Thursday, December 8

Frozen in time: watch that tells the story of the Jewish resistance in Amsterdam during wartime | Holocaust

A watch that is the only surviving object from a Jewish hideout from World War II will be on display at the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam this year.

The round clock on the mantel may have been one of the last things people saw when they were seized by the Nazis and sent to death camps.

Along with dozens of family photographs, documents and a book of poetry, the watch belonged to the family of Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper, a Holocaust survivor and resistance fighter.

The family artifacts help tell the story of Dutch Jewish resistance to the Nazis, so often overshadowed by the horrifying story of the large numbers sent to their deaths.

About three-quarters of Dutch Jews were killed during World War II, the highest death rate in Western Europe. “That’s one factor why people thought Jewish resistance was almost non-existent,” said Filip Bloem, the museum’s collection manager. “But if you look more precisely, you see that there were many Jews, thousands and thousands of Jews, hiding.”

After the Nazi invasion, Marianne Brandes-Brilleslijper, known to everyone as Janny, refused to obtain a Jewish identification card and began working for the resistance, posting messages on pillars and poles, moving illegal, often hidden packages and documents. under the mattress of her stroller with one of her children.

When the web began to tighten, she and her husband Bob, and their two children, Robbie and Liselotte, moved to a villa in the woods on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper, who survived the Holocaust.
Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper, who survived the Holocaust. Photograph: AP

He lived there with his parents, his sister Lien’s family, other Jews, and resistance fighters. At its peak, 17 permanent residents lived in ‘t High nest (the high nest), a tale narrated by Roxane van Iperen in her best-selling book of the same name, published in english What The Auschwitz Sisters.

Tucked away from the main road, the village became an unlikely haven for culture, as residents staged concerts, wrote music, and distributed resistance newspapers. “Yiddish culture and other arts flourish in the High Nest. There is dancing, music, singing, and recitation. Simon plays the drums, Puck plays the violin and Jaap builds Kathinka a small piano, ”wrote van Iperen.

It did not last. The group was betrayed in the summer of 1944. Janny had been out shopping when the Nazis arrived. Loaded with heavy bags of wheat, she asked four-year-old Robbie to come forward for help with shopping. Only when he reached the door did he see that the big Chinese vase in the window had disappeared: the warning sign.

“She knew it was wrong, but I was already running home,” said Robert Brandes, now 82, recounting one of his few memories of life in the Upper Nest. “She couldn’t call me back and I was already at the house and she knew she was lost. They beat my mother. I can still remember. “

Janny, her family and the other Jewish occupants were sent to the Dutch Westerbork transit camp. (Robbie and Liselotte were saved because Janny’s husband was not Jewish.)

In Westerbork, they met another family from Amsterdam who had been discovered, after two years hiding in the secret annex: Anna Frank, his sister Margot and their parents. The Brilleslijpers and the Franks were put in the last transport to leave Holland for Auschwitz.

As the war entered its final stages, Janny, Lien, and the Frank sisters were sent by train and then forced on a death march to Bergen-Belsen. In this crowded and disease-ridden camp – “a riotous fair of the mad, the sick and the dying,” van Iperen wrote – Janny worked as a nurse, though there were no medicines. He urged his friends, family acquaintances to live, previously chewing stale bread for the weakest, rummaging in small pieces of food, closing his eyes. She was one of the last to see the Frank sisters alive.

The house of the Brandes-Brilleslijper family in the Amstel.
The house of the Brandes-Brilleslijper family in the Amstel. Photography: Robert Brandes

Janny and Lien survived the war. Robert remembers the day his mother came to the house rented by the family in the Amstel in Amsterdam. “I shouted to the whole street, look ‘My mother is back, come see everyone, my mother is back’”.

One of the exhibits donated to the museum is a letter from Robert’s father to Janny, recounting his joy at having survived. “Honey, I thought I would sink to the ground with joy. He just didn’t know what to say or do. Robby is still the sweet boy you used to know. Our dear Liselotte looks more and more like my sweet wife. “

Also on display is Janny’s father’s identity card, with a large J stamped on it. Joseph Brilleslijper, his wife Fietje, and their son Jaap died at Auschwitz. Janny dedicated her life to recognizing the victims of the war. He died in 2003.

The collection also includes a poetry album belonging to Lien Brilleslijper, a booklet where family and friends would write life lessons in verse. “When you read it now knowing that a lot of them didn’t survive the war, it’s bittersweet,” Bloem said.

Documents and photos will be available on digital screen at the museum website in spring, while the watch will be added to the permanent collection from October.

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