They shared Anne Frank's fate

RNW archive

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Nearly 18,000 children were deported from the Netherlands during World War II to be killed in Nazi destruction camps. For the first time the faces of these children are shown on photos in a recently published book.

Between 5 July 1942 and 13 September 1944 17,964 Dutch children were taken by the Nazis to the gas chambers of Auschwitz and Sobibor. Of the children, the vast majority of 17,841 were Jewish, and 123 were Roma and Sinti. All of them were younger than 18.

The bare figures are cold and abstract. Author Guus Luijters and researcher Aline Pennewaard teamed up to lift those children out of anonimity. They meticulously studied all 102 train transports dispatched from Westerbork Camp in the north of the Netherlands, listing which children were on the trains.

Not to be read
The search which took years resulted in a book called In Memoriam, the deported and murdered Jewish, Roma and Sinti children, 1942-1945 (In Memoriam, de gedeporteerde en vermoorde Joodse, Roma en Sinti-kinderen, 1942-1945). Photos of 2,900 of the children were sent to the authors by relatives who survived the war, and friends and neighbours who knew the children at the time. On family snapshots, school pictures and passport photos, children are looking into the camera with a carefree expression.

There is not much more in the austere book than names, addresses, dates of birth and death, and the pictures. The authors wanted it to be like that: "The book is not there to be read, but to be there."

Exhibition
The photos from In Memoriam are currently on display at an exhibition at the Amsterdam City Archive. The 2900 prints are laid out on a long table, while the 17,964 names of the murdered children have been printed on glass screens.
The stories of fifteen Amsterdam children is told in greater detail, illustrated by private possessions, such as diaries, family snapshots, drawings, school reports, letters and albums of verse.

In Memoriam can be seen as a lasting monument for the 17,964 children who were anonymous when they were murdered. They have got their names back, from Anny Aa to Abraham van der Zyl.

(rk)