must have already been concerned for you on the day you were born. The life insurance policy is still open to be cashed in. But no one will because no one in your family survived the Holocaust. Your big sister Grietje, aged 3, was also murdered on October 19,1942, as was your Mother.

You last name is the opposite of mine, your names indicates big, where as mine indicates little. Yet it is me who became big and you who was murdered when you were still little.

Wherever you are up there between the stars, I want you to know, I will be looking up to you tonight and will celebrate you short life.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/151740/catharina-vrouwtje-de-groot

Happy Birthday Aron Polak

Aron would have been 80 today, but he didn’t even get to the age of 2. He was born in Amsterdam on September 8, 1941. He was murdered in Sobibor March 26,1943.

The fact that he was murdered at such a young age is not even the saddest part of his story. There was actually a change he could have survived.

Aron’s Father, Joseph, was sent to Westerbork, I am not sure on what date, bur sometime after November 1941. After that Aron’s Mother, Lena, went into hiding with Aron. She moved several times. Eventually she stayed with Family but due to tensions Lena decided to voluntarily report herself and Aron to Westerbork.

Lena actually believed that her Husband had a job in Westerbork, sorting out gold and silver. She probably thought that he could provide for his family, even in Westerbork.

Lena and her son Aron eventually reported themselves voluntarily in Westerbork on 27 February 1943. They stayed in barrack 72 and on the 1st of March, Joseph was also in that barrack. On March 23,1943, , the Polak family was deported to Sobibor and on arrival there on 26 March 1943 immediately sent to the gas chambers, and were murdered.

What is so disturbing about this, is that the Nazis somehow created the illusion that even when you were sent to Westerbork, there was a chance of a reasonable normal life.

As for young Aron, I will be looking up to the sky tonight, imagining he is one of the stars I will see. Happy Birthday little man, you were a star to your parents, and you are a star for all of us. A beacon to remind us of what you went through.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/649374/het-lot-van-lena-barend-haar-man-joseph-polak-en-hun-zoontje-aron.

https://geheugenvanoost.amsterdam/page/26420/geen-afscheid

Children murdered on September 6, 1944.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

source

Westerbork

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

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

The Dutch government established a camp at Westerbork in 1939 to intern Jewish refugees, mostly from Germany. The first refugees arrived in Westerbork in October of that year. In April 1940, there were approximately 750 Jewish refugees housed in the camp. Some of them were German Jews who had been passengers on the St. Louis ship.

In May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied the Netherlands. In the first two years after the invasion, Westerbork continued to function as a refugee camp. From May 1940 to July 1942, the camp remained under Dutch administration. Under the Dutch, conditions were fairly good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sources

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

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

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

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

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

Donation

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Love during the Holocaust

Getting married is one of the mots wonderful things that can happen to you in life. It is a union of love which is quite powerful.

However it can also be nerve wrecking, admittedly more so for the bride then the groom. You want to make sure the day goes well, you hope the weather will be good and that the guests won’t complain too much. And of course then there is that all important wedding night, you may have made love before, but the wedding night is just that bit more special , and you may just want to be a bit more adventurous when it comes to sex.

Now go back to the period of 1940-1945. Your country has been occupied by a foreign power, helped by some of those you once may have known as friends or neighbours.

The Nazis who want to eradicate everyone like you, juts because you are Jewish. Your future is uncertain, you don’t know how long it will take before you are picked up and transported to who knows where.

But you are in love with a beautiful lady and the beautiful lady is in love with a handsome man. What do you do? Will you let hate stop you from loving each other?

No, because you know that despite everything there is no stronger power then love.

The loving couple is Elias(Edie) van Biene and Sonja Rood. I don’t know when they got married but it must have been after April 29,1942. That was the date the Dutch Jews were ordered to wear the Yellow star. I believe they got married in Rotterdam. Elias was murdered in Außernlager KZ Auschwitz, KZ Althammer, Poland. On January 20,1945. One week before Auschwitz was liberated. Elias was 26 when he died.

Sonja managed to hide initially, but she was captured and send to Auschwitz. She did survive and moved to Israel after the war where she died on April 25, 1971 aged 52.

Despite the horrors around them, and the hate that surrounded them. The love of these 2 people for each other conquered that hate and got married. The looks in their eyes shows pure unconditional love.

Love is stronger then hate.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/143581/elias-van-biene

https://www.geni.com/people/Sonja-Rood/6000000078350610530

https://www.geni.com/people/Elias-Edie-van-Biene/6000000056418936867

This is how close the Holocaust still is to me.

The picture is of a vacant building in the town center of Geleen in the Netherlands. The building wasn’t always empty. It used to be a clothes shop called “Modehuis” or Fashion House. It was really a shop which catered more for the older ladies, my mother liked to shop there A few doors next to it, there used to be a hairdresser, where I got my haircut several times.

Across from it there used to be a video store where I would rent my favourite movies. The address of the shop was Raadhuisstraat 16.

All of this will mean absolutely nothing to you, and even until today the historical reference of the place was not known to me.

The shop was known as “Kousenhuis” (Stockingshouse) in the 1930s, the owner was Paul Siegfried Willner and his wife Charlotte Sophia Walter. Paul was Jewish but Charlotte was Roman Catholic . They were married on April 17,1934 in Geleen, the maximum temperature that day was 21 degrees centigrade, so it was a warm spring day. Aside from the shop they also ran a wholesale business in cleaning products.

The shop was initially situated somewhere else, but due to subsidence caused by mining they moved to the Raadhuisstraat. On January 11,1939 Paul sold the shop to Julius Jacob Wolff.

Paul and his wife moved to Molenstraat 27 in Geleen. Below is a recent picture of that address.

As a young kid in secondary school, I actually had a friend living in Molenstraat 25, which is next door. The house is also near my favourite restaurant, swimming pool, and a few other places I would have visited several times a week.

Paul Siegfried Willner was born in Aachen in Germany, near to the Dutch border, on June 5,1902. He had moved in February 1934 from Aachen to Geleen. On November 25,1941 Paul lost his German citizenship as per new Reichs citizens law. As a Jew he was no longer considered to be a German.

On February 5,1942 Paul and Charlotte divorced, I don’t know why but I can only imagine that this was to safe Charlotte. If she was no longer married to a Jew, she would more then likely be safe.

On August 25, 1942 ,Paul had to register for labour in Germany, A day later on August 26, he ended up in Westerbork transit camp. Two days later he was deported to Auschwitz. But shortly before arriving there he was taken of the train at the labour camp in Kosel. It is not clear where he was murdered. His date of death was registered as April 30 1943, but that was a generic date used for many whose death date wasn’t known.

On October 5,1942 the RAF mistakenly bombed Geleen, assuming it was Aachen, Paul’s house was destroyed as was the house of his ex wife.

Julius Jacob Wolff who was also Jewish, survived the war, His shop was still thriving when I left Geleen in 1997.

When I said at the start ‘how close the Holocaust still is to me, I meant it in a physical way as in buildings I have been in or have been close to, but also in a emotional way, because I never knew this bit of history. I had to emigrate to find out the significance of the actual buildings, which is a pity.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/137523/paul-siegfried-willner

https://www.stolpersteinesittardgeleen.nl/Slachtoffers/Paul-Siegfried-Willner

https://www.openarch.nl/rhl:54839896-93a6-84fb-e6c6-a4540cb3b0a6

Donation

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. 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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Happy Birthday Wolf Blits

In my opinion the best way to remember the victims of the Holocaust is to personalize their stories. Rather then a number, show the human side. Because that is what they were ,all those millions were all individual human beings, just like everyone else.

I wish I could show you a picture of Wolf Blits. I could perhaps include a picture of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, but he is not the same person.

Perhaps Wolf Blits also could have been a reporter, journalist or news anchor. But he was never given that opportunity. He was murdered when he was 4.

Wolf was born in Amsterdam on August 24,1938. He was murdered on June 11,1943 in Sobibor.

In those 4 years he travelled more then many 40 year old. In 1943 he traveled from Amsterdam to Camp Vught near Den Bosch in the Netherlands, where he arrived on June 6,1943.

From Vught he traveled to Westerbork near Amersfoort, in the Netherlands where he arrived on June 8,1943.

From Westerbork he traveled to Sobibor in Poland, where he arrived on or just before June 11,1943. There he was murdered on June 11,1943.

At the start of this blog is a picture of a card from Vught. On the card 4 year old Wolf was registered as a prisoner, as if he was a hardened criminal. Of course he wasn’t a criminal, nor were his parents or anyone else of those millions who were murdered. The criminals were those who murdered them, The disturbing fact though is that these criminals followed the letter of the law.

A law made up up by sick individuals who followed a warped ideology, an ideology based on hate.

Poor Wolf traveled quite a bit. I remember moving when I was a kid, it was only a few blocks away from where I lived, but to me it was like moving to the other side of the world. I thought they spoke a different language. I was very anxious. But I moved to a nice place. Poor Wolf traveled to be murdered.

It is his birthday today. Dear Wolf whatever star you are up in the skies, I wish you a happy birthday.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/184678/wolf-blits

https://www.oorlogslevens.nl/tijdlijn/Wolf-Blits/02/13216

Benjamin Hartog ter Berg ,murdered in Auschwitz

Benjamin Hartog “Benno” ter Berg was born on July 4, 1924 in Assen, the Netherlands. He was murdered in Auschwitz on September 30,1942.

The picture was taken from his diary the newspaper article on the left is about a meeting of the NJN,(Nederlandse Jeugdbond voor Natuurstudie), the Dutch Youth union for Nature study. Of which he was a member of. One word that stood out for me in the article was ‘propaganda’ in the context of the article it was a positive rather then a negative spin to the word.it really was in the context of PR or marketing.

On the left is a picture of a man riding a horse. Although I can’t really make out the second word on the line at the bottom, I think the line says “he heard his horse and rushed into the woods”

Some of you may think that it is a strange picture to use for a piece on a Holocaust victim. But I think it probably highlights the horror of the Holocaust more then any of the thousands of graphic pictures of corpses.

The picture shows the day to day interests of a young boy, at the time he drew that drawing and glued that newspaper article in his diary, he was still just 15. Only 3 years later he would be murdered. Not because he belonged to a subversive organisation, or was a member of a militant group. No he was murdered because he was Jewish.

He had a passion for nature and had joined a group of other young people with a passion for nature. That bit of joy he had was taken away from him in October 1941, where he was told he could no longer be a member of the NJN.

Benno and all of his family members were brutally murdered by the Nazi regime who had had occupied the Netherlands.

And I deliberately say Nazis rather then Germans, because there were many Dutch people way too eager to help out.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/350432/het-dagboek-van-benno-ter-berg

Remembering Josef Strauss

This is not the famous composer Joseph Strauss as a young man. This is actually another young man called Josef Strauss. Technically he never became a man because he was murdered in Auschwitz on August 17,1942. He was aged 17.

Unlike his famous name bearer there is very little known about Josef, yet from the little data we have a picture can be painted about his life.

He was born October 6 1924 in Darmstadt, Germany. His mother was Helene Rothschild. his father was Henry Strauss.

His mother’s birth date was August 6,1891. His father’s birth date was December 20,1875.

Josef was a refugee from Germany: he arrived in the Netherlands on December 7th, 1938. First he stayed in the quarantine facility in Amsterdam, in December 1938 he went to live in Arnhem (Huize Sonsbeek), and from there in February 1940 to Wieringen.

Notes upon arrival in the Netherlands:
Parents on their way to Rhodesia. Will probably go with Kindertransport to USA.

He was only 14 when he arrived in the Netherlands.

He had either a cousin or uncle, but I assume cousin because of a different surname, there is no difference in the Dutch language for cousin or nephew. However. lets assume it was a cousin, his name was Paul Schirling. There is only one reference I can find on Paul, on a site I often use for research. He was also murdered in Auschwitz on March 31.1944.

On July 20,1939 Paul sent a request to the Dutch ministry of internal affairs, asking if his cousin Josef Strauss, could holiday with him for 2 weeks. The request was approved on July 29,1939.

On 27 February 1940, Josef was sent to Werkdorp Wieringen, Nieuwesluizerweg 42, Slootdorp (Wieringen), this was set up for young German Jews to learn a trade before emigration. The werkdorp was officially opened on October 3, 1934.

On May 22,1942 Josef was sent to Amsterdam

From there he was sent to Auschwitz, presumably via Westerbork, where he was murdered on August 17,1942.

Josef was sent away as a refugee by his parents, because an evil regime had taken power in their country. I am a parent, and one of my sons is traveling abroad soon, not as a refugee but as a student and to the country where I was born. Despite that I am having panic attacks, I can only imagine what Josef parents went through.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/226300/josef-strauss