This afternoon I received your appeal to support the Holocaust Names Memorial. I did that, and ‘adopted’ the names of my four grandparents.
They are: Hartog Natkiel and Zientje Natkiel-van Dam (murdered on 2 April 1943 in Sobibor) on my father’s side; and Mozes Hartog Doof and Sara Doof-Reens, (murdered on 12 February 1943 in Auschwitz, together with almost all their children), on my mother’s side.
My parents and I survived the war by going into hiding.
I was born on 20 May 1941 in Zuilen (now Utrecht North), and am 73 years old.
My parents soon realized that they had to try and save their (and my) life by going into hiding. I was 11 months old. My father tried to reach England via France and Spain in order to fight against the Jerries. But he was caught on the demarcation line at Chalons sur Saone and spent half a year there in a German prison. He managed to escape, however, and fled back to the Netherlands, where he went into hiding and joined the resistance.
One evening after curfew, my mother took me and a friend on foot through Utrecht and Wilhelminapark to Kindjeshaven, an address she had received from someone in the resistance.
I stayed there for ± 3 months, none of which I can remember of course.
The lady director of Kindjeshaven, Geertruida (Truitje) van Lier, along with her friend Jet Berdenis van Berlekom, ran this home, which oddly enough was under the patronage of the SS commandant’s office in Utrecht. It was officially a home for children born to Dutch women and German soldiers and officers out of wedlock, but that was a cover for the many Jewish children who found a temporary home here before being taken to places of hiding by the resistance.
If one of the (Jewish) children was sick, a friendly doctor called Hans Mayer from De Bilt, was on hand.
He was Jet’s neighbour, and she knew he could be trusted. Because I was so fair haired, and Hans Mayer had just recently married his blonde wife Nel, Truitje and Jet thought it was a good idea to ask his young couple to take me into their home. And that’s what happened. I spent the war years with these fantastic people, who were taking a big risk in doing so, given that so many people (patients) visited his house every day. Moreover, a German officer was billeted at his home, but I was never discovered!
My foster father, Hans Mayer was able to bring many Jewish children to good safe houses in his Volkswagen Beetle, thereby saving their lives. It was natural, therefore, that he and his wife Nel (my foster mother during those years) were awarded the Yad Vashem award.
After the war my parents came out of hiding and picked me up there (I know that well, though not that they were my parents. I only found that out months later!!!)
The years after the war were not easy for me, but they were much worse for my parents, who had lost their whole family.
As a child I understood little of it. It wasn’t talked about. For a long time I didn’t know what grandparents were. Granddad and grandma — what does that mean? That question would provoke heartrending sobbing, so I didn’t ask again. It was too bad, I got that.
Years later, I my mother gave me a photograph of my grandmother with me in her arms, and she’s looking so fondly at me. So that was my grandmother. I cherish that picture!
I also didn’t know precisely what Jewish meant. My father would then say I had to be proud of it, but I didn’t understand why, since we didn’t know any other Jews! Apart from two cousins who had also survived the horrors by going into hiding, the entire family had been killed!!!
Throughout my youth I had a strained relationship with my mother (the most loving you could imagine), but I did get on well with my father.
Only after the conference The Child in Hiding, which I took part in, were we able to talk and rebuild our relationship. Only for a short while, alas, as my mother died in 1994.
After the war my parents had three daughters. Contact with them is difficult, since a world war separates us!
I often felt very lonely, misunderstood, and even guilty about being so sad. After all, as I heard so often: ‘I managed to have a good time during the war’.
I married a non-Jewish man at the age of 21 and had three sons. I never spoke to them about the war, I couldn’t even if I wanted to. My relationship with them varies, sometimes good, usually distant. I have two grandchildren ‘of my own’ and two ‘step-grandchildren’. They are all very dear to me, but they are not Jewish. I have nothing ‘to pass on’!
After being married for 15 years I got divorced, and I’ve been remarried now for 30 years.
This man wasn’t Jewish either, but after some years he ‘came out’, and we are now active members of a fine Jewish community (LJG Gelderland)
This was, in brief, my story. Of course a lot more happened during my life, but I am reasonably happy now.
It’s what I have to go on…