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1945 Joy and sadness
Lepelstraat, juni 1945 © Nico Swaager - Stadsarchief Amsterdam

Hélène Egger - ‘When I got back to Amsterdam everything was in ruins’

At the end of the war visitors arrive at the farm where Hélène is hiding:

‘Visitors arrived on 8 May. The priest with another man from the resistance. “Sit down, child.” said the priest. “We’ve got good news for you. Now that the war is over you can go back home, to your grandparents in Amsterdam. They will be really happy to see you again.” I felt as if I was being strangled. ‘No’, shaking my head, ‘no’ screamed inside of me. ‘Don’t say anything,’ I thought, ‘just look up. Don’t cry!’

In the evening I asked mother Betje and father Gerard if I could stay with them. “Then I’ll go and stay few days with grandfather and grandmother.” “That’s not possible, child,” they both said. “Your grandparents want you back. However much we would like you to stay with us, you are theirs. You’re their grandchild!” I cried all night. The next day I had to leave my family and my dear friend Jo. When I got back to Amsterdam everything was in ruins. Grandfather, grandmother and me. We were pleased to see each other again, but the homesickness for my life and friends in Vorstenbosch tore me apart inside. I almost suffocated from sadness in that stuffy flat in Amsterdam.’

 

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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Return

After the war many start to make their way back from all over Europe. People reappear from their hiding places. Many captured resistance members and forced labourers return too. But there are many missing. Of the 70,000 Jews deported from Amsterdam only about 4,000 return. Sometimes they find other people living in their homes. Many houses have been destroyed.

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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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