Alexander Zwaap AKA Lex van Delden

Lex

Although he was born as Alexander Zwaap, for most of his life he would be known as Lex van Delden. He was a truly remarkable man, despite hardships he never gave up.

He was born  in Amsterdam on September 10, 1919, as the only child of Wolf Zwaap, a school-teacher, and his wife Sara Olivier-Zwaap, Lex started taking piano-lessons from an early age, initially from  from Martha Zwaga and later from the celebrated pianist, Cor de Groot.

In 1938 he enrolled at the University of Amsterdam to study medicines, he wanted to become a neuro-surgeon, but he did not lose his love for music and composing.

In 1942, two years into German occupation of the Netherlands he was  forced to interrupt his studies,because he was Jewish. He had no other choice then  to go into hiding. Refuge and a hiding place was arranged at the home of a former colleague of his father, who was a headmaster at the penitentiary in Veenhuizen, In 1943, his parents who were also in hiding, were betrayed and deported to Sobibor, where they were murdered. Lex never saw them again. It was only in 1980, when he discovered a  postcard written by his  parents  to him from the Hollandse Schouwburg( a theater which was used as a deportation centre)   while awaiting their deportation.

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While in hiding Lex  decided to take the pseudonym “van Delden”

Due to the fact he could not make any noise, leave alone play piano and had to hide under the raised floor of a basement closet.,he became depressed.His hosts eventually included him in their daily family life.

He helped by translating all kinds of literary works and also by helping  his host’s daughter with her homework. Via  a contact with the student resistance movement,  Lex joined the resistance he was sent to the province of Brabant, where he forged identity papers at the Personal Identification Card Centre. On a daily basis he visited, by bicycle, a family with a piano and even managed to give house concerts. Unfortunately his hopes of becoming a neuro-surgeon were dashed during this time due to an exploding carbide lamp, which virtually blinded him in his left eye while in hiding.

When peace came he hurled himself under the name Lex van Delden wholeheartedly into the world of music. Apart from composing he worked as a music journalist for Het Parool; later he was chairman of the Dutch authors’ rights association Buma Stemra.

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He was a prolific composer  and during  the 1950s and 60s he was one of the most frequently played composers of his generation. Van Delden wrote for orchestras such as the Noordhollands Philharmonisch Orkest (North Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra), the Hague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Dutch Wind Ensemble). He has won many prestigious music awards.

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His  music radiates an idealistic longing for life. The structure is tight; he often includes sharp contrasts between dramatic and lyrical passages.

Despite his plans of all his set backs and losing his parents,, he did not give up.He died on July 1, 1988 in Amsterdam.

His son also took the name Lex van Deldden became an actor and starred in movies such as A bridge too far and Soldaat van Oranje(Soldier of Orange).

Finishing up with one of Lex’s compositions.

 

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Sources

Leo Smit

forbiddenmusicregained.org

gramophone.co.uk

YouTube

 

 

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Painting for Mengele.

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When you look at some bizarre connections in History, you cannot escape the fact that life sometimes has a ironic way of weaving a tapestry of coincidences.

One of Hitler’s favourite movies was the Walt Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” released in 1937.

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One of the main animators of the movie was Art Babbitt. an animator who joined the Disney studio in 1932. He  was born to a Jewish family in Omaha, Nebraska.

But that’s not where this tapestry of coincidences,or even fate, stops.

Dina Gottliebová was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia on January 21, 1923 .She was raised by her Mother, Johanna Schawl, a lone parent . Her mother had left Dina’s father when she was only 4 months old.

When Snow white and the Seven dwarfs was released, Dina must have seen the movie at least 7 times.

In 1939, when the Germans invaded her homeland, Dina was living in Prague, where she had enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942  Dina’s mother received a summons that the Jews were being moved. Dina  left school and volunteered to be shipped out with her mother to , Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia.

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She was actually sent to Theresienstadt on Jan. 21, 1942, her 19th birthday. Dina and her mother stayed there until Sept. 7, 1943 when they were among 5,000 people transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

In 1944, while in Auschwitz, Dina was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Roma Gypsy prisoners .Mengele wished to capture the Roma’s skin coloration better than he could with camera and film at that time. Dina agreed if her own mother’s life were spared as well,Mengele agreed.

One of the people she painted was called Celine. Dina says of painting her muse back in 1944.

“She was very sad and I said, ‘Are you sick?’”  “Celine  said, ‘My baby just died.’ It was a 2-month-old baby and she couldn’t get anything to feed the baby and didn’t have any milk. And Celine couldn’t eat anything. We had black bread with something in it—too much bran or something that made people sick—and I said, ‘Well, can I help with something?’ She said, ‘You can get some white bread.’”

Dina asked Mengele for some white bread. He delivered and Dina sneaked it to Celine, but unfortunately Celine did not survive the death camp. (I believe the portrait below is of Celine but I could not verify it, But it is definitely one of Dina’s paintings)

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Both Dina and her Mother survived the Holocaust.Dina moved to the US after the war.

However this is not where this tapestry of life stops. There was to be one more twist to Dina’s life. On April 27,1949, Dina married Art Babbitt. The man who was the main animator of the movie she had watched so many times.

Their marriage didn’t last though. They got divorced in 1963. Dina died aged 86 on July 29,2009, in Santa Cruz California

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Sources

Goodtimes.sc

The Jewish News of Northern California

IMDb.

 

 

 

Desperation and Survival

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I have often wondered how the Sonderkommandos coped with their  work.

Sonderkommandos were the were forced labour units made up of  Nazi death camp prisoners. usually Jews.They were forced to help with the disposal of gas chamber victims among other duties. Sometimes even removing family members.

It is not like they had a choice, it was either work and have a chance to survive or get killed themselves. I have heard people call them traitors but I don’t subscribe to that point of view, The basic instinct of any human being is to survive.

How hard it was for these victims, for they to were victims, is illustrated in the testimony of Filip Müller, a Slovak Jewish member of the Sonderkommando.

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Filip had become so desperate that he tried to commit suicide by smuggling himself into the gas chamber.

Below are some excerpts from his testimony taken from his book ‘ Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers’

“In the great confusion near the door I managed to mingle with the pushing and shoving crowd of people who were being driven into the gas chamber. Quickly I ran to the back and stood behind one of the concrete pillars. I thought that here I would remain undiscovered until the gas chamber was full, when it would be locked. Until then I must try to remain unnoticed. I was overcome by a feeling of indifference: everything had become meaningless. Even the thought of a painful death from Zyklon B gas, whose effect I of all people knew only too well, no longer filled me with fear and horror. I faced my fate with composure.Eyewitness

Inside the gas chamber the singing had stopped. Now there was only weeping and sobbing. People, their faces smashed and bleeding, were still streaming through the door, driven by blows and goaded by vicious dogs. Desperate children who had become separated from their parents in the scramble were rushing around calling for them. All at once, a small boy was standing before me. He looked at me curiously; perhaps he had noticed me there at the back standing all by myself. Then, his little face puckered with worry, he asked timidly: “Do you know where my mummy and my daddy are hiding?” I tried to comfort him, explaining that his parents were sure to be among all those people milling round in the front part of the room. “You run along there,” I told him, “and they’ll be waiting for you, you’ll see.”

The only reason he survived is because he was approached by a few girls.

“Suddenly a few girls, naked and in the full bloom of youth, came up to me. They stood in front of me without a word, gazing at me deep in thought and shaking their heads uncomprehendingly. At last one of them plucked up courage and spoke to me: “We understand that you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, and we have come to tell you that we think your decision pointless: for it helps no one.” She went on: “We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp, and tell everybody about our last hours,” she commanded. “You have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that’s better than dying here helplessly. It’ll be easier for them, since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you’ll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you. One more thing,” she went on, “you can do me one last favour: this gold chain around my neck: when I’m dead, take it off and give it to my boyfriend Sasha. He works in the bakery. Remember me to him. Say ‘love from Yana.’ When it’s all over, you’ll find me here.” She pointed at a place next to the concrete pillar where I was standing. Those were her last words.”

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Müller first testified during his recovery in a post-liberation hospital and subsequently in several trials. His testimonies were included in “The Death Factory” written by two fellow Holocaust survivors, Erich Kulka and Ota Kraus. He was also interviewed for the 1985 French documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, who himself had been a Holocaust survivor and French resistance fighter.

Müller died on November 9, 2013. In my opinion there is only one word to describe him. Hero.

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Alive! How far would you go to survive?

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Anyone who has seen the movie ‘Alive’ will be aware of this story.
Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was a chartered flight carrying 45 people, including a rugby union team, their friends, family and associates, that crashed in the Andes on Friday the 13th  October 1972, in an incident known as the Andes flight disaster and, in the Hispanic world and South America, as the Miracle of the Andes (El Milagro de los Andes). More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash and several others quickly succumbed to cold and injury. Of the 27 who were alive a few days after the accident, another eight were killed by an avalanche that swept over their shelter in the wreckage. The last 16 survivors were rescued on 23 December 1972, more than two months after the crash.

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The survivors had little food and no source of heat in the harsh conditions at over 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) altitude. Faced with starvation and radio news reports that the search for them had been abandoned, the survivors fed on the bodies of dead passengers that had been preserved in the snow. Rescuers did not learn of the survivors until 72 days after the crash when passengers Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, after a 10-day trek across the Andes, found Chilean arriero Sergio Catalán,who gave them food and then alerted the authorities to the existence of the other survivors.

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The survivors had a small amount of food: a few chocolate bars, assorted snacks, and several bottles of wine. During the days following the crash, they divided up this food in very small amounts to make their meager supply last as long as possible. Fito Strauch devised a way to obtain water by using metal from the seats and placing snow on it. The snow melted in the sun and dripped into empty wine bottles..

Even with this strict rationing, their food stock dwindled quickly. There were no natural vegetation or animals on the snow-covered mountain.

The group survived by collectively deciding to eat flesh from the bodies of their dead comrades. This decision was not taken lightly, as most of the dead were classmates, close friends, or even relatives.

All of the passengers were Roman Catholic.  Some rationalized the act of necrotic cannibalism as equivalent to the ritual of Holy Communion,

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or justified it according to a Bible verse (John 15:13): “no man hath greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends”). Others initially had reservations, though after realizing that it was their only means of staying alive, changed their minds a few days later. There are reports that the only surviving female passenger, Liliana, although not seriously injured in the crash, was the last survivor to initially refuse eating the human flesh due to her strong religious convictions. She later began eating after being convinced by her husband, Javier, and the other survivors – though she died shortly thereafter in the avalanche.

When first rescued, the survivors initially explained that they had eaten some cheese they had carried with them, planning to discuss the details in private with their families. They were pushed into the public eye when photos were leaked to the press and sensational articles were published.

The survivors held a press conference on 28 December at Stella Maris College in Montevideo, where they recounted the events of the past 72 days.(Over the years, they also participated in the publication of two books, two films, and an official website about the event.)

The rescuers and a Chilean priest later returned to the crash site and buried the bodies of the dead, 80 m (260 ft) from the aircraft. Close to the grave they built a stone pile with an iron cross. They doused the remains of the fuselage in gasoline and set it alight.

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Although it is a horrific story, ultimately it is a great tale of hope,faith and endurance.

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Perseverance during the Holocaust

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For me it is unfathomable to even imagine what the victims of the Holocaust had to endure. I don’t think I would have the strength to persevere and yet there were those who did. They did not give up hope and just kept going.

Below are just some pictures of those who despite everything looked evil in the eye and bravely fought for their lives.

Prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp cheer the approaching U.S. troops, April 1945.

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Child survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp soon after its liberation by Soviet forces in January 1945.

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Polish prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp toast their U.S. liberators circa April/May 1945.

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A Hungarian prisoner of the Dachau concentration camp not long after its liberation by U.S. troops in April 1945.

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Malnourished forced laborers of the Buchenwald concentration camp near Jena, Germany soon after the arrival of liberating U.S. troops in April 1945.

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Prisoners of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp cheerfully collect bread rations upon their liberation by British forces in April 1945.

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The tin of Survival-Surviving the Death Train.

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There are circumstances when your life could very well depend on something as simple as a biscuit tin. This one went with Abel Herzberg and his wife Thea on a dreadful journey. In the Westerbork Transit Camp as well as the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, it was matter of life or death to be able to safely store the little bit of food that was available from time to time.

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In April 1945, with the approach of the Allies, the Nazis started to empty Bergen-Belsen of thousands of Jews. Abel and Thea Herzberg were aboard the last train to leave the camp. Weakened by exhaustion and illness they left the few possessions they had behind. The ‘death train’ criss-crossed the eastern part of Germany for weeks on end. Many Jews on board died of starvation and typhus. Now and again the train stopped. Abel, Thea and others stole food from the surrounding farmland and stored it in this tin.

Prive col Herzberg-Koektrommel

The train was eventually liberated by the Russians near the German village of Tröbitz. A few months later Abel Herzberg and his wife returned to Amsterdam. The diary that Herzberg had kept the whole time – later published as Tweestromenland (Between Two Streams) – and this empty tin were the only things that returned with them. They had nothing else.

Jewish prisoners after being liberated from a death train, 1945 small (7)

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Rolf Abrahamsohn-Eye witness to the Holocaust.

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Rolf Abrahamsohn was not only a witness to the Holocaust he was also witness to the remorselessness of some of his fellow country men.

One day a few months after the war Rolf encountered a man who was hitchhiking. Rolf felt sorry for the man because he only had one leg, so he decided to give him a lift.

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After a few minutes the conversation turned to the Kristall nacht. The hitchhiker told Rolf that one night he was at a party he was told “come and meet us at the Loestraße tomorrow, you will see some action there” He said he did go there and walked into a textile shop,it had been burning already, but the place was “filthy”  the hitchhiker claimed. At that stage Rolf stopped the car and kindly asked the man to leave the vehicle, when the hitchhiker got our Rolf said” I wish they had blown away your other leg too, our place wasn’t filthy”

The shop the man had been referring to was Rolf’s parents shop.

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I mentioned fellow country men because Rolf was a German. Although the Abrahamsohn’s were Jewish they did celebrate Christmas like any other German, singing the same carols and hymns. They even sent their sons to an evangelical christian school.Rolf’s dad had fought for the German army during WWI, with the slogan “All Jews are proud to be German”

Rolf Abrahamsohn was born on March 9 in Marl,Germany. To Arthur Abrahamsohn (1888 – 1942), Else Abrahamsohn, geb. Gottschalk (1890 – 1944)

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He had 3 brothers.Ludwig Abrahamsohn (1921 – 1924), Hans Abrahamsohn (1922 – 1942), Norbert Abrahamsohn (1933 – 1940).

Ludwig was born before Rolf, he died in an accident aged 3.Below is a picture of Rolf and his other 2 brothers.

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Although they were Jewish the boys attended the evangelische Goetheschule in Marl.However due to increased antisemitism they left the school in 1934.

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Arthur was beaten half to death during the Kristallnacht in November 1938. The shop had been damaged by fire,after that the family moved into a so called “Jew House” in Reckinghause. Shortly afterwards the Father and the older son Hans were arrested. When they were released again Arthur and Hans fled to Belgium.

Aged 14 Rolf was forced to do slave labour for companies in the Ruhr region one of the companies was Ruhrgas AG(Currently E-ON Ruhrgas)

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In 1940 his youngest brother Norbert died of Diphtheria aged 7. In  January 1942 Rolf and his Mother were deported to Riga where he survived the ghetto.

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Later they were sent to the Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga. Unfortunately his Mother did not survive due to the appalling living conditions.

Rolf then was deported to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig.

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Subsequently he was then send to a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp where he was put to work in the armament production and clearing of bombs. The last few weeks of the war he spent in Theresienstadt where he eventually was liberated by Soviet troops.

Hoping to be re-united with some of his relatives he found out that his Father and Brother had both been killed after they had been deported from Belgium.

After the war he decided to re-open his Parents’ shop.

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He has since become a successful business man and since the 80’s he has been involved in re-establishing a Jewish community in the Recklingshausen-Bochum area together with other survivors.

 

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Roosje Glaser- The Dancing Queen of Auschwitz.

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With all the horrible stories we have heard about Auschwitz it does happen that every once in a while we come across a more ‘lighthearted’ tale. By chance I came across the story of Roosje Glaser.

Even before Nazi racial laws turned her into a wanted person in her native Netherlands, Roosje Glaser had limited patience for rules.

A lighthearted and sometimes frivolous Jewish dance instructor who loved jazz music and the company of handsome men, Glaser ignored the 1940 Nazi takeover of Holland and the murderous anti-Semitism it brought. When she couldn’t ignore it, she mocked it.

An amateur photographer whose Aryan looks allowed her greater mobility than other Jews, Glaser not only flouted Nazi laws that forced Jews to wear yellow stars, but used to pose for photographs with unsuspecting German occupation soldiers next to cafe signs that read “no Jews allowed.”

 

Her flamboyant defiance eventually got Glaser sent to Auschwitz. But at the death camp, that same trait helped her survive as a dance instructor to the SS until she staged a clever escape. The remarkable life story of Roosje Glaser, who died in 2000, was only recently documented in a new biography about her written and published in Britain this year by her Dutch nephew.

“On the one hand, it seems that at times she didn’t understand the severity of her situation,” said Paul Glaser, the son of Roosje Glaser’s brother and author of “Dancing with the Enemy.” “On the other hand, she survived by seizing a series of opportunities that show she knew what she was doing.

 

Roosje Glaser’s first act of defiance was to remove the letter J from her passport, which authorities stamped on the documents of Jews after the Nazi takeover.

In violation of Nazi racial laws, Roosje Glaser continued to run her successful dance school. She even made it into the cinema reel in 1941, as part of a Nazi-era item that was meant to show that Amsterdam’s cultural scene was unhampered by the occupation.

Rosie (ex-)husband Leo reports her to the Kultuurkamer. Rosie is forced to close her thriving dance school.
Leo and his brother Marinus betray Rosie to the commissioner of police and the mayor. Rosie is arrested and handed over to the SS who lock her up for six weeks

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Summoned and marked by authorities, Glaser was unable to find a venue for the graduation ball of her dance class of 1942. So she had the graduation in a barn in the countryside.

Ignoring the summons, she stole another woman’s passport and moved to a different city, living under a false identity in a boarding house run by a German woman who was married to a Dutch Nazi. Then a former lover betrayed her to the authorities — this time for payment.

Initially she and her mother are send to Camp Westerbork .

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Determined not to be send to Poland she befriends the leader of her barrack, she demonstrates a tap dance for him which results in getting her job as a nurse. She then gets her mother transferred to the hospital and gets her father, who had been sent to the camp previously, a job in the kitchen.

Later she works as a private secretary of Jacob Haan, an SS officer at the camp.She started a relationship with Jacob Haan, he advised her that it probably would be better to change her maiden name to her ex Husband’s last name Crielaars, which is a catholic name.

Eventually despite all her efforts she gets send to Auschwitz.

In Auschwitz she ends up in Block 10 ,a cellblock  where women and men were used as experimental subjects for German doctors. The experiments in Block 10 ranged from skin testing for reaction to relatively gentle substances to giving phenol injections to the heart for immediate dissection.

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Here she uses her charm and her dancing skills and she refuses to further part-take in the experiments, but rather then being killed for it, she gets send to Birkenau. Did experiments conducted on her rendered her unable to bear children.

At Birkenau she is tasked to comfort and to set at ease those who are send to the gas chambers.

As a fluent speaker of German and accomplished administrator, Glaser landed a position as an assistant to a German officer at Auschwitz.

“She had charm and she spoke to the Germans like she was one of them, like a classmate. She lacked that victim mentality,” said Paul Glaser, who interviewed his aunt for the book close to her death and has spent the past 15 years gathering additional materials about her extraordinary life story.

Using what he called “natural charm,” Roosje Glaser began giving her German bosses dance lessons after hours, sometimes together with their girlfriends or the dreaded Aufsehrinnen – female guards

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This gave her some privileges like extra rations of bread which she shares with other inmates.

At the start of 1945 Roosje and other inmates are sent to another camp, due to the imminent arrival of the Soviet troops. In this camp the Swedish Red cross is handing out food parcels. Her married name, Crielaars had a Scandinavian ring to is so she decides to go with it,because of this she ends up in an exchange program between Danish prisoners and German POW’s. She then ends up in a refugee camp in Sweden

At the refugee camp in Sweden,Roosje Glaser began giving dancing lessons to other displaced persons like herself.

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Disappointed by the Dutch treatment of her, she had been betrayed twice and ironically the only help she received in the Netherlands during the war was from a German woman and her Dutch Nazi husband. she decided to stay in Sweden after the war. Where stayed until 2000 the year she died.