Remembering the Jews of Geleen

The photograph above might appear strange for a Holocaust story, but I posted it for a good reason. It is a chemical plant called DSM. At the edge on the top of the photo, you can see a few apartment blocks where I grew up, in the town of Geleen in the Netherlands.

The DSM was a daily reality for me. When I looked at it again today, I realized that there were several fellow-Geleen citizens that would have loved it if that chemical plant, ugly as it was, had been their daily reality. They never saw it because they were murdered. Below is a small poem I wrote for them a few years ago and the names of those murdered.

You are not different from me.

You eat the same food.

You read the same books.

But yet you are not free.

You are not free because of someone’s idea of you.

You are given a yellow star.

You are catalogued and numbered like cattle.

But yet you’re not an animal but a human too.

You are being killed in the vilest of ways.

You are a man, a woman, a child, a parent.

You are erased as if you were never here.

But yet you are remembered on many days.

You are not different to me but you are also not the same.

You are merely a number and a name on a list.

You are not listened to for you have no voice

But I pledge I will shout for you in loud acclaim.

 Last nameFirst nameBornDied*
1Freimark-AdlerHermine12-12-1876 Urspringen (D)14-05-1943 Sobibor
2BaumMax04-01-1907 Bauchem (D)31-03-1944 Auschwitz
3Cohen-Ten BrinkEsthella Carolina05-06-1904 Ootmarsum31-08-1942 Auschwitz
4Meyer-CahnJeanette (Jetta)18-12-1859 Leutesdorf (D)10-05-1943 Westerbork
5ClaessensAlbert19-04-1905 Obbicht30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
6CohenFrieda11-07-1924 Vaals31-08-1942 Auschwitz
7CohenHenny30-10-1925 Vaals26-09-1942 Auschwitz
8CohenJosephine09-07-1930 Geleen31-08-1942 Auschwitz
9CohenSimon01-05-1889 Midwolda31-08-1942 Auschwitz
10FreimarkErnst12-08-1936 Frankfurt (D)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
11FreimarkFriedrich27-10-1902 Marktheidenfeld (D)30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
12FreimarkKurt21-12-1939 Heerlen31-08-1942 Auschwitz
13Levy-GoldschmidtIrene15-02-1907 Rheda (D)30-11-1943 Auschwitz
14GoldschmidtJosef24-10-1867 Rheda (D)28-05-1943 Sobibor
15GoldsteenFrederik09-07-1918 Rheydt (D)15-08-1942 Auschwitz
16Levi-HarfRosalie27-10-1880 Mönchengladbach (D)28-05-1943 Sobibor
17Goldschmidt-JacobFrieda19-02-1869 Rheda-Wiedenbrück (D)07-10-1943 Maastricht**
18May-JacobsohnKlara14-05-1871 Neckarbischofsheim (D)14-05-1943 Sobibor
19Meyer-KaufmannBerta03-01-1912 Köln (D)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
20KaufmannMargard10-11-1928 Gronau (D)03-09-1943 Auschwitz
21KaufmannRichard30-06-1886 Moers (D)03-09-1943 Auschwitz
22Heimberg-KlestadtBertha28-12-1891 Büren (D)25-01-1943 Auschwitz***
23Claessens-KrzanowskaAjga17-03-1909 Zawiercie (Polen)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
24LebensteinIda16-05-1888 Ochtrup (D)28-05-1943 Sobibor
25LevyArnold27-05-1880 Wuppertal-Elberfeld (D)28-05-1943 Sobibor
26LevyHans Erich22-03-1911 Düsseldorf (D)31-03-1944 Polen
27LöwenfelsLuise05-07-1915 Trabelsdorf (D)30-09-1942 Auschwitz
28Freimark-MayGertruda16-02-1902 Niedermendig (D)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
29Winter-MayIrma Johanna30-08-1908 Niedermendig (D)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
30Goldsteen-MendelCarolina06-07-1880 Tetz (D)22-10-1943 Auschwitz****
31MeyerMax23-01-1900 Remagen-Oberwinter (D)30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
32RoerHelene14-09-1921 Zülpich (D)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
33RoerIlse20-02-1925 Zülpich (D)31-08-1942 Auschwitz
34Baum-SalmagneSophia12-06-1867 Eilendorf (D)16-11-1943 Bergen-Belzen
35WillnerPaul Siegfried05-06-1902 Aachen (D)30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
36WinterGustav01-11-1897 Korschenbroich (D)30-04-1943 Midden-Europa
37Kaufmann-ZilversmitAdele07-12-1890 Gronau (D)03-09-1943 Auschwitz

The Star

I came across an excerpt from the book Wiswassebeesjes by author Dieta Kalk. I can’t think of a proper translation for the word, but that doesn’t really matter.

In the book the writer, recalls the removal of the Wallage family from Aprikozenweg 21 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, a day after seeing the Star of David. The wearing of the Star of David had compulsory starting at the beginning of May 1942. It is almost certain that the Wallage family was temporarily interned on the grounds of the Apeldoornsche Bosch in mid-January 1943 and sent to the transit camp Westerbork and then on to Auschwitz.

This excerpt gives a good illustration of the perception of the treatment of Jews, as seen from the vantage point of a child.

The neighbours next to us (the Wallage family) have two children.
They have beautiful dark hair and brown eyes.
“They are Jews,” says Mom.
“What are Jews?” asks Dieta.
Mom doesn’t answer. She looks very serious.
One day Dieta sees that the children are wearing a star on their jackets.
And their father and mother too.
“I want a star like that too,” says Dieta.
“Mommy, can I also have a star on my jacket?”.
“Only Jewish people should wear a star on their coat,” says Mama.
“They don’t like that at all.”
Dieta doesn’t understand it.
The next day a truck comes onto the street.
The entire Wallage family climbs into the car.
Soldiers are there.
“Where are they going?” asks Jopie.
“They are going on a
journey, but we don’t know where to.”
But no one looks happy, and Mom is crying.
“Is that because it’s war?” Dieta asks.
“Are they coming back?”
“Nobody knows,” says Mom.
The house is empty.
We never saw them again.

Levie Wallage started work as a qualified nurse at Apeldoornse Bos on 1 June 1925 to support his family. The piece mentions their two children. However, Levie Wallage and his wife Matthea Wallage-Halverstad, did have a third child. Renate Wallage was born 22 May 1943 in Westerbork.

This clearly indicates that the Nazis had no regard for the life of the Jews, born or yet to be born. They pushed a pregnant woman on a truck.

Matthea and her children were all murdered on 3 September 1943 at Auschwitz. Levie was murdered a few months later on 31 March 1944.



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Moffenmeid is a designation for women who had relationships with German soldiers during the occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, or there was suspicion of their doing so. The word mof is a swear word for German—the English equivalent is Kraut. The women in question were sometimes pro-German or prostitutes, but often they were women who happened to like a German man. After the liberation, many Moffenmeiden had their hair cut off or their heads shaved publicly.

In the Netherlands, many places exhibited hatred, anger, sadness and frustration during the five long years of occupation. The Dutch unleashed their venom on these women.

Some people may disagree with me, but, I think this was another despicable chapter in Dutch history. Many women sought out relationships with German soldiers to ensure their survival.

It is easy for people to judge when they have not been in a similar situation. I understand how some may say, especially survivors of camps, that these women got what they deserved. On the other hand, there was an element of hypocrisy because many of those, mainly men, who took it upon themselves to become judge, jury and executioner, had been collaborators. Additionally, some women who had been members of the resistance and had romantic relationships with Nazis only did this as part of their resistance duties, and yet, some of them were also treated like the other Moffenmeiden.

In 1948, an investigation was conducted into abuses in the camps where collaborators were interned after the war. It showed that women accused of collaborating with the occupiers in particular had been systematically abused, humiliated and raped in these camps. This only became clear when the National Archives was able to make the entire research file public for the first time in 2023.

The negative image of women that existed during the occupation was implicitly adopted by historians after the war; they introduced the term sexual collaboration for the phenomenon of Dutch women having a relationship with a German. In the Netherlands and other occupied countries, more extensive research was done in the 1990s into these women and their experiences. This showed that a large proportion of the women had hardly considered the fact that a relationship with a German soldier during the occupation could be a problem. They had just met a nice man. There was often no question of political motivation or opportunism but of naivete.

There was a reason for the public shaving or cutting of the hair. it seemed to be a punishment for a moral misdeed already at the beginning of the Christian era. For example, the Bible says that hair is a woman’s adornment. When this is taken away from the woman, her femininity is gone. People may have remembered that the phenomenon also occurred at the end of the First World War. In Belgium and France, the cutting of hair of women also took place in retaliation

Studies by historians Monika Diederichs and Rianne Oosterom show that an estimated 120,000 to 150,000 women walked with a German. From those relationships, 12,000 to 15,000 children were conceived in the war. The moffenmeiden were often only 16, 17 or 18 years old.

Often as old as the German soldiers, who especially at the beginning of the war exerted a great attraction on the girls. They are, unlike the stiff Dutch boys, romantic, courteous and look good in their tight Wehrmacht uniform. The girls paint a picture of boys who are homesick and reluctant to do military service. Ordinary girls who just fall in love at that age. Little did they know that there was going to be a price to be paid for it.

The women were publicly shaved; often to the point of bleeding because of blunt hand clippers. The heads were then rubbed with pitch or rust-resistant red lead. Some were first locked up in empty buildings before being shaved and examined for possible venereal diseases.

During the humiliations on the street, bystanders cheered or even joined in. Other people were ashamed and couldn’t watch. They did not want to behave as the occupier did.

The persecution of these women is what they call “low-hanging fruit.” There were many Dutch Nazis who got away with murder. Men like Pieter Menten* or Siert Bruins.**

*Pieter Nicolaas Menten (26 May 1899 – 14 November 1987) was a Dutch war criminal, businessman, and art collector. Menten was a Nazi collaborator who committed numerous crimes, including murder, on behalf of the regime. After World War II, he was only found guilty of working as an interpreter and served just eight months in prison. Menten lived lavishly in the Netherlands for over 25 years, often storing and selling stolen artwork, before the new evidence was used to re-try him, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released in 1985 due to old age and good behavior, and he died in 1987.
**Siert Bruins (2 March 1921 – 28 September 2015), also known as Siegfried Bruns and nicknamed the Beast of Appingedam, was a Dutch member of the SS and SD during World War II. He was sentenced to death in absentia by a Dutch court in 1949 for his murder of Dutch farmer and Resistance member Aldert Klaas Dijkema. Germany refused to render him to the Netherlands. The death sentence was later revised into a lifelong sentence.
Siert Bruins died in September 2015 at the age of 94 in Breckerfeld, Germany.


Just Children

The worst crime the Nazis committed was the murder of children. An estimated 1.5 million children were murdered by the Nazis. This number is just an estimate, although I have no data to back this up, I believe the number is higher.

Not all children who died on the transport are included in this number. Nor are the children who were murdered before they even went on the train. There are reports of SS officers murdering babies by smashing their heads against walls or other surfaces.

Then there are the babies who were born in the camps, some would have been accidentally smothered by their mothers to keep them quiet, I don’t judge these mothers, and I never will, these children were also victims of the Nazi regime. I could write so much about the children, but at the moment I am just not emotionally capable to do so.

All I will do today is post pictures of children who were murdered. I will not even put all the names down of the children, I really should be posting pictures of men and women in their 80s and 90s, because all these children could still be alive.

I will do one story of the child who was more than likely the last Dutch child victim of the evil of the Nazi regime.

All I want today is for you to look into these youngsters‘ eyes and pledge that you will do everything in your power to stop an event like the Holocaust, so it will never happen again. We owe it to them.

Rika Overdijk

Thousands of people gathered at Dam Square in Amsterdam, on 7 May 1945 to celebrate arrival the of the liberators. While the local citizens celebrated on Dam Square, German soldiers of the Kriegsmarine were trapped inside the Groote Club (Grand Club) building, a large building at the corner of the Dam and Kalverstraat. In the nearby Paleisstraat, local forces arrested two German soldiers. One of them refused to surrender his weapon and fired a shot. German soldiers then appeared in the windows, on the balcony and the roof of the Groote Club and started firing into the crowd with machine guns.

On 7 May 1945, Joop van Beek (15) moved from Barentszstraat to Dam Square: it was rumoured that the Canadians would arrive there. “When we arrived at Dam Square, there was a festive atmosphere. There was even a barrel organ playing,” he recalled later.

The festivities turned into a bloodbath.

Some people hid behind a camera car that had driven into the city with the Canadians, and also behind that barrel organ. Joop van Beek heard when he came home that his neighbour, Rika Overdijk, had died. Rika was only 12 years old when she was killed by bullets at 3 p.m. She was the only child of electrician Dirk Overdijk19 and Rimkien Ossel.


Two Brothers Betrayed and Murdered

When I do posts on the Holocaust, I always try to do them with as little emotion as possible. I try to be objective as humanly possible. The reasoning I use to write without emotions is if I didn’t, I think I would get mental problems down the line.

However, sometimes, I let my emotions get the better of me on purpose. It works as a relief valve, especially when it is about children, As was the case when I was researching the two brothers, Nico and Lodewijk Bonnewit. I cried before I sat down with my keyboard to write about these two angels.

Nico was born on 30 July 1936, and Lodewijk, his brother, was born on 28 February 1940, both in Amsterdam. Their parents hid the boys to keep them safe from deportation. They were found and deported. The Nazis murdered them in Sobibor on 21 May 1943. Nico was six years old, and Lodewijk was three.

Due to a maid’s carelessness, the boys were caught by the Nazis. Their parents, Ben and Eva Bonnewit-Fresco had been hiding at the Jonker family home at the Bloemendaalsestraatweg in Velsen. When their host heard about the arrest of the children, Mr Jonker went to Amsterdam and tried to get them released. At that same time, Lodewijk and Nico transferred to a children’s home in The Hague. A day later, Mr Jonker tried to get the boys, but they were on a list, and their disappearance would not have gone unnoticed. The management of the home did not dare to let them go. A plan emerged for the next day. They would take the children for a walk in a park, and Mr Jonker would kidnap them. He agreed, but when he arrived in The Hague the next day, the children had been transferred to Westerbork early that morning.

The boys’ mother Eva Bonnewit-Fresco wanted to volunteer to be able to come to Westerbork with her children, but her people in hiding managed to talk her out of that.

The parents survived the war and searched for their children for years after the liberation, but in vain because the boys had met their fate at Sobibor on 21 May 1943.

I am a parent, and I can’t imagine how Benedictus Bonnewit and his wife Eva Bonnewit-Fresco felt. It must have been the ultimate nightmare, which repeated itself in their minds every night as they slept. They may have survived physically—but mentally—they probably died.


Dutch East Indies Hostages and the Death Candidates

Between 1816 and 1949, the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, was a Dutch colony. Between 1941 and 1945 it was occupied by Japan.

On 19 and 20 July 1940, 231 people who were on leave from the Dutch East Indies in the Netherlands were arrested by the Germans. They were called ‘Indian hostages’. It was in retaliation for the arrest of nearly 2,400 Germans by the Dutch governor-general in the Dutch East Indies in May 1940. The 15 female hostages went to Ravensbrück, the men to Camp Buchenwald. On October 7, 116 Indian hostages arrived in Buchenwald, but they did not come from the Dutch East Indies. The women were released again in early November 1940, and the men who survived were released more than 4 years later.

On October 7, another 116 men arrive in Buchenwald, who have been taken prisoner as ‘Indian hostages’. They do not originate from the Dutch East Indies and all hold prominent positions, including in the academic world. The women are released in early November 1940. In November 1941, after a difficult year in Camp Buchenwald, the men go to Camp Haaren. From there they are merged with the ‘notable hostages’ in Beekvliet in May 1942. There are frictions between the 2 groups. Because they have been held hostage for over a year longer, the Indian hostages feel a bit elevated, a bit more ‘hostage’.

Moreover, the food packages, which the Indian hostages received and the other hostages did not, created division. At their request, the Indian hostages were transferred in July 1943 to the boarding school De Ruwenberg, located further away.

Due to several deaths in Camp Buchenwald and some releases, about 150 hostages remain. Among them also, four Jews. They are transferred to Camp Westerbork at the end of July 1943.

The men were under the protection of the International Red Cross. The Germans agreed to this so that the German hostages in the Dutch East Indies would also receive decent treatment. In practice, this meant that the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross provided them with food packages as much as possible.

This group of hostages was treated very differently in Buchenwald from the other prisoners, their designation, ‘Das goldene Block’, says enough. They were the goldcrests in the camp, but they had a rough time nonetheless. Goldcrests in various respects: they did not have to work, were not mistreated and were allowed to receive parcels. So there was very limited contact with the outside world: they were allowed to write a letter once a month, in German! During the day they were free to do as they pleased.

The hygiene left much to be desired. In the winter of 1940-1941, twelve (or fourteen) hostages died of malnutrition and pneumonia, despite the food parcels and protection of the Red Cross.

Yet camp life was a heavy psychological burden, there was a constant fear, the sword of Damocles, of which they were constantly aware. The protection of the Red Cross didn’t mean much either, the Germans were masters at circumventing the controls!

Arthur Seyss-Inquart was the Reich commissioner for the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. In the latter capacity, Seyss-Inquart shared responsibility for the deportation of Dutch Jews and the shooting of hostages.

On 9 September 1940 he issued the following statement:

The Hague, September 9, 1940

In the foreign possessions of the Netherlands, a large number of Reich Germans resident there were arrested by the Dutch authorities and interned under undignified and extremely unhealthy conditions.
These measures by the Dutch authorities are in stark contrast to the loyal and generous treatment accorded to the Dutch people by the occupying powers.

To my regret, I feel compelled to leave several Dutch nationals—including you—in custody until this situation, which is intolerable for the German sense of honour, is remedied.

The Reich Commissioner for the Occupied Dutch Territories
signed Dr Seyss-Inquart”

In the context of these hostage internments, lists were also drawn up for hostage-taking on occasion; these concerned more or less well-known Dutch people who had played an opinion-forming, political or economic role. Incidentally, Seyss-Inquart exercised the necessary caution in this respect, as he did not wish to thwart his strategy of gradual Nazification.

On May 4, 1942, 460 persons on these lists were forcibly taken from their homes. These included some top people of the Dutch Union and former MPs; in addition, professors, journalists and various well-known ministers such as Willem Banning and Rev. Gravemeijer. There was no direct reason for this action. However, German repression was noticeably hardening during this period: shortly before, 72 members of the Ordedienst had been executed; 2,000 professional officers had also been called up and taken prisoner of war. Not much later, the first Jewish deportations would begin.

In a second wave of hostages in mid-July 1942, 600 people were arrested. These groups were imprisoned resp. in the minor seminary in Sint-Michielsgestel and the major seminary in Haaren, both in Brabant.

The express intention was to have these hostages serve as “guarantors” against acts of sabotage and resistance; in some cases, therefore, hostages would be put to death; they served as Todeskandidat, death candidates.

In order to crush the resistance, in 1942 Sint-Michielsgestel the minor seminary Beekvliet, as well as the major seminary Haarendael in Haaren, was requisitioned to house prominent Dutchmen as hostages as Todeskandidaten, Death Candidates. One or more of them could be designated as reprisal for any act of resistance to be executed. The first of these executions took place on 15 August 1942, in the woods of Gorp and Rovert, Goirle, where five Todeskandidaten were shot: Willem Ruys (director of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd), Mr Robert Baelde (social worker), Otto Ernst Gelder, Count of Limburg-Stirum (judge and public prosecutor), and Christoffel Bennekers (superintendent of police) and Alexander baron Schimmelpenninck van der Oye (landowner).

On 11 September 1944, a Niedermachungsbefehl [put down order] was issued in the Netherlands by Karl Eberhard Schöngarth. From then on, persons found at a meeting of a resistance group could be shot. In addition, resistance fighters were arrested for interrogation. The female persons were sent to camps, the male persons were placed on a death list. The number of those executed in retaliation was determined per attack by the national leader of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD—Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (Sipo—Security Police). The Todeskandidaten [death row inmates] were initially supplied by the regional SD, possibly supplemented by prisoners from other districts.

After the war, many execution sites were provided with a resistance monument where the victims are commemorated on National Remembrance Day.


Gejus van der Meulen—From Sporting Hero to Nazi Villain

The Netherlands has produced some of the greatest football players in the world. The Dutch are proud of their footballing history. My hometown of Geleen is where Dutch professional football originated.

However, there are some football stars we are not proud of.

Gejus van der Meulen was a goalkeeper of HFC and the Dutch national team. In 1940 he became a member of the NSB and joined the SS-Feldlazarett Freiwilligen (Medical Volunteers) Legion Niederlande, after which he went to the Eastern Front in 1942.

Van der Meulen played 54 matches for the Netherlands national football team, which was the Dutch record for goalkeepers from 3 March 1928 (when he equalled the total of Just Göbel) until 21 June 1990 (when his total was surpassed by Hans van Breukelen). He made his debut on 27 April 1924 against Belgium. He played in the 1934 FIFA World Cup, where the Netherlands was eliminated in the first round against Switzerland. He also took part in two Olympic Games, in 1924 and 1928. He was a club player of HFC in Haarlem, the oldest club in the Netherlands.

Van der Meulen’s popularity in the Netherlands was such that his wedding made the Polygoon newsreel. Footage also exists of a celebration ceremony for Van der Meulen on 5 March 1933, the day he gained his 50th cap.

In 1935, Van der Meulen retired from competitions and opened a pediatric clinic in Haarlem. He joined the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands and openly supported Hitler’s compulsory sterilization laws. His views were strongly opposed by the parents of the children he treated, forcing him to close his clinic.

A friend of Gejus said that the once-Dutch goalkeeper had proclaimed the beauty of the Nazis’ sterilization laws. “We, doctors, are fighting for a healthy human race. Now Hitler says we have to intervene in the risk of unhealthy children.”

Gejus, however, wanted more than just being a member of the NSB, and in 1941 he joined the SS Vrijwilligers Legioen Nederland (Dutch Volunteer Legion). The SS oath read as follows:

“I vow to you Adolf Hitler, as Fuhrer and Chancellor of the German Reich, loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders you set me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God.”

He was arrested four days after the liberation of the Netherlands and tried in June 1947. He showed no remorse and stated that he did not know that the Netherlands was at war with Germany when he joined the SS. Van der Meulen was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was pardoned in August 1949. He tried to get his medical practice back off the ground, but no patients wanted to be treated by a known Nazi collaborator. In the end, he ended up exclusively treating former members of the NSB. Later he contacted his former club HFC to see if he could get a place for his son in the academy. His request was ignored.

I know some people will say “He wasn’t the worst of them. he was only a medic” and they might be from the opinion that he was treated harshly. But, he was an educated man who had pledged a vow and allegiance—not only to the enemy—but, also to the most evil man on the planet. Technically he committed treason which was punishable by death.



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. Thank you. 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.


Desperate Act

On 10 May 1940, the Netherlands was attacked by Germany. After a four-day battle and the bombardment of Rotterdam, the capitulation was signed on 15 May. The short but fierce battle cost many lives and caused a lot of damage.

It triggered a wave of suicides during and after the German invasion.During the first month of the war, hundreds of mainly Jewish people decided not to wait for the future under German rule and took their own lives. Some did so alone, others with their partner or family. The number of suicides in the first month of the war was five times higher than the May average in other years. Even afterwards, Jews who saw no way out of deportation took their own lives.

New data was published in 2001 about the size of the group of Dutch Jews who took their own lives. According to newly recovered data from the Central Bureau of Statistics for the period 1940–1943, this concerned approximately 257 (1940), 36 (1941), 248 (1942) and 169 (1943) persons. It was the highest percentage recorded in May 1940.

Here is the story of one family who committed that irreversible desperate act. What makes it so poignant is that it wasn’t an act of evil or hate but an act of love.

Ben Stranders, a friend of the Judels family, wrote a letter in memory of the family, who decided to take their lives on 15 May 1940.

“At seven o’clock, I said goodbye to David, Louis, Mientje and the children Mia and Bert. A few minutes later, on my return home, I heard that the Netherlands capitulated! We now have nothing more to decide, or at least not to face the question that occupied us only an hour ago. However, Louis and Mientje had other decisions in mind. They believed they owed this to their children.

In the morning, Annie, my father’s sister, saw from the house you once occupied—four stretchers carried down by the G.G.D. (public health service). As it turned out—only a very small chance of salvation. The following Friday, Leo, Bram Monnikendam, Gerrit, and I think also Catharine and Saar went to Westerveld. And we saw four coffins sink into the cellars of the Crematorium.

I will never forget the small box in white with Bert in it. He preceded many little children, fortunately without feeling the suffering to which they would first be subjected.”

Louis Judels
Amsterdam, 10 March 1902 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. He reached the age of 38 years. Occupation: Office Clerk.

Mina Judels-Kleerekoper
Amsterdam, 2 May 1903 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. She reached the age of 37 years.

Mia Judels
Amsterdam, 19 July 1926 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. She reached the age of 13 years.

Bert Judels.
Amsterdam, 29 April 1936 – Amsterdam, 15 May 1940. He reached the age of 4 years.

Such an incredibly sad story.


The Return of a Hero

Sometimes, because of my criticism of my fellow Dutchmen and women, I do forget that there were a great number of heroes too. Men and women who risked their lives to speak out against the Nazi regime and help others in need. The last few days, I have tried to get a bit of a balance. This post is about another one of those heroes.

Dean Jozef Teulings was already negative about National Socialism in the 1930s, and he remained so during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. In his sermons, he advised his parishioners to try to get out of compulsory labour. On 22 April 1942, Teulings was arrested by the SD because he had taken propaganda posters for the Youth Storm, the Dutch equivalent of the Hitler Youth, off the wall of a school.

The arrest was photographed from the window of the rectory

On 28 April 1942, the Sicherheitsdienst arrested Teulings. He was sent to Dachau Concentration Camp and imprisoned for three years. In the camp, he celebrated his twenty-fifth year of priesthood in the presence of a large audience of other interned priests.

In August 1944, his Nijmegen parish received the last sign of life.

After the liberation, on 5 May 1945, Chaplain Schellekens, Chaplain Wim van Helden and border guard officer Van der Krabben decided to travel to Dachau to see if they could find Dean Teulings and also Rector Rooyackers from Den Bosch. They arranged for a car, papers, materials and petrol and arrived in Dachau after the two-day journey.

The Allies did not allow them entrance to the camp because of typhus. The next day they manage to enter. They came across a French priest who told them he had seen Dean Teulings that morning. They also meet a Dutch resistance fighter named Pim Boellaard.

When they pass Barrack 20, to their amazement, they encountered—a seriously weakened but still mentally strong—Dean Teulings, who they manage to smuggle out with a ruse, together with Pim Boellard and Rector Rooyackers. On Sunday, 13 May 1945, around seven o’clock in the evening, the message arrived in Nijmegen that Dean had returned to town.

He was welcomed home festively in his church on Groenestraat in the Hazenkamp district of Nijmegen. Still wearing his prison uniform, he climbed onto the pulpit and addressed the parishioners.


Love Sees No Colour or Religion

Alfred Münzer was only nine months old when his family separated during the Nazi Regime occupation of the Netherlands. At one year old, he was placed into the care of a Dutch-Indonesian family for his protection. After liberation, his mother, who survived several concentration camps including Auschwitz, returned and they were reunited.

This is his story.

“I was born in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands and survived the Holocaust because a Dutch-Indonesian family and their Indonesian Muslim nanny risked their lives to save a nine-month-old Jewish baby.

My parents were born in Eastern Europe, my father in a small town called Kańczuga and my mother in a neighbouring town called Rymanów.

They immigrated to the Netherlands to escape anti-Semitism and to explore opportunities in a country that had welcomed Jews for hundreds of years.

My father was the first to arrive in the Netherlands and started a men’s clothing business in the city of the Hague. My mother followed him a few years later and they were married in November 1932, just before Adolf Hitler came to power in neighbouring Germany.

My father’s business flourished, and my parents made many friends, many of them not Jewish, and in July 1936, they celebrated the birth of their first child, my sister Eva. She was followed in November 1938 by my sister Leah, another happy occasion marred unfortunately by news of Kristallnacht, [the Night of Broken Glass], when the full fury of anti-Semitism was unleashed in Germany. Still, my parents felt safe in the Netherlands.

All that changed 14 May 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands and installed a Nazi government of occupation.

In 1941, my mother realized she was pregnant again. Her obstetrician told her it would be immoral to bring another Jewish life into the world and urged her to have an abortion. But my mother ignored the doctor’s advice. And so, I was born eight months later on 23 November 1941.

Eight days later family and friends gathered in our living room to observe the first milestone in a Jewish life. My bris [circumcision] ceremony. Photographs were taken on that occasion, and they were very significant because these two photographs were to be kept by my mother on her body through her stay in 12 concentration camps.

In August 1942, when I was nine months old, my father, like many other Jewish men, received a summons to report for labour duty, which meant going to a concentration camp. The summons was a sign of imminent danger, which forced our family to go into hiding.

My sisters were placed with two devout Catholic women who lived next door to us. And I was placed with a neighbour across the street, Annie Madna. My parents went into hiding at a psychiatric hospital, my father pretending to be a patient and my mother, a nurse.

Annie Madna had some bad run-ins with the Nazi government and felt it would be safer for me to be with her sister, Yorina Polak. But Yorina had a neighbour who was a member of the Dutch Nazi Party, and that is why I finally ended up with Annie Madna’s former husband, Tolé Madna.

Tolé Madna was born in what was then a Dutch colony, the Netherlands East Indies, now called Indonesia. Tolé became my Papa, the three Madna children, my siblings and Mima Saïna, the Indonesian nanny who had cared for them, now became my mother.

Mima could not read or write but had a heart of gold and cared for me as if I were her own. I slept in Mima’s bed, and she kept a knife under her pillow vowing to kill any Nazi who might try to come and get me.

Because I was in the house illegally, there were no food ration coupons for me and for three long years, she and the Madna family shared their meagre rations with me. They made sure I never came close to a window for fear that some passers-by might see a very different-looking child.

There were times when the house was being searched and I was told to hide in a closet. But I thought it was just a game and I remember playing with the Christmas decorations that were stored in the closet.

There were also times when I was very, very hungry, but what I remember most of the three years with the Madna family, was love and laughter.

Sadly, my sisters met an entirely different fate. After a year with the two Catholic neighbours, they were placed in what was assumed to be a safer home. But there, the husband of the woman who had agreed to shelter my sisters denounced his wife and my sisters to the Nazis. His wife was sent to a concentration camp where she developed typhus, but survived.

My sisters, however, were taken to Auschwitz where they were killed on 11 February 1944. They were seven and five years old.

My parents only succeeded in hiding at the psychiatric hospital for three months. On Christmas Day 1942, they enjoyed a surprise visit with my sisters. But one week later on New Year’s Day 1943, all the Jews who had been hiding in the hospital were arrested by the SS.

My parents were deported, first to two camps in the Netherlands, and then to Auschwitz. My father remained in Auschwitz for six months and then was taken to a succession of camps in Mauthausen, Gusen, Steyr, and finally to a camp high in the Austrian Alps, Ebensee.

He witnessed liberation by the US Army but was so debilitated that he died two months later, still at Ebensee on 25 July 1945.

Miraculously, my mother survived Auschwitz and a series of death marches that took her through nine other camps. She was liberated in April 1945 and she and I were reunited in July 1945. It’s the first clear memory that I have.

I had been asleep when my foster sister Dewie came to get me and carried me into the living room where the whole family had gathered in a circle. They passed me from lap to lap, but there was one lap I refused to sit in, one woman I kept pushing away. That woman was my mother.

To me, she was a complete stranger. I already had a mother and that was Mima Saïna. My mother thought it best that Mima continue to care for me. But unexpectedly, Mima passed away two months later, and that was when I finally bonded with my mother, a bond that lasted until she died 56 years later at age 94.

Sadly, the Holocaust did not spell an end to hate, bigotry, or mass murder. I asked Tolé Madna why he risked his life and the lives of his family to save a Jewish baby. His answer was a simple one, “What else was I to do?”

To him standing up to hate and bigotry wasn’t a choice, but a given. That’s the lesson I want the world to learn, that even when surrounded by unbridled hate, hate that robbed me of my father and sisters, and hate that took the lives of six million Jews and millions of others, it is possible and incumbent on all of us to stand up and do what is right.