Johnny & Jones- They were murdered, but not their music.

The one thing that always baffled me is the vehement hate the Nazis had for Jazz music. It was considered ‘Entartete Musik’,-degenerate music a label applied in the 1930s by the Nazis to Jazz and also other forms of music.

I have done a piece on Johnny & Jones before , this is not so much a follow up but more of an enhancement to the previous blog. I feel it is important to remember those who were murdered for their art and their religious background.

In the 1930s, the Amsterdam duo Nol (Arnold Siméon) van Wesel and Max (Salomon Meyer) Kannewasser , alias Johnny and Jones, were extremely popular – thanks in part to their first single Mister Dinges Weet Niet Wat Swing Is. They were cousins, accompanying themselves on guitar, the musicians sang their swinging Jazz songs with smooth lyrics in a semi-American accent. Their careers come to an end when the two Jewish musicians are arrested by the Germans during World War II and they are killed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

In 1934, “The Bijko Rhythm Stompers” performed in De Bijenkorf, a group consisting of Bob Beek, Max Kannewasser, Max Meents and Nol van Wesel. This is the first time that the collaboration between Max (Salomon Meijer) Kannewasser (24 September 1916/Jones) and Nol (Arnold Simeon) van Wesel (23 August 1918/Johnny) can be traced.
In 1936 Johnny and Jones started performing as a singing duo. They were discovered during a performance in café-restaurant “Van Klaveren” on the corner of Frederiksplein – Weteringschans.
Shortly afterwards they quit their job at De Bijenkorf and entered the artist profession. They soon became the first teenage idols in our country.

They could be heard regularly on VARA radio from 1938. They then performed as an interlude with “The Ramblers”. They recorded records for the record label Decca, which started in November 1938 with the song “Mister Dinges does not know what Swing is”. This song became a great success.

Initially at the start of the war, Johnny and Jones were able to perform without much problem. For example, in February 1941 they performed in Amersfoort with “The Ramblers”, but at the end of 1941 this was forbidden for Jewish artists.

With growing pressure to go into hiding, their final performance was for a wedding reception of one of Arnold’s colleagues from de Bijenkorf(Dutch department store), Wim Duveen.

He married Betty Cohen in the main Synagogue of Amsterdam in 1942. Salomon had married Suzanne Koster in 1942, a woman from the Dutch East Indies (Surabaya) and Arnold had married Gerda Lindenstaedt, also in 1942, a German refugee who had come to Holland 1939.

The young men went into hiding with their wives in the Jewish nursing home “Joodsche Invalide,” where staff would hide them in an elevator between floors during inspections. When they were not hiding, they performed for staff and patients. Disaster struck on 29 September 1943 when the home was raided and its inhabitants sent to Westerbork.

They were put to work there processing parts of crashed aircraft, including Plexiglas (source: Leo Cohen, fellow prisoner in Westerbork).Johnny and Jones found a place in the camp at the revue (consisting of excellent artists). Since only German-language performances were allowed, Johnny and Jones had to learn German. So first that language had to be well mastered, so they only performed in March 1944 during a camp revue.

In August 1944, the two singers were allowed to leave the camp, with permission of the commandant, not only for their work disassembling parts but also to record songs in Amsterdam. In the NEKOS studios they recorded 6 songs about their life in Westerbork, including ‘Westerbork Serenade’.

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…)”

A fellow artist who met them at the time wondered how Jews were allowed to walk freely in Amsterdam, without a yellow star. They told him about their temporary freedom. He suggested that they go into hiding but they refused. It was a camp rule: those who escaped risked the lives of their families, who would be deported. So they returned.

In September 1944 they were deported with their wives to Theresienstadt. They did not stay long. On a transport from Theresienstadt the duo were split from their wives: Salomon and Arnold were deported from camp to camp: Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and then finally, after a 10-day train journey, they ended up in Bergen-Belsen, where they died of exhaustion shortly before liberation and the end of the war. Nol van Wesel died on 20 March 1945, aged 26; Max Kannewasser died on 15 April 1945, aged 28.

Salomon’s mother-in-law, Marie Louise Koster, recalled seeing their bodies dragged out of the sick barracks onto a van, to be cremated. She was in the so-called Stern Lager (Star camp) with her husband Willem and her daughter Sonja. Salomon’s wife Suzanne survived Mauthausen and Auschwitz and lived in the USA until 2018. Gerda was killed in Auschwitz in 1944. Neither had children. Arnold’s parents were killed in Auschwitz in 1942. Salomon’s parents had died before the war. Their cousin Barend Beek went via Westerbork to Auschwitz and was killed in a subcamp of Stutthof on 11 December 1944.

They may have been murdered but their music lives on.

Johnny & Jones, playing for the union crowd of NVV, Breda, 1938.


Labor Camp Wieringermeer -Klaus Barbie’s lie.

Werkdorp (Labor Camp) Wieringermeer was opened in 1934, and was managed by the Jewish Labor Foundation. It could accommodate about 300 residents, who would follow a short (two-year) training course.

The Werkdorp , built by the residents themselves – mostly refugees from Germany and Austria – was intended to train its temporary residents in practical skills that would enable them to live in israel and work in agriculture. The boys received a two-year manual or agricultural training, the girls a short instruction in agriculture and housekeeping. In the village there was a carpenter, a blacksmith, a bakery and a joiner’s workshop.

After the German invasion and occupation in the Netherlands, the village was evacuated on March 20 1941, except for about 60 who stayed behind. W. Lages and Klaus Barbie were involved.
From August 1940 until the eviction in March 1941, Abel Herzberg was director of the Jewish working village in the Wieringermeer. Herzberg was on the so-called Frederiks( Karel Johannes Frederiks was the secretary general of the department of internal affairs) list with his wife and three children and therefore enjoyed a certain protection.

On March 24, 1941, a number of members of the foundation board sent a letter to the Sicherheitspolizei in Amsterdam stating that continuing the training in the Werkdorp was the only option for the young people to emigrate afterwards. It was hoped that this would appeal to the occupier. Klaus Barbie indicated that he was sympathetic to a restart of the Werkdorp and would discuss this with Lages. On June 9, there was an answer and the members of the foundation board were told that the students could return to the Werkdorp. Barbie asked for a list of the names and addresses of the students living in Amsterdam. The foundation board believed Barbie and gave him the list. On June 11, the Werkdorpers received a message from the Jewish Council that the Nazis would come and collect them from their homes. A number of people did not believe what was about to happen and went into hiding.

Indeed, the Nazis had something else in mind. The attack on 14 May 1941 on the Bernard Zweerskade in Amsterdam – without casualties – and the attack on 3 June 1941 on the telephone exchange at Schiphol – one seriously injured – prompted the Nazis to carry out reprisal measures and they wanted 300 male Jews from 18 to 35 directly to Mauthausen.
The arrests of the Werkdorpers started on 11 June. In the end, 59 were arrested. They went to camp Schoorl. 58 of them were murdered in Mauthausen, one was gassed in Hartheim Castle.

Like Westerbork, Wieringermeer had also been built to accommodate Jewish refugees, prior to the war, but they were both turned into much more cynical places.

On August 12th, 1944 a report was issued in Haifa, Israel. regarding the situation of the Dutch Jewry up to May 1944, The transports to the death camps continued for another 4 months . Below is the transcript of the report. Wieringermeer is also mentioned in it.

There were 140.000 Jews in Holland at the beginning of the war (incl. 26.000 non dutch Jews)

Deported to Poland (including all orphanages, old-age homes, hospitals, lunatic-asylum Apeldoorn, and all Jews from Vught-camp excepting a few hundred working in Vught for Philips) 110.000

Bergen-Belsen 4.000

Westerbork 2.500

Theresienstadt 2.000

In hiding (estimated) 15.000

Married to Christians etc, deceased (all estimated) 6.000

(The number of Jews who are free in Amsterdam – there are none in the provinces – is negligible)

The ‘star’ of which I enclose one, had to be worn as from May 1942; the deportations started July 15th 1942 Up to December 31st 1942 40.000 Jews had been deported.

Wieringen on March 20th 1941 210 pupils (boys and girls with the Jewish manager) were brought to Amsterdam about 60 pupils and 20 people from the staff were allowed to remain in order to finish the harvesting of that years crops; they were allowed to remain until August 1st 1941 when the Werkdorp was finally liquidated.

About 60 of the pupils were sent to Mauthausen;

“ 100 were deported to Poland

“ 50 are still in Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen

“ 60 are in hiding.

The dutch authorities paid an indemnity for the property they took over; (although it were the Germans who ordered the liquidation; this money was used to keep two ‘Homes’ in Amsterdam for the remaining pupils until they too were finally dispersed in the great razzias on May 26th and June 20th 1943. The equipment of the carpentershop and the smithy and metalshop was used in trainingschools in Amsterdam and finally brought to Westerbork.

The following data were given to me in Vienna on my way through to Constantinople by the assistant of Dr Löwenherz who could not come personally;

Data July let 1944: Vienna Free Jews … 180

In hiding ………………………………………….. 2000

Versippte (Intermarriage etc) ………… 6- 8000

Sent to Theresienstadt 15000 (of whom 3800 still there)

Sent to Poland…………………………………… 48000

The rest (there were 2100000) emigrated or died.

9000 Hungarian Jews had come through Vienna on their way to Poland; 41000 were still expected. (We saw two transports of 1000 each, one in Vienna and one on the way to Hungary) 310000 jews in Budapest had not yet been interfered with.

Haifa, August 12th 1944″

It was signed by someone with the last name ‘Van Tijn’ unfortunately I don’t know who that is.


Trying to bring joy in a dark time.

They say that music soothes the savage beast, But it can also bring joy and transport you back to a better time in your life. Benny Behr must have known this because he tried to keep up the spirits, by playing music.

Benny was Jewish Jewish and was married to a non-Jewish woman, Wien Bouwina Sijtina Havinga. Mixed-married Jewish people were exempt from deportation to concentration camps or death camps,initially. This meant that Benny Behr’s identity card not only had a stamp with the letter J, but also a Sperr stamp. He was one of the first mixed-married Jewish men to be forced to work in March 1944 at Fliegerhorst Havelte, a location in Drenthe that had been chosen by the German occupier for the construction of an airport.[Benny Behr was housed in the barracks camp at De Doeze on the Hunebedweg, which was also called the Jewish camp.

He became a room guard and was therefore able to access the leave passes. On leave without permission, however, the punishment for the Jewish men was immediate transport to camp Westerbork, a transit camp in Drenthe. When Benny Behr and a few other camp mates went home on July 28, 1944 with leave cards written out by himself, they were betrayed. As punishment, Benny Behr was transferred to Westerbork on August 1, 1944.

Benny started playing musical instruments when he was nine. He played violin, flute, saxophone and piano. Jazz in particular fascinated him immensely and it was obvious that he, like his two other brothers, became a musician. In 1920 he became involved in the musical life of Groningen and in 1937 he left for Amsterdam. He was taught there by the concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra. In Amsterdam Benny established his name in various orchestras. He used his talents to keep the spirits up in Westerbork.

Camp Westerbork could best be characterized with terms such as defeat but also hopeful expectation. You could see from the faces of the people that they were on the list to go on transport.

Education was compulsory in Westerbork for children aged 6 to 14. truants were severely punished by order of camp commander Gemmeker. Classes were regularly canceled because teachers were deported. At the end of a class period, a report in German was distributed to the children. From July 1942 to September 1944, a total of 17,500 children were deported from Westerbork to the extermination camps.

This is Benny’s story of his time in Westerbork.

“I played in the penal barracks for the children and also for the older people. Of course I played happy school songs for the children. The elderly also wanted to hear something classic. I have played pieces by Kreisler, among other things. And so I tried to amuse people. I was there in the penal barracks with Jews in hiding who, in the eyes of the Germans, had committed a criminal offense: they had tried to save their lives. They immediately put me to work. I got to the batteries. We were all sitting at long tables where we had to split these batteries, a terribly dirty job. After an hour you were pitch black from that powder that was in those batteries.

We all were terribly afraid, especially for the transports that went on Tuesday evenings. Then someone from the Ordedienst came to read the list of people who had to get ready for transport the next morning, or already that night. When the ‘B’ of my name was over, I must confess, I heaved a sigh of relief. So I wasn’t there this week. The next week you might have been there. But thank goodness I survived. And so the penal barracks slowly emptied.

At one point there was a court hearing. There were the so-called judges: Aus der Fünten, Gemmeker and Fischer. When that court hearing was held and I entered, the gentlemen were seated behind a table. I heard one say to the other: “Wieder ein Jude”. Within a minute the trial was over for me. So everyone was brought before the penal barracks. One or two days later, the news came that 59 persons were exempted from transport ‘bis auf weiteres’.(until further notice) And there I was at the top. The list started with the ‘B’. And so I stayed behind with 58 other people, the others all went on transport. This was at the beginning of September 1944. The 59 were discharged from the penal barracks and were allowed to join the so-called ‘free camp’.

After that I had several jobs. That’s how I started in the field. I also worked in the sawmill where I had to supply planks. In between the acts I also played the violin regularly. I also played there for the German Jews, some of whom lived in separate houses. Then I sometimes got cigarettes and some extra food. I also played in a trio with others.

Perhaps the best was my performance on the day of the liberation. Then that same evening I played for the Canadian commander and for the officers in the great hall. It was incredible. I then played for an hour in a row. Afterwards I got a lot of boxes of Sweet Caporal cigarettes, I can still remember that. I didn’t smoke myself and handed them out to the boys when I got back to the barracks. And those guys said, “Are you going to play again tomorrow night?” I said, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t been invited to that yet.” But I did play again the next night. That was my liberation.'”

After the war, Benny continued with his music career. In 1949 he started a weekly radio performance with a radio quartet, where he plays together with Sem Nijveen, whom he played with prior to the war and with whom he also had been with in Westerbork.

Benny formed a jazz orchestra: Benny’s Big Five, which became a success. Sem Nijveen and Benny Behr’s breakthrough internationally came in 1959 and gave many performances, including for the BBC in England. In 1963 Benny starred in a movie with Dutch comedian Tom Manders aka Dorus.
In 1967 he started playing in the Metropole Orkest in Amsterdam.In 1981 he played a violinist in a Dutch TV production of Mata Hari.

Benny Behr died on August 16, 1995 in Hilversum.

Benny’s family, like many other Jewish families, did not survive the war. His father, Hartog Behr died in Blechhammer , on March 31, 1944. His mother, Trijntje Behr was murdered in Auschwitz on October 26, 1942.


The Barneveld Jews

While all other concentration camps were built or configurated to facilitate mass murder on an industrial scale, there were some exceptions.

Plan-Frederiks was a plan made up by the Dutch politicians K.J. Frederiks and J. van Dam that was meant to protect Jewish people in name of the German people during World War II.

The occupying German forces did not want the Jews to hide away, so they gave certain Jews places in special reservation camps in the Netherlands. Only Jews that had been important to Germany, for such reasons as fighting in World War I or being a famous painter, in case of Jo Spier, were given such treatment. Frederiks and Van Dam wanted other Jews to show up for this plan and try to get a place in one of these camps, instead of hiding away. It would be easy to catch these people.

The reservation camps that were used for this plan were Villa Bouchina,De Schaffelaar, and De Biezen. They were all opened in February 1943 and closed in April of the same year. In all, about 700 people were incarcerated in these camps, after which they were transported to Theresienstadt, where many of them died.

De Schaffelaar was a neo-gothic castle dating from the 1850s., near Barneveld. It was in a derelict state, without heating and sanitary ware. It was surrounded by a large lawn and woods. There was no fence. There were no German guards. The first arrivals brought their own furniture, turning the many empty rooms into small living rooms. Barracks were placed in the gardens in around March 1943 to house the ever-expanding group.

This group of individuals was specially selected to live through the Holocaust since they were regarded as beneficial to their nation. Conversely, an estimated 102,000 Jews living in the Netherlands were expelled from the country and murdered by the Nazis. After a high-ranking Hague bureaucrat chose to intercede in order to assist a confidant, he was able to obtain a pact of sorts, which assured the safety of a pair of notable Jews and their households. When news of the deal became public, the Jewish population throughout the Netherlands wrote letters urging to be added onto the exclusive list. It was ultimately expanded to include hundreds of Jews. The group included renowned educators, artists, doctors and scientists. They came to be identified as the Barneveld group.

Frederiks finally got permission from the Nazi authorities to compose a list of “deserving Dutch Jews.” These, together with their families, were to be exempted from deportation to concentration or work camps. Or rather, it was believed these were concentration or work camps. These aforementioned prominent Dutch Jews included for the most part scientists, artists, physicians and industrialists, but also others were added to the list of the prominent. Hundreds others, however, who sought inclusion in this much sought after list were rejected.

n September 1943, the Barneveld clique was relocated to Westerbork, a Nazi labor camp located in Netherlands. The jolt was tremendous, from living in a mansion to residing in camp quarters. They were compelled by the Germans to take part in the expulsion of their neighbors at the camp. The Barnevelder group observed relatives and acquaintances being transferred form Westerbork to Auschwitz. However, the Barnevelders continued to be untouched. While the environment they lived in constantly worsened, the protection of their lives continued. Ultimately, the Barnevelders were moved to Theresienstadt, where they were forced to witness the death of relatives and friends members, yet their own destinies were secure.

Nearly every Barnevelder survived the Holocaust. Nevertheless the emotional pain lingered on , and for many, the feeling of sorrow due to living through the war ir survivors guilt remained. At every point the chosen group was rescued from murder, although some see their continued existence as a blessing and a burden.

While fellow Jews were systematically and unceremoniously hauled from their homes and deported via Westerbork to the death camps, these Jews, known as the Barneveld Jews , found refuge in castle De Schaffelaar. With the exception of a few elderly people all Barnevelders would survive the war. Albeit, in the end, they too were deported via Westerbork to Theresienstadt. In Theresienstadt, most received the status of prominence once again and a few even were released into the hands of the Red Cross to be transferred to Switzerland. After the war some, not all, surviving Barnevelders understandably felt constrained and remained silent about their time spent in the castle.

The Saved is a Dutch documentary released in 1998. It was directed by Paul Cohen and Oeke Hoogendijk, about the Barneveld Jews. The title is “Een gelukkige tijd – het verhaal van de Barneveldjoden” the English title is “the Saved”

In my opinion these people had nothing to feel guilty about, They survived , that is not a crime, but a blessing.

Steven Frank is one of the survivors. He was born in 1935 into a secular Jewish family in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. His father was a well known Dutch lawyer who was born in Zwolle, the son of a doctor. His mother was the daughter of professional musicians who emigrated to Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century. He has an elder and a younger brother.

In March 1943 the family were taken to Barneveld and in September 1943 the group were sent from there to Westerbork, transit camp. In September 1944 they were sent to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia where the whole family survived and were liberated by the Red Army on 9th May 1945. Because of an epidemic of typhus no one left the camp for nearly a month. At the beginning of June 1945 the Dutch survivors were sent by train to the Netherlands. Steven’s mother, fearing that there would be no survivors in the Netherlands, protested and wished to go to Britain.


Anne Frank in Auschwitz

On September 3,1944 ,Anne Frank and her family were put on transport from Westerbork to Auschwitz. It would be the last train to leave Westerbork.The train arrived 3 days later in Auschwitz. The women selected from this transport, including Anne, Edith, and Margot, were marked with numbers between A-25060 and A-25271

Anne Frank’s final diary entry dates from 1 August 1944, three days before her arrest. Therefore the only information we have about what happened to Anne Frank in the six months between the arrest and her death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp comes from the testimonies of others.

Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper was one of those others.She had also been on that same transport and was in Auschwitz when Anne was there, but also in Bergen Belsen. Janny was the last person to see Anne alive.

She said about the arrival in Auschwitz.

”We were stripped in an icy room with the wind billowing through it. Five women under one trickle of water. No towels. Tattooed, shaved . . . we were totally confused and unable to understand anything,”

Upon arrival at Auschwitz, the SS forcibly split the men from the women and children, and Otto Frank was separated from his family. Those deemed able to work were admitted into the camp, and those deemed unfit for labour were immediately killed. Of the 1,019 passengers, 549—including all children younger than 15—were sent directly to the gas chambers. Anne Frank, who had turned 15 three months earlier, was one of the youngest people spared from her transport. She was soon made aware that most people were gassed upon arrival and never learned that the entire group from the Achterhuis had survived this selection. She reasoned that her father, in his mid-fifties and not particularly robust, had been killed immediately after they were separated.

Janny worked as a nurse in the Nazi camps where she provided clothing, medicine, and food to fellow prisoners. She saw Anne Frank, two or three days before she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

“During the final days, I saw Anne standing there, wrapped in a blanket, with no tears left to cry. Well, we hadn’t had tears for some time. And then, a few days later I went to look for the Frank girls and learned that Margot had fallen from her bunk. Just like that, onto the stone floor, dead. The next day, Anne died as well.”

Janny had been in the Jewish resistance, in Amsterdam during the war, forging identification papers to help other Jews escape the Nazis, before she and Anne were deported from Amsterdam.

She died of heart failure in Amsterdam on 15 August, 2003 at the age of 86.

Mariette Huisjes of the Anne Frank House said this about Janny.

“Anne was sick and hallucinating and had thrown away her clothes, because she was afraid of lice. Ms. Brandes-Brilleslijper gave her clothes and some food. She mostly helped young people in the camps in those difficult times.”


Hans and Ruth Abraham-A positive Holocaust story.

There were millions murdered during the Holocaust, and each of these victims represents a tragic and sad story.

However ,although very few, there were some positive Holocaust stories, but even in the positivity there was an underlying negative story. because it tells a story of disrupted lives.

Hans Leo (Henry in later life) Abraham and his sister Ruth Abraham were the children of Siegfried (born in Ehringshausen, 19 July 1899) and Gerda Abraham – Schwarzstein (born in Berlin, 26 February 1911). Hans was born on September 23, 1933. He and his parents came from Hamburg, Germany and fled to Amsterdam in 1935.

Father Siegfried had worked as a stockbroker in Hamburg, but after emigration became an electrician in the Netherlands. Ruth was born on September 24, 1938 in the Netherlands. The family lived on the Amstelkade in Amsterdam. After the German invasion of the Netherlands, their lives were once again put in danger. Wealthy friends from Hamburg sent them Haitian passports in May 1942. As foreigners, the family was deported first to Westerbork and then to Bergen-Belsen in 1944. They were selected to be part of a prisoner swap in January 1945, taking them first to Switzerland and then to Algeria on August 31, 1945. They remained in the UNRRA camp at Jeanne d’Arc in Philippeville until the end of the war. The family eventually emigrated to the United States in 1946.


The Dutch in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz

Before I go into the main story, I just want to point out the most disturbing aspect of the picture above. At the very front is a lady carrying a baby. We know now what her fate would have been. It is a disturbing sight on an old photograph, so just imagine how disturbing this most have been for those who were forced to help the Nazis in their crimes. These men would have also know what fate awaited the lady and her baby, and they could nothing about it, to safeguard their own survival and perhaps of their family. Or at least the notion that they perhaps would survive.

Sonderkommandos were work units made up of German Nazi death camp prisoners. They were composed of prisoners, usually Jews, who were forced, on threat of their own deaths, to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims during the Holocaust. The death-camp Sonderkommandos, who were always prisoners and victims themselves, were unrelated to the SS-Sonderkommandos, which were ad hoc units formed from members of various SS offices between 1938 and 1945.

This blog is not to judge those were forced into the Sonderkommandos, none of us can judge because we were never put in that situation. This blog is about a few of the Dutch Jews who were forced into the Sonderkommandos in Auschwitz.

With the arrival of a deportation train in Auschwitz, the work of the Sonderkommandos began. They had to escort the victims to the gas chamber, reassure them and collect their belongings. After the victims were gassed, the members of the Sonderkommandos moved the corpses from the gas chamber and took them to the incineration pits or crematoria. For this arduous work, Jewish men are selected on the platform, including one hundred to one hundred and fifty Dutch. They were forced to become part of the Nazi killing machine at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

During the invasion of the German army of the Netherlands in May 1940, Josef van Rijk fought with the reserve company De Jagers in The Hague against the Germans. During that time Josef shot d a German paratrooper, and killed him. Maurice Schellekes is a tailor and didn’t notice much of the German invasion. But both Jewish men soon had to deal with the persecution of the Jews in the occupied Netherlands. Josef is fired from De Bijenkorf in The Hague and Maurice was sent the Jewish labor camp Kremboong on March 31, 1942.

Josef tries to flee to Switzerland, but is arrested during a check at Amsterdam Central Station. He is imprisoned in the prison on the Amstelveenseweg and is soon transferred to Camp Westerbork. Maurice also flees after rumors that Kremboong will be evicted. He goes into hiding in Amsterdam. On August 6, 1942, Maurice goes outside to get razors and is arrested. He also ends up in Camp Westerbork.

Josef and Maurice both only spent a brief time in Camp Westerbork. Because they were arrested after an attempt to flee and trying to go into hiding, the men are considered ‘criminal cases’. They were deported on 10 August 1942 from Camp Westerbork to Auschwitz.

The following day they arrive at the extermination camp and are selected to work in the Sonderkommando. Maurice works at the mass graves in the open Sonderkommando of Bunker II. Josef buries the corpses after they are taken from Bunker II to the mass graves via a narrow gauge railway with a small wagon.

Working in the Sonderkommando was physically very demanding. In the scorching August sun, the men barely get a drink. The SS and Kapos guarding them constantly mistreated the men. But then suddenly there was a way out. All Dutchmen were called upon to participate. The men of the Sonderkommando were not allowed to leave at all.

This saved Josef and Maurice’s lives. The group of 1200 Dutch people had to undress and were inspected. The healthy men, including Josef and Maurice, were given clean camp clothes, leave Birkenau and walk to Auschwitz. The other Dutch were gassed. Josef and Maurice end up in the Kanada-Kommando.

–When the selection process was complete, a work group of prisoners called the ‘Kanada Kommando’ collected the belongings of victims and took them to the ‘Kanada’ warehouse facility for sorting and transporting back to Germany.

To prisoners Canada was a country that symbolised wealth. They, therefore, gave the ironic name Kanada (the German spelling of Canada) to the warehouse area as it was full of possessions, clothing and jewellery.–

Both Josef and Maurice survived the war.

“An intertwined mass of people – tangle of people – who could only be separated by moistening them. They were sprayed wet. (..) By just pulling you took the bodies out, like a bunch of animals. We have been horrified done that for a few days but by then we were already used to it.”: Josef van Rijk

“I realized that this mound was loose earth, shoveled from the ground where there was now a mass grave filled with rows of women’s bodies covered with quicklime. It was such a terrible sight that words on paper simply cannot describe it. There was the work that was waiting for me.”: Maurice Schellekes

At the end of 1943 a new group of Dutchmen ended up in the Sonderkommando. Including Samuel Zoute who arrived on 21 October 1943. Before the war, he sold fruit and vegetables on the Albert Cuyp market. On 19 October 1943, Samuel is deported from Camp Westerbork to Auschwitz, together with his wife Doortje and four children. Doortje, Rachel, Abraham and Simon are gassed immediately. Eldest son Maurits is selected for labour, until he too is gassed. Samuel found his son Maurits among the gassed people and had to burn him.

On August 17, 1943, Abraham Beesemer, Joseph Peperroot, Salomon van Sijs and Louis Elzas arrived in Auschwitz. The men were first in the quarantine block and at the beginning of January 1944 they ended up together in the Sonderkommando. Jacob Beesemer, Abraham’s brother, was later also selected for the Sonderkommando.

These Dutchmen were also looking for a way out of the Sonderkommando. The number of incoming transports decreased and the Sonderkommandos were slowly reduced. The threat of the complete liquidation of the Sonderkommandos hung in the air. On October 7, 1944, a prisoner knocked down an SS man with a hammer and started the uprising. Several Sonderkommandos revolt. One of the crematoria is blown up and hundreds of Sonderkommando prisoners flee the camp. Three SS men and about 450 Sonderkommando prisoners were killed. The brothers Abraham and Jacob, Salomon, Joseph and Louis were murdered by the SS. Samuel Zoute and Hagenaar Henry Bronkhorst worked at other crematoria in other Sonderkommandos and managed to survive the uprising.

After the uprising, Henry Bronkhorst, Samuel Zoute, Maurice Schellekes and Josef van Rijk are still alive. As the Russians approach, the death marches begin to clear the camp. Henry Bronkhorst is the only one who manages to mix with the other prisoners and thus remain in Auschwitz until its liberation by the Russians on January 27, 1945. The rest are forced to join the death marches: Samuel, Maurice and Josef leave Auschwitz. Samuel ends up in Mauthausen, he is murdered on March 7, 1945. Maurice ends up in Ebensee, a satellite camp of Mauthausen, and is liberated by the Americans on May 6, 1945. Josef ends up in Leitmeritz, a subcamp of Flossenbürg and is liberated by the Russians on 9 May 1945.



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


Stealing from Dutch Jewish citizens.

The Holocaust wasn’t only the mass murder of Jews, and others, it was preceded by other crimes. Although many people would not have perceived them as crimes because they were legalised by Nazi laws.

The rapacity of the Nazis was expressed in a large number of measures, orders and ordinances (VO) with the force of law. A number of ordinances were explicitly intended for Jews and pertained to all forms of property.

The most important regulations for Jews were the so-called Liro Regulations of 1941 and 1942. The first Liro Regulation (VO 148/41) was issued on 8 August 1941. The ordinance stipulated, among other things, that Jews had to transfer their cash assets and securities to an account to be opened at the Liro bank in the Sarphatistraat in Amsterdam. On paper, the Liro bank was a branch of the renowned bank Lippmann, Rosenthal and Co. on the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat in Amsterdam. In practice, the Liro bank was a ‘robbery bank’ that served as a depository and sales office for looted Jewish property. Wealth less than 10,000 guilders and incomes less than 3000 guilders per year were exempt. An amount of 1000 guilders per month was freely disposable per person. In theory, the Jews could dispose of their assets, but in practice regulations and high commission costs resulted in them losing their assets.

The bank was originally a Jewish owned bank.

The Lippmann Rosenthal bank was well known. It was a reliable and solid company. When the war broke out, the company had been in existence for 81 years and the Nazis made good use of the bank’s good reputation.
The idea to use this company as a robbery bank came about because the Nazis thought that the Jews would take their valuables more quickly to a well-known Jewish bank. In addition, in this way the stolen shares could be offered for sale on the stock market without any problems.

Jews who ended up in Camp Westerbork had to hand over their last money (the 250 guilders they were allowed to keep) to a local branch of the bank.To complete the expropriation, Lippmann and Rosenthal had opened a branch in Camp Westerbork, where everything that people had tried to hide on the body, including expensive coats and shoes, was forcibly taken away.

The money from the Liro bank was used, among other things, for the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. The bank made 11 million guilders available for the expansion and operation of transit camp Westerbork; 26 million for the construction and operation of the Vught . concentration camp.

The staff of the company Lippmann, Rosenthal and Co in their residential barracks in Westerbork.

The number of staff at the Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co Sarphatistraat bank gives some idea of ​​the scale at which the robbery was carried out. At the time of the 1st LiRo Regulation, the bank had 268 employees, 160 of whom worked in the banking section. The staff doubled in 1942 (510) and fell back to 299 in 1943. The original core of the staff came from the real bank on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. At the end of 1941, this staff was convened and informed by director Fuld that some of them would be transferred to the bank on Sarphati Street. Fuld couldn’t give details at the time because he didn’t know them either. What was certain was that the banking business would be handled on Sarphati Street. Fuld advised the staff to comply with this order because the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat had already been placed under German authority and therefore its continued existence was not certain. The staff who would go to Sarphati Street would at least be sure of their jobs. On August 1, 1941, 27 employees moved from Nieuwe Spiegelstraat to Sarphatistraat.

Dilemmas are often encountered during World War 2. People made choices and ended up on the right or wrong side of a dividing line. A line which was often blurred.
An example of this was the director of human resources, Kurt Victor Karl Mulisch. He was appointed by the Nazis and collaborated with them. He was divorced from his Jewish wife Alice Schwarz in 1936 and his work at the Lirobank saved her life and that of his son, the writer Harry Mulisch. Alice’s parents and grandparents were murdered in the concentration camps. Kurt Mulisch was convicted of collaboration after the war. He was jailed for three years in the Lloyd Hotel, which was used as detention centre.

It wasn’t only money but art was also taken.In 2015, the provenance investigation of the Royal Collections] revealed that the painting The Hague Forest with a view of Huis ten Bosch Palace by Joris van der Haagen ended up with the Dutch Royal House via the Liro in 1960. Queen Juliana then bought it from an art dealer. She would not have known about the robbery. After the painting’s history became clear, the Royal House contacted the heirs of the original Jewish owner, pre-war art collector, to return the painting.



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


Emile Franken’s testimony in Cartoon form.

A picture tells a thousand words, and in this case they really do, The drawings and cartoon are made by Emile Franken. I am not sure what happened to Emile. I do know he was born on April 15,1921, somewhere in the Netherlands.

I also know he spent time in Vught concentration camp, and from there he was transported to Westerbork on October 18,1943. After that he must have been deported to Auschwitz Birkenau, because his art is about Birkenau. The caption of the drawing at the top of the blog says “`Breaktime at the planes Birkenau’ Auschwitz Birkenau (concentration camp).”

`Life in Lower Birkenau Poland 1944 Latrine at Night in Block.’ Auschwitz Birkenau (Concentration camp).

`Arrival and transport in Birkenau , Selection for crematorium, The last clothes are taken away, Hair cutting”

I don’t know if Emile survived, I doubt it very much but his drawings make his experiences crystal clear. I suppose nowadays the could be called memes, but memes are supposed to be funny or satirical, There is nothing funny about these, they portray pure reality.



This house was an orphanage for Jewish girls from 1861 to 1943.
In 1889 the orphanage was extended to include the neighbouring house.
On February 10, 1943 the girls and their attendants were
deported to the extermination camp Sobibor.

They were supposed to have been deported before, but due to a scarlet fever outbreak on July 4, 1942 that was postponed

Thanks to the outbreak, the deportation of the children could be temporarily prevented. In each case, the medical service issued a statement showing that the orphanage was infected and that the occupier stayed outside. No new cases of scarlet fever occurred in October 1942, and on November 1, 1942, the protection afforded by the declarations was over.

A raid took place on February 10, 1943. A number of children were able to flee or were released thanks to the Jewish Council, as a result of the 103 girls in the orphanage, 63 were eventually murdered. from the They were transferred to Westerbork by train. 25 children were immediately deported to Sobibor, along with five employees of the orphanage. On March 10, 1943, the other children and the director Rebekka Frank were deported to Sobibor. All children and employees deported to Sobibor were murdered. Deputy headmistress Betsy Vromen-Snapper was deported to Bergen-Belsen and survived the Holocaust.

This is just one of those children.

Marion Preuss, born in Berlin, 1 August 1931.Murdered in Sobibor, 23 July 1943. Reached the age of 11.

Another disturbing fact is how willingly the Dutch civil servants were helping the Nazis. The documents were in Dutch, signed of by Dutch civil servants.