Music in Westerbork.

Compared to other concentration camps ,Westerbork was ‘reasonably’ safe and life was less harsh there, But that is also what made it a more sinister place.

From 1942 to 1945, Westerbork was a transit camp (Durchgangslager) located in the Netherlands. As a transit camp, Westerbork served as a temporary collection point for Jews in the Netherlands prior to their deportation by the Germans to killing centers and concentration camps in the east.

Westerbork was originally established in 1939 by the Dutch before the German invasion of the Netherlands. It began as a refugee camp for German Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi persecution.

The Nazis created an illusion that all of the measures they had introduced for the Jews were only temporary. They even had a football league in the camp.

Music also played a big part in Westerbork. The picture at the start of the blog is of Jazz violinist Benny Behr. He is playing for some of the children of the camp. For them he would play uplifting children’s songs. Fr older people who would also play classical pieces.

Benny Behr was married to a non-Jewish woman, Wien Bouwina Sijtina Havinga. Because of that he enjoyed freedoms which other Jews did not have. But these freedoms were only temporary On August 1,1944 Benny ended up in Westerbork, where he remained until the camp was liberated in April 1945.

The Westerbork Serenade is the title of a love song written by Dutch singing duo,Nol (Arnold Siméon) van Wesel and Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser aka Johnny and Jones, just before their deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. The play tells the true story of Jewish cabaret performers held by the Nazis in the Dutch transit camp of Westerbork, and portrays songs and vaudeville sketches that were actually staged in the camp revues. Some of Berlin’s greatest stars performed at Westerbork, thereby delaying their transport to death camps.

In 1943 Max,Nol and their wives were arrested and were send to the Westerbork transit camp.In the camp they performed once under the name Jonny und Jones because only the German language was allowed during performances. In 1944 they were sent on a day’s work assignment from Westerbork to Amsterdam, during which they managed to secretly record the song “Westerbork Serenade”.

The song starts off , with them singing that they don’t feel like themselves and that they aren’t great. Their hearts beat like the airplane demolishing yard, which was actually the job assigned to them in the camp, dismantling crashed warplanes.

This the translation of the lyrics

Hello we feel a little out of order,
To pull myself together is quite hard,
Suddenly I’m a different person,
My heart beats like the airplane wrecking yard.

I sing my Westerbork serenade,
Along the little rail-way the tiny silver moon shines
On the heath.
I sing my Westerbork serenade
With a pretty lady walking there together,
Cheek to cheek.
And my heart burns like the boiler in the boiler house,
Oh it never hit me quite like this at Mother’s place
I sing my Westerbork serenade,
In between the barracks I threw my arms around her
Over there
This Westerbork love affair.
And so I went over to the medic,
The guy says: “there is nothing you can do;
Oh but you will feel a whole lot better
After you give her a kiss or two
(But that you must not do…)”

Even in this dark period they managed to keep composure and a sense of humour.

On 4 September 1944 Van Wesel and Kannewasser were deported on one of the last transports from Westerbork to a number of concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf and Bergen-Belsen. They died of exhaustion during the last days of the war in 1945.

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.”

The transport Mechanicus describes included 3,006 people. It arrived at the Sobibor killing center on June 3, 1943. Jules Schelvis, who had spent six days in Westerbork prior to deportation, was the only known survivor of this transport.

Looking back at the picture at the start of the blog. When you take it out of context, you might think it is a group of scruffy kids hassling a violin player. However when you put it in the context of Westerbork and the Holocaust, there is the realisation that most, if not all, of these kids listening to the music in Westerbork, will have been murdered shorty afterwards. And that knowledge breaks my heart.

sources

Home

https://westerborkportretten.nl/bevrijdingsportretten/benny-behr

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

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Johnny & Jones-Jazz musicians, killed because they were Jewish.

Prentbriefkaart_Johnny_and_Jones

Aside from the human costs of he persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, it also had a devastating impact on culture. So many very talented painters,writers,musicians and other artists were killed because they were Jewish. Artists whose art could still have been enjoyed today,but they never got a chance.

Johnny & Jones were a Jazz/Cabaret duo from Amsterdam. Nol (Arnold Siméon) van Wesel (Johnny) and Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser (Jones).

The duo worked together at the De Bijenkorf (Beehive) department store.bijenkorf

During a company party in 1934, they joined up with The Bijko Rhythm Stompers, where their talents were discovered. Two years later they quit their jobs and began performing under the name Johnny & Jones. Their biggest hit was “Mr Dinges doesn’t know what swing is” (“Mijnheer Dinges weet niet wat swing is”).

hoes

They made jazz music accompanied by the guitar, and their lyrics, invariably pronounced with an American accent, were characterized by humorous, topical parodies. Beginning in 1937 they were regularly played on the VARA-radio and became immensely popular.

In May 1940 the Germans invaded and occupied the Netherlands, gradually but at a fast pace the Nazi began introducing antisemitic laws. Also laws banning some musical genres were introduced, Jazz was labelled as Entartete Musik or Degenerate music, alabel applied in the 1930s by the Nazi government in Germany to certain forms of music that it considered to be harmful or decadent.

Entartete_musik_poster

Because they were Jewish,  Johnny & Jones could only play for Jewish audiences, during the German occupation,and after 1941 were not allowed to play at all. In 1943 Max,Nol and their wives were arrested and were send  to the Westerbork transit camp.In the camp they performed once under the name Jonny und Jones since in the revue only the German language was allowed. In 1944 they were sent on a day’s work assignment from Westerbork to Amsterdam, during which they managed to clandestinely record the song “Westerbork Serenade”.

The song starts of with them singing that they don’t feel like themselves and that they aren’t great. Their hearts beat like the airplane demolishing  yard, which was actually the job assigned to them in the camp,dismantling crashed warplanes.

(Drawing by Leo Kok, a Jewish artist who drew this picture of ‘Johnny and Jones’ dismantling planes in 1944. Leo Kok died a week after liberation day)Tekening_Nol_van_Wezel_en_Max_Kannewasser

Below is the translated text of the song.

“Hello we feel a little out of order,
To pull myself together is quite hard,
Suddenly I’m a different person,
My heart beats like the airplane wrecking yard.

I sing my Westerbork serenade,
Along the little rail-way the tiny silver moon shines
On the heath.
I sing my Westerbork serenade
With a pretty lady walking there together,
Cheek to cheek.
And my heart burns like the boiler in the boiler house,
Oh it never hit me quite like this at Mother’s place
I sing my Westerbork serenade,
In between the barracks I threw my arms around her
Over there
This Westerbork love affair.
And so I went over to the medic,
The guy says: “there is nothing you can do;
Oh but you will feel a whole lot better
After you give her a kiss or two
(But that you must not do…)”

Even in this dark period they managed to keep composure and a sense of humour.

On 4 September 1944 Van Wesel and Kannewasser were deported on one of the last transports from Westerbork to a series of concentration camps: Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf and Bergen-Belsen. They died of exhaustion during the last days of the war in 1945, Nol van Wesel (Johnny) died on 20 March 1945

Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser (Jones) .on 15 April, the day that the camp was liberated.

Vergeb Belsen

The only consolation in this story is that Johnny and Jones songs can still be heard and because of modern day technology their voices can still be heard all over the world.

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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Source

Wikipedia Netherlands