Westerbork

We could still get certain parcels sent. And that I also remember, because the lady who had taken care of my… brother, she still sent parcels to us. And somebody…That’s right; my father had asked one of his …people he had worked with from the company he represented, whether he could send some…a lice comb. Because I had got in the meantime, because you know, the hygiene was very difficult. So my mother was very worried that they had to cut off my hair, so they asked for lice comb. And that arrived with some, with a bag of beans. And in the bag of beans… was a little photo of my brother. A tiny, tiny photo. And one had to actually sift through that bag of beans. Until today I can’t un- But she must have thought there is a reason; they know we have got no cooking facilities why does she send us beans? And until she found that little photo of my brother. That he was alive…

I think on the whole people were very concentrated on themselves. You know, in order to survive you’ve actually got to sort of look inward as it were. Though people did help each other, but it was very difficult, very difficult. Certainly among us I can’t remember any difficulties with other people or anything like that. The only thing I remember from Westerbork when my mother hung laundry out on a string or something and it disappeared. It did happen there – it happens. And she pinned a notice to the line and said: ‘I know who took this and they will be reported if this isn’t returned.’ And lo and behold the next morning it was back again, the laundry. So, you know these sorts of things did happen. But, on the whole, people seemed to live in…within their communities in harmony with each other as much as possible. But helping each other was of course very difficult. No one had very much to help, you know.

The worst of Westerbork was a) the crowding and b) of course the transports [to Auschwitz]. Everything was focused on these transports. I have got a pitiful little letter that my aunt wrote to my mother, or to us, just before they left, you know, full of hope, you know: ‘We will see each other again’ and so on. She must have known.

I was 10 years old, old enough to know that what was happening. I suppose the fact again of being away from home, taken away, very worried adults, a sort of a melee of people around me and so on was probably more than I could really cope with. Though on the whole I was quite a reasonably good child but I do remember that. But eventually I settled down to it and I remember when I had this spell in hospital, I…you know that was quite exciting I suppose again. And I was together with Eva which helped. But certainly we realised – I realised - this was…this was serious. There was, something happening beyond, even beyond the adults’ control. Perhaps that’s what starts children off when they feel the adults are not in control. Yes.

Now the Chief Administrator in Westerbork was a German Jew. Kurt Schlesinger… Six foot tall, bald-headed, moustache, Hitler moustache. And in Westerbork a few times I approached him and told him ‘We’re British, get us out of here, put us in the hands of the Red Cross’. He never did… Now I wasn’t an electrician, I wasn’t a carpenter, I was of no use. So they gave me a job ‘Essenholer’it means getting up at five, or present yourself at five or quarter past five at the kitchen, collecting the milk for the babies, on a trolley and you hand out the milk to the babies in the camp. Oh, that’s alright, because I was working for my own people. OK. That went on alright and then I had one morning a mate of mine, in Westerbork, he said –‘Leon, he said, they picked up two hundred men in Rotterdam from the streets last night’. –‘Oh yes?’ And I thought of my father. And they’re in barrack 51, I think it was 51, the prison barrack, so I got out of my bunk early in the morning and I went to the prison barrack, I couldn’t get in, the doors were locked, nobody there. So I climbed up at the side of the barrack, opened the window and shouted my father’s name: ‘Barnard Greenman!’ Barney! And there was a lot of men there, smoke, smoking, and yes, after a few times, my father appeared. I said ‘Don’t leave the barrack, stay there tomorrow morning, I’ll come and see you in the morning and we’ll talk. And while I was talking, all of a sudden, I was pulled on my leg. And somebody, some voice I heard: ‘Wer ist das?’ Who’s this?, and the man who pulled my legs said ‘This is the Englishman’. And the voice of Kurt Schlesinger said: “Komm nach unten oder ich schicke dich nach Auschwitz!!” Come down or I send you to Auschwitz. That was Schlesinger. Caught me, standing there, that wasn’t allowed. And I shouted down to my father: “I’ll see you in the morning!” And I jumped down, which I can’t do now no more, and I stood in front of Schlesinger, and I said ‘Mr Schlesinger, you can’t send us to Auschwitz, because I’m British.’ Any moment it can be proved. He walked away. Some weeks after that, maybe three or four weeks, we were called up.

 
 

CLICK ON EACH PLACE-NAME TO GO TO THE CAMP PAGE

 
logoBIG.png

@ Refugee Voices 2020

Made by BookJaw