Friday, August 1, 2008

Memorial of Deported Jews from Rotterdam

July 30, 1942, the first group of Jews from the city of Rotterdam were ordered to meet at "Loods 24" for "Arbeidseinsatz", labor-intensive work under supervision in Deutschland.

They boarded trains terrified and entirely unknowing of their destination.
Only because they were Jewish.

From Loods 24, the platform at the train station, 12,000 Jews from Rotterdam were transported to Westerbork, a transfer camp in the province of Drenthe, the Netherlands. From there, most were deported to concentration and extermination camps; like Auswitch, Sobibor, and Treblinka.
A Poem by Ida Vos:
Zij had een onvoldoende
voor Aardrijkskunde
die laatste dag
maar wist een week later
precies waar Treblinka lag
héél even maar
Translated by Eline:
She had a D minus
for Geography
that last day
but knew a week later
exactly where Treblinka lay
only for an instant

Rotterdam was also the first city in the Netherlands under attack by the Nazi regime. The city suffered from bombardment and the unstoppable burning of phosphate bombs.

Rotterdam's city center flattened after bombardment, 14 May 1940

Nelly Swaab, my grandmother, was witness to the bombardment as an eight-year old. Her home and father's bicycle shop burnt down.

Rachel Swaab, my grandmother's mother, was married to a non-Jew, Gerrit Pieter van 't Hoff. Mixed families with two children were not of priority to the regime, so they lived with a little more freedom. Only Rachel wore a yellow butterfly.

During a 1942 razzia, a phonecall from the resistance warned that my great-great grandfather’s name was on the list for deportation. Nelly ran after her grandfather, who had only just taken to the streets after a dinner with the family. She watched her grandfather loaded onto a truck. Alexander Swaab was taken straight to Auswitch.

Joseph Swaab, my grandmother’s uncle, who was a 27 year old cook at the Jewish hospital in Rotterdam, followed his patients onto the train. Gerrit Pieter van 't Hoff attempted to win back his nephew at the station. Recognised as the well-known bicycle repairman, a soldier promised to look the other way in exchange for a new bicycle. Joseph Swaab, hoping he would be of assistance to his patients, stayed and was deported. As a fanatic boxer, he most probably underwent hard labor at salt mines in Silezie, but eventually suffered the inescapable death at the gas chambers of Auswitch.

Loods 24: piece of original structure of the train station

On 30 July 2008, we gathered at Loods 24 to remember the acts of cruelty. We bid for those who departed from us here, and we show our gratefulness to those of the resistance who risked their lives to protect and assist helpless Jewish families.
Most of attendees were survivors of the war, some wore tattooed forearms, others came in solidarity. Solidarity against the ostracization of a peoples.

When the generation of survivors seizes to exist, who will remember?
Do the younger generations carry enough awareness?