Dokin is a Dutch acronym, that stands for Duitse Oorlogskinderen In Nederland (German War Children in the Netherlands).
In early 2008 I was thinking of writing a biography about my grandfather. Going through all the material I had I started thinking about the refugee boy, Uli Herzberg, who had lived with my grandparents in Amsterdam since November 1939. Why did they not take Uli when they were able to make their late escape in January 1942? What happened to Uli after my grandparents left? I went to the Municipal Archives in Amsterdam and quickly found answers to my questions. I even found Uli’s older brother in Skokie, Illinois. Satisfied with the answers I got I was about to file all the documents I had gathered, when I noticed that there were two other German boys living with Uli, across the street from my grandparents, with an elderly childless couple. This really triggered my curiosity: how many unaccompanied German children were there in the Netherlands? How did they come to the Netherlands? I looked at Uli’s papers again, it said “came with Kindertransport” – what did that mean? I started looking for a book about this subject.
For two months I searched for this book. I searched everywhere: in the Netherlands, in the US, in England, in Israel….. nothing! So I went to the National Archives in The Hague, with my laptop and digital camera, and started looking for anything about the refugee children from Germany. There are a lot of documents, not only about children, but also about adults. I started taking notes, I started creating a database. I started contacting people. And after a few weeks I thought “it’s almost as if I started researching this”. And I did…
I would like to fill this blank page in the history of the Shoah. It is amazing that no one has ever written about this. It is painful that many of the refugee children have fallen in between the cracks. Through my research I have been able to add about 50 names to the victim lists. A bitter result. On the other hand, I have also been able to remove some names from the lists namely refugee children who survived the camps, but since they did not return to the Netherlands they were registered as a holocaust victim and remained on the lists for years without anyone noticing.
I have also been able to fill in the gaps for many survivors. Especially some of the younger children did not remember where they had been. Many of them thought they had been in Westerbork before the war. I now know that was not the case.
There are also many suppositions about the homes where the children stayed: some people think they were training facilities for children wanting to go to Palestine (so called Aliyah facilities).
In other words: there are many reasons to do this research.
Professor Evelien Gans, senior researcher at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) has supervised my research between 2009 until her death in 2018. Between 2009 and 2016 I have been an associated researcher at the NIOD.
Since the start of my research I have collaborated with a lot of other parties on projects and books.
My intention is to write about a book, or perhaps even two. I would like this book to be my dissertation, and in order to fulfil that dream I have started studying at the VU University in Amsterdam in September 2020. If everything goes according to plan I will have my masters degree in the summer of 2023, after which I can start my Ph.D..
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