Books written by or about former refugee children

Berkhout-Rechnitz, Erna
Alsnog een grafsteen
(Bussum, no year)
Erna Rechnitz (born in Amsterdam in 1921) grew up in Berlin. In December 1938 Erna and her older sister Ilse come to Holland by Kindertransport. They were too old for that, but their relatives in the Netherlands had falsified their dates of birth. Both girls survived the war in hiding in the Netherlands.

Broessler-Weissman, Eva & Gregory Moore
The war came to me, a story of endurance and survival
(Lanham MD, 2009)
Eva and her sister Ruth came to the Netherlands from their native Vienna. Eva survived the war in hiding in the Netherlands, her sister Ruth in Switzerland and their parents in the US. After the war the family was reunited in the US.

Diersch, Brigitte
Das kurze Leben der Doris Katz… wir schaufeln ein Grab in den Lüften…
(Erbach im Oderwald, 2010)
Brigitte Diersch describes the life of Doris Katz (born in Erbach in 1924) who came to the Netherlands in December 1938. The main source for the book are letters that Doris wrote to several people in Germany and England. Doris was murdered in Sobibor in March 1943.

Feijten, Leo
Ik geloof dat hij Hans heette
(Valkenburg aan de Geul, 2011)
Leo Feijten writes about the life of Horst Eichenwald, who was born in Erwitte in 1932. Horst was killed in Sobibor with his foster family. Feijten based his story on conversations with one of the foster sisters and his own research.

Friedler, Ya’akov
A long way around, the story of a youth unusually spent
(unpublished 1991)
Ya’akov was born in Oberhausen in 1928. In December 1938 he went  across the border illegally, with his two brothers. The three of them stayed in many homes. In May 1940 Ya’akov and his younger brother happened to be in the Amsterdam Burgerweeshuis, which was evacuated to England by Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer. After spending the war in England Friedler went to Israel where he became a journalist for the Jerusalem Post.

Hahn, George M.
The lottery
(Bloomington, 2004)
George Hahn, born in Vienna in 1926, came to the Netherlands on the first big Viennese Kindertransport in December 1938. In November 1939 he was able to emigrate to the USA.

Herskovits-Gutmann, Ruth
Auswanderung verläufig nicht möglich, die geschichte der Familie Herskovits aus Hannover
(Göttingen, 2002)
Ruth Herskovits was born in Hannover in 1928. On January 4th, 1939 Ruth and her twin sister Eva arrived in the Netherlands on a Kindertransport. Later that year both girls were placed in a foster family in Leiden. In November 1941 the girls traveled back to Hannover because their father had arranged for the family to emigrate to Cuba. This, however, did not work out. Instead the Herskovits family was deported to Theresienstadt, and from there to Auschwitz. There the twins were part of Mengele’s twin experiments. After liberation Ruth had to spend a long time in a hospital in Sweden.

Hesdörffer, Heinz
Twelve years of Nazi terror
(Philadelphia, 2008)
Heinz Hesdörffer, born in 1923 in Bad Kreuznach, came to the Netherlands by Kindertransport in March 1939, with his younger brother. He lived in several homes, but was taken to Westerbork in March 1943. From there he was taken to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Schwarzheide. His younger brother Ernst did not survive the war. Heinz wrote down his memoirs in a hospital in Brussels in 1946. The book is originally written in German, under the title “Bekantte traf man viele…” (Zürich 1998)

Jacobs, Luise
Moord in Schloss Hartheim
(Wateringen, 1997)
Luise Jacobs, born in 1933 in Heiligenhaus, writes about her father, who was murdered in Schloss Hartheim in 1942. In between she tells a little bit about the story of herself and her two siblings. In the Netherlands since March 1939, they were taken care of by the Catholic committee.

Kampelmacher, Dan
Gevecht om te overleven, mijn diaspora na de Anschluss
(Laren, 2008)
Born in 1920 in Vienna, Dan Kampelmacher and a Viennese friend came  to the Netherlands illegally in early December 1938. In late December all the illegal immigrants were rounded up and put in prison camps. Dan was in Veenhuizen and Hellevoetsluis. Eventually he was allowed to stay in a children’s home in Eindhoven (even though he was officially too old for this) and continued to the hachsharah education. He survived the war in hiding in the Netherlands. Also available in English as “Fighting for survival” (Jerusalem 2006)

Levy Mueller, George & Roslyn Z. Weedman
Lucie’s Hope
(Haverford, 2003)
Co-written by Roslyn Z. Weedman, this is the story of George Levy, born in 1930 in Lippstadt. George’s father died shortly after coming back from a concentration camp, in January 1939. George and his younger sister Ursula then are put on a Kindertransport to the Netherlands. On request of their mother they are baptized in Eersel. Despite this, and all the attempts by the Catholic helpers, George and his sister were being taken to Vught, Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen. George’s wife and children each write something in the book as well, and they describe a journey to Germany for the reunion of the liberation at Tröbitz in 1995.

Levy, Ursula
De onvoorstelbare jaren 1939 tot 1947
(Eersel, 1994)
George Levy’s younger sister (born in Lippstadt in 1935) wrote down her own memories.

Lind, Jakov
Counting my steps
(London, 1969)
Born Heinz Landwirth in Vienna in 1927, he came to the Netherlands with the first big Viennese Kindertransport in December 1938 with his two sisters. After time in the homes and a foster family he ran away from his foster family during a raid in 1943. First he hid in the Netherlands, but after a while he started working on barges on the Rhine river, under a false name and identity. After the war Jakov moved to England, where he became an established writer. Counting my steps is the first book Jakov Lind wrote in English.

Meyer, Hajo G.
Briefe eines Flüchtlings 1939-1945
(Berlin, 2014)
From the moment Hajo Meyer (Bielefeld 1924-Heiloo 2014) arrived in the Netherlands as a 14-year-old in January 1939 he faithfully wrote to his parents in Bielefeld. About his worries, about their attempts to emigrate and most of all about his obsession with getting an education for himself. Hajos last letter is dated January 1943: in March 1943 his parents were deported to Theresienstadt, which they would not survive. Before leaving their home they gave the letters to the neighbours, who kept them and handed them back to Hajo and his brothers after the war.

The book could have more notes and explanations, but makes for fascinating reading for those who are interested in the subject of refugee children. Hopefully an English translation will follow.

Moses-Nussbaum, Auguste
Reise mit zwei Koffern. Lebenserinnerungen.
(Göttingen, 2017)
Gusta Nussbaum was born in 1923 in Emden. In November 1938 she managed to cross the border, with two suitcases. Her younger sisters Sophie and Ruth were able to come to the Netherlands as well, in January 1939. While Ruth was placed with a foster family in Utrecht, in August 1939, Gusta and Sophie went to the Aliyah Facility in Loosdrecht. They were able to go into hiding. They ended up in Limburg, where they lived in a hole in the ground.
The book, which is translated from Hebrew, relates the whole story. Ruth was killed in Auschwitz in October 1942.

Gerda’s story, memoir of a holocaust survivor
(Elmhurst, 2002)
Gerda Nothmann was born in Berlin in 1927. In the summer of 1939 Gerda and her younger sister Vera came to the Netherlands and went to live with two foster families in Brabant. Vera lived in Breda and was evacuated to France after the invasion. When the inhabitants of Breda came back to Breda Vera was not allowed to return to the Netherlands, so she had to go back to her parents in Germany. Gerda remained in Tilburg until she was deported to Vught. There she started working for the Philips group, with which she went to Auschwitz and many other camps. After a long rehabilitation in a hospital in Sweden she went to the US. Vera did not survive the war. The book is based on Gerda’s memoirs that she typed out before her death in 1999.

Perlmutter, A. Avraham, Ph.D.
(Santa Monica, 2014)
Av Perlmutter (Vienna, 1927) and his sister arrived at the home in Wijk aan Zee in January 1939. Even though their aunt was living in The Hague they never lived with her. Av’s sister ended up in Loosdrecht, which is how she got in touch with the Westerweel group. They helped him to go into hiding after his escape from the Jewish Theater in Amsterdam. He lived at several places but ended up in Grubbenvorst in Limburg. There he was liberated in November 1944. After the war, Av went to Palestine where he was reunited with his father (his mother passed away shortly before he arrived there). Sister Thea survived Auschwitz and joined the family.
A Dutch translation (called “Moed”) appeared in 2017.

Phillips, Lisa
Nevertheless we lived
(Bloomington, 2008)
Written by journalist Lisa Phillips this book is the biography of Ruth Kropveld, nee Stern. Born in Bad Hersfeld (Hessen) in 1921, she moved to Berlin at age 13, where she became a qualified milliner in 1936. In December 1938 Ruth fled illegally to the Netherlands, together with her boyfriend and another girl. She spend time in the refugee homes, and eventually lived with a family close to the German border. She survived the war in several hiding places in the east and south of the country. 

Roberg, Kurt W.
A visa or your life!
(Bloomington, 2009)
Kurt Roberg, born in 1924 in Celle, came to Rotterdam in December 1938. Despite the fact that the government did not want children to live with their own family Kurt lived with his uncle from the start. Kurt’s parents went to the US in the spring of 1940, but Kurt wanted to finish his school and was about to travel to the US in May or June of 1940. The invasion and bombardment of Rotterdam altered his plans. In the end he left Rotterdam in March 1941 to travel to the US via Berlin, where he had to get transit visa for Spain and Portugal. This turned out to be more difficult then expected, and Kurt just boarded a ship in Lisbon one day before his American visa expired. When he arrived in the US the authorities did not want to admit him.

Schnitzer, Morris
My three selves, a memoir
(Toronto, 2002)
Born in Bochum in 1922 Moritz Schnitzer grew up in Wattenscheid, Gelsenkirchen and Berlin. He came to the Netherlands in January 1939. He stayed in several homes, and finally in the kibbutz in Franeker. Trying to flee to Switzerland he and a friend manage to reach that country, but they are send back to France. He was jailed in France and send back to Belgium. Freed from jail he spends the rest of the war as a farmer in Belgium.

Schwarz, Fred
Treinen op dood spoor
(Amsterdam, 2005)
Fred Schwarz was born in Vienna in 1923. His older brother Fritz left Austria illegally in November 1938, and Fred followed with two friends in December 1938. After some months of living alone he was taken into the Dommelhuis in Eindhoven, a home for legal refugee children. From there Fred and his brother were transferred to Westerbork in the summer of 1940. In September 1944 he is deported to Thereseinstadt, from there to Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps. Both Fred and his brother survive the camps.

Spiegel, Fred
Once the acacias bloomed, memories of a childhood lost
(Margate NJ, 2004)
Fred Spiegel (Dinslaken, 1932) and his older sister were sent to live with their Dutch relatives in Dinxperloo, just over the border shortly after Kristallnacht. In April 1943 Fred and his relatives were interned in Vught, from where they were sent to Westerbork a month later. While Fred’s uncle was deported to Sobibor, Fred and his sister were taken to Bergen-Belsen because their mother was in England. They were liberated in April 1945.

Stewart, Dora
Child of War
(Dublin, 2023)
Dora Compart was born in Frankfurt an der Oder in 1925. She and her younger sister Sitta (born in 1926) came tot he Netherlands in January 1939. They lived in the Burgerweeshuis in Amsterdam together until Sitta was placed with a foster family in Amsterdam in June 1939. Dora stayed behind in the Burgerweeshuis, as she was ‘too old’ to be placed in a foster family. On May 14, 1940, she was part of the group that Mrs. Wijsmuller was able to get on a boat in the harbour of IJmuiden. Sitta was on one of the first transports to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942.

Vries, Douwe de and Otto Kuipers
Door het oog van de naald. Geluk en tragiek in het leven van Hella Pakter.
(Hurdegaryp, 2022)
The books describes how Hella Pakter (Amsterdam, 1924) survived the persecutions. The book is well researched and beautifully illustrated. It also provides a genealogy of the Pakter family.
It was written by Douwe de Vries, whose wife’s grandfather Folkert Holtrop provided Hella with a hiding place in the Northern Province of Friesland, probably from late 1943 until the end of the war. Otto Kuipers works at Tresoar, the Frysian archives in Leeuwarden.

Weiss, Hanna Kalter
Scuds, a teenage Jewish refugee in Nazi-occupied Holland
(Jerusalem, 2006)
Hanna Kalter Weiss starts out by describing her childhood in Duisburg, where she was born in 1922. Her younger brother and sister left for the Netherlands in December 1938, Hanna followed in January 1939. The book describes her stay in several refugee homes in the Netherlands and some foster families. After the invasion the Kalter siblings live in the “Jongenshuis” in Arnhem, from where they are deported to Westerbork in December 1942. In May 1943 they are released from Westerbork because their parents, who have managed to get to Sweden, have obtained Swedish passports for all three of them. After some time in Amsterdam they travel to Sweden via Berlin. This book is written in novel style and seems good material for teenage girls.

Zeller, Frederic
When time ran out
(New York, 1989)
This very well written book, based on Zeller’s diary entries, opens with a delightful description of Frederic Zeller’s youth in Berlin, where he was born in 1924. In December 1938 he traveled illegally to the Netherlands, with his two cousins. His younger sister would follow a little later. After some time in the refugee homes Frederic traveled on to England in April 1939.