01 Oct New Jersey and West Point (4-May-2011)
Monday afternoon I meet Alfred. After a nice lunch we sit down for the interview. Alfred came to the Netherlands with his two sisters, and was on the point of being taken to Westerbork when he became ill. He was taken to the hospital, from which he escaped a while later. It is hard to imagine a 13 year old boy, alone in Amsterdam, with no contacts and no money. Yet, Alfred managed to find a person who got him in touch with the underground, and he spent the rest of the war hidden in Limburg. What strikes me most in this interview is that Alfred is very surprised when I ask him if he knows whether anyone paid for him to go into hiding. This point has never occurred to him.
For me it is one big question that has to be answered: in general, one needed money and contacts to go into hiding. Yet, very many of the refugee children, who did not have any money and very little, if any, contacts, have managed to find a safe hiding place. Did they find those people who were willing to help someone hide without being paid for it?
Alfred can provide me with two pictures of his cousins who were also refugee children, and then mentions that there is someone else in his building who was in Westerbork. He calls her, and she agrees to see me after dinner. We eat sushi at Wholefoods, and then visit Edith. Edith came to the Netherlands with her father, and her late husband’s two brothers are in my group of refugee children. It is very nice to meet her.
Tuesday morning I visit Ruth, whose cousin Walter Salmon came to the Netherlands but did not survive. Ruth has made me a nice breakfast and tells me everything about her family, including Walter. It was Ruth who got me in touch with Dorothee, a fellow researcher from Wiesbaden, who has not only helped me a great deal, but has also become a very good friend.
When I arrive at the hotel Harry is waiting for me. I recognize him from a picture I saw of him when he was 13! Harry takes me to lunch, at West Point Academy, which is an hour’s drive from where we are. It is nice to see this, a historical sight in the US. Back in the hotel we sit down for the interview, which again goes very well. Harry is one of the lucky ones who immigrated to the US in April 1940, just in time!
I apologetically decline his dinner invitation because there are so many things I still have to do. That evening I send a lot of e-mails and prepare the next part of my trip: New York City! I love NYC, and am looking forward to being there. I will not have much time to actually see anything I fear, but it will be very nice to at least be there. It does mean I have to pack up again.