Franeker, Kibbutz

Harlingerweg 45, Franeker


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This religious Kibbutz was opened in 1935. The Nazis arrested twenty members in the fall of 1941, on accusation of hoarding food. (37)

Morris Schnitzer writes about his time in Franeker:

“We were a group of about 25 young people, 15 boys and 10 girls. Most of the girls worked in the house: a few were apprentice farmers with a horticulturist. The boys worked on farms. Our organization leaders demanded that we train hard, grow tough and learn to become skilled farmers from the Friesians.

We all lived together in one building. Our house was the former train station of Franeker: the tracks had been removed and the place had been vacant until we came. Our organization adapted it for our use: the ticket office became the kitchen and the waiting room a boys dormitory, while the girls slept in a room upstairs. We each had our essential bicycle which we stored in a shed beside the house.

At 3:30 in the mornings we sallied forth on our bicycles: we were obliged to be on the farms at four o’clock when the farmers began milking. It snows in Friesland in winter and I often couldn’t see where the road was and I landed in an icy ditch almost every day.

A shortage of nutritious food was a serious problem on the kibbutz. We ate only kosher meat and received provisions from Amsterdam every week. However, we never had enough to satisfy the appetites of young people employed in heavy labor. I was hungry much of the time.

The hachshara included both refugees and Dutch citizens: half the members were Dutch so it wasn’t like a refugee camp. It wasn’t set up for refugees; it had existed for several years before we joined it. {..}

Every Friday afternoon our group stopped work early to go to the municipal bath. There we bathed, showered and donned our best clothes. Then we hurried to our house where we held our Friday evening service. We sang zemirot, or songs, and I learned many new melodies; some sounded strange to me because they derived from Sephardic Dutch Jews but they were very beautiful.

On Shabbat, or Sabbath, services on Friday evenings and Saturdays were very pleasant and informal. Often we were joined by a Jewish psychiatrist from the psychiatric hospital in Franeker. When he was obligated to say kaddish, the mourner’s prayer for the dead, we congregated at his home on the Voorstraat in the centre of Franeker. Usually, though, we set up a chapel in the dining room of our house. The rabbi officiated and delivered a sermon; he gave lessons on the sidra, the Torah reading of the week. (38)

At about two o’clock [pm] I heard boots. German boots, I realized right away, marching onto the former station platform in front of our house. A small army was assembling there. I thought “This is it. They’ve come to pick us up.” We’d been wondering why they never bothered us.[….]

The others stalked the room and tore it apart. They opened cupboards and knocked things out. We had little in them but anything we did have was thrown to the floor. Beds were overturned. They combed through everything.

Then the officer said to me, “You line up with the others.” Some of the soldiers went upstairs to the room where we stored a few bags of food and cans of vegetables.

Soon these soldiers came out screeching, “See what these Jews are hoarding? They’re hoarding food! Hoarding this!” We had barely enough to eat for the next day: there was absolutely nothing to hoard. We had a few bags of beans and potatoes. “Hoarding and hoarding and hoarding!”

They lined us up on the platform. We stood there for a couple of hours. They were waiting for everyone to return from work. They were rounding us up, obviously to take us away.

The Dutch police were there too. They were helping the Germans by describing the region to them and informing them where all our members worked. They went as far as to fetch some back themselves: in fact, they rounded up quite a few. I was struck then by the close cooperation between the Dutch police in Franeker and the Germans. A lesson to bear in mind. (39)


37.  Presser, Ondergang, 449
38.  Schnitzer, Morris, My three selves, a memoir, 34 and 39
39.  Schnitzer, Morris, My three selves, a memoir, 50