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1943 Deportations and attacks
Hélène met Jo en Fia Voets in Vorstenbosch (© Privécollectie Hélène Egger)

Hélène Egger - ‘I went from hell to heaven’

The resistance warned Hélène and her grandparents that they had to leave quickly:

‘That meant as quickly as possible to a new address. Grandfather and grandmother stayed in Amsterdam and I was taken by a strange man to a family in Vught.

I wasn’t doing very well. I had to change addresses too many times. I was very sad. I had lost everyone. I often thought about what it would be like if my father and my brothers Julius and Daniël came back, if grandfather made jokes again and grandmother was there laughing, that we were all sitting together again listening to music and eating fishcakes. My mother’s fishcakes. If we were living in Zandvoort again. If we were a happy family. If my parents were not divorced, my mother wasn’t ill and there was no war.

When I had to leave Rotterdam I felt totally indifferent. Up in that small attic room with my head full of pictures of my family, I could still smell the stuffy air, I sat in the train with Aunt Greet. I had no more clothes. Only the dress I was wearing. Completely worn and threadbare. The journey took a long time. I wasn’t allowed to talk in the train. On the way a boy got in. He called the woman Aunt Greet too. At Veghel station in Noord Brabant we got out. Aunt Greet told me we were going to Vorstenbosch. I had never heard of it before. We had to walk because there was no public transport. The boy left us at the first farm that we came to. He went into hiding there. He wasn’t Jewish but a boy who didn’t want to go to Germany to work, so he was in danger. At the farm we were given a sandwich and some tea. A real sandwich! I hadn’t had anything so nice for a long time.

I went from hell to heaven. This poor Catholic family took me in with open arms and I felt at home straightaway. The next day was Sunday and I went to church with them. For the first time in a long time I was safe out of doors. There was not one NSB member to be found in the whole village. But still no one except the parents knew that I was Jewish. It would have been too dangerous to tell anyone. Only one mistake had to be made and you could have been betrayed. They told everyone that I was a niece from Rotterdam. I had come to be strengthened up in the countryside. Nobody thought that was strange. Despite my black hair I didn’t really look like stranger in this family.’

 

Source: Extract from Ik ben er nog. Het verhaal van mijn moeder Hélène Egger. In cooperation with the author Debby Petter and Uitgeverij Thomas Rap.

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Hélène Egger

Hélène Egger is a 10 year old Jewish girl when the war breaks out in 1940. When her mother has to undergo a serious operation she goes to live with her grandparents. After being arrested, Hélène manages, with the help of her grandfather who has connections in the Jewish Council, to escape from the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre). She goes into hiding and eventually ends up at a farmer's family in Brabant.

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1938 Many Jewish refugees after Kristallnacht

Many Jewish refugees flee to the Netherlands after Kristallnacht. Princess Juliana also feels connected to the Jewish community. But while more attention is drawn to the admittance of more Jews, NSB members threaten more intervention.

1940 Amsterdam occupied

Nothing changes too much for the Frank family in the beginning. Opekta moves to the Prinsengracht. During air raids bombs cause death and injury in Amsterdam.

1940  Amsterdam occupied

1941 Jews allowed to do and less

It starts with a cinema ban but rapidly Jews are banned from virtually all public places. Jewish children must attend separate schools. This also applies to Anne and Margot Frank.

1941  Jews allowed to do and less

1942 It becomes more dangerous for Jews

On her thirteenth birthday Anne Frank receives a diary. A few days later she writes about the situation in Amsterdam. The introduction of the Jewish star and the raids. In July the Frank family goes into hiding.

1942  It becomes more dangerous for Jews

1943 Deportations and attacks

While the Frank family is in hiding thousands of Jews are deported from Amsterdam. The resistance tries to hinder the deportations by attacks including one on the Public Registry. It doesn’t stop them.

1943  Deportations and attacks

1944 Discovered and arrested

On 4 August the people in hiding in the secret annex are discovered and arrested. From Westerbork they are taken to Auschwitz. When the Allies land in the south of the Netherlands there is hope that the country will be liberated. German soldiers and NSB members flee the country after Dolle Dinsdag (‘Mad Tuesday’).

1944  Discovered and arrested

1945 Joy and sadness

A celebration at the Dam on 7 May is ruined when people are killed after German soldiers shoot at the crowd. On 8 May Amsterdam is officially liberated. Otto Frank returns. He knows that Edith is dead. He only hears later that his two daughters have not survived.

1945  Joy and sadness

1946 Slowly the threads are picked up again

On 3 May 1946 the first official commemoration for those who died during the war is held. Anne Frank’s diary is published on 25 June 1947. Life in Amsterdam slowly gets back to normal. Of the 70,000 Jews who lived in the city in 1940 only 10,000 have survived the war.

1950 Lasting memory

Even five years after the liberation the reverberations from the war are still clearly noticeable. The Jewish community thanks Amsterdam for the help given to Jews with a monument.

1950  Lasting memory
  • 1950
  • To those who protected the Dutch Jews during the years of the occupation. Protected by your love. Encouraged by your resistance. Mourning with you.

    Part of the citation on the monument ‘Jewish Gratitude’
  • picture:Once a year, two minutes silence

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